Monday, February 8, 2016

Building Relationships

Even though we are about to start Week 2 of the 2016 school year tomorrow will be the first time all of us will be gathering together. Our first week was spent doing what we believe is central to our school: building relationships. Every student and their family had a 40 minute meeting (some did go for over an hour) with the student's Learning Coach. We're firmly of the view that if you believe that strong relationships are central to learning then you need the structures, the commitment of time and the processes to build those relationships.

This first week was stunning and something I have never experienced before. Learning Coaches, both experienced and those in their first week in the job, were having powerful conversations with students and their families, talking about their passions and the way they like to learn. It is investing these types of conversations which put 'money in the bank' and will allow withdrawals later on.

All of the elements of our curriculum model are important as are the structures that support them. Learning Communities and Learning Hubs, as structures, and Learning Coaches as teachers who are the warm and demanding adults each student has in their corner, are crucial in our desire to build relationships and personalise learning. A great outline of this feature can be found here.

But it's tomorrow I'm really looking forward to; especially when we all gather together at the start of the day as we begin a full week of continuing to build relationships and to explore how learning best happens at our school. Even though the overwhelming emotion will be that of joy and promise there will be some sadness. Just this weekend the father of a new staff member passed away and 2 weeks ago another staff member's wife passed away. And we will once again acