Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learner Centred Leadership

After a fine ukulele rendition of Folsom Prison Blues and a brief introduction from me explaining how each of the 3 DP's areas of leadership fitted within our curriculum structure, Claire, Lea and Di presented their understanding and past experiences that have influenced their understandings of their areas of Leadership.

Enabling Learning With Claire
Key points from Claire were the importance of the learner being at the centre of all structures and processes that enable learning, including teaching as inquiry and all professional learning activities, the idea of accountability by publishing plans, and when talking about or planning for e-learning that Key Competencies and effective pedagogy comes up front before the talk about technology. Her message was that professional learning must become embedded in practice. She also emphasised that while having an inquiry mindset is vital and valuable we will not get transformation unless we plan for explicit action.

Managing Learning Relationships With Lea

 Lea told her personal story as she moved, while leading at Opotiki College, from a clear understanding of relationship-based behaviour management as a result of restorative practice through to a realisation of the importance of relationship-based pedagogy as a result of Te Kotahitanga and school-based research to help in the quest of how school can be better for every single learner

Her key message was one of being warm AND demanding and that the reason for strong and positive relationships is not to just be warm and friendly but is to improve student learning. Her story of leading the implementation of 100 minute learning periods and, more importantly, Learning Advisories and experiencing them herself had shaped her thinking for our school. Her concluding comment was that if there was one thing an existing, traditional school could and should do is adopt the small group Learning Advisory model.

Learning By Design With Di
Di's story of her personal experiences in implementing a variety of collaborative programmes, especially at Waitakere, which allowed for integrated and authentic learning programmes has instilled a higher level of confidence and optimism in the troops/flock/tribe/herd that this very difficult piece of the puzzle can be fitted in.

One of the most powerful statements was her saying that she realised that Gifted and Talented Programmes were merely ways of differentiating learning. My conclusion is that if we differentiate for all learners and truly personalise then there will be little need for such programmes. We should be meeting the needs of all learners, all day, every day, not just when they are in programme.

We're now half way through the term. What a great ride! Bring on the second half.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Exploring Leadership/Bursting Through The Other Side

After a great 3 hour workshop on leadership facilitated by Di I felt a bit of a dork when I was asked to sum up and I blurted out the excitement I was feeling because I thought we were on the verge of bursting through the other side after weeks of deschooling and deep exploration of vision, values, principles and practice. So much for my contribution to this important workshop! I think all of the talk about Miley Cypress and her twerking must have gotten to me!

The others did some great work, however, as can be seen in this link

The workshop started with an exercise which got the team thinking about the difference between leadership and management.
We then looked at the principles of ako, manaakitanga, pono and awhinatanga and explored what each of these meant.
After lunch, along with Lisa and Sharyn, I met with a group of Christchurch Principals where we shared our thoughts about our common approach to teaching and learning. It was great to be able to respond to their questions. Such an activity allows you to further clarify your own thinking.

From there I joined Lea and Claire with Heather from Ormiston who is an E-Fellow and had a general discussion on thinking how to develop an integrated approach to our curriculum. Di was supposed to join us but as you can see she was in deep discussion with Megan and Sarah.
I'm keen to find out what they were talking about!

After a couple more enrolments I headed home and managed to fit in a wee jog before dinner.

Looking forward to tomorrow as the pressure that will force us through to the other side continues to build. At the end of the day I'm off to a conference in Taupo to reacquaint myself with the Minister and to do some learning with Jennifer Berger and Jan Robertson.

Principal Possum might go quiet for a few days.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Learning Is Hard

"Learning is hard" is the message we got from Daniel's presentation to us on how the Primary School is addressing the issue of Learning.

Daniel took us through a presentation and workshop he recently took his parent group through. He is adamant that parents need as much exposure to new ways of learning as do the staff and pupils. He has consistently shared interesting readings and video clips with his parents through his newsletters; a practice I have been also following.
As part of his presentation he reminded us of Dreyfus' model of learning which shows that as learners move along the continuum from novice to expert, the need for 'Rule Governed Behaviour' i.e. such as following a recipe closely to prepare a meal lessens as we increase our 'Personal Practical Knowledge' increases and we are able to create a meal without reference to the recipe. As he reminded us, such a model is relevant to be aware of when planning learning for teachers, leaders and students alike.

By using some easy to organise activities he was able to show how hard learning can be and that when you group students into classes that the range of places learners are on the novice/expert continuum is very varied.

He also emphasised the importance of continuing our journey of developing a dispositions-based curriculum to sit alongside a knowledge-based curriculum.  This sits nicely with our views on promoting academic excellence and personal excellence. Knowledge is easy to discover; the real challenge is in developing the dispositions to test and use knowledge wisely and appropriately.

