Born in Scotland and raised around the world, Kirsten is a truly global thinker. Her educational training spans Scotland, USA, Australia and more.
After 27 years of international education experience across 7 countries and leadership positions in 5 schools, she now works as an independent consultant, creating individually tailored PD for schools, developing online learning events and coaching educators.
Kirsten founded one of the most popular educator PLNs on Facebook, where 120,000 global educators share resources, support and inspire one another – the Global Educator Collective.
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The School Leadership Boot Camp Presented by Toddle
Hey, this episode is a bonus one and I wanna cut straight to the point, get into the conversation. It’s an invitation to join a free event for educators all over the world. I’ll be giving a masterclass on that. And there’s some incredible other speakers and keynote folks like, like Seth Godden, for example. You could go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/blbs and that’s for School Leadership Bootcamp to sign up, register for free. Today I’ll talk with the person who came up with the idea and is organizing the whole event. We have a lot of fun talking about what we’re excited about when it comes to the School Leadership Bootcamp. I hope to see you there. It would mean a lot to me if you attend my session because that would definitely generate momentum and bring a lot of energy. Thank you so much for considering. Again. Go to BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/slb for School Leadership Bootcamp. Hey, this is Danny, chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders Better Schools. This show is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo and you design the future of school now. We’re gonna go to our regular conversation right after a quick message from our show sponsors.
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Hello Ruckus Makers. Today I’m joined by a new friend, Kirsten Durward, who was born in Scotland and raised around the world. Kirsten is a truly global thinker. Her educational training spans Scotland, USA, Australia and more. After 27 years of international education experience across seven countries and leadership positions in five schools, she now works as an independent consultant creating individually tailored professional development for schools, developing online learning events, which we’re gonna talk more about and coaching educators. Kirsten also founded one of the most popular educator PLNs on Facebook with 120,000 global educators where they share resources, support, and inspire one another. It’s called the Global Educator Collective. We’ll link that up for you in the show notes and you can connect with Kirsten on Twitter at@learnerfocused. Kirsten, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much Daniel. I’m so excited to be here with you and it’s really just awesome what you are doing, getting school leaders connected across the world and learning from one another through your wonderful podcast. So thanks for having me.
It’s great to have you and like I said, we’re here to talk about a really amazing opportunity for Ruckus Makers and educators. There’s a thing called the School Leadership Bootcamp, and that’s on March 3rd and 4th. Can you tell us what that event is all about?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been curating online events for a while now with a company in India called,Adult education and Total Builds Learning Management systems for schools that are really awesome. They’re awesome, they’re visual, they’re so easy to use, they’re really inviting and they make sense. I got involved with them about four and a half years ago when they contacted me to look at their very first learning management system and give them some advice. During the pandemic, when their business came to halt, they said, what can we do? So we came up with this idea for a virtual event, which was the very first Inquiry Educator summit in 2020. And we put that together in literally six days, six weeks, sorry, with educators across the world. It was so popular and we really thought, hey, there’s an opportunity here to do something and bring people together and it’s free.
Anybody can jump on it. So it doesn’t matter whether you are in a rural school in India or you are in the Western Academy of Beijing, one of the top schools in the world, with all the lucrative resources that you have, everybody can network, everybody can learn. We’ve done this a few times now, this is the first leadership one. We said, let’s do something leadership specific. So I’ve been researching since March. I came across a publication by the Educational Development Trust about successful school leadership. Summarized global research on educational leadership. And one of the researchers was transformational leadership. And it fell into four domains, which was to set directions, build relationships, the organization, and improve instructional practices. We have conceived the event around those four domains, but with the theme Unleash your Leadership potential. So the intention really is for school leaders to come on, they can come on, there’s a construct, a structured session in each time zone. So you can come to your time zone and stay on for six hours over two days and really do some deep digging. Or you can come on for one session, one keynote, or come on for one masterclass that we’ll talk about your master class a little bit later, Dan, which is two sessions over two days, or just come on a network with other school leaders. There’s so much opportunity,
It really is an incredible opportunity in the domains. Again setting direction, building relationships, developing, organization improving and practices. Those are all solid things that leaders need to be thinking about. I love the theme too, unleashing your leadership potential. My bestselling book Mastermind, the subtitle is Unlocking Your Leadership Potential, And I know that any leader worth his or her salt, they have aspirations, they have dreams, visions and big goals that they’re working toward. I know that will connect with Ruckus Makers. And so yeah, that’s happening March 3rd and 4th. Again, it’s called School Leadership Bootcamp. And just so you know, you can go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/slb and we’re gonna have there for you a link that redirects people to the signup page. You could Google to the School Leadership Bootcamp. And that’s all gonna work for you and it’s just gonna be a great event. Who are some of those speakers? There’s a pretty cool lineup that you have planned. Who are some of those speakers or sessions that you are really excited about?
