Monday, April 20, 2015

Behaviour Management and Leading with Shared Responsibility

I'm finding the above matrix to be very useful when thinking about a range of scenarios as we continue to establish our school. I used it to kick off this morning's 'Mondays with Maurie' Kitchen Table with staff which focused on managing student behaviour. I chose to focus on this as I was picking up messages from staff that some were finding their way with the management of student behaviour in a way that fitted with our kaupapa of restorative practices. Some conversations I had had with staff made me believe we weren't always getting the warm and demanding balance right.

I started off by reminding that while our kaupapa was one of shared responsibility for developing and operating our school there are times when we as teachers take a lead in that shared responsibility. Managing student behaviour is definitely one of the times when teachers need to lead while sharing the responsibility.

Being Warm and Demanding means that you not only care for the students as learners and young people but, just as importantly, you have high expectations of them and their behaviour (in this particular context). Being Warm and Demanding also means that you are firm, fair and consistent about insisting that your high expectations are being met.

Because we have some understanding of the teenager and their brain we apply the Warm and Demanding approach in full knowledge that teenagers will push against the boundaries and that most of them will need several reminders of the high expectations and some will need assertive correction.

I then reminded staff of the Pyramid of Restorative Practices which we had been exposed to before. The Pyramid sits firmly within the Warm and Demanding quadrant. While specific training and on-going practice is needed for the Mini Chat and above layers, the base of the pyramid is the age-old strategies effective teachers have used in classrooms around the world.

Relaxed Vigilance is a term, I think, I borrowed from Bill Rogers and lightly Less relaxed Vigilance is a term I introduced during my time at Opotiki College.

Relaxed Vigilance are strategies that are delivered low key and go virtually unnoticed by other students. They are brief, subtle reminders of expectations and many of the most effective are non-verbal. They include making eye contact, moving near, appropriate facial expressions, hand gestures and naming the student. When these strategies, rather than overt calling out of a student, are used most low-level behaviours are dealt with without interrupting the flow of learning and without a low-level behaviour escalating to a higher level and then definitely interrupting the flow of learning.

Slightly Less Relaxed Vigilance strategies are used when the above are unsuccessful. They are delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, delivered as privately as possible and keep the focus on the primary behaviour without being drawn into side arguments. Strategies include beginning with an I statement (I want you to.....), language and tone of expectation ('thanks' which implies compliance, rather than 'please' which indicates a request), broken record (restating expectation in face of attempts to side track or not comply - use a maximum of 3 times), tune in (show you have heard the side issue response but restate the expectation), rule reminder (remind of our rule about ... put as a statement not as a question), limited choice (phone in your bag or on my desk), direct question (you are ......, what should you be doing), chosen consequences (if you choose to continue..... you will be [facing this consequence]).

In the brief time we had left we brainstormed what the common classroom behavioural issues were and began exploring successful strategies.

This is quite hard to read because it is my hand writing but was great to receive the bottom right response: clearly outline expectations from the start and accept need to go over again [and again].

We'll continue to do work on how we can lead with this shared responsibility.

Straight after this session I had a start-of-term Kitchen Table with our students (others may call it an Assembly) and the focus with them was the shared responsibility we all had to make sure our school evolved into the school we want it to be. I have asked them to ponder that question and then once they had decided to work actively on achieving that type of school. Because it's all very well that we as the staff have a view of what sort of school we want to have the reality is that we will have a school that our students want.

 I then set them the challenge of climbing these stairs every day, celebrating the Hobsonville Habits they were displaying strongly and identifying another to focus on for that day. Visible Habits.

Friday, April 3, 2015

How Might We Align NCEA With Our Vision

This question has not necessarily vexed us for a couple of years during our establishment phase and during out initial implementation phases but it has certainly been lying in wait for us. We've often been told that what you are doing with curriculum and pedagogy at your school is well and good for 'juniors' but wait until the restrictions and demands of NCEA start impacting on you.

To tell the truth, I haven't been too worried and I've made no secret of my simple strategy/solution which was to not offer NCEA Level 1 at all and just move into L2 in Year 12. I know announcing this position caused some disquiet amongst my colleagues but I think this made me more determined to keep announcing it to stretch what the possibilities might be. NCEA is an awesome qualification with huge flexibility and potential. I believe it is ripe for an innovative approach.

A few planets began to line up that helped to solidify my own thinking. The first was the release of the ERO National Report on Student Well-Being in Secondary Schools. See my post on its damning findings. This report solidified my own resolve to not lead a school that contributed to this situation. I then moved on to finding the courage to stick with this moral purpose. Of course, as a leader you need to take people with you and the courage to pursue a moral purpose is of no use if this doesn't happen.

