Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Transformer (RIP Lou Reed) def: an agent of change

The structure of modules which exposes students to new learning and then allows for personalisation being presented by Di

Kylee explaining our innovative timetable which incorporates Learning Hubs, Big Projects, Specialised Learning Modules and MyTime

Di explaining different inquiry models that have informed her team's thinking

Steve describing a student's application of the timetable

Lisa outlining the planning steps we will follow to develop modules that support the big concept for the term

Jill explaining the various modules (Big, Small, Spin, Hoops) with excellent visuals

Expectations were high leading in to today as the SLLs were planning to reveal how the Specialised Learning Modules would be constructed, planned, resourced and fitted into the wider curriculum plan and timetable.

Expectations were exceeded!

I had already had a good picture of the design of modules as a result of my involvement in discussions but I was blown away by the clarity of explanation, the quality of the presentation and presentation material, the activities for us to participate in and the openness to response to the many questions asked.

The atmosphere was exhilarating. Over morning tea and lunch everyone was buzzing with excitement as we could all see that the realisation of our vision for learning was coming closer. The exciting thing is that we're going to experience the same excitement with the upcoming presentations on Projects and Learning Hubs.

The next few hours of meeting with Budget teams and then analysing their submissions was a bit surreal as I was still on a high and just felt like, quite uncharacteristically, saying "yes, yes!" To all requests!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just Another Day of Awesome

It was a funny day today; a day when I couldn't fit lunch in until 2.48pm! It started with another enrolment, which is always a great task as I get to meet the parents and students who are committing to our school. From then I met for about an hour with our BOT chair as part of my performance review. It's always great talking with Alan as he has a vast range of experiences in the education sector and models life-long learning.

I managed to squeeze in a few minutes with the staff where Steve and Lisa were taking them through an exercise of identifying the key concepts and skills in the Learning Areas. It's always great to see the passion, knowledge and leadership on display when the LOLs are in full flight.

Lisa and Steve leading the team

Megan then ran a shared reading discussion with the new staff. I felt really privileged to sit back and see staff taking their turn to comment on the professional reading they had been doing and sharing it on our Google Site.

From there Claire and I met with Euan from Hawkins to confirm our AV installation requests. Megan and Pete took the opportunity to talk about the performance spaces in the school to help them with the budgetting. Shot, you two!

Then the first part of a three part meeting Claire and I had with a range of people re our phone and internet connection provision got underway. The technical stuff was over my head but the tension and conflict between the players was clearly evident. I think we made progress.

It was now 2.48, time for a quick lunch before heading off at 3.00 to take the primary staff and a few hangers on through the secondary school building. I was there last Wednesday but was still impressed with the further progress. 

Looking into one of the many social learning spaces

Robotics, electronics, small machines Learning Commons

So, it was a hectic day.

But it all came right when Lisa emerged from the cave in which her team had been working with the words, "Just another day of awesome!" And as I was about to leave, thinking I was the only one left at the late hour and doing a bit of air guitar to some pumping Talking Heads, Kylee and Megan emerged from their workspace and chatted about budgets and things. Just another day of awesome!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mr Excitement! (Jackie Wilson)

"Exciting and scary". These were the words used by a staff member to describe the work that she was playing a key part in to bring a doable structure to our vision for teaching and learning; a structure that could give us some ability to plan and organise but that which would not compromise our commitment to personalising learning. Without even thinking I replied with something like, "Correct! That's our job."

Reflecting on that later I felt pleased with how much more comfortable we had all become in that scary and exciting place.

The day started with great personal story presentations:
Liz began by using a collection of framed sketches, student work and family photographs to share part of herself with us. She also used a netball to explain the importance of loose elbows in both shooting for goals and sketching!

Danielle followed by centering her story around a collection of images that depicted her family and their shared interests.

Then Georgi shared a great video showing the many aspects of what it means to be Georgi.

The rest of the day was spent assisting staff with the budgetting process, completing 2 more enrolments, meeting with a couple of dudes who are offering their services to assist with international students, discussing timetable developments and beginning to get a working relationship set up with my new PA, Maliina.

A couple of IT/AV issues have arisen, but as with most issues solutions soon start appearing. Late in the day Claire shared the work she had been doing on Hobsonline, our on-line LMS thingy. Looking very cool!

Today lived up to this post's title (an album by the way I am still looking for)

Tomorrow brings an appraisal meeting with my boss, a further enrolment, a series of IT meetings and another site visit. Hopefully a couple more personal story presentations!

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

It was 2.07pm on Monday 21 October in a Learning Commons 8 cave when Kylee and Steve and I agreed that we had created a timetable structure that looks as if it could deliver on the exciting vision for our school. Of course, it wasn't created by us three, but we had certainly pulled together ideas shared between Claire, Di, Lea and I over several months, ideas discussed at length by all of the SLLs and feedback from all of the LOLs.

We left confident that we had a structure that would go a long way to supporting our goal of truly personalising learning with lots of opportunity for flexibility and responsiveness for both teachers and learners. I believe it to be a very innovative solution and one which will contribute to the growing level of excitement amongst our team. We've still got a little bit of work to do on it and still need to test it with the rest of our team. I'm looking forward to moving through that process and then sharing it more widely.

The day started with a great rendition of Folsom Prison Blues on the ukes and during the Kitchen Table session (which we start every day with) Sally ran a great session on introducing the key elements of effective coaching and mentoring which got all of us to draw on our personal experiences.

