Tag Archives: Blog Posts

Where do we go from here…⤴

from @ Diary Of A Doctoral Student

It has been a while since I have written a post on my blog as I have been spending all of my  time either working (schools aren’t easy places at the minute!) or writing a systematic literature review.

check box

Despite not really having an Easter holiday and spending most days in the literature, I found the process of the systematic literature review difficult but highly rewarding and it has given me skills, knowledge and insight as I move into the ARMTP module.

This involves me looking at what I am going to spend the next 3-5 years reading, studying and writing 60,000 words on. Not an easy decision to make!

At this time, I am looking to focus on educational leadership, teacher professional learning and teacher professionalism.

Having completed my Masters in Ed Leadership, I have been interested in leadership, the dynamics of this and the gap between research, policy, and practice. I have also been interested in the idea of ambitious practitioners who go into leadership early in their careers versus the leaders who spend more time as a classroom teacher before moving to the next stage in leadership (PT/FH).

Who is better equipped? Does it matter? Can it be researched?

The more I have read, the more I have realised that this is a very tricky area to research, and my own bias (as I was a younger ambitious leader with imposter syndrome!) may play heavily in any large-scale thesis.

As part of Methods of Enquiry, Literature and Scholarship, I have been looking at professional learning in middle and senior leaders and one of the articles by Dr Joan Mowat has really got me thinking and (dare I say it) excited about looking into the idea of “leadership at all levels”. As Dr Mowat has said, it is under-theorised and, although mentioned a lot in current Scottish policy (from the Donaldson Report onwards), it is not something that we know exactly what it means both in theory and in practice.

I might also be able to link it to my initial ideas around “Ambition vs Experience” but I hopeful to bring in the GTCS standards, their recent changes, Donaldson, National Improvement Framework, thoughts on workload, health and wellbeing and teacher professionalism. The possibilities are endless and daunting and this is why it is cathartic to write this post and commit thoughts to writing.

A draft question may be:

“What are a teacher’s views on the skills, abilities, knowledge and capacity required in order to become a leader in their classroom and beyond?”

“Why do teacher’s decide to step into promoted posts?” (leadership, the power, the status, the money, to move out of school?)

“What are a teacher’s views on their own professionalism with regard to leadership at all levels or leadership more generally?” (do they think they should be leaders? What do they think they should be doing? Are they happy just being classroom teachers?)

My early thinking is around researching into this would be mixed methods starting with mass-scale questionnaires at all levels of the teaching profession looking into what leadership means to them, their understanding of their leadership responsibility and how this relates to the idea of Teacher professionalism. I would then look to receive qualitative data by means of focus groups to spot any patterns that have come out from questionnaire’s (either in roles in the schools or sectors [not sure if I should keep to secondary or branch out]). This seems traditional in a research sense and may change as my thinking develops in this module around methods.

In terms of ethics, I don’t see there being too many challenges given that the route I initially plan to take is quite traditional in the collection of data. I think I may come across honesty issues around teachers. How many teachers would be comfortable admitting they went into promoted posts for the money? How many classroom teachers would openly admit that they don’t show leadership in the classroom?

There are lots of things still to be considered like refining the question, the geographical context, and the sector that I choose to focus in on.

If you have any thoughts of your own having read this, please get in touch. One of the things that I am finding the most beneficial about this course is the professional connections and dialogue that it promotes. We learn best when we learn together!

Lean On People….Because They Are Leaning On You!⤴

from @ Diary Of A Doctoral Student

So...I have just came off of my first proper session of 2021 where I set goals, stuck to them and I feel productive. I hope the feeling lasts but I know that it may not and I have to embrace this.

This term has been tough. Really bloody tough.

Leading a faculty remotely, with increased pressure from national and local government to “up our game” in the digital provision and the lack of clarity of where we are going when it comes to exams has been like trudging through thick mud. Something more akin to my Spartan races. I am exhausted. My staff are exhausted. Everyone is working as hard as they can to give the best for our young people.

My #StrathEdD work has taken a back seat and with a formative feedback loop becoming a closer deadline than I comfortable with, I have joined the Saturday morning writing group organised by the amazing Lorna Anderson. This is a really supportive group which is informally formal (is this a thing?). It allowed me to set a goal, and then gave me time to stick to it, and then come back to report to the group.

