Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More Songs About Buildings and Food

This truly outstanding album by Talking Heads came to mind when thinking about a title for this post.

Food certainly features strongly in a lot of our activities at school, though not so much today as it was a fasting day. But it is forever present. I have posted about Steve and Sarah's Live Below the Line project this week and also mentioned the scones and lunch from yesterday.

The More Songs bit seemed relevant as our starting the day with a ukulele performance has become a ritual.
Today we attempted a couple of new songs including Amy Winehouse's Rehab but much more work will be needed to nail that one. We had to finish off with another rousing rendition of Folsom Prison Blues to get our confidence back.
Had to comb my hair in a special way to get this look going!

I then headed down to our site to meet up with the architect who was hosting a visit by another school which was looking at Modern Learning Environments. I was there to talk about the pedagogy that had prompted the building design. I soon realised the lens through which our visitors were looking at teaching and learning spaces was quite different to ours so I just dropped into the background and wandered around with a senseof increasing excitement about how our building was unfolding.
 Looking into my (I mean our) office

 Student cafeteria/gathering space outside gymnasium

 Looking from Main St into Learning Commons
Breakout areas as part of Learning Commons

I raced back from this to the ERO report back from their visit the previous day. Alan, Di and Lea and I (Claire was getting emergency dental treatment!) had the privilege of hearing the reviewers speak very highly on the leadership, governance, coherence of vision and direction, community engagement and curriculum planning that was evident to them. I liked the way they talked about the patient urgency with which we were going through our work.

Well done BOT and staff!

It was great to spend the last hour joining a LOL conversation that was making the first tentative steps towards agreeing on how a timetable might be put together. I couldn't help but reflect on the ERO comments about coherence because through this conversation you could tell that everyone was motivated by keeping the learner and their needs firmly in our focus. Differences were being expressed but everyone was singing from the same song sheet. I am convinced that if we had tried this conversation a few weeks ago there would have been more polarised views.

After appointing a PA and two further enrolments to close out the day I found myself heading home, once again, feeling content, confident and privileged. I was even more pleased that I hadn't had time to eat my apple which meant that was caloric capacity for a whiskey for a quiet celebration.

So, the third term is coming to a close and all seems well in our work!

Monday, September 23, 2013

As ERO sees it

I've struggled to start writing tonight's blog post because I'm not sure how to write about the day.

ERO was here for the day to begin their Readiness Review. Last week the SLT met briefly to discuss the visit and quickly agreed that we didn't need to do anything special and that we were confident that we could talk confidently about what we had done, what we were doing and what we still had to do. I spoke briefly with our LOLs to let them know that ERO would want to meet with them and talk to them about the work that they were doing.

So what happened today?

After a short mihi we burst into a fine rendition of Folsom Prison Blues on our ukuleles which I suggest would be the first time this was used as a waiata to support our mihi. Claire, Lea, Di and I, with BOT Chair Alan, then talked with them for an hour on how we were bringing the board's vision to reality. We talked about the very strong relationship we have been forming with our community and contributing primary schools, the processes we followed to appoint our stunning staff and how we were shaping up our curriculum delivery processes, structures and practices.

Claire, Lea and Di were then taken off by one of the reviewers each (Di, Deb and Anne) and talked with them about their roles in leading the development of the curriculum and growing the leadership of their teams. I have never felt so relaxed about ERO talking to staff without me "keeping an eye on things".

After a lovely morning tea of Lea's homebaked scones Deb and Anne then had an hour with the Learning Team Leaders (LTLs) and Specialised Learning Leaders (SLLs). Once again I had no fears about our people, who have only been with us for 8 weeks, being able to speak confidently about their contributions to the development of our school. While this was going on Di was quizzing me about the exciting topic of 'documentation'.

After lunch, which was another great banquet, Deb, Di and Anne spent 2 hours comparing their notes and pulling their thoughts together. I was able to act like a ninja and take a stealth photo of them at work.
Ninja Photo

While ERO were having their hui our team just kept working.

ERO Reviewer, Di, later admitted that rather than reading through the documents I had left with her she kept an ear on the team in the photo above as they were developing their professional learning ideas for the full team next term. She was moved to comment very favourably on the way in which members of the team were  putting their views forward while remaining open to the views of others.

ERO then asked if they could give their initial feedback to the whole group as they were not sure if they would get the opportunity to do so tomorrow as they would only be in briefly. Their feedback was outstanding. They all commented on the vibe they were feeling and that they saw total coherence across the team about the vision and how we were moving it closer to practice. It was totally affirming for the team and I was rapt that they were sharing their thoughts with everybody.

The biggest struggle of the day was poor Sarah and Steve who had to miss out on the scones and lunch banquet because of their commitment to the Live Below the Line project whereby they have to live off food that costs no more than $2.25 per day!
Steve's cup of mint tea with mint plucked from his garden

Go Steve!

