20 February 2015

Thinking About My Goals: Thoughts Out Loud

Personal learning/ Aspects of  teaching/leadership that I hope to strengthen and develop

Currently being in a new school that just managed to open for learning in time on the 9th of February leaves me feeling somewhat overwhelmed about setting a goal. There is so much that I want to achieve this year! I guess the big picture includes developing my leadership skills so that I am able to lead the team to build the culture and vision of our school so that is a living thing in our conversations, actions and the day to day running of our school. That’s way too big to measure and even I will confess, it is probably going to take a little longer that just this year….

Therefore, I think my main goal will be based around teaching, learning and assessment. (Still pretty big, I know!) More specifically, I want to work  on developing a culture of learning that engages children and their families, allows for agency and self-direction and is ubiquitous. Engagement to me is key to success and this includes the role of the children’s families.  I want the team to develop assessment that the learners actually ‘own’ and a reporting to parents system that is engaging and authentic. This needs to become something that is owned and valued by the children and their families. After all, each teacher/ mentor that works with the child is simply a very small piece of what is explicitly an individual’s learning. I believe that to ensure that this begins to happen in our school, we need to really develop the culture of learning so that it is visible and explicit in everything we do. We will need a language of learning. We will need to develop a self awareness in our children  so they can monitor and talk about their own progress.
Along with the shared responsibilities as a member of the SLT, I have responsibilities for the following:
  • Core curriculum leadership: Mathematics/ Literacy leadership
  • Assessment leadership
  • Maori/Pasifika achievement
  • Maori/Pasifika liaison with community.
  • Kapahaka
  • Staff professional learning co-ordination
  • eLearning co-ordination
  • Appraisal co-ordination
I believe these most of these responsibilities can be woven through my learning goal. By doing so, I am likely to keep looking at the big picture of leadership and maintain true to the vision and learning values of our school.

How will these be achieved and what evidence will I have?
  • There will be explicit, on-going learning conversations between, children, their teachers/mentors and their families.
  • Reporting to parents will meet the needs and the demands of the learner and their family (this will include cultural and diversity needs).
  • Assessment will be student led and owned.
  • At the point of Eutopia, reporting to parents will be on-going based on demand from the learner and his/ her family.

What I hope will change in your leadership practice as a result...
Developing my leadership skills with a focus on coaching towards a shared vision. The development of a sustainable reporting system is dependent on leading/ coaching teachers to collaborate to develop a shared pedagogy and language.

What impact on student experiences of learning do I hope to observe? Evidence? will you have of this impact? Impact for priority learner students?
Student voice and observations will gather evidence over time of children developing ownership of their learning, the awareness of their next learning steps and their ability to talk about the progress they have made. Community/ whanau voice and feedback re their engagement and involvement in their child(ren)’s learning. There will be an analysis of the priority learning groups including Maori/ Pasifika and target learning groups.

What impact on student learning outcomes (especially for priority learners) might be observed? How will I collect this evidence?
We do not have access to any past longitudinal data so the data gathered at this stage is our baseline. The data will include attitudinal and level of achievement. Student/ whanau voice will be gathered around awareness of learning and the progress they are making. I expect/ hope to see a direct correlation between a rise in attitude and a child’s awareness of the progress being made. I also expect to see increased engagement and understanding of the learning from the child’s whanau.

To develop my leadership skills with a focus on coaching teachers towards developing practices that reflect our shared vision. The development of a sustainable reporting system is dependent on leading/ coaching teachers to collaborate to develop a shared pedagogy and language.
You want to do this … through…so that it leads to…
Knowledge / skills / practical considerations / support
Knowledge / skills / practical considerations / support
Time / people / resources / support
How will you know you have achieved your goals?
For the team to develop a collective/ shared vision for reporting to parents. This will include our beliefs, principles and practices.
New team with a blank slate and the awesome vision: “Creating a Climate of Possibility!”
New team in a new school = cognitive overload.
Past experiences/ influences/ traditional practices
Team Professional Learning Meetings
Developing a shared BPP
Reporting/ assessment practices reflect the team’s principles and beliefs.
To involve the community in the development and progress of our reporting system so that they are engaged in their child’s learning.
Able to set up survey in forms.
Have conducted community surveys, collated and reported back on results previously.
Need to develop community trust by being transparent and acting on their feedback.
Relationships are very positive in this new community.
A lot of our families will base their perspectives on their own schooling and what they know of current practice in local schools.
Community Survey, analysis and reporting back.
Engagement of whanau; this will include evidence of whanau of our priority learners being engaged.
To coach teachers to develop a shared, collaborative practice that it reflects our BPPs around both assessment and reporting to parents.
My eFellowship inquiry: developing agentic learners and the impact of increasing devices.
Iterative inquiries have included
-developing co-constructed learning paths,
-children monitoring their own progress,
-children owning their assessments including summative and being able to speak to them, child choice re learning, workshops,etc.   
-collaborative/ MLE practices in my past school.
We need to develop a common language to be used by the children, the teachers/ mentors and our families.
New team in a new school = cognitive overload.
To develop my own coaching skills.
Be clear of our BPPs and ensure that coaching is centred around these.
Team Professional Learning Meetings
Developing a shared BPP
Day to day practices and programmes are a working evidence that our BPPs re assessment and reporting are a part of our culture.

