22 April 2015

Partnerships, Pathways, Learning Conversations...

Partnerswhere Michael Fullan identifies a 'tension' in education that is going to 
eventuate in change. He refers to bored students, alienated teachers and the 
'exploding, irresistible and alluring digital world' that grabs the imagination of 
children. Re-reading all of this I am reminded that there is actually a real public 
acceptance that education is on the precipice of 21st Century learning.

Fullan suggested in his report written late 2013, that change is inevitable and 
eminent. He also suggested that the change, when it comes, will be based on: 
deep learning goals, new pedagogies, and technology.

That suggestion resonates with me. My TAI a few years ago culminated 20 
years of teaching inquiries including flexible learning spaces, 20% time, 
student-led learning and it is only recently that the pieces have all begun to fit 
together. I don't think I have ever worked so hard as I worked in that year but 
the outcome was genuine self-directed, engaged learners with a sense of agency 
and ownership of their learning. It was hard and my inquiry still continues to 
be iterative and based on outcomes on learning. But the outcomes show that 
change in my practice had an impact so they are worthwhile to pursue and re-think.

As school systems try to manage this change, Fullan suggests that there is only 
one obvious possibility for schools and that is to revisit  pedagogy, and redefine 
how they operate. Fullan suggests four key strategies:

i)  Irresistibly engage both students and teachers (I believe whanau need to be 

included here)
ii)  Ensure technologies are efficient and easy to use (Maybe BYOB/D is not the 
best option in primary?)
iii)  Make technology ubiquitous (To be ubiquitous, access is paramount: we need 
to know what access our children have from home and perhaps BYOB/D will 
become instrumental to this)
iv)  Ensure learning is rooted in real-life problem solving and inquiry (Meaningful 
learning experiences/ relevant inquiry/ local curriculum)

Fullan suggests that schools  will clearly need significant restructuring to ensure those 

four strategies are able to be utilised to promote deep, purposeful learning.  My own 
inquiry has investigated (and continues to investigate) how I, as the teacher, can best 
work with my students as learning partners, reflecting the concept of Ako - everyone
is a learner, everyone is a teacher.

15 April 2015

Haere Whakamua, Hoki Whakamuri: Going Forward, Thinking Back

We find ourselves at the end of our first term. We are moving out of the foundation stage and while we will continue to celebrate our first firsts for the rest of this year, it feels that it is finally time to really focus on what we are about; the learning. 

There was a time that everything we did was consumed by questions. Everything we did entailed decision making. We seem to be moving beyond that now... there are still a multitude of decisions to be made including the purchasing for phase 1B of the building as well as systems and events but we are actually able to function as a normal school... (sort of...)

 I looked back on what were my current realities at the start of term 1 and realise that many of them still stand. Our community is still very much under construction. Not just the homes that are children are moving into but also our relationships with the community. As a collective they are incredibly supportive and enthusiastic. I believe they have appreciated our transparency and honest approaches. We are still challenging ourselves to think about what we bring and what we leave and most of what we left packed away in our garages has remained there. If we were going to make a parallel to our practices; we have not found it quite as easy as we thought to leave some of our single cell practices. It's been good to identify the 'Pit' as this has encouraged us all to be open with each other about how we are going. With regards to working with excited, future people: it's been pure magic. I love the conversations, the learning and the passion that each person brings to our place.

It seems that some of my Desired Realities are already beginning to take shape.... The 'Pit' is not a place that any of us choose to be but most appear comfortable enough to share when they are there and some will even celebrate it. I have noticed that many people refer to the need to use growth mindset when they are there. 

I have worked hard on my bold steps including developing relationships, building a collaborative environment and engaging the community (in hindsight, I don't think they were that bold really). Relationships with children has proven to be most challenging which is not really a surprise given the nature of my role but this is something that I still struggle with. 

We started well with our vision being present in our conversations but I think this an area that needs continual focus. 

Our core learning beliefs and capacities have begun to provide us with an emerging framework and we need to use this to monitor how well the school is doing and whether team and individual practices are aligned with our vision.

7 April 2015

My NAPP discussions on the VLN last year referred me to an article about "Secrets to being a Good CEO". I could make
clear connections between a "good" CEO and effective leadership in schools...

Mark Franklin believes that the skills of a CEO are a combination of innate understanding and 
on the job learning and suggests that effective leadership includes:
  1. Self-awareness - of the impact you have on people and the impact people have on you
  2. Self-management - time management, emotional management & decision making
  3. Situational awareness - knowing what's going on around you and what you need to do. 
  4. Relationship management - being a unifying force in your school. Setting/modelling our ethics and culture. 

Franklin's traits of an effective leader include:
  1. Humour - the ability to see the funny side, even at your own expense
  2. Technical competence - in something but not necessarily in everything
  3. Practicality - able to talk to people at all levels of the school,including the difficult issues
  4. Normality - being a normal person who acts normally, relates positively, reacts consistently.
Franklin's list of key attributes that successful leaders have in common include:
  1. An ability to articulate their vision
  2. A strong commitment to achievement
  3. Readiness to demonstrate courage when things get difficult.
  4. Ready to take a risk (living on the edge).
I am directly focussed on #1 in the list of attributes as I know it is the area that I need to work on most in my role 
as a leader. I think I really did #2-4 well enough where I was but to ensure that I have people on board I need to be 
able to articulate the vision that is shared and co-constructed between us.