A neat activity was to select one image from dozens he provided which best suited our definition of learning.

I chose a map which had some well-travelled routes and less well-travelled routes one could choose to get from one place to another while overcoming some geographic hurdles on the way. It shows many alternatives to the destination.

Di has circulated a great reading on personalised learning which I really like (which means I agree with it and it must agree with me)

Oh, and today I met with the Ministry to discuss the timing of handing over the building to us and other related issues (out of hours usage and travel-wise plans) and I completed two more enrolments and Annette and I progressed our thinking around appointment of PA. Claire and Di spent time investigating AV options for the school.

The LOLs and SLT are doing a great job on nailing the detail of the principles and practice that will support our teaching and learning and tomorrow, after reading a great resource that Lea has circulated will explore the principles and practice that will drive the leadership necessary to put it all in place. When that is done, after 5 weeks of de-schooling and re-schooling and great thinking, challenging and sharing, they'll get into the nitty gritty of their leadership areas.

The process to this point has been vital for them to be successful leaders and I'm extremely proud of the carefully considered planning the DPs have put into this and the way in which the LOLs have responded. You should continue to check out their thoughts in their blogs.

I have a funny feeling that my focus will soon be shifting from the bigger picture stuff to resourcing, resourcing, resourcing!

Oh well, nothing like a challenge!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In The Zone

A big focus for the last 4 weeks has been about getting to know each other while, at the same time, developing common understandings around the values and principles that will support our teaching and learning. It has been neat to be using a range of getting to know each other activities which help us develop these common understandings and to see that these activities will be great to use with our learners.

Sally's latest blog posting points to the importance of connecting strongly with learners before too much learning is attempted. It was serendipitous to read this before we launched into our morning activity.

After watching an awesome clip from Billy Elliot when he talked about feeling like 'electricity' when he was in the zone and dancing Lea sent us for 20 minutes to create a sculpture which represents each of us in the zone. Despite having heard everyone's life stories we learnt even more about each other.

 Kylee and Claire's sculptures: Time Out of Control and Blah, Blah!

 Lea Living in a Bubble
 Being A Dork
 Yasmin's Heart Bursting
 Lisa's World: Sea, running on the land and writing
 Sally's Whare Tapuwha

 Sarah's Swartzenegger Explosion
 Steve's Physical Bellich-like world
 Annette lost in the garden
Megan converging
Claire then led us through a great exercise on developing our shared understanding of personalised learning. Di had adapted a power point that Sean from Western Springs College had shared with us last week. Once again, using our circle approach we came close to a common definition of personalised learning.
The week has gone very quickly yet Monday does seem so long ago. I think this means we have covered a lot of territory this week. It feels like we are fast approaching that bit where convergence and divergence intersect and we're about to burst through to another other side. Hang on tight!

You might not hear from me for a couple of days as Leigh and I off to Wellington tomorrow to watch the All Blacks!!!

Happy Birthday, Mum.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gpilseo! Guacamole!

After a small, controlled, positive melt-down thingy within the SLT we emerged from our cave to another outstanding life story. This time from Lisa.
After having experienced the stories from all of our team some common themes have emerged. Family has been central in all of the stories, as well as a sense of space and belonging to place. The influence of parents, in particular, along with siblings and best friends has been obvious in the telling of the stories.

I then did my best to impress the team by explaining the GPILSEO (Goal, Pedagogy, Institution, Leadership, Spread, Evidence, Ownership) model of Change Leadership which is central to the Te Kotahitanga programme. It was my attempt to provide a framework for the work that we were all doing. I was particularly impressed with my whiteboard work which is going from strength to strength in this supportive environment!
Di then led the team through a process of drilling down further through the principles and practices which support the promotion of our values of Excellence, Inquiry, Connectedness, Collaboration and Innovation. It soon became apparent that many of the principles supporting one value were also present in supporting others. I once again called upon my 'whiteboard reveal' skills to produce an outstanding diagram to capture all of this. However, I had to quickly concede that the diagram produced by Lea, Yasmin and Sarah was superior to mine!
The afternoon had a different focus as I met with Annette to discuss the PA appointment process, got tsunamied by Peter from Hawkins around filling out a form no-one knew where it was so we could be UFBed. (Thanks for finding the form, Claire) and then enrolled another family totally committed to our planned model of teaching and learning.

