Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rhetoric and Reality

I almost didn't go to the launch of David Hood's book, The Rhetoric and The Reality: New Zealand schools and schooling in the 21st century, last Wednesday night. It would mean a late afternoon drive to Hamilton to attend the function and then not getting home until 11.00pmish. I'd been feeling a bit flat all week and quite fatigued and nearly talked myself out of it.

I am so pleased I made the effort (and even managed to fit in a roadside-in-Huntly radio interview on the way down. This was supposed to be on an academic's claim that pen and paper should be banned from school but the article was in fact on the need for schools to align, quickly, with the needs of learners and their lives).

For 4-5 years I had been part of a network of principals, Coalition of 21st Century Schools, facilitated expertly by David Hood. It was here that I was introduced to the concept of the Paradigm of One and the much needed Paradigm of Many. It was here, under David's mentorship, that I explored what schooling might look like if we put students at the centre and met their needs and then developed the confidence to put some different things in place.

He exposed us to hard copy readings back then that now flow daily across my consciousness through Twitter. He took us on a study tour to Australia to explore Rich Tasks. It was powerful stuff (the power of which I did not appreciate at the time).

His gentle support (though I always sensed a level of impatience within him - after all he wrote his first book Our Secondary Schools Don't Work Anymore 17 years ago) encouraged me to introduce 3 Day Wananga, 100 Minute Learning Periods, small group Learning Advisories and High Impact Projects at Opotiki College in 2011/2012.

Since that time I have been at HPSS attempting to lead a school that allows a secondary school to work for our students by being relevant for them. The hope has also been that we may influence work in other schools. The Paradigm of One and The Paradigm of Many has become part of my mantra and I had forgotten that it had emerged from the work with David.

The launch was, appropriately at Tai Wananga, a school in Ruakura, Hamilton, that David had assisted in establishing. This is a school that not only allows Maori to achieve as Maori but also puts in place a model of secondary schooling that we at HPSS also aspire to.

In David's brief address to the gathering he spoke of the need for schools to place the needs, passions, lives and futures of their students at the centre of curriculum design, pedagogy and decision-making. It was a true tears in my eyes moment and reminded me of the influence he has had.

I was invited to stay and share a meal with him before heading home. Arrival at home was looking further away but I jumped at the opportunity. Over dinner we committed to maintaining our connection with David already booking in to visit us with me committing to taking staff to visit Tai Wananga. It was over dinner that his frustration and impatience with the rate of change in thinking about and practice in secondary schools was occurring.

It was a late arrival home but that short time with David had been invaluable.

You can view a review of his book (as well as a review of Sir Ken Robinson's new book) here.

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