Sunday, February 23, 2014

Building an Airplane (out of 21st Century transparent materials) While We Fly It

At this Friday morning's staff Professional Learning session Cindy built on the building-the-airplane-while-we-fly-it metaphor by introducing the concept  of  transparent 21st century materials to highlight the openness to scrutiny and critique we are embracing. It was her introduction to teaching-as-inquiry in an environment where we want both learning and teaching to be visible.

Cindy leading PL (with a great T-shirt!)
Right from Cindy's start and then throughout the session I constantly heard colleagues talking about the importance of teaching inquiry focusing on the effectiveness of our practice on student learning, that the focus is directed by student learning needs and not on teacher-determined goals. What an awesome environment!

It was a great way to (almost) end the first week of our 'normal' timetable. This week has been the first week of students running through their full timetable. On Monday students participated in their Big Learning Module, on Tuesday they worked on their Big Project which is focused on the move into our building, on Wednesday they started with a SPIN Module and followed up with a Small Module, on Thursday they completed 3 SPIN Modules and on Friday completed another Small Module. As well, each day they spent time in their Learning Hubs.

Covering the curriculum through Specialised Learning Modules rather than single subjects is a major point of difference between us and other schools. 

Specialised Learning Modules:
·    The Big Learning Module (BLM) represents a day long module made up of three curriculum areas and teachers working together to present an integrated daylong module
·    The Small Learning Modules (SLM) is a two session module that is made up of two learning areas and two teachers working together to lead an integrated module 
·     The Special Interest (SPIN) is a single session module that has a singular curriculum focus and is led by one teacher. 

All modules are designed to relate a term long theme (Term One is Identity). Students select modules with support of their Learning Coaches to ensure curriculum coverage is achieved. In future, when we send information home about future modules we will clarify which curriculum areas are being focused on within each module.

Sally has just posted on her blog how a single subject like PE is present within such a curriculum structure.

Big Project
Our introduction to Big Projects is a mini project on making our move into our new building a special occasion. Students are being introduced to the key stages of successful project work while carrying out this mini project.

You can follow this link to a great YouTube clip posted by Sarah which explains the key stages of Big Projects:

Every day I farewell our students as they leave the building and ask them all to give feedback by raising, holding horizontal or pointing their thumbs downwards. It's the best part of my day as all students leave with at least one, often 2, thumbs in the air. They are loving their school days at the moment (long may it last!) and I reckon a big part of it is the fact that no one day is structured as any other day in the week. I love our timetable!

This morning at 6am several of te staff, BOT, students, parents and wider whanau gathered at the building for dawn karakia and a blessing throughout the building. It was a very special occasion which has cleared the way for us to move in, cemented our relationship with local iwi and was pwerful partnership in action. I'm really enjoying how important aspects of tikanga are comfortably becoming part of how our school operates. 

Nga mihi ki te kaumatua, Glenn. Nga mihi hoki ki nga kuia, Te Rongopao me Te Kahui Iti.

And then we threw our doors open from 10am until 1pm for the community to wander through and view our building. Our students acted as wonderful volunteer hosts and excelled in this role. More than a thousand wandered through and shared in our excitement. I got the last to leave just after 2pm!

The countdown is on as we spend one more week at Hobsonville Point Primary School before moving into our own building on March 3. And we've got Athletics Sports this Thursday!

The excitement keeps coming! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Harmonising Certainty with Uncertainty

I've always talked excitedly about the concept of "building an aircraft while we fly it" - it describes that state when you are in when you think something is going to work enough to give it a try, but still you are not certain how it will pan out (though you can find plenty of reasons to be optimistic).

I came across the concept of "harmonising certainty with uncertainty" when meeting with Noeleen and Bronwyn from the University of Waikato who are tracking our journey as leaders. It seems a perfect description of the state that we have become increasingly confident - the space designers often find themselves.

Harmonising certainty with uncertainty!
We have just begun our 3rd week as Hobsonville Point Secondary School (and still 2 weeks away from  moving into our building). These first 2 weeks have surpassed my expectations. The months of work we have done on exploring and unpicking our BOT's vision, developing a mission and set of values that clearly puts the learner at the centre of everything we do and truly exploring and understanding the intent and aspirations of the NZC have come to fruition.

