Sunday, August 16, 2009

Motu Training

A large group took part in a wide range of Motu training options today. Barry and a group left from the Waiaua Church and MTBed to the top of Whitikau and back. Hedley drove Karl's car to Motu, ran the track and then road home via the gorge. As well, a large group of us met at the College. The Boss, Lea, Jarrod, Dennis, Gareth, Destry, Brian, Karl and Mike left on their MTBs and picked up Dick at Tirohanga. John and Dan, Destry and I drove up the gorge to Motu where Destry and I ran the track while John and Dan waited for Colin who was driving up and rode back to town.

I found the run quite a struggle as was longest run for me since last Motu. 1 hr 36 was a good time for me but I struggled over the last 4-5 ks while Destry finished well in about 1hr 32.

Not too long after our finish Jarred came storming in followed shortly later by Dennis and Gareth, then Lea and Karl and the others in forgotten order. In the meantime Jim arrived, promptly did a U Turn and rode back to Opotiki without a pause or a hello. Karl leapt in his car and went to catch up with Hedley

Mike jumped in John's car and drove off after them, Jarred, Lea, Dennis, Gareth and Destry headed off on their road bikes, Brian drove Destry's truck with Dick on board, Andrew took Colin's car and I took the laden Hyundai and we headed to Matawai for fried sausages and coffee where we met Trev who had driven up to see if anyone needed a hand. Unfortunately there was only one sausage but I got it!

We then took off after our cyclists. We came across Gareth with a totally empty tank on te Wairata Hill and waited for everyone at Oponae. Jarred flew straight on, Gareth bailed and jumped in the Hyundai, and Dennis, Lea and Destry headed for home.

Jarred, Lea, Destry and Dennis completed a total of 100 miles! It was a bloody long day for a 96 minute run. Check the photos.Can't wait for next weekend.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Motu Training Steps Up

Last week 13 of us headed up the Motu Rd for a gruelling mtb ride. 12 left from Hanaia and we picked up Karl en route. Kerr, Barry, Jared, the Boss, Tred, Lea, Dennis, Brett, Destry, Kurt, Brian and myself were the original 12 who downed good coffee before biking off into the cold. We experienced the biggest frost any of us had seen. As we were climbing the last 100m up the Meremere we had ice falling out of the trees and landing on top of us and the fence wires were frozen. From there on we were cycling on a thin layer of ice over the clay. Those of us with booties and full finger gloves were happy.

Kerr turned around at the top of the Meremere and Kurt and I turned around at the base of the Papamoa while the others climbed to the top where they met Teleri and Hilton who had biked through from Motu.

It was great to gather back at Hanaia in the sun and drink more coffee and eat the muffins Patty had brought along with Lea's fruit cake.

It was a great weekend's training as Lea and I had paddled the bottom section of the Waioweka on the day before. It was the first time on the river in my Arrow Waka and I was a bit nervous. Apart from getting caught in the willows and losing my paddle for a while there were no major issues and I was able to keep dry despite a couple of hairy moments.

Tomorrow we have a big adventure with some mtbing to Motu, others running the track, some road cycling home and maybe some cycling right round - a logistical nightmare but we should have fun in the torrential rain.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Latest Learning Matters

Last week I had the privilege of leading a full staff development day for the teachers and teacher-aides at Wairoa College. Wairoa College and Wairoa itself have a lot of similarties with Opotiki College and Opotiki.

The obvious similarities are the low socio-economic status and high percentage of Maori in the community and on the roll. However, there were some other strong similarities. The young people I met were open, friendly, inquisitive, cheeky but respectful and hospitable. This is also how most people find our students.

The teachers and the teacher-aides were passionate about their work and, like our staff, keen to explore whatever they could to provide even better educational outcomes for their young people.

As we do, they certainly have some challenging situations to deal with with some of their young people and a small group on their staff are resistant to change. This would certainly be the case in most schools.

Like us they are spending a lot of time discussing how best to engage their young people so that they have success at school. This involves exploring innovative ways, such as restorative practices, to manage difficult behaviour and investigating more relevant and engaging curriculum models.

The last of these is certainly the focus of Opotiki College at the moment. Restorative practices are firmly embedded in our school, but we still have work to do in developing an appropriate curriculum for the 21st Century.

Currently the Aspiring Leaders Group at Opotiki College are working on an investigation into what is an effective teaching approach which will meet the needs of our students. The work they have completed to date is exciting and will form the basis of the teaching approach which will be practiced at our school.

At the same time we are developing our thinking around the junior curriculum for our school. Our work has been influenced by our experiences with our recent Three Day Wananga and with our pilot programme with a home-roomed Year 9 class with an integrated curriculum approach. The work has also been influenced by the research we have read and the exploration that was done by myself on my sabbatical last year and visits to Vancouver and Singapore this year.

We appear to be moving towards an approach which has a common theme for all junior classes across the school for each school term with the teachers of each class meeting fortnightly to plan collaboratively around the theme, discuss appropriate teaching strategies for that particular group, share assessment data and discuss class and group progress.