At first, I tidied up my office (one of my classic procrastination tactics). “It really needs done” is what I kept telling myself. So I did that. I then went for another coffee. “I really need this” is what I tell myself. I then looked at the time and 20 minutes of my first hour had gone! I really needed to get on as I couldn’t go back to the group with nothing to show for my efforts other than a tidy office!

And with a target of screening my articles through their abstracts, I set to work. Having a target to get to and having the social pressure not to fail led me to finding the motivation to keep going. Then what happened? I actually became engrossed in it all and didn’t want to stop.

This is the stage that I love of academia. I always find starting the hardest. Then I get into it (often after an hour or two) and I don’t want to stop often at the most inappropriate times as I only have a couple of hours to spare and the motivation comes too late. I love the feeling of getting engrossed in a task, reading research, finding differences of opinion and generally getting involved in all things academia.

Seeing everyone’s faces, hearing stories and sharing our progress at the end of the session was great. I managed to get to my target and start writing this post and I was chuffed to tell everyone. It was also refreshing to hear from others who hadn’t quite made their targets and that it was okay. “You are further than you were at 10am”. Lorna’s encouragement echoing the thoughts of all others.

I have learnt a valuable lesson today. I may have already knew this but it is certainly brighter lesson now more than ever. If I am going to get through the work of this EdD, as well as balance my professional life and my personal life, I need to

”Lean on others….because they are leaning on you”

MELS Bells! – Embracing and overcoming the feeling of not doing enough!⤴

from @ Diary Of A Doctoral Student

Bitmoji ImageSo I had done it! Thrown myself in at the deep end and off I went to the first session of my Strathclyde Doctorate – MELS – Methods of Enquiry, Literature and Scholarship.

COVID 19 has created some pretty weird scenarios for us all to cope with in the world. Normally, I would jump on a train and head off into Glasgow to a random room on campus and be met with those comforting nods of other students before we would collaborate and support one another face to face. There was a sense of actual human connection. And here I was, in my own office, making sure that my lighting was okay, before logging in and seeing some anxious faces waiting to see what was in store for us. It just wasn’t the same.

Imposter syndrome immediately set in. Simple things such as people job titles… headteachers, quality improvement officers, those working for universities, SQA, Education Scotland. I was intimidated. I was nervous. I didn’t think I had it in me. To an extent, I still don’t.

One of my big problems during my masters was keeping up with the reading and pre-tasks. I felt like a charlatan at sessions as I cobbled my way though with some awkward silences and thinking on the spot. I was determined that this time was going to be different. I would keep up to date and do all of the pre-tasks. And I did…and I still felt it wasn’t enough.

Now I have to be clear…. the community of #StrathEdD is an amazing support network. I have more WhatsApp groups than I have ever had…. A StrathEdD one, A tutor group one, a leadership one so far! And there is always the Twitter community with so many experienced ears and hands to listen and type words of encouragement and support.

However….it does have a down side. There were so many of fellow students posting their reading, their quotes from journals, their book collections. I felt an extreme plummet of my morale. How were these amazing people finding the time? I knew some of them were in high pressured jobs, had families and were still finding time to post their progress when, some weeks, I was not finding time to do anything.

I started a new role last January. I went from leading a maths team of 4 to leading a faculty of 15. I love my new school, I love the aspirations we have, the values we believe in and the effort we go to for our young people. I am fully committed to my job. I am committed to my team. I owe it to them to lead by example, give it my time and effort for the benefit of the team, the pupils we serve and the school as a whole.

Another big part of my life is exercise. I understand the importance of keeping fit and healthy not only for my physical wellbeing but also my mental wellbeing (plus it allows me the odd beer or three!). And so I will work until 1800, get home and get dinner and next days lunch organised by 1900, exercising around 2000 and then finally sitting down around 2100. I didn’t (and still don’t) have the time or effort on a nightly basis to make a good go of uni work.

But that’s what it takes…time and effort. And I was not finding the balance. Weekends would come and I would sometimes make a dent but there was still the twitter feeds, the WhatsApp groups, the intellectual conversations all indirectly telling me in my head that I wasn’t doing enough to keep up.

And so here I am, at the start of my Christmas break, with two weeks in front of me with minimal social contact planned and I have made a realisation…this is my journey. No-one else’s. Mine.