Let's hope ERO's more formal feedback apopo supports what I've put up here! I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sharing food, ideas and company

The last 3 days seems to have revolved around sharing food, korero and each other's company.

It started on Friday morning with me, Claire, Di and Lea hosting the Principals and Deputy Principals from Hobsonville Point, Hobsonville, Marina View and Whenuapai Primary Schools at the Catalina Cafe. We took the opportunity to congratulate them on the quality of the kids we had been enrolling and to thank them for hosting our staff in their schools. There was a strong, positive vibe amongst everyone there with a strong commitment to maintain a strong relationship.

The SLT returned to the Catalina for a planning lunch (seriously) where we laid out the key planning stages for the remaining term of the year. We returned to school to complete some of the details of the planning to see our LOLs in action sharing their work from the last couple of weeks with each other.

At the end of the day we then headed to Casa del Amos where we enjoyed the company of our staff and their families, a few drinks and beautiful tapas.

Saturday was largely spent getting ready for our ERO visit on Monday and Tuesday and finished with a great meal at BOT Chair, Alan's, place with Leigh and Daniel and Alan,s wife, Liza, and their daughter and her husband. The food was outstanding (I even had beet root for dessert!) and the company and conversation was superb.

Today we had the traditional lunch at the Riverhead Tavern (Hallertau was closed for refurbishment) for our newly appointed staff who start next term. Once again the food was beautiful but the company and excited buzz from Peter, Danielle, Liza, Bryce, Cindy, Martin, Ros and Georgi was a real pleasure to experience.

I'm really looking forward to the ERO experience apopo. I fully expect they will find things that we should be more on top of than we are, but I really feel as if we have been getting this part of the journey right. As well, we have organised a shared lunch with them as well!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Like a worm through the mower

Every week seems to be chock full of highlights and if I don't blog regularly it's hard to keep track of them all so it's great that in the team we have plenty of people who are putting their thoughts out there. I really enjoy reading their posts and reading their views  about what is going on.

One big highlight was having Mum and Dad here for 3 days.

On Monday they visited school and met the staff. On Tuesday they ferried into the city with Leigh and did stuff which involved a lot of walking, then we headed into the city for a great Malaysian feed at Sri Penang on K Road. On Wednesday morning Leigh took them to the Arataki Gateway to the Waitakares before a lunch at Sushi Tomi (see above) with Eryn before off to the airport.

A group of staff and BOT members from Waiheke College visited to look at Modern Learning Spaces and talk teaching and learning. It was great to talk with the students they brought along.

Our LOLs, on Tuesday, spent the morning at Whenuapai and Hobsonville Primary Schools meeting teachers and doing some work with their students. They have established some great links with those schools. Early next term they will be doing the same at Marina View and Timatanga Schools. Some of their reflections have been blogged.

The highlight on Wednesday was signalled by another whoop from the SLLs from within their cave. They had discovered a paragraph from p44 of the NZC which clearly underlines the freedom that the NZC creates for teachers and schools to deliver learning programmes in quite a different way:

"When designing and reviewing the curriculum, schools select achievement objectives from each area in response to the identified interests and learning needs of their students"

You can read Steve's thoughts on this discovery in his blog.
On Thursday I ventured into the cave and saw sticky notes, that had been attached to every flat surface possible, now being removed and discarded.

Even the windows aren't safe from being used to capture our thoughts and planning. As well, we have had to amend existing and create new tools to capture our thinking as you can see below.
Brown paper and whiteboards!

Have also been busy interviewing applicants for our PA role, enrolling students and tonight attending a BOT meeting. Tomorrow morning we are hosting a breakfast for our contributing primary school leadership teams, having a staff party at Casa Amos. On Sunday we are having a lunch with our newly appointed staff who begin next term, which I am really looking forward to. AND ON MONDAY WE HOST ERO.

The year passes
Like a worm through the mower;
Hell for the quick!
Mincemeat for the slower!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Of Whoops and Handstands and Ridiculousness

Even as it feels as if time is racing and we still have so much to do I'm still enjoying the very important milestones that are being reached. Last Friday two important milestones were achieved and marked by two different responses.

Late in the day there was a high decibel whoop from Steve in the Hacking Cave. I have only spent a little time in there with Di, Steve, Jill, Lisa, Kylee and Sarah so a more intimate description of what they are doing can be found in Steve's blog posts. However, I know their work will be instrumental in determining our teaching and learning model. So far, they have created a Hobsonville Point Design Thinking model totally informed by the key concepts from and the essence of the NZC. As well, they seemed to have put the NZC Learning Areas into a big pot, boiled it for a couple of weeks and closely analysed the sediment and found pure gold.

