Anuja Singh – Leading learning and leading change

A case study for Learning from the Middle.

Kia ora, my name is Anuja Singh. I’m the DP at Homai Primary. At Homai we actually name DPs leaders of professional learning so my job at Homai at the moment is currently to lead the mathematics curriculum.

One of the ways we have done that is through the strategic goals, so the aim or the purpose behind my role is to develop or sustain capability for mathematics even after I leave the premises.

So, one of the ways we have developed sustainability at Homai is we identify data, we look for trends in data, we identify needs for students and therefore identify personnel that would be the best fit to support development in that data – at Homai we call them mentors.

What I do from there is support the mentors to address the data through the teachers they support, through the mentees. I often sit in the background, having feedback and feed-forward conversations with the mentors about their specific teachers, about their specific data needs, and about the next best steps with that group of learners. We identify both teachers and students as learners.

In that process I then become a learner too so I go through the inquiry myself. I talk to the principal often about, “This is what I think is the next way forward – is there another way that I should possibly look at that?” – so we do quite a lot of strategic change before I go ahead and make or suggest to my mentors another way forward.

The other thing I do is to lead by example so I tend to be in classrooms supporting, by modelling, by making that sure I’m visible as a learner. So I’ve taken on an MST group, where the teachers of that group of students and I constantly reflect on what I’ve noticed about those kids and how should I refine my practice in order to support that, and that dialogue is often heard by a lot of people so we try not to keep it private; there’s a huge trust when we talk about sustainability.

One of the things I am doing is that we’ve identified out of the four mentors, somebody who is showing quite a strength in mathematics and is quite passionate about it, so my role has been to intensify my lead role with her so she understands how to lead that change with other staff and that would be through PD. So when I do workshops I try to get her trained up to do workshops, so that she can then lead that, rather than always having the spotlight on me.

The other thing that we constantly do is we do timely, or in time reviews, which doesn’t mean that you do the unit and at the end of the term we do it; we’ve got it so that every fortnight we have review meetings which are what we call IAT meetings … inquiry meetings.

In those inquiry meetings the mentors have a specific lens that they go in with. We’ve got protocols set up; we’ve got structures set up that support teachers to know what to expect in these meetings. This all goes back to, “What evidence are you using to make a difference for mathematics in your classroom?”

And, we’ve seen a flow-on effect, with this connected curriculum also, is having that flow-on effect with what we call CSI meetings … curriculum scene investigation meetings, where we then start inquiring into – well, when I’ve done this in connected curriculum, this is the impact, this is what I want to do.

When you’re talking about change management you’re talking about, if I plant this seed what’s the next tree that will come out of it rather than just the tree that you’ve planted and seen that flourish. So, we’re always thinking about, so if I plant this where else would it stem to, who else could we be able to influence with it, and how else can I help that influence get on?

I think one of the exciting parts about being a leader is that you’re actually willing to learn and I’ve said that to my mentors as well as to the principal, that actually the lens that I’ve had in mathematics and the way that I look at mathematics is my way – help me understand another way of looking at it.

Middle management have to realise that you have to be very flexible with learners that you have; however your staff respond to that sort of learning you have to learn to evaluate and refine – if it works this time it might not work next time, so you always have to be critical. That’s the biggest powerful message that any middle management can have; just always critique, refine, address those things you think haven’t made the impact you wanted.

And always have a measurable impact; what is that impact that I’m after? Is it to change that teacher’s practice or is it to change that child’s attitude towards mathematics, what are those critical impact points that you are really after for that particular moment?

Using this case study

  • Anuja identifies trust as a key factor working with children and teachers when she goes into their classrooms. Leading from the Middle also identifies establishing trust as a key factor affecting the success of middle and senior leaders. Initiate a discussion with other leaders about approaches to establishing trust with staff and students. What complexities might there be in doing this? How can these be overcome?
  • This clip identifies that senior and middle leaders need to be learners as well. For example Anuja often works with her principal to develop this openness to learning. What opportunities do your teachers and school leaders have to develop their sense of themselves as professionals? How might this be established throughout the school? Develop a plan which you can discuss with the principal and other senior and middle leaders in the school.

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