It’s such a great opportunity to connect with ideal people across the world, but also school leaders in schools. So of course Seth Godden who is just the nicest person and I can’t believe how quickly he responds to emails. He does everything himself. He doesn’t have an assistant. It’s hyper impressive. He’s coming on and he’s talking about Stop Stealing Dreams, which to me is like we, I just think education sometimes the way the systems are, it’s squash is not just the kids but the teachers and everything. So he’s coming on to say, talk about Stop Stealing dreams. We’ve got a wonderful lady called Anjali Shawarma and she actually works with institutions across the world on storytelling, how to tell your institutional story. So she’s curated a keynote specifically for this event for the school leaders, how to tell your story or how to tell the story of your school, how to dig deep and know what really drives you and how to put that together so that other people can hear it.
And this is something I just love because I think there’s so many people who, they know who they are, but they just don’t know how to put themselves across really excited about that one. We have this amazing lady in Australia, Holly Ransom, she’s a former Olympian. She’s really making noise. You’d probably get on really well because she’s a total Ruckus Maker. She’s really dynamic. She’s out there in Australia. She’s probably gonna end up being some kind of politician, but she’s just out there making noise. One of the things she’s making noises about right now is education. And she’s got a great, a site called Epic and she does epic challenges for leadership and she brings leaderships from all industries together, which I think is super interesting so that when you’re on the challenge or are teamed up with people from different industries so you can all learn from one another as you’re addressing these challenges. So I think those are my top keynotes, but to be honest with you, I’m most excited about the school case studies.
I want to make a connection really quickly. Seth, stop Stealing Dreams. There’s a TED Talk around that topic and he has a free book on it as well. I don’t know if you’re aware of that or not, but it’s an e-book you can download from his site, which I did. I downloaded it, read it, and covered it. At the end I believe he challenges the reader, at least I remember this, he challenged me, the reader, to basically improve on the idea or tell a story that was in the similar vein, but in your own perspective. So you may or may not know this, but my first book, the Better Leaders, Better Schools Roadmap was actually my attempt at doing Stop Stealing Dreams, but in my own way.
I sent him a copy of all my books and I’ve been through all these programs. Kirsten, I’ve been a part of the Alta MBA too, I’ve coached for the Alt B. He’s certainly somebody I look up to as a hero and mentor and he’s influenced my thinking profoundly. And then the Less connection, this whole Ruckus Maker brand. It’s from Seth’s all he is saying, go make a ruckus. That’s where I got it from and that’s why I’m out here just, Hey, we need to innovate, we need to challenge the status quo. We need to make education better. In more modern and this kind of stuff. And so that’s a pretty cool connection. Can’t wait to hear his talk. Case studies. Let’s hear about those school case studies.
We’ve got so many. We’ve got 12, we have two. Okay. Each day in each time zone. So we have four in your USA time zone and then four in the GMT time zone and then four in the Southeast Asia time zone. There’s so many diverse stories, it’s almost hard to just pick one or two. But in Fish, who’s the school head at Luxembourg, he’s coming on to talk about how his school is addressing DEIJ. And it’s a really fabulous presentation about how they engaged the whole community, how they came up, not just with a plan but a logo. And all of the case studies reflect on how the leaders planned the initiative, how they got everybody involved in the initiative, how they rolled it out, and then reflect on what’s going on. And the common thread amongst them all is that it’s always an ongoing story.