I'm still feeling like the the luckiest Principal in the world as I work with our team, shifting out of actively participating and then stepping back to observe. I have been particularly impressed with the way in which everyone is allowing all of the team to contribute to the thinking and the discussing. Tino pai!

Make sure you check out their reflections in their blogs linked to this blog. Recent posts on our work and their thoughts are from KyleeSteve, Megan and Jill.

The highlight from today was this photo taken from inside my pocket.
One of 14!

See you apopo!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Strumming, reflecting and sharing

This morning's highlight was yesterday's rogaine teams sharing their presentations of the interpretative photos of the sculptures. They make great viewing. This one is from the team which came second.

This Brilliant Britomart is from the team that came first.

The day actually started with a beautiful ukulele rendition of Lean on Me and was followed by Sarah and Annette sharing a report on their meeting last week with the Sustainable Business network. They have made some strong connections and are planning and plotting to ensure our school follows sustainable practices. Claire then reported on her time last week in Wellington where she visited the National Library, connected re Creative Commons and presented at the Core Breakfast. She has come away with a great connection with a researcher on integrated learning models in secondary schools and may have encouraged an invitation to be involved in how NCEA's potential to support future-focused learning can be best realised.

The SLT then met with Noeline Wright from Waikato Uni who is studying and supporting our journey over the next 4 years. During my 30 minute session with her she asked me to reflect on our progress to date. I was able to provide evidence (parent voice) on how successful we had been in sharing our vision of teaching and learning for our school. I also spoke proudly of the development of our SLT and the joy I was having in watching the DPs finally having people to 'lead'.

During the afternoon we had the privilege of hearing Kylee's and Steve's stories of their lives.

Experiencing Kylee's Story

Enrolled another couple of students today. One student turned up with pink hair and cat's ears on her head and was impressed that such a show of individuality would not only be accepted, but also encouraged. They loved the story I told them about my ex Head Boy Toiroa and his blue mohawk.

Looking forward to sharing a little about GPILSEO with the team tomorrow and a mtb ride in Woodhill in the dark!

I'll let you know how it all goes.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Urban Rogaine and Design Thinking

After late night rugby watching (yay the All Blacks), wonderful 3 hour mtb ride in Woodhill and dinner and fine wine with Lea and Pete I was pretty tired after the weekend rather than refreshed and was looking forward to a week more gentler than the last, but.......

We caught the 8am ferry to the city where the team of 12 (actually 11 as Lisa had a sick child) enjoyed a team breakfast at Mojos in the viaduct (highly recommended) before Lea split us into teams and gave us our clues and maps. Kylee, Jill, Sarah, Di and I headed off to Britomart and started collecting the clues that made up the sculpture trail and performed some great interpretative poses to accompany each sculpture.

 Hard to explain this one
 Park your boat at the hotel
 Ninja Piano Playing
 Lisa joining us with Sir Peter
Megan's Gift (makes sense to me!)

We wended our way from Britomart to the Tank Farm and then back to Mexicalia for lunch. Apart from one glaring error on the map, Lea did a great job with the event, though her team did finish 2 minutes late!

We then headed to Trade and Enterprise where we had a great 2 hour workshop with Peter on putting Design Thinking in action. Megan had to put up with working with me. I don't think I created a great solution for her but thanks, Megan, for a win-win for me re my gift giving inadequacies!

The challenge is to take the learnings from the workshop and answer the "so what?" question with reference to our school establishment plans. Watch this space!

After a relaxing long black it was back onto the ferry for the scoot back to HP. I enjoyed the fresh air on the top deck where I was able to make sure Kylee coped with the trip OK!

Check out Kylee's blog for her account of today.

After a couple of hours getting on top of things at the desk (and enrolling another student) I headed home for a feed made up of ingredients bought from the HP Farmers Market. I then logged onto to Sound FM to register my top 5 albums in their competition to win a great sound system and their top 100 vinyl albums. I must win this!

I case you're interested my current top 5 are:
1. Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan
2. Let It Bleed: Rolling Stones
3. Talking Heads 77: Talking Heads
4. Dark Side of The Moon: Pink Floyd
5. Transformer: Lou Reed

Friday, August 16, 2013

Nearing The End Of a Busy Week

I'm buggared! but I feel good, content and still excited. This week had interviews and appointments, enrolments, BOT meeting and normal challenging work

The most important decision I made since starting was the appointment of Claire, Di and Lea. We've had a great 6 months. I wish I had captured our thinking and our expectations and our inter-connectedness from the start because I am convinced I would be surprised by the huge growth and shift we have experienced. Both as individual leaders and collectively as a team. We are much more different in our views and ways of operating than you might think. This is good and the challenge is to recognise and allow for those differences. For all of us it will be ongoing work.