Just before that Yasmin performed an impromptu handstand to celebrate the great work her, Sally, Megan and Lea had achieved in shaping the very important learner dispositions, known as the Hobsonville Habits, into a learner profile.

Check out Sally's Blog to get the real oil on their work.

Things were starting to get ridiculous so there was nothing left to do but have a home brew taste off between Steve's Hobsonville Point Pale Ale and Ossie's Ale.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recording the Journey

I've been trying to blog every night after work because it helps process my thinking, which has usually been 'influenced' every single day, and it is a way of recording this quite special journey.

However, the working day is struggling to end tonight and just before logging off, signing out and dropping off I checked if any of our staff had updated their blogs.

Check out their latest posts as they are telling it better than I could.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Guerrilla Activity

As we race towards the end of the term and an ERO Readiness Audit visit in 2 weeks things become more real and a level of panic or uncertainty could start to set in. Sometimes, thankfully more and more rarely, I can begin to feel a little overwhelmed.

Last Friday we spent a lot of time together as a SLT making sure we had a plan for the final 3 weeks of this term and then for the final term. I had begun to worry about the scale of 'things that need to be done" that were stacking up. These things aren't so much about the essence and structures around our teaching and learning but include things like PA appointment, planning to purchase resources and equipment for a school with nothing in it, preparing a start of year transition from one building to another building, developing a budget preparation framework for a school which is structuring learning so differently, forming an ancilliary staffing plan (reception, data, nurse, sports co-ordinator, student counselling), thinking about a Charter framework that meets compliance criteria but is also a valid document/tool for us, our Board and the community, worrying that I haven't progressed SLT appraisal processes, keeping communication going with our parent community.

After our meeting on Friday I was reminded that 3 leaders had been appointed to deliver on our teaching and learning model and that that was exactly what they were doing. Lea has  helped her team develop a clear understanding of the importance, function and roles of our Learning Hubs and Learning Coaches. All team members understand the importance this element has on personalising learning, tracking and mapping it to give rigour and on providing an environment to support our learners to excel in the dispositional curriculum centred around our Hobsonville Habits.

Di has provided great guidance for her team who have launched into an impressive unpicking of the NZC and have begun to reassemble it to give guidance and rigour to the development of our across-the-curriculum specialised learning modules and projects. I am not sure if that team is fully aware of the ground-breaking nature of their work.

After having overseen the appointment of our Library Leader Claire's focus is now on developing a Smart Toolbox to support the teaching and learning within the Learning Hub, Specialised Learning Modules and Projects. Next term she will have the very important professional learning team to oversee and guide. We have appointed an outstanding SCT, E-SCT, Library Leader and Professional Learning Leader which will plan the on-going learning and inquiry processes that ensure we all remain life-long learners and true to our vision.

These are huge responsibilities. The quality of our leaders and their teams fill me with the confidence that the results of their work will be outstanding and form the strongest foundation for us to build an outstanding, effective and relevant school for our community.

I can get on with the other stuff and hope I can keep up with them!

These realisations meant that spending Sunday almost entirely concentrating on School Charters!! was somewhat enjoyable! As I was beginning to run out of steam 2 things occurred: fit the Charter into a circle (haven't done yet, but about to), and Claire sent around a proposed strategic template for us to consider using as we planned our work.

And then we had Monday!

My team of Amy, Jill and Kylee leapt into the HighnDry and headed towards Learning Network via the money machine to get $200 cash ($40 per team - hey, why not get $220 and give ourselves $20 more) where we met with the rest of the staffs from both our schools.

Lea and Kristyn had organised a series of 20 minute workshops, presented by our colleagues, about what was going on in our schools.

I kicked off with Steve Hacking Spaces and moving from Guerrilla Geography to Guerrilla Cross the Curriculum.
Daniel followed up with a workshop on Individual Education Meetings. These are when learners talk to their parents and teachers about their learning. The teacher supports this conversation and by the end of the hui learning goals are set and responsibi

lity for achieving them is assigned to the learners, the teacher and to the parent. These will go on to form the basis of the next IEM.

Kristyn gave a great presentation on the learners' profile they had developed from the Hermann's Brain model and this was followed up by Lisa giving an excellent introduction into SOLO Thinking Taxonomy.
Then we were issued with our $40 (one team had $60!) and set off on our mission to produce tapa dishes for our colleagues. Our particular theme was decadence!

First stop was the local Countdown where the girls got decadent in the chocolate aisle with a really into it shelf-stacker.
We followed this up with a visit to the other supermarket
to spend our 'surplus' $20
but we didn't have enough money so we bartered down the price of 2 bottles of champers (so support Westgate's King Dick!).

We then carried on the theme of decadence back in the kitchen preparing our decadent raspberry/coconut cakey thing with chocolate genache accompanied by champers with strawberries.

And voila!
All washed down with Steve's Hobsonville Point IPA.