Around about the same time while in deep, vigorous discussion within our SLT forum as were were debating what NCEA position we would be finalising and presenting to our staff, students and parents I felt my resolve strengthening and proclaimed that I didn't want to lead a school which rolled out NCEA like every other school was doing simply because not all of our staff would agree with anything other than that and that it would be a hard sell to our parents. We'd signed up for the hard and challenging work to bring life to our vision (I told myself).

Then I had to prepare a spotlight address at the National Aspiring Principal Programme on Leading for the future with a moral purpose (see previous post). The preparation for and delivery of this address not only focused myself on the responsibility I had to be courageous but it also influenced other key people who are necessary for us to be successful.
In introducing the topic to staff I reminded them that we were on a journey to redesign the secondary school experience in NZ. I reminded them that we had dismantled the NZC to discover its essence and then created our own curriculum and pedagogical models to realise its full potential. This is still on-going work. But I reminded them that our work was not done and that the qualification process was our next target.

As usual we started with what we wanted to end up with.

I then outlined to staff what the'principles' were that had been behind us coming to our position.

Staff were then shown a learning years framework which I had shared last year which showed how NCEA and our view on it could easily align with it.

And as we are finding ourselves doing more recently I presented an Elevator Statement that summarises our position.

 So how are we going to incorporate NCEA in a way that that aligned with the above principles and matched our learning years framework?

Let me show you a whiteboard I prepared earlier (and which featured prominently at our parents meeting)!
The intention of this masterpiece was to clarify the mix of numbers that can confuse: Year Levels, Curriculum Levels and NCEA Levels. I pointed out there was a strong link between the curriculum levels and NCEA levels but just a loose link with Year Levels.

I then explained why NCEA Level 1 was a qualification of little value; it leads to no employment or further training. Despite this all schools expose their 14 and 15 year olds to a full year of six subjects offering anywhere between 18 and 24 credits (both internal and external) meaning to get the 80 required (for a meaningless qualification) students were being exposed to 120-140 credits. It's like being hit by a tidal wave! All of a sudden their focus moves away from the joy of discovery and learning to credit chasing and teachers take their eye off the NZC and 'teach to the tests' - all for a qualification that has little value! Stress levels rise for everyone - students, teachers and parents.

Our plan is that our Year 11 students will achieve around 20 quality Level 1 or 2 credits that emerge from their co-constructed learning programmes. Most of these will be from their areas of interest and passion though if we identify that a learner will struggle to receive literacy and numeracy credits at Level 6 or 7 then we will direct them to the literacy and numeracy Unit Standards.

Our learners will take their 20 quality credits with them to Year 12. Their focus in Year 12 will be on 60 quality Level 2 or higher credits. When these are matched with the 20 they have brought with them they are awarded NCEA L1 and 2. They will have done this after having attempted around 100 credits over their 2 years rather than the 220-280 they may have had to attempt elsewhere.

Of course, it was important to explain to parents that while the learners weren't being exposed to a huge number of NCEA assessments they were still covering all of the Achievement Objectives from the NZC (in relevant Learning Areas) and would be assessed by the school and reported on them.

Claire then took over and described how we were meeting the needs of the small group of Year 11 students we had this year. In Week 1 of this year, after hearing student voice, teachers prepared module programmes for our learners with Learning Objectives from NZC.  few weekslater Claire asked teachers to investigate whether if they had any students achieving at CL6 could they see any internally assessed NCEA L1 Achievement Standards they could offer. This resulted in a long menu from all modules of possible Achievement Standards. Our Year 11 students were invited to negotiate with their teachers which ones they could attempt in their journey of collecting 20 credits.

This process is so powerful at many levels. Firstly, the NCEA Achievement Standards fell out of the programmes RATHER THAN BEING THE PRIME DRIVERS OF THE PROGRAMMES! Secondly, the students were empowered to lead the process and to negotiate their individual pathway. Thirdly, our staff can feel proud about walking the talk of personalising learning and assessment.

Our night was a huge success. We got a great endorsement from the NZQA representative present who championed our emphasis on quality rather than quantity and congratulated our moves to reduce assessment anxiety and reject the assessment driven curriculum. Throughout the evening our parents asked challenging questions in their attempt to understand. I congratulated them for helping create a school where they felt really comfortable challenging the Principal and SLT.

It was agreat way to start the final week of Term 1. And what a great way to end........

International Onesie Day!

Mad Hatters Tea Party!

See you next term at our weird and wonderful school!