16 February 2015

7 months ago

Today I was sifting through the many layers of research, reflections and curation that I have accumulated in just 7 months. I began this role with what became known as the 3 "Shotover Mondays". This was a brief period where I found myself finishing up at my past school but had the Mondays of the first three weeks in term 3 to begin Shotover stuff.

I found my very first Shotover Monday reflection today... It feels like so many moons ago...

Monday 28th July, 2014

Today I think I had a wee taste of the isolation that Ben has felt for the past wee while. While I talk with my learners about self-directed learning and managing selves often, there was something eerie about beginning my first day in that very position.

Now, at the end of the day I am feeling confident enough to say that it was a day well spent but there were moments that I hoped I was making gains for the people I am working with!

My day started over breakfast and re-visiting some light reading: The first 3 chapters of “Classroom Habitudes”  by Angela Maiers have previously focussed me on the thinking, problem solving, innovation and creative skills that are deemed as critical for all student learning and success in the 21st Century Learning Environment.

Angela highlights 7 habits/attitudes for 21st Century Learners:
  • imagination
  • curiousity
  • self-awareness
  • perseverance
  • courage
  • adaptability
  • passion

I then had a second/ third look at the list of values from “Values & Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice” and could make what I think are valid connections to Maiers’ habitudes. It was at this point I wanted to think out loud, bounce ideas and be challenged. (But that’s not easy to do with yourself and a chai latte!)
True to form, I resorted to online resources and focussed on these:
I subsequently wrote most of this reflection and then parked “Values”. (Time was ticking on!)

Ben suggested that we have a look at Christian Long’s talk re the Third Teacher. I found that this could link nicely to Angela Maiers’ “Habitudes”. My biggest take-aways that I connected with in Christian’s talk were that Learning Spaces should:
  • encourage innovation, problem based thinking, problem solving
  • enhance learning experiences, learning conversations, learning opportunities and outcomes
  • help to develop mindsets for the future

At lunchtime, I met up with Helen on Skype to discuss how we might develop our vision around spaces and places to support learning.
Our conversation is documented here.

Lastly, at the end of the day I have tried to collate all of my reflections, discussions and docs onto a private site that is only shared within our domain at this stage. I have tried to embed anything that has been shared and discussed so far and to group these under headings. Hopefully, it proves to be a valid archive in years to come.

To round up the day, I took a punt at awarding points to some values. This proved to be a double edged sword, as I can confess it didn’t feel ideal having a dabble at suggesting values for a community that I am not yet a part of. But that will all change in good time!


13 February 2015


One of our aims at SPS is that the vision and values are "alive". The staff have already had many conversations about how important it is that these are visible and define our culture of learning. The vision and the values are what we 'are' and what we 'do' at our school.  During the induction, we began to realise that to achieve this the adults must also 'be' and 'do'. For this reason, our appraisal documents (for want of a better term) feature our 5 core learning values and what it might look like as a part of our school's culture for teachers.
The learning environment that we are working in enables us to:
  • plan collaboratively (build on ideas, share teacher expertise, empower others)
  • share professional learning
  • vary the range of pedagogies used to suit the learning
  • better meet children’s needs
  • build teacher capacity by mentoring and observing each other

It seems appropriate then that one of our learning values that we have identified is "Collaboration." Working in shared spaces requires good collaborative practices to be developed. After a chat with Chris Bradbeer I was reminded of the place of relationships in our teaching teams. I was also reminded that while my team has put my hand up for this innovative learning environment, they are still being forced into working within a collaborative environment. Previously, I have never thought of collaboration as anything other than good, empowering or supportive...  Hansen reminds me that bad collaboration is as effective as no collaboration, if not worse. 

Effective collaboration will grow our culture and our vision along with the other 4 learning values. It is time to walk the talk! 

10 February 2015

We Have Opened

I really don't know if I will get my daily blog posts published this week. I keep starting a draft and then not completing it. (Is it cheating if I post them later in the week?) It turns out that opening a school is a magic but slightly manic experience! 

We have made it! We have opened to learning!

ODT Article

8 February 2015

We've Moved Our Own Cheese!

I shared this with the team during our induction. 