What a great way to end and then start the week.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Thursday began with the HPSS Ukulele Orchestra performimg Happy Birthday for the lovely Karma. We then fed on a beautiful birthday cake which she had to bake for herself!

The other highlight from Thursday was presentations from the Specialised Learning Leaders and the Learning Team Leaders on their work so far in developing their areas of our curriculum.

 The SLLs began with the task of explaining how the walls of the cave depicted their view of what the essence of the NZ Curriculum is.
Lisa explained that the essence statements from the NZC represented the Why of the NZC. She also pointed out that when key words from across all of the Learning Areas were naturally grouped the cycle represented above formed the How of the NZC. The cycle on the wall grouped these words into exploring, making sense of learning, thinking, generating ideas, refining ideas, taking action and evaluating. Hello! This looks like a design thinking model!

The remaining stickies on the wall behind her describe the contexts and concepts for learning or the What of the NZC. The great news was that the dispositions that fell out of their analysis of the NZC looked remarkably like the Hobsonville Habits! Inspirational work!

The LTLs described how they began grouping their thinking in a linear fashion and after a little while they discovered it wasn't making sense so why not try a circle!?

Yasmin and Lea then told us how they then began expanding on the practices in the outside circle.

The wall wasn't big enough so Sally created this wonderful thingy which has captured the 6 major areas of practice we expect in our Learning Hubs.

Their job is to now create frameworks to support these practices so that the Learning Coaches have a 'curriculum' and set of tools to use with their learners. Check out Sally's blog post on this work.

My mind was buzzing as I headed off to the Museum for a LATE talk on Dionysus and the topic of Intoxication. How fitting as it matched the state I was in (metaphorically)!

The metaphoric hangover from this intoxication meant I don't even know what happened on Friday: it was a daze of Talking Heads Stop Making Sense!, Duran Duran, Yasmin Le Bon, George Michael and a staff member modelling school uniform.

I need to go and lie down!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Curriculum Forensics

CSI agent Steve investigating the crime scene that was the NZC

On Monday our Learning Team Leaders worked with Lea as they explored the purpose of Learning Hubs, the role of the Learning Coach and practices and activities that would be appropriate for this part of our curriculum. It was neat how the Julia circles proved useful in shaping their thinking. This team has climbed right into their work which is evident with all of the material plastered around their work area (photos tomorrow).

As well, on Tuesday we were joined by Principal Colleague and Canadian travel companion John.
John is on his own journey to lead transformation in his own school. He participated in and contributed to our full day of activities. When our LOLs reported to him on what they had been working on I was almost moved to tears when one spoke of the concept of advocacy with reference to the need for us to be constantly advocating for the learning model we were designing and another spoke of cohesion and how Learning Hubs were going to create cohesion for each kid's learning. One also spoke of discovering the truth of observation allows you to see things at one level but that the process of drilling down through the practice you are observing allows you to see things at a much deeper level. 

John was present when our team of Specialised Learning Leaders began the process of deconstructing the NZC document to establish the true essence of it with the intention of then reconstructing it in a way relevant for our learners. They were working with Di's guidance and late in the day when she and Steve emerged from their cave with a triumphant smile on her face I knew something great had been achieved.
And it had been! And here it is! The essence of NZC!

John and I were so overwhelmed we had to retire for the day for sustenance.

But wait: there was more on Wednesday. The great work done by Di and Steve in the cave now faced scrutiny from Lisa, Jill and Kylee.

And they added to it and took the deconstruction further. Then while Di spent the afternoon leading the signage discussion with one of our designers and John The Builder, which involved visiting our building site, the group carried on without her! At the end of a long and tiring day I enjoyed the last half hour with Di as she talked about the progress with our building, but more importantly as she took me through the latest iteration of the deconstruction of the NZC which was now spread over the walls of the cave. It was clear to see the the creation from the swamp of a design thinking model spreading across the wall. Inspirational!

But of course, since its Hobsonville Point Secondary School, we had to fit more in. Claire will be at home tonight feeling very satisfied with leading the process of appointing an exciting and enthusiastic Library Leader to our team. At the end of today after preparing the information pack and application material, reviewing applications, leading the shortlisting and carrying out the interview (I was allowed to ask a couple of questions) she had the privilege of offering the position to an excellent candidate. With this appointment Claire now has an outstanding team of Professional Learning Leaders to assist her.

I also spent an engaging 80 minutes with a family who were considering enrolling their son at our school after planning for several years for him to go to Rangitoto. That may still be the outcome, but I appreciated their desire to be as fully informed as possible about our school. I enjoyed responding to their thoughtful questions.

I'm buggared (might have something to do with the long night of lubricated conversation with John) but feeling good: especially with Stone Roses pumping through the headphones.

I suppose tomorrow will be exciting as well!