Sunday, April 13, 2014

Keeping it Student-centred

There were several highlights for me as we finished Week 10 of Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

At the start of the week we had visitors from an overseas school. As they toured the school they talked with our students about their learning. One of the conversations I over heard had our students explaining what stage of the Learning Design Model they were concentrating on at that time in their learning (she had returned to the Explore stage after she had found new information in the Generate stage!) and also explaining how their learning was enhanced by linking Learning Areas together.

On Wednesday afternoon as I farewelled the students at the end of the day with the news that tomorrow they would be getting their Term II Module choice booklets the highlight was seeing their genuine excitement and anticipation. Unlike for Term I modules, this time we were able to collect student voice on what contexts they would like to explore Space and Place which has helped teachers plan the different modules. As well, for the first time each Module has identified the Learning Areas it is focusing on and described the specific Learning Objectives. There was real excitement when students were given the booklets on Thursday.

I spent a lot of time this week in Learning Hubs and Modules talking with kids about their learning and observing their learning in action. This included students doing rehearsals for Sheilah Winn Shakespeare performances and our first school 'show' which had students performing music, drama and dance to the whole school.
Antonia performing her original song

Alisa performing on the piano

Guitar ensemble

Choreographing original dance

Euphoria after performing at Sheilah Winn

The witches and their concoction
So, as we near the end of our first term I feel really confident about how our learners are responding to the learning environment we are building with them.

There is no doubt that our teachers have worked very, very hard to help create this environment. Most of the staff have not only had to develop their understanding of what it takes to be a Learning Coach, most probably the most important role in our school, but also grapple with the demands of collaboratively planning and teaching within our cross-curricula modula structure, lead students through the Big Project element of our curriculum and provide a wide range of supports and programmes for students in MyTime.

Not surprisingly the hard work that is required to radically shift teaching practice as we set out to redesign secondary schooling creates doubts, uncertainty and tensions, both within ourselves and between ourselves. With this in mind Lea has taken control of Staff Kitchen Table and developed a programme that hasus reflecting on each of our Hobsonville Habits. Last week she had us concentrate on Being Adventurous which has served as a timely reminder that this is an important disposition for us.

As well, on Friday we once again had the pleasure of Mark Osborne being a true critical friend and challenging us to remain true to our vision and values.

Both of these were timely as we resist the urge to move away from being student-centred and start embracing teacher-centredness. There is no doubt we  have the intent to be truly student-centred but we all have moments when we find this a real challenge and it is because we are open to being exposed to respectful critique (also a real challenge some time) that we can be reminded if we stray from this vision.

This Tuesday we will be holding our first student-led conferences with Coaches, students and parents where students will share their learning and evidence of learning with their parents. Having the one person (Learning Coach) assisting the students to bring their evidence of learning together has been assisted by the work Megan and her team have done in creating a template to do just that.

The big question is what we need to now concentrate on to ensure we keep firmly on our journey. I have had a little disquiet recently that we had just about created some of our own silos. Our Learning Team Leaders, Specialised Learning Leaders, Learning Partnership Leaders and Professional Learning Leaders have done ground-breaking, important work but I worry there has not been enough opportunity to have their work shared and critiqued by others, an environment which usually exists with departmental teams in more traditional schools and an environment I definitely do not want.

Our first strategy was to create an Assessment Team, led by Megan, with representatives from each of the curriculum teams. While there were some birthing pains with this strategy it is now hitting its straps.

My next plan is to form a curriculum tracking team with representatives from each of the curriculum teams. I want to prevent any barriers to our ability to acknowledge that curriculum will be covered by all of the curriculum elements we have invested in and that tracking processes need to be designed by those from each of the teams. This will not only reduce the huge workload experienced by the members of the curriculum teams but also distribute leadership much more widely. Both of these things need to happen to ensure sustainability.

It is all of these things that make this the best job in the world. Don't get me wrong; there have been plenty of challenges, disagreements and times of confusion but I think this will be how it must always be if we want to keep innovating and being responsive. Amongst all of this the students have responded positively in our environment, staff are constantly looking for ways to support each other and we keep reviewing our structures to ensure we continue to innovate, engage and inspire.

A man happy in his work!