The most important decisions they have had to help make was in the appointment of our 8 Leaders of Learning. I was always confident in our rigorous process and our collective ability to nail it. We certainly did that. Steve, Yasmin, Sarah, Sally, Jill, Megan, Kylee and Lisa have really added to our team. I find myself sitting back often while the work is under way and admiring the full team in operation and feeling very privileged and proud. I once got told off by a staff member for talking about the staff as my staff. We are definitely a team, but when no one is listening to me I do refer to the team as my team - I think just because of the pride I feel.

Moving on!

The next and equal most important decision we have had to make is the appointment of our next and final (in the meantime) group of teachers. When Danielle, Cindy, Bryce, Liz, Martin, Ros and Pete join us next term we will be even stronger and even better balanced. I like the way several of the LOLs are already getting excited about bringing the new team in.

This morning we performed our first ever public ukulele performance of our school welcome song (sung to the tune of Under The Boardwalk) to our visitor and critical friend, Mark Osborne. After a neat round of introductions when I learned even more about each of the team, Mark heard from the LOLs on their work on developing the sense and meaning of our Hobsonville Habits.

What did I hear:

  • vision without management is hallucination
  • the use of space should reflect our values
  • sustainability is built by protecting the vision
  • displayed work should reflect our values - do we value product or process?
  • teachers, learners and whanau should be able to develop their own metaphors that best help them understand the values/habits
  • the challenge for us is to change "hope to" to "ensure that".
  • be wary of being the best school only for the first cohort

Time for a meeting with Di, then off to the clubrooms for a beer!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Fun Just Keeps Coming!

I had a real feel good feeling going on all day today. By 9.00pm last night I had made all of the calls offering teaching positions at our school. The 7 successful candidates were all excited and reacted passionately and positively. As individuals they all have an open mindset and are passionate about what we are trying to do. As a group they are diverse and will add to the diversity of our existing group. Knowing how even stronger our team is going to be and feeling really pleased with the process we ran has put me in a contented place.

Today was usual business with Finance Meeting to kick the day off followed by 2 more enrolments (now 71). It was great to hear a father say that he hoped that in our sort of environment kids will be addressing us by our first names. This was in contrast to a mother who hoped we would consult the community on that issue as she had some strong views on it!

I am continuing to be impressed with the open-minded approach of the parents so far to what we are going to try to do. Many are reflecting on the boredom and irrelevance of their secondary school experience and some are comparing what we are offering with what is occurring for their older children in existing schools. They resent the inability to have regular, relevant feedback from schools and feel, in many cases, that the schools don't want them too involved. I have promised we will be different!

Steve and I went on a tour of our new school with some MOE suits. Even more progress is being made. I was so impressed with the full glass walls I saw. This made the place more visible and even larger.

The school day finished off with a BOT meeting about which I will keep my thoughts private, but it was positive. Unfortunately it was a bit long and I arrived at the Primary School parent workshop as it was finishing. I'm sorry, primary colleagues, for missing what I have been told was an awesome workshop. You guys, rock.

Time to go home. See you apopo.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tired But Not Weary

What I missed about today was a formal catch-up with the whole team. We didn't meet first thing because the SLT began interviewing again at 9.00am and needed time to get Lex up to speed on the candidates. As well, the LOLs were very clearly up to speed with what they were working on. You can check their thoughts on their work in their blogs. After our interviews we spent time making decisions about the appointments and by then it was the end of the day. I think I missed being together as a team.

As for the SLT it was a great day as we concluded our appointment processes. We interviewed another set of great candidates and by the end of the day we had settled on our 7 successful candidates. I'm not only rapt with the quality of the staff who will be joining us next term but very impressed with how the SLT worked so professionally, confidently and competently through this important process. I can't wait to skite about our new people. I also acknowledge the great qualities in those candidates we were unable to appoint.

I then went on to enrol another 6 families during the evening. This has been such an affirming process as all of the families are very excited by the vision of learning we have talking about. I feel very pleased with the strong level of consultation and information-sharing we have gone through with our prospective parent community. It has been hard work and sometimes challenging, but I think is already paying off.

Tomorrow will bring another round of excitement beginning with a Finance Meeting at 8am and concluding with a BOT meeting at 6pm. In between our LOLs will visit Albany Senior High School and we'll all have a catch-up after lunch.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Moving On

It may seem gentle being a Principal of a school with no kids and only a handful of staff but reflecting on today I'm not sure how a day could be more rigorous.