At the same time clear learning targets will be developed for each class based on a sound assessment of where each student is beginning from. Working in the collaborative Learning Teams teachers will work together to enable students to attain their learning goals.

These are only the first steps towards our ultimate goal of having students carry out their learning in authentic contexts, researching real issues in teams and presenting real solutions to real audiences.

This is exciting learning for our staff and learning matters.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Curriculum Planning

Go the relevant page of my wiki on Development Plans for Opotiki College (see sidebar or clicking on the post title will take you directly to the page) to see my latest plans for our Junior Curriculum at Opotiki College. I have attempted to take the best out of our Pilot Home Roomed Class idea, our three day wananga experience, the work of our Aspiring Leaders Group, my sabbatical, research I have been reading, and the posts on Bruce Hammond's Blog and match this with school structures and staff capacity and come up with something that moves us along and is doable.

You will see it is centred around the formation of learning teams for each junior form class which all concentrate on one common theme per term and there is a lot of collaborative planning, discussion of strategies and the sharing of assessment data along with the formation of clear learning goals and targets for each class based on establishing the 'where at' position for the whole class and individuals.

I would appreciate feedback both on the blog and especially on the wiki.

Learning Matters

30 July 2009

Over the holidays I had the opportunity to attend the International Confederation of Principals Conference in Singapore. It proved to be the most inspiring and thought-provoking conference that I believe I have ever attended with 1500 school principals from around the world in attendance.

The highlight of the first day was the 60 minute opening address by the Prime Minister who outlined the Singaporean education journey and its strategy for the future. His catch cry is “Teach less, learn more.” He was outstanding and exhibited the type of leadership from the top for education which this country lacks.

They have had a clear strategy which has included big pay rises for teachers in return for performance-based pay and class sizes of 40 students. They have now moved to reduce that to 30. They have also ensured a strong base of support to schools from the central agency. Schools are also very well resourced. There was no talk at all of recession which seems to be the focus of any conversation in NZ from the government. Educational spending is rising by 5.5% this year!

There was followed an excellent keynote from Sir Dexter Hutt (a knighthood for services to education!) who addressed the issue of 21st Century Leadership. He re-emphasised that we don't know what the best model is for a school of the 21st Century other than that it should be positioned to cope with change and that the curriculum should provide regular opportunities for students to research, work in teams and present to an audience. He also claimed that the most important qualities to develop in young people to prepare them for the future are self-confidence and self-esteem.

The opening address on the second was by Andy Hargreaves who mapped out his view of the Fourth Way that education and schooling was entering. This requires principals to have an impossible dream for their school, to actively seek public engagement, to involve students as partners in change and to deliver mindful learning and teaching. He outlined the three principles of professionalism which were high quality teachers, powerful professionalism and lively learning communities.

The next speaker was Michael Furdyk who is a co-founder of which is a youth generated website which allows young people to actively contribute to changing the world. He has just turned 27 and his address was inspirational. His goal is to make caring cool. His website and opportunities to contribute and design could easily be the basis for a full school curriculum.

The last day of the conference was opened by Professor Kishore Mahbubani who gave an Asian perspective of the world, both its past and future. He commented on the growth of China and India and his surprise when western commentators expressed surprise at this growth. His view is that Asia has been the dominant power in the world for almost all of the world's history and that it has only been the last 200 years that the west has had dominance. The world is merely returning to its natural state.

He identified 3 paradoxes. The first is that the globalisation of western education has contributed to the decline in western dominance in the world. The second is that this means that non-western elements now need to be included in the curriculum. The third is that at a time when the rest of the world is opening up the west is becoming more closed.

His suggestions were to continue the globalisation of western education as this has contributed to the growth and development of critical thinking and to a reduction in poverty, to introduce non-western elements into the western curriculum so that the west can begin to understand different cultures and that students can understand the inter-connectedness of the world, and that there has to be a two-way street of ideas between the west and east because both world views are valid.

His analogy is that the world used to be like 192 different boats (countries) floating on the sea and that we merely needed rules to prevent them colliding. Now we have 192 different cabins on the same boat with no captain or crew, but most are just worrying about their own cabin. His question to us is to imagine the limitations when the education system only teaches about its own cabin!

He got a standing ovation from the 1500 present.

The second speaker was Professor David Perkins whose topic was educating for the unknown. His big question was what is worth learning. He proposed a checklist of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Responsibility. If material did not empower people to take action and to contribute, if it did not enlighten people or did not enhance a person's sense of responsibility then it was most probably not worth learning.

His little poem was:

Taught a lot but matters not
Not taught but matters a lot.

He talked of a concept of 'flexpertise' which required one to have an understanding of the wide scope of disciplines, to concentrate on ways of knowing (thinking skills), to develop ethical understaandings (empathy, spirituality, equity), to develop personal and societal understandings (leadership, collaboration) and to include horizon themes (current important themes).

We need to reduce what is in the curriculum using his 3 criteria of empowerment, enlightenment and responsibility. His suggestion is to pick the richest topics first, work in some of the others, just touch on some and then drop some!

This conference was all about learning and learning matters.