Sunday, March 23, 2014

Visible Footprints

Until very recently we had spent a lot of time whistling in the dark - researching, theorising, planning, imagining what a redesigned secondary school would actually look like. I have to pinch myself that after only 7 weeks of operating as a secondary school with students with only the last 3 actually in our building we are seeing our imaginings becoming a workable reality and we are beginning to leave a footprint.

Yesterday, Saturday 22 March, was a special day for establishing our footprint. Lea, along with Sally, Megan and Ros, was at the Big Picture Conference in Wellington and Saturday was her day for the presentation on how Big Picture Kaupapa has influenced the thinking behind our school.

Twitter was going crazy with ravings about her presentation.

The storify collection on the conference can be viewed here

As well, Claire was going hammer and tongs at the Festival of Education in Auckland.

She put out a challenge to educators to accept the need for change in our schooling system and then later in the day chaired a panel of innovative thinkers. The following day she arranged for a group of our students to be part of the Youth Summit at the Festival.

I think I got the short straw but did enjoy the opportunity to be a provacateur while making a keynote at the Auckland Technology Teachers Conference at Auckland University. After hearing a hell of a lot of deficit thinking from them as they responded to a previous speaker I challenged them not to be that group of technology teachers who sit in the corner of the staffroom grizzling about change and compliance, claiming 'we tried that in 1972 and it didn't work then' and blaming primary schools for low achieving students etc, etc. I managed to get out alive and have been invited to speak to Rangitoto College's Emerging Leaders Group. Not quite as exciting as Lea's offer of employment in Sydney!

While at the Festival of Education Dinner that evening I was prompted to reflect on several matters. Minister Parata gave a stirring speech which was well-received, but the introduction and thanks was over the top with its crawlingness and the mismatch between her rhetoric and her shameful focus on testing and grading is a hard rat to swallow.

It was the three young people who took the stage to talk about their schooling experiences that was the most heart-warming and affirming, They were each asked to suggest what should happen in schools to make them more relevant for young people. Arizona pleaded to have out-of-class learning included in evidence of learning and used her experiences as Head Girl at EGGS as an example. Tristan Pang (12 years old and off to full-time university study next year) asked that schools have passion days when students could concentrate on things they were passionate about to keep them engaged with learning rather than concentrating on timetabled academic classes for the whole week.

Thanks for describing our school!

More schools are going to have to follow our lead. Secondary schools still largely look like what they did when I first attended in 1971! There's no way I would go into a hospital or dentist that was operating the same as it did 43 years ago.

Despite the tinkering around the edges secondary schools are still based on the model of one group of kids, in one class, for one hour, with one teacher, being taught one subject, by doing the one set of learning activities, at the one pace and completing the one same piece of assessment at the one time with none of the learning in that one class linked to the learning in their other classes down the corridor and having very little say in the learning activities they are all doing and in what the assessment will be.

Schools must move to the paradigm of many: many ways to group learners, many contexts for learning, many teachers to support the learning, many ways of teaching, many different activities to engage in, many ways to show evidence of learning and many paces for learning.

The following photos show the range of programmes students have been experiencing in our very important MyTime aspect of our curriculum when students determine where they need to be, with whom and doing what to support their learning. They can choose individual or group learning support, numeracy or literacy support or extension or they can pursue a passion.

The very important Friday morning staff Professional Learning is quickly becoming a highlight of our week.

And while this is all going on staff are tracking their journey. Check out the blogs on th right hand side which are being updated continually. I reckon you should check out Claire's post on blended learning which is the best succinct outline of the importance of blended learning that I have seen. And Megan's post is a great champion for conferencing as an important tool for tracking and reporting on learning. And you should check out Steve's honest reflections in his mid-term report card. And finally check out Georgi's description of our emerging library.

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