As I stood at the exit at the end of the day to farewell our students for the day I got them all to give me thumbs up, horizontal or down sign for how their first day of Big Modules went (a full day in a group of 40-50 students with 3 teachers exploring the concept of Identity (see Steve Mouldey's and Claire Amos' posts that summarise these elements well) 3 gave the horizontal thumb and all others thrust their thumb upwards with many raising them high into the air.

I end every day in this way and am overwhelmed by the sense of happiness, fun and engagement our students leave the day with.

Last week I faced the prospect of running 3 workshops with the whole school on the best ways to deal with the inevitable conflicts that will occur in our school. I approached it with some nervousness as it was September 2012 when I last had to work with groups of students in such a way. The students had only had 5 days in our school but I could already see their comfort operating in an environment which valued them as individuals and placed them at the centre.

Most look interested with some even laughing at my jokes!
All throughout the last 2 weeks staff have been delivering workshops on important foundation skills such as digital citizenship, establishing on-line presence, behaviours and collations, understanding SOLO thinking taxonomy, understanding and applying our design learning model, exploring inquiry learning and experiencing our Big Project learning process.

I have attended most of these and have not only been blown away by the quality of the content of the workshops but more so by the total integration, modelling and exploration of our values and Hobsonville Habits (learning dispositions) by the staff.

Danielle's workshop on MyPortfolio used the theme of Super Heroes and was firmly linked to our values
In between these workshops students return to their Learning Hub to process their learning and make sense of it for them. The sense of whanau is very evident.

Hubs in action
Staff also model this in our own 'hub'. Last Friday morning during Professional Learning time students arrived at school to find us in our 'learning hub' working on MyPortfolio in the same way they had been. We're trying to make all learning as visible as possible.

Danielle setting us up for our PL task for the morning
Last Friday I acted as the Pied Piper and led our students down to our building and spoke of our aspirations for them, for our school and for our community to help Sarah launch our first Big Project (see Sarah's blog). I challenged our students to make our school the beating heart of this new community.The activity back at the primary school when we returned as students began planning their project is a testament to the way in which Sarah and her team are motivating all of us in this important element of our curriculum.

Talking about 'Moving In'
Last Saturday morning a small service was held on site to unveil a plaque to honour the three men who passed away building our school when the tornado hit on December 6 2012. The families planted a tree in remembrance of their loved ones. The plaque and trees with seating are right at our main entrance and will be a daily reminder of their contribution.

And what about our building?


Student Social Space - 1 of 7
We're having an Open Day for people to view our building on Sunday 23 February from 10.00am-1.00pm so come along and check it out.

The rubber has hit the road this week with students (and teachers) beginning our normal timetable. The kids loved their first experience of Big Modules and I was able to confidently farewell them tonight with the promise of more excitement tomorrow with Learning Hubs and getting hands dirty with Big Projects. And then Wednesday will bring their first experience of Small and SPIN (special interest) Modules ....... oh and also they'll be choosing MyTime workshops!

The excitement just keeps on coming!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shifting the Paradigm with Powerful Partnerships

It was so important that our year with students started as we meant to go on. We'd been talking a lot about the importance of powerful partnerships, having the student at the centre, getting to know each other as learners and making sure the students had as a clear understanding of our vision and values as we have.

Our aspirations could not have been more realised!

Powhiri to start 2014
The first day started with a powhiri to welcome the combined students of Hobsonville Point Primary and Secondary Schools. Kaumatua, Heta Tobin, spoke of the pleasure of being involved in this special event.

On Monday and Tuesday students spent their time in their Learning Hub working on getting to know each other, learning about our community and understanding the values of our school.
Exploring Hobsonville Point

Working on Digital Citizenship with Georgi

Exploring Values with Cindy

Getting to know each other with Megan
On Wednesday we had a focus on our Waitangi Whanau Celebration. Students worked in workshops on exploring their understanding of Te Tiriti through contexts of art, drama, music, sport and food.

That night we were rewarded with 400 people attending our event. They were entertained by a competitive netall match against the North Harbour Maori rep team and exhibition matches of Ki o Rahi, music performances by students and whanau and viewed exhibitions of student work from our workshops. And they had a wonderful kai of pork, lamb, chicken and vegetables prepared by our students. Check out Danielle's post on the celebration!

The feedback was outstanding with parents and whanau expressing admiration for the event and real appreciation that we are determined to involve the community in our school.

