Sunday, February 22, 2015

Let The Moment Seize Us

While out trekking in the bush and in the rain this morning I was beginning to formulate what I was going to post this week. Thinking about the previous week I decided to theme and title it around "not letting history pass us quietly by" and then thought I would call it "Seize The Moment." However, after the trek I went to the cinema to see Boyhood (which, by the way is the best thing I've seen since Dark Horse) and was blown away by the last scene. Mason and his new friend commented that rather than seizing the moment it seemed it was more often the other way around and that "the moment seizes us".

Over the last 2 weeks I have found myself in hui at school, or simply part of conversations, and sitting back a little and observing, listening and reflecting on what was happening before me. Several times I was moved to comment that it was important to be consciously aware that something special was taking place which will contribute to a new way of looking at secondary schooling in our country.

At one of our first Learning Area Leaders (LALs) meeting while we were reflecting on a new timetable structure that appeared to have less freedoms in it our Science LAL, Andrea, asked if it would be OK since there were 2 Science modules on at the same time (both linked to 2 other learning areas) could they treat it as one large group and run a programme drawing on the strengths of the four teachers across both groups. It was a #tearsinmyeyes moment.

At our first Leaders of Learning (LOL) meeting Danielle, who has been leading the operation of MyTime (see Claire's post describing our curriculum elements), came in to present her plans for MyTime in 2015. She had shared her plans with SLT and I loved them because they built a strong structure and rigour around an important aspect of our curriculum model which could easily have become a bit fluffy. But I was a little nervous as MyTime and its structure had caused a lot of angst within our staff as a result of differeing views on its purpose. Because Danielle placed her proposals firmly within the values of our school with tight links to our Hobsonville Habits her proposal met with total support and approval. #tearsinmyeyes again!

Assessment processes had caused a lot of issues for us last year as we made a few decisions on the hoof in our attempts to include what we valued. It was an important place to be and has resulted in what I believe to be a rigorous process of collecting student and staff narratives for each learner which can be used to have meaningful conversations with learners and also to report to parents. In order to meet some of the concerns from parents we have agreed to report on the curriculum levels that students are working in, but in order to make it more meaningful, especially for our students, I have been determined to show differentiation within the levels by use of a thinking taxonomy. While we have some experts on our staff we also have some who are not.

At our next LAL meeting, our SCT and a bit of a guru with Solo, Cindy, presented on how SOLO could be used in a number of ways to achieve the differentiation, as well as being an outstanding tool for showing progressions for small sections of learning. Her introduction of Big and Little
Rubrics was another #tearsinmyeyes moment.

At one of our regular SLT Hui there were at least 3 more #tearsinmyeyes moments. We had a rigorous discussion around processes that supported our important IEMs (Individual Education Meetings) and we started off with some differences of opinion that soon found an equilibrium. We were able to live out our aspiration of being a team that had robust discussion followed by solid commitment to our agreed position.

At that same hui Lea, DP responsible for our Learning Hub programme, took us through the newly developed Learning Hub Handbook with its outline of a Learning Hub curriculum structure underpinned by a philosophy of responsiveness to the need at the time. The coup de grace, which produced this #tearsinmyeye moment was the rubric that had been developed to track, with links to evidence based on SOLO, each learners progress through the Hobsonville Habits. We are committed to pursuing Personal Excellence for each of our learners but I had been worried as I had not ever seen a way of evidencing progress within a dispositional curriculum. We're on our way to cracking this!

And then Claire presented to us on the plan to align NCEA processes with our vision and values. This is a whole new post, or series of posts.

We have had to be courageous in setting out to establish our school with our set of vision, values and principles. There have been many stressful times, but all have been outweighed by the many tearsinmyeyes moments.

There is no doubt that our plans for NCEA will require a high level of courage as we again do things differently so that we ensure that in the area of national qualifications we do not default to the norm but stay true to the vision, values and principles of our school.

A summary of what is affecting our thinking is:

  • NCEA L1 is a qualification that does not provide access to careers or tertiary study.
  • There is a growing concern of the impact of assessment driven curriculum on student well-being and we wish to alleviate the high levels of anxiety too many learners experience.
The recent ERO Report on student wellbeing in secondary schools makes a couple of damning conclusions:
  • "Very few schools were responding to this overload by reviewing and changing their curriculum and assessment practices"
  • "In many secondary the only people who understood the school curriculum and the competing demands on them, were the students"
I have been traumatised by this last statement since I read it last Thursday. At HPSS we are determined to show the courage necessary to not be a school that this can be said about.

The moment to have the opportunity to establish a different climate within a school concerning qualifications is about to seize us.

Kia kaha!

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