At the start of this course, Prof. Kate Wall described two different types of student…those who do little and often and those bingers who will do lots in a short space of time. I have made my peace with being a binger. I make no apology for this. I need the space away from work to concentrate on my doctoral studies. I will always do little bits when I can during term time but I know that I have time. I have this break. I have the Easter break and I need to concentrate on my journey and not the journey of others.

I have taken on a massive commitment. I have fast tracked my credits and doing two doctoral modules in a year with three writing years as a minimum. A four year doctorate was one of the enticements that brought me to Strathclyde. I worry I have made the wrong decision. I have contemplated going and doing the Masters modules just so that I can get more practice at the critical reading, the analysis, the academic writing. Again, I have realised after the first half year that this is my journey and it may take me longer than this. I have realised that this isn’t failure. This isn’t a bad thing. This might have to be what works for me.

And this is one of the reasons that this blog exists. I need to be able to make myself accountable. I need the space to express myself and express that it is okay to not be like everyone else. Potentially no one will read this. I’m okay with this. It’s out there to help others if they feel it helps but it is designed for me. I have targets for this holiday. I want to read more around my subject. I want to get the schematic set out for my 6000 word systematic literature review. I want to get my research question honed and my searches done. However, I have realised that I will not finish it but I have time. I have Easter. I know this is my journey. I am a binger and I will do this…regardless of how long it takes me.

Hello⤴

from @ Diary Of A Doctoral Student

Hello!
My name is Kenny and I am addicted to education!

I spent large portions of my undergraduate degree not academically achieving brilliantly and getting passes by the skin of my teeth. When given the option on my PGDE year to enter assignments at Masters level, I scoffed at the thought saying that I would never do any more formal education once I completed it.

After that, I spent five years passing my probation, completing a two year Basic Expedition Leadership course as well as achieving my accreditation to become a Duke of Edinburgh supervisor and assessor.

I honed my craft as a teacher (I am no way finished!) and started to gain leadership experience at a departmental level and was successful at interview to cover a maternity cover. After a fantastic time in a great department, I realised that I needed and wanted more theory based knowledge. It had began to niggle at me that I didn’t go for that Masters. When I returned to my substantive post, I applied to do my Masters in Educational Leadership at Strathclyde University (where else!) thinking that I could get that done before going for a full time PT post. At the same time, I did think it wise to strike whilst the iron was hot and applied for a few PT jobs thinking it was worth a shot.

To my surprise, I was successful at both so in August 2017, I set off on an adventure both as a new Principal Teacher and as a Masters student. I had THE best time engaging with research, conversations with some of Strathclyde’s finest but also my fellow students. I was riddled with imposter syndrome and always felt I did not have the academic or literary skills in order to succeed. With the support of my fiancée (and proof reader) Claire, course leader Joanna Holmes, and countless others, I was able to graduate with Merit with a Masters in Educational Leadership.

AND THEN THE WORLD WENT TO POT!

In the madness of working from home, the niggle of that next level started to eat away. It started to eat away at Claire too who had completed her Masters a few years previous. We had to cancel our wedding and we needed something to do for the next year (or few) so whilst Claire applied for a Doctorate at Glasgow University, I was encouraged on Twitter by Kate Wall and Lee Coutts to get along to the Doctoral showcase where I was utterly bedazzled by some of the amazing academics I met, a community of scholars who all kept each other afloat whilst they took on this challenge in some difficult circumstances in their own full time jobs. I was in awe. I wanted some of that and let’s face it…I quite liked the thought of being called Dr Drummond.

And so I jumped in that world. The wider world got even madder and I am nearly a full semester into my #StrathEdD journey. I had always considered blogging and I thought this would be a better time that any to get started. I am a little later that I had planned. School is busy. Life is busy. But whilst I was doing some reading and watching a video by Simon Sinek (Why Leaders Eat Last), I felt I needed to get started. Even if nobody read this, it is out there. I am making that commitment. I may be procrastinating more but I think it is important to write how I feel, what I need to do and reflect on how this experience is changing and challenging my thinking and as Simon Sinek said – seeing your goal written down and achieving it will give me a hit of dopamine.

So that’s why I am here. I’ll blog on my first few months of the course in my next post.

If you have read this…first, thanks! Please feel free to leave a wee comment if you have had a similar experience, say hello or correct any spelling!

If you haven’t made it this far… I’m not too fussed…I’m just after the dopamine!