Outstanding work Learning Partnership Leader, Sarah Wakeford!

Yay, Sarah
The week ended with a Teacher Only Day on Friday. After workshops on Digital Citizenship by our Library Leader, Georgi, and Andrew Cowie from National Library and on Restorative Practice by myself we were presented with the next iteration of work from Di and her Specialised Learning Leader Team who are now focusing on finalising the Fluencies we wish our students to master and matrixing these with Curriculum Levels and SOLO Thinking Taxonomy.

Over the weekend I have been reflecting on the things that have meant the vibe in our school is as we hoped. Obviously the reasons are complex and varied but an event at the end of the first day when I spent more than 2 hours with some of the kids on the side of the road waiting for a bus that didn't turn up captured for me the type of school we already are.

Last year we talked about how the students would address us and I stated that I was determined to be addressed as Maurie. Most staff have also followed this. Immediately all power hierarchies based on roles disappeared and I have witnessed total respect amongst and between everyone.

While waiting for the bus the students were at ease with their Principal and while lying on my back in the grass by the side of the road seeking relief from the sun I heard one of the students say, "We go to a secondary school where the Principal lies on his back in the grass by the side of the road!"

That's the sort of Principal I want to be!

West Harbour Bus was only 10 minutes late

Getting to know each other waiting for the Whenuapai Bus
He who lies on his back in the grass by the side of the road!

Hobsonville Point Secondary School - setting out to redesign the secondary school experience

There are some outstanding posts by my colleagues that both capture the design and structure of how we are shaping the learning experience for our students and reflect on how the start has gone.

Claire's post is a great summary of the way in which we are structuring learning and Megan's is an excellent description of the role and function of Learning Hub, Learning Coach and Learning Team Leader. Steve's, Sally's and Kylee's capture their personal reflections on our first week with students.

The expectation we are placing on ourselves is immense and it is challenging working within an environment where every single person shares those high expectations, not only of themselves but also of each of us. It was with this trepidation that on the night before staff came into school that I started thinking about the key messages I wanted to share with staff. I know it had taken me a couple of days after the holidays to tune back into our kaupapa so I wanted to touch on a very few key points to assist staff to tune back in.

I started by talking about the paradigm of one which is the normal state of play in a NZ secondary school - one class, one hour, one subject, one teacher, one set of activities, one pace, one way of teaching, one assessment, one way of leading.

It is the time for the paradigm of many - many ways of learning, many contexts for learning, many ways of teaching, many ways to show evidence of learning, many excellences, many ways of excelling and being bright, many leaders.

Our intent is to shift to the paradigm of many by personalising learning, powerful partnerships and by empowering learners.

It is also the intent of ERO to challenge schools to make this shift. In 2 recent reports - Priority Learners and Achieving Success in Secondary School - there is a clear call to focus on individual students, implement a responsive and rich curriculum, use assessment to modify teaching, build positive relationships with students and whanau, track and monitor student progress and review teaching.

You can't do this in the paradigm of one.

We argue that, as well, in the paradigm of one you can't realise the New Zealand Curriculum's aspiration for learners to be confident, connected, actively involved life-long learners.

I reminded our staff that we are not just opening a new school, but that we were also purposefully setting out to not only redesign the schooling experience for Hobsonville rangatahi, but also to lead the way in influencing the wider secondary school environment in NZ. We are doing this because we are committed to bringing life to the potential of the NZC and to make secondary schooling more relevant for young people.

We are realistic enough to know the work is going to be tough and demanding. It requires new ways of leading, new ways of teaching and new ways of learning.

We are all going to have to be guardians of our vision, mission, values and goals and we must contribute to and operate within a culture of respectful critique.

We all expect to have our practice questioned and challenged. I also reminded our staff that while it is easy to accept and commit to this type of culture we will find it personally challenging at times. I know I have!

Already we have done ground-breaking work on curriculum interpretation and learning design, on developing a dispositional curriculum and on innovative professional learning design. We've also brought our community along with us.

We've still got to figure out how to track, assess and report on curriculum coverage and student achievement, but that, along with the myriad of other things we don't yet know we haven't done yet, will all be resolved because we have brought together a team who are fully committed to our vision of truly personalising learning and building all school instititions with the student at the centre.

All in tune!