Assignment Two

The roadmap is becoming clearer …….

Describing my professional context, my interest in the topic of improving student attendance and my research questions in blog #1 greatly honed my thinking about my next steps in my research journey. I’m not sure whether a current feeling of being more confident or focussed may end in the pitfall of false security, but I intend to convey through this entry that I feel a stronger sense of direction and knowledge of some of the required actions to reach the destination. That destination includes not only successful submission of a dissertation answering the research question “What are the highly successful strategies that improve student attendance in Queensland state secondary schools?” but also successful transition from practitioner to a new role I seek to adopt within my field, that is of student attendance activist.
Over recent weeks, I have explored and engaged with a range of readings, sites and blogs, allowing me to become aware that an approach of targeted activism will enhance my quest. From this, I have prepared plans for moving forward. I am beginning to shift my thinking on how I will continue my approach as a Principal away from the traditional academic norm (Bexley, Arcoudis & James, 2013) to one that embraces a wider, global online profile.

The online awakening ……..

Emerging from a conservative, professional bubble wherein information sharing is predominantly verbal and, at best, communicated by email, my new-found engagement with online sites, blogs and social networking has been a most pleasant, interesting and positive jolt. The concept of performativity as detailed by Ball (2012) whereby professionals report on what they do, rather than actually doing, resonates roundly with my past experience. Increasing layers of accountability have resulted in a need to constantly explain school-based actions and report upon progress, rather than get on with the more important tasks, including improving student attendance, settling school climate and working with teachers on pedagogical practice. I am now beginning to use online modes to explore how to share and learn in a more efficient fashion, rather than spend time explaining decisions and procedures.
Through my online exploration I have discovered excellent and relevant articles on blogs from the United States such as Scholastic edublog (Baicker, 2016) and Chalkable (Zaucha, 2016) through a site from San Francisco named Attendance Works (2016). The strategy of searching one journal article’s reference list to find additional relevant resources has proven equally valuable in the digital world as one site often yields links to many other rich sources of information, and so on. My constant goal is to attain the outcome that Veletsianos (2012) succinctly explains and that is for teachers to “seek enhanced learning opportunities for their students” (p. 10) and transfer this principle to my staff and myself. Online exploration has demonstrated to me that achievement of this goal will be much more attainable within a digital environment.
As a secondary school Principal I have always been reluctant to maintain an online presence through mediums such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This is due to my concern of students accessing such platforms, and the resultant issues that could ensue. However, as a learning and research tool, I have been amazed at the instant power of Twitter. Over the past month since I joined Twitter I have yielded three excellent strategies to immediately apply to my practice drawn straight from others’ tweets. The personal challenge though of not becoming consumed with social media platforms that by their nature run 24/7 is one I am determined to attain. My responsibilities to family and my primary professional role demand important attention and I am seeking to develop a process or protocol to enable a mutual co-existence. The suggestion from a colleague that weekly set-time be dedicated to social media interaction seems sensible.
Developing an online presence aids in supporting me to build credibility across the field (Gregg, 2007). This will take time and will also require the construction of the student attendance blog that has been forefront in my thinking over the last few months. The existence of online name recognition gained through these mediums will be of great assistance (Gregg, 2007) as I seek to engage in large scale student attendance improvement activism.

Student Attendance Activist

To be a successful activist, one must first present and be found to be a credible voice on a topic or issue (Mitchell, 2008). My plans to broadly impact on policy and practice in the domain of improving student attendance received an almighty, yet positive, shock when I read Mitchell’s (2008) piece on activism which can be described as “on the ground” (p. 448) as opposed to the academic work behind the scenes that he primarily engages in. Whilst the content of the article bears no relation to the topic of improving student attendance, the concept of activism and what that stood for within any field resonated with me in the strongest possible terms.
Taking one strategy or idea and using it as springboard to create other, multiple strategies and ideas is a practice that has been of great success to me throughout my Principalship. This is how I stumbled across the prospect of describing my role in this area as a “student attendance activist”. Mitchell’s (2008) article provided me with the stimulus to review the language I was using to describe my practice, and the concept of activism is wholly appropriate. As a Principal, I have experienced the power of how language in interaction with others can greatly influence success or failure in any endeavour. I have grown to believe that it will be crucial how other professionals, or academics, view the work that I present. I am confident that coming from a position of activism will support my goals.
Veering away from what Madeloni (2014) refers to as “norms of … neutrality” (p. 15) requires an activist approach. My experience with peers has often been that claims of neutrality in essence mask self-forgiveness for a lack of conviction. The difficult task of improving student attendance cannot be overcome with a neutral or conservative approach. If it was an easy challenge to defeat then it wouldn’t be at the forefront of system conversation and school improvement planning and reporting (Queensland Department of Education and Training, 2016a, 2016b, 2015, 2014, Queensland Parliament, Parliamentary Committees, 2014, Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2013, Queensland Audit Office, 2012).
Lastly, within the challenge of improving student attendance I intend to be an activist, one who embraces broad networks across the globe to support the development of further skills and knowledge in school leaders. This is how we can address disengagement from schooling (Mills & McGregor, 2016) and ensure students enjoy the best possible opportunity to grown and learn.



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