Following on from yesterday's great day with Julia Aitken (see Sally's views on that activity) where we inspected our brains we came together this morning. Our LOLs were set the task of taking our Hobsonville Habits and drilling down through them to create a series of 'I' statements which will end up forming the basis of our learner and teacher profiles.

While they were doing this the SLT had the privilege of interviewing 4 of our candidates for our next round of teaching positions. The calibre of the candidates is outstanding. We finished this about 1.00pm. As I walked past our LOLs quite regularly to collect the next applicant I was observing them in action as they had worked out a process for them to deal best with the Hobsonville Habits.

Just before lunch I checked my computer to find a shared document they had created to which they had all contributed. It made excellent reading. Steve's blog gives a neat description of that process through the eyes of Steve who joined us late last week after his Japanese excursion.

After a roundtable where they shared how they were going we were treated to the background stories from Jill and Sarah, after having heard from Megan and Yasmin on Friday. These stories have been a great process in learning about each other. Can't wait to hear from the others in the coming days.

From there Claire and I headed into the city for a very stimulating 2 hours with the ChallengED crew at Cognition. We were treated to a great presentation on Personalised Learning from Western Springs College and a very stimulating presentation from McAuley on Authentic Assessment.

After a trip home via school to bring in some of the primary school kids' painted wood things that had been left outside I got home just before 8pm feeling very satisfied with another great and varied day.

Now to re-read 4 CVs before tomorrow's interviews and write a referee's report for a colleague to make the day complete.

You should also check out this great video on our school zone created by our LOLs in their first week.

See you, apopo.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Brain

According to Hermann I'm a 1,2,1,1 brain. My thinking style preferences have me mainly in the quadrant that is described as Imaginative, Spatial and Intuitive, followed closely by the quadrant that is described as Logical, Analytical, Rational and Factual and the quadrant described as Expressing and Interpersonal. The 4th quadrant is not as strong, but still significant and is described as Detailed and Organised.

The summary of this particular combination of quadrants identifies work that would be most satisfying as including solving tough problems, explaining things, taking risks, designing, seeing the big picture, being part of a team and helping people.

That description almost perfectly describes the job I'm trying to do now! Makes me even more confident!

However, what makes me even more confident is that the Senior Leadership Team is really well-balanced and that our desire to attract a wider team of visionaries who care about people has been achieved.

Other highlights of today:

  • 2 of the team drilled down through their beliefs about learning and came up with, "Personally significant learning is powerful learning". Yeehah!
  • Julia's reminder to not be practice driven, rather be driven by values and principles

I'm happy with my brain, Hermann, but after today it hurts (with pleasure)!

Tomorrow's job: appoint more staff. The fun and excitement just keeps on keeping on.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Beginnings

It's time to bring Principal Possum out of hibernation!

I have been given this great opportunity to be Foundation Principal of Hobsonville Point Secondary School and have wanted to blog about this journey but for many reasons this hasn't happened. However, there are others who are doing this and if you want to track the journey I suggest you follow the blogs in my Blog List to the right.

Even though I'll reflect on how things are going I'll most probably do a Maurie and spend more time blogging about my interests and crazy escapades, including how Leigh and I are making the most of living in our new town, Auckland.

Brief Summary So Far
I started as Foundation Principal last October and spent a couple of months deschooling and reading and planning with Daniel Birch, Lisa Squire and Sharyn Afu who lead Hobsonville Point Primary School.

Leigh and I bought a wee whare in Massey and moved in in mid January and set about exploring the area by visiting local beaches and trekking in the Waitakares. Our daughter, Lucy, came home from the UK for a few weeks to join us but too quickly returned to the UK.

At the start of February I was joined by my fantastic DPs, Lea Vellenoweth, Claire Amos and Di Cavallo. Since then we have been working very hard on planning for our school. They bring a great range of experience, skills, knowledge, experience and personalities. We travelled together to New York, Rhode Island, Boston, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver visiting some great schools. Claire and I then travelled on the Apple Schools tour to San Francisco.

One of our most important jobs was to appoint 8 Leaders of Learning and these passionate teachers joined us 2 weeks ago. After a few days they shared how they were feeling and I ahve included some of their comments:

  • have enjoyed exploring why I got into teaching
  • discovering I am different to what I thought
  • enjoying talking about great practice
  • have been pulled back into the energy of teaching and learning
  • real sense of whanau
  • great buzz and level of enthusiasm
One of the neat things we did was present all new staff members, including ourselves, with a ukulele and we have formed the HPSS Ukulele Orchestra which all new staff members for ever and a day must join!

This week we appoint 7 more teachers for our school.