So whereas you do move on to another target, you’re always kind of quietly developing this. We’ve got Anita Churchill, she’s amazing. She’s something that the school doesn’t have very often, which is a leader for gifted and talented. Her whole background is high ability, gifted and talented. She’s giving structure for how to implement a high ability gifted and talented program in a school. And she’s giving some of her resources to that. We’ve got people talking about how to develop a school with the community. We’ve got people talking about how to develop a teacher growth program. And another one of my favorites, Brenda’s a school leader in Nashville, Tennessee, which just really tickles my tonsils just to say that Nashville, Tennessee, she’s a school leader there in a public school. And this lady is dynamic, she’s inspiring, she’s got the biggest heart. What she has put forward is how to deal with how to be responsive to trauma and how that’s something that we really need to have on our agenda now with schools across the world. Due to pandemic, due to other things due to your unfortunate situation in the US with school shootings and other pressures. But we really need to be informed and we really need to have strategies so that we understand how to get through the traumas in order to get back to the learning. And just ignoring them is not working. I haven’t seen the details of her presentation yet, but it’s honestly one of the ones that I think is gonna be the most relevant to our time now. I think it’s one that school leaders are really going to be interested in to talk about.
Those all sound wonderful and I’m excited to participate and just to connect on the story. Case studies are a story in themselves. I heard you mention one of the keynote speakers is talking about telling your school or organization’s story and that sounds like one of the case studies was about storytelling as well. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the Ruckus Maker watching or listening. You control the narrative and if you don’t put a story out, somebody else is gonna make up the story for you. And so it’s like, do you wanna be proactive or do you wanna just see what people start to say? And so that’s a really important piece. And then how to tell stories with emotion and vivid imagery and this kind of stuff so that it lands. I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of great practical advice on how to do that. So very cool.
I agree with Danny. Like I really do agree with it because I think it’s how we show our hearts, it’s how we show our spirits, it’s how we really embrace this is something that through age comes wisdom. We know that and I got to a point when I hit 50 and I was working in a school in Bangkok at the time and I said I have always been quite strong in education and when I go to a hiring when I’m being hired, I always say to them, don’t hire me if you don’t buy into what I’m saying because I’m not answering questions here. I’m not trying to get myself a job. I am actually saying this is what I do.
I’ve always been like that. And sometimes a bit disappointed when you go in and you work with other leaders and you realize they just wanted to hire you because you had disqualification or you could do this thing and they weren’t really on the same bandwagon as you in terms of what you wanted to achieve in education. But when I hit 50, it was like a switch flip and I just said, I’m not playing. This is nice anymore. I’m really saying this is what’s important, this is what’s important. Because if we don’t stand up, if we don’t put our head above the parapet and then we don’t find the other people like us, we can’t band together. And this to me is what my community groups are all about. It’s like we have found people who want and suddenly we’ve got 8,000 people in a leadership group or we’ve got a hundred thousand teachers across the world who are all saying actually we do want to talk about these things and we do want to bring them up. And it means for that one person in that one school where they’re the only person like that, they have a group too. So your ruckus, making your ruckus making Danny’s important, but your ruckus making of your ruckus meters is even more important because they will go on and they will inspire other people to be brave. And that just brings me back to thinking about what Brene Brown says about brave leadership. You know, it’s not just about the team for our school and our thing, it’s actually about embracing our truth and saying this is actually what I need to say.
Thanks for sharing that Kirsten. We’re gonna pause here. I’m enjoying our conversation, but we’re gonna get some messages from our sponsors. And when we get back, I do wanna ask like, how the heck did you find out about me? Learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school’s success and empower your teams with Harvard certificate and school management and leadership. Get online professional development that fits your schedule. Courses include leading change, leading school strategy and innovation, leading people and leading learning. You could apply today at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. School Leaders know that productive self-talk drives student learning, but the average teacher talks 75% of the class time. Give your students more opportunities to learn in class by monitoring their talk time. Check out Teach FX for yourself. You can go over to teachfx.com/blbs to learn more about our special partnership for Ruckus speakers. And today’s show is proudly sponsored by Organized Binder, a program which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more organized binders. Color coded system is implemented by the teacher through a parallel process with the students, helping them create a predictable and dependable classroom routine. You can learn more and improve your students’ executive [email protected].
And we are back with the Ruckus Maker, Kristen Durward. And she is here to talk about the school leadership bootcamp. When this podcast goes live, the link will be betterleadersbetterschools.com/slb. But if you’re watching the video portion of our conversation, go to the link that is on the screen. Okay. Kirsten, I have to ask how did we get connected? I’m speaking at this school leadership bootcamp. I got an email from somebody I didn’t know saying, Hey, do this thing. And I’m like, well, who, what, where, when? And there you go. So thanks for the invitation.
It was a personal target of mine last year to start listening to podcasts because it’s not something I’d ever done. And so I did a bit of research and then of course, because in March I pitched the event. So I said, okay, it’s part of my trial. Out of podcasts. I’m gonna go and do some leaders, some research into leadership podcasts, see what I can learn, see what ideas I can pick up, see if they’re talking to anybody. Interesting. That might be useful as a present. Now this is all about just expanding your learning, but also for me, my network’s really important. I think it’s always my network’s, my network’s network kind of thing. And it’s what’s gonna bring the ideas in. Part of what I like to do is I like to up-level voice. I like to find people who’ve got good things to say and say like how can we get those ideas out there more?
I just really liked, I really liked your podcast and I really liked your whole approach leadership because if we are bringing people in, we have to bring in people who are kind of in sync with our message. And our message for leadership is basically you can do it. Yeah, you can do it. You have to believe in yourself. You have to know some structures, you have to have some experience behind you. You have to. But if you want to get into leadership I say this event is for both existing and aspiring leaders. It’s like we need to encourage people into leadership, we need to have leadership conversations, we need to be learning from other leaders and that’s what you are doing. So I was like, that’s great. I really like your approach. I really, I see you’ve got the depth of knowledge, the depth of experience, and you’ve got something that people will be interested in. So that’s why I wrote to you. Brilliant.
Well it worked out and I can’t wait to serve and speak. It’s really interesting that idea of like you can do it because I just recently conducted a case study with an incredible leader. I actually posted and wrote about her today on Facebook. Linkedin sent an email about it too. Cause this is a leader who was principal of her state of the year, distinguished principal and somebody who has achieved so much. And in some ways, to be quite honest, I’m intimidated by her because she’s so successful. So do you get the context of how strong of a leader this woman is. And when I was talking about what’s the result, what’s one thing that really the mastermind has given you? And she said it gave me confidence. I’m thinking about confidence. Like you are one of the strongest leaders I know.
But it’s an incredibly lonely position and this idea that you can do it to have a space where folks are encouraged. Whether it’s something that we put on ABCs or join in a program, right? Like the school leadership bootcamp or the communities that will be connected to that. Leaders just need to get connected to hear that they can do it. And it’s sad but true often in systems they’re not hearing that enough from the system level leader. Which is, you know, one of the reasons why our community thrives. Okay? So that’s enough about me, but just a cool connection. Can you dig a little bit deeper, Kirsten, I like this idea of like up-leveling communication. I think that could be really beneficial for the Ruckus Maker watching and listening to think about how they can up-level communication even in their local school.
To me I think it’s all about clarity. I just make this connection back to what you just said about confidence. Because when I do coaching, the kind of the coaching that I’m trained in is all about self activating. So it’s all about getting the person to be in contact with what it is they really want and to find the self knowledge and strategies within themselves to move forward. So it’s like, for me, unless I’m specifically consulting with something, I don’t ever bring advice. It’s all about getting the person to reflect on what they know, what they’re capable of and what they want to happen and then articulate the way forward the next steps. So when I think about communication, actually you know what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about, we’ve got a session tonight by a guy in Australia called Steve Francis.
