Saturday, September 5, 2015
The Backstory - a source of pride
We hosted the Auckland secondary school participants in the National Aspiring Principals' Programme at HPSS on Friday and I was asked to spend half a hour outlining the journey I had undertaken to develop a vision for HPSS which was driving our establishment band implementation. Because both Claire and Sally were part of that group was going to be somewhat restrained by the need to tell the truth!
While the journey to this point has been very rewarding it has also been extremely challenging with many moments of uncertainty and imposter syndrome. However, this week I had read a draft report from Noeleen Wright from the University of Waikato who has spent almost 3 years tracking our journey. Her descriptions and comments on our journey and what we have arrived at at this point was affirming and filled me with pride. I was able to link where we were at quite firmly to our vision.
The night before my NAPP session I thought about where the personal vision, moral purpose and set of principles had come from and while doing this was once again overcome with pride and a sense of satisfaction.
I thought about my time when I started teaching at Ngaruawahia High School in 1982 and how I quickly came to realise that this teaching and learning business was quite clearly a relationship thing. Coaching rugby and cricket, learning te Reo with parents, becoming comfortable on Turangawaewae Marae, sitting on the paepae and being immersed in Kingitanga kawa and history and then supporting parents to bring about the construction of a Wharenui on our site (which also included a takeover of the PTA and eventually Maori representation on BOT!) all shaped for me how teaching and learning was truly about ako and reciprocity. My ability to stand and whaikorero (with various levels of competence) was a result of me being the akonga and parents and students being the kaiako.
When I was at Opotiki College I was then in leadership positions and began to exert influence beyond my narrower sphere (eg classroom or department) and now more school-wide. This was made possible during my 10 years as DP as I worked with a wonderful Principal, Andrew Taylor, who shone the light on others and strongly encouraged and supported the leadership of others.
After spending `10 years overseeing the suspension of students and the exclusion of too many, when I was appointed I was determined to find another way. I eventually stumbled across the ideas of Restorative Practice (thank you Margaret Thorsborne) which gave me a framework to create processes, systems and responses more closely aligned with my own moral purpose. We completely stopped suspensions and quite unexpectedly achievement levels rose, ERO congratulated us on a respectful culture and the sun came up and went down (and, of course, kids were still naughty!).
Despite excellent achievement levels I was always haunted by knowing the names of the 30 kids who left every year without any qualifications at all so wondered what we could do to address that. That's when I started thinking about the idea of taking the concept of Relationship-based Behaviour Management and trying to establish a Relationship-based Pedagogy. Out of that came 100 minute learning periods (you try to teach in the traditional fashion for 100 minutes and see how you get on!) and small group Learning Advisories having two 100 minute blocks per week (you try only taking the roll and reading the notices and see how you get on!).
When I applied for the position at HPSS I boiled all of my preparation for the interview down to two sides of one A4 page with 2 simple headings of Curriculum and Pedagogy. These included a vision, a set of principles and a set of descriptors for each as well as a possible whole school framework. I checked this page out as part of my preparation for the NAPP session and was blown away by how this thinking is still driving us, with lots of what I had written actually present in our school.
What a nice place to be.