After this the SLLs ran a session describing the processes they went through in their previous cave as they deconstructed the NZC so as to design what learning will look like at HPSS. Staff were asked to identify one of the most important sentences in the NZC document which they agreed was:

"All learning should make use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas and that link learning areas to the values and key competencies"

I had to be out of the room for a bit completing an enrolment and when I returned I spent time sitting and observing what was happening in the room. The two things I saw were great collaborative leadership from the group of SLLs who were relishing the opportunity to lead, as all the LOLs have been doing, and a group of 20 people listening respectfully, allowing others to contribute and being able to contribute themselves.

Steve sharing the SLL journey

We then formed teams to begin the truly excellent process of budget planning for 2014!

Yeehah. Timetabling and budgetting in the same day! Hence the title of this post inspired by Kanye West.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giant Steps

John Coltraine's great jazz album from 1960 has inspired this post's title. While giant steps have already been made, this term will require several more as we bring life to the vision we have been unwrapping over the last several months.

Our new team, who were introduced with ukuleles in the previous post, had a busy day on Tuesday when they had a session with Di doing some Blue Sky thinking drawing on their own schooling experiences and sharing their vision of a dream school.
Ros, Martin, Maliina, Cindy, Pete, Liz and Georgi sharing their Blue Sky thinking

Their next session was a shared reading activity with me going through the Innovations Unit's 10 Big Ideas for 21st Century Learning. After reading about one of the ideas each the new staff shared the main ideas so that by the end they had a thorough understanding of each idea and all were able to bring some of their perspectives to each.
Pete sharing his thoughts on the big ideas

Wednesday was just as busy. It started with our LOLs sharing their thoughts on their experiences when they first started. They talked of how strange it was to be comfortable with slowing down and taking time to deschool and not be worried that it was an atmosphere of patient urgency rather than just urgency. They spoke of their excitement about being able to push the boundaries and of their fears of wondering how they could prove they had a right to be there and the struggles on leaving their former students behind.

This was followed up with Claire, Di, Lea and I revisiting the vision, values, principles and dispositions for our school to ensure we were all at the same place with our understanding.
 Claire presenting on our values

Getting myself in the picture

After this session I had the neat job of taking the new staff to visit our school's building site for a tour.
 Looking down into the student cafeteria area
The team on site

On our return the new staff shared their thoughts on the building with the rest of the team. They spoke of its sheer vastness, the interesting shapes, the framing of the landscape through the glass walls, the special combination of defined areas but also being open and cosy, the enabling nature of the design (around every corner was a learning space which brought meaning to our korero and the flow between spaces and to the outside. I think they were happy!

By Wednesday night I was feeling the urge to bring things to a head in relation to a definite structure to attach our learning design thinking to (think timetable). This was important for several reasons including driving our thinking around budgetting (rapidly approaching), ensuring staffing resource could do what we wanted without having the wrath of PPTA visited on me (urgent), and, most importantly, establishing the frameworks needed so that specific learning programme planning could take place while we still had time to do that. Consequently that night I created a model that allocated staff to kids and provided for the coverage of NZC in a way that maintained flexibility and provided elements of student choice.

I decided to share my thinking with my DPs one at a time because I often find it difficult to explain my thinking and respond to issues which might arise with 4 strong minded people in the room. I asked them to think it over and to share it with their teams.

After a neat session with the staff where they shared their personal sculptures I headed off to the airport to pick up my daughter who had been in the UK for 2 years.
Sculpture sharing in progress
 The next morning I discovered a high level of concern/questions from the SLL team in particular about the timetable plan I had presented. I quickly realised many of the reactions were a result of them not seeing the thinking behind and the flexibility within the proposed structure. Since the new staff were out on a community familiarisation exercise designed by the LOLs I took the opportunity, after more feedback from the DPs, to present the structure and to talk it through with the LOLs. While many of their questions and concerns were answered or addressed by this process they welcomed the opportunity to take time over the weekend to tutu with my ideas and to create improvements.

I spent Saturday amending my original plan based on the feedback they had provided at the session and it is certainly an enhancement. During Sunday I received a detailed outline of an alternative, though similar in many ways, from Kylee. At the time of writing this post a couple of questions I have are still to be answered but I definitely like what I see. While I was working through that some thoughts from Steve arrived.

We're all on the same page and all taking giant steps. My intention last Wednesday night was to nail this by Monday. This will still be achieved, but it will be the end of Monday rather than the start. I'm trying to think of the song or album that will best encapsulate  the feeling when this bit is nailed. I'll ponder on it.

Of course, lots of other stuff gets included in the week as well. Enrolments are continuing (about 110), we're signing off heaps of money for IT network solutions and digital signage, allocating areas of leadership for the full range of operational matters important to a school, attending the roof shout for the secondary school and the NEAL breakfast where Danielle was presenting

and of course finalising uniform.

The only way to cope with a week like that was to go and take giant steps amongst the giants in the Waitakare's
and to dine out with the whanau at Diwali celebrations in the city.

Hanging on for another great week!

Monday, October 14, 2013

22 Strong Ukulele Orchestra

Official staff photo of Foundation staff of Hobsonville Point Secondary School, minus Annette who is in India!

Day 1 of Term 4 the SLT (Maurie, Lea, Claire, Di) and LOLs (Sarah, Sally, Steve, Megan, Jill, Lisa, Kylee and Yasmin) were joined by our new staff of Bryce, Pete, Martin, Liz, Maliina, Danielle, Cindy, Georgi and Ros.

What a great day!