And it is actually, if we want communication to work, we have to acknowledge that first of all, we have to have the culture in which it can flourish. Because if we don’t have that positive culture, nobody’s gonna listen anyway. You don’t hear it. So the first thing we need to do, always when I, whenever I go into a new school, when I was leading, the first thing I always did was build relationships, which was find out what was going on with people and connect to them in some way. And then work with them actively to create a good, positive, responsive, communicative culture. Because although I may have very good intentions, particularly when I’m working in a context that’s not my context, I have to be very aware of cues. People may pick up that I’m unaware of things that are important to them that aren’t important to me. And all of this has to be part of the bigger picture, or nobody’s gonna listen to your communication. So in order to get to that clear communication that’s important to us, there’s a lot of pre-work that needs to be done in developing a positive culture in the organization and ensuring that you have strong relationships.
Great point. Really for something to reflect on for sure. Like, do you create the environment, the conditions where communication can even flourish. So thank you Kirsten. One just personal question I have for you. You’ve lived an interesting life and pre-chat you’re talking about and your bio says, Hey, born in Scotland, but you told me by the age of two, right? You are already abroad living with your family and you’ve kind of been in a lot of places since then so the personal question is basically what’s one insight that you can share with the Ruckus Maker watching or listening about that cultural experience, about living around the world that they could apply and benefit from their leadership? What’s that insight that you’ve gained? I know there’s many, but just one you wanna share.
I always say human first amongst everything, amongst all of our differences. Whether it’s social emotional, sorry, social economical, or whether it’s cultural, whether it’s experiential, whatever it is. The one thing is we are human first. And I would say instead of looking for what is different, look for what you have in common. Look for where you can make connections and always understand that you are capable of making that connection. If you just pause, if you just pause and just for one second, imagine that you are that other person and what they’re feeling. It’s not all about, oh so sometimes I don’t even know what’s going on, but I know that if I stick my hand out and I smile and I introduce myself and say, Hey, I am Kirsten and I’d really like to get to know you, or I’d really like to hear what you have to say. People open up and they open up with such joy because so many people are not used to being heard. So the minute you say that you wanna hear them, they open up. So that’s it. We’re human first and all humans want to be heard.
Brilliant. If you could put a message on all schools, Marques for a single day around the world, what would your message be?
I’m gonna steal something from somebody else I know. Educational consultant in the US called Robin. And I’m gonna say let them learn and I’m gonna leave that a little bit open to interpretation, but let them learn would be their in blazing rights.
Beautiful. And now you’re building your dream school from the ground up. You’re not limited or constrained by any resources. Your only limitation is your ability to imagine how you are building this dream school? What are your three guiding principles?
I think we could have a whole massive, massive conversation worldwide about this. It would be so interesting, exciting. Sure. Well, I think number one, the guiding principle would be unlimited learning or limitless learning, you know? Yeah. So that it is not limited by any curriculum or by any expectations or by any targets that have been controlled by another person. Because we don’t know what is inside our learners until we explore that. So I would say my first guiding principle would be limitless learning. My second guiding principle would be eight applications. So that would be like whatever we are learning, how are we gonna use it? What’s the purpose? Like what’s the challenge? What’s the thing that we need to actually address? So, and then the third guiding principle would be utilization of perspective. Which what that means is like, like, okay, it is important for people to be literate.
It is important for people to be able to manage their finances, make a plan or whatever. But at the end of the day, I really believe that we are limiting, for example, boys, okay, boys come into preschool and they’re all like building great structures and they’re all like investigating smelly things. And what do we do? We sit them down, get ’em to shut up and tell ’em to read books. Not as true. I’m sorry, it’s a disaster. So maybe I’ve actually changed that personalization of perspective to be something more like inspiration from inside. Like it’s about, I think we can do so much better if we actually, and that’s back to let them learn. It’s like if we actually activate what’s inside, put somebody and let it grow and flourish. I think we’re destroying architects. I think we’re destroying scientists and turning people, turning boys. I mean not just boys, but boys in particular is what I’ve seen. I hate school. All of this and make this learning in the environment. Whatever environment you have, get out and embrace it., Investigate it, make it real. Connect with businesses, get all of that juicy stuff going. The learning has to be real. We are keeping it too boxed in and constrained right now.
We covered a lot of ground today, Kirsten. So of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you wanna Ruckus Maker to remember?
You can do it. Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. You have the power, you have the capacities, and you know what the next step is.
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel BetterLeadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at @alienearbud, and using the hashtag #BLBS. Level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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