The Key Messages:
  • Change happens, they keep moving the "cheese".
  • Anticipate Change: Smell the "cheese" often so you know when it is getting old.
  • Adapt to change quickly. The quicker you let go of old cheese the sooner you can enjoy the new cheese.
  • Enjoy and savour the adventure and enjoy the new cheese.
Over morning tea, I asked some of the team what they would do if they were not afraid? They reminded me that they weren't afraid and that we have all put our hands up for this. We decided that when you change what you believe, you change what you do.

There is a sense of pure adrenalin running when you are working with a team of people who have all put their hands up to change the way they work as educators. The climate of possibility in our place is endless and exciting!

7 February 2015

SPS Survival Packs...

Well, the learning begins on Monday at Shotover. Our start has been slightly later than other schools nationally. It's been a rocky journey including some uncertainty about access to the building. I think it is fair to say that building in the Wakatipu has had its challenges and fortunately the majority of our families are or have been building their own homes so they seem very understanding.

Last week, we really focussed on the need to trust in the emergence and also what is important vs the urgent... Something very hard for teachers as they (myself included) have a tendency to be a controlling bunch.

The team is doing well and everyone is very excited about Monday and actually getting into it. A few would like a little bit more certainty and to be honest, I am probably one who would like more clarity about our roles and what the learning will ultimately look like.

I am in the midst of preparing a bit of a fun "survival" pack for the team for them to arrive on Monday. You can google ideas and find a multitude of possibilities on Pintrest and teachers' paid for sites... This is my version... The aim: to put a smile on a few faces and to ensure that the team feels valued!

6 February 2015

Learning - it's Our Business!

I looked at the emerging tag cloud on my blog this morning and realised something... I've had 6 months out of the classroom and to be honest I am feeling slightly detached from teaching and learning.  The time away from the classroom has been surreal. It has been filled with the most amazing personal learning and professional development including formal, informal and self-directed. I have learnt stuff about NZ schools and the curriculum that I had previously been oblivious to in my past roles. I have learnt about resourcing a school and have been challenged by the potential differences of resourcing a 'traditional' single cell model ass opposed to  resourcing the collaborative, shared learning environments that we are moving into. You can ask me about sizes of balls for age appropriateness, 3D printers and pricing for potential ratios of devices to learners over the 3 stages of opening.... It's been a huge learning curve but I am aware that "Teaching and Learning" does not feature in my tag cloud! 
It's time for me to re-read Michael Absolum’s Clarity in the Classroom.  and begin re-thinking learning conversations and the development of learning focused relationships in our new place. 
I am mindful of the transition into our school which includes new place, new relationships, new pedagogies, and most importantly, new learners! I am also very aware of the urgent and important. The puzzle is how to fit it all in without burn out in the team!  I guess, I need to ensure that I am focussed on the 'why'. 
I think there are some elements of my past teaching inquiries that I hope to infuse throughout our new school. But I need to remember that these are actually practices and for them to be a part of what we do, I need to be sure that the team understands the 'why'. It's never about the tool or the practice, so how do I share what I value?
  • Learning conversations and learning paths: time to talk about learning and to celebrate progress is really important to me.
  • Implementation of Google Apps: collaborative and ubiquitous planning and assessment
  • Ubiquitous learning: children and their families can connect, view, share...
  • Implementation of Google Apps: so that children can share their learning with their peers and expect useful feedback in return.
  • Flipped learning: purposeful, planned and relevant.
It is so hard to put the handbrake on and go back to the beliefs before we all bring our principles and past practices into the mix....

5 February 2015

It's Happened! We Are Here!

What a magical milestone today was. We had all of our Day 1 learners and their families come to school for a bit of a transition session followed by a barbecue and a social gathering. We have opened with approximately 91 children in Years 0-4 and 7 mentors working in 2 learning habitats! We are here!

To help the children settle into the learning environment we relied on their parents taking their own child(ren) around the school on a sort of self-directed tour. Hopefully, this has helped the children familiarise themselves with the spaces in readiness for Monday. It was wonderful to stand back and watch the learning spaces get 'activated' and to see the vision begin to unfold.

I was in awe of the excitement, enthusiasm and support shown by the parents. They showed a real appreciation for the work done so far and the newness of Shotover School. They were keen to meet not only their children's "Go-To Mentor" but also the other Mentors that their children would be working with each day. They were buzzing just as much as the mentors themselves and the children. 

4 February 2015

Trust in the Emergence

Hans: Pixabay
"Trust in the emergence" is what Julia told us last week. How many times have I repeated these out loud to others and to myself as self talk since then? It has to become a mantra in the lead up and probably well into the first year of opening a new school. 

Starting a little later than most NZ schools, we are opening up to the new learners and their families tomorrow afternoon. The truth is, I am in awe of where we are right now. The team has worked effortlessly for the past 4 weeks. Firstly in an off site induction and then this week on site unpacking, setting up the learning environments and planning.

The biggest learning curve for the entire team has been to keep considering what is urgent and what is important. That's been hard because the urgent things can have a tendency to distract us from what is actually important. 

What's important for me right now? As a leader, I hope that the learners are feeling safe and happy, that the mentors are feeling supported and happy and the environment is one that supports learning, is engaging and promotes the culture of learning. There have been a few disappointments this week with orders arriving incomplete or incorrect. Initially, I was hugely disappointed and felt a rising panic in not having the urgent things ticked off and ready. But then, I had to stop and think through... Which of these things will actually have impact on the things that are important to me when we begin on the 9th of February? Just that one question put many things quickly into perspective for me and the overwhelming list of things to address was suddenly reduced significantly. Oh, I still got those things to work through but they won't stop us in creating that learning environment that we are working towards...

So, from this massive roller coaster that I am riding right now - I urge anyone to learn to trust in the emergence. It's okay if it's not perfect from the start! And also, try to remember what's important and what's urgent! Keep the 'why' firmly in your vision. 

3 February 2015

Beliefs, Principles and Practices

Last week we had the pleasure of working with Julia Atkin; a wonderfully inspiring lady who was able to lead us through discussions and challenge our thinking as we continued to design the learning at out school. 
 Developing practices congruent with
values and beliefs - Julia Atkin

The most valuable tool I have picked up in the past year has been the BPP (Beliefs, Principles, Practices) concentric circles.  Julia, and Simon Sinek more recently refer to the 'WHY'. If there is no reason/ why/ belief then it does not need to be pursued. Everything that the leadership team have been working on over the past 6-8 months has started with this model...  The rich thought and discussion that has come from using this tool can not be over-rated.  

Here's a simple task to get you thinking as you begin the new year....

  1. What are your core values or beliefs about learning? 
  2. How do you work towards these beliefs or values?
  3. What practices do you use in the learning environment to achieve this?

We have used this model as a team for almost everything we do at our school including developing our beliefs around appraisal, assessment, learning environments, communication and our learning values. I thoroughly recommend that everyone stops and thinks 'WHY?'

2 February 2015

Weaving the Vision into the Learning Environment via the Resources...

Today was a little bit like Xmas all over again. It was all about the unpacking and unwrapping of the resources and getting them into their places. The resources that were being catalogued were the result of mine and Helen's own learning/ inquiry from over the past 6-7 months.  It was such a rewarding experience to watch the mentors (teachers) squeal with delight as they opened boxes and peel of the plastic.

The mechanics of opening a MLE has included discussion, research, visioning as to how to resource a space such as ours. Traditionally, we would give each teacher in their single cell classroom their own numeracy kit... Strand equipment might be stored on a shelf in a shared resource room.

My question - what if we could group children to stages of learning and reduce that core equipment so as to allow for equipment that supports and promotes the ability for 'just in time' teaching?

1 February 2015

Day One: We have lift off!

As I begin the #28daysofwriting challenge, I need to put a few things into perspective! I am living a dream I have had for a while... I am a part of the leadership team of a new school opening this week!

For the past six months, since my appointment, I have been researching, debating, learning and forward planning. In amongst getting to know the people I am working with, building trust and developing open communication, we have had to think about everything from defining the beginning of our learning values and our vision to which toilet paper dispensers we should install! We've had to make decisions about furniture, resources and our digital infrastructure. The thing that has amazed me most is that there is no hand book for opening a new school. We have had to path our own way.

And, it's just been amazing!

On Friday, we got the key to our building. We are in. This has  been the most incredible finale to a magical 2 and a 1/2 week induction period with our teaching team.

Today we were able to open our learning habitats and admin block up for the wider community to come in and have a look. We all felt rather overwhelmed and humbled by the support and excitement that came in, not only from our incoming children and their families but also, the wider community including retired educators and local teachers. Our FOS (friends of the school) group are already well established and formed the welcoming committee today with their sausage sizzle and cake stall. Today, the community came together for the first time!

The next four days are all about 'nesting' and orientating ourselves in our spaces. We need to unpack resources from a shipping container and set up our learning spaces. Thursday is our open day which will include a family barbecue. Our children have not had the luxury of transition visits so the family barbecue will hopefully allow time for orientation in the form of a family 'scavenger hunt'. 

For the next week or so, I am going to use the #28daysofwriting challenge to help me get back into the pattern of reflecting. I will use our transition into our building as my platform to begin with. I would really appreciate feedback, suggestions, perspectives and challenges! 

I am looking forward to building my blogging/ reflecting skills and reconnecting with others but I probably need to state that I am in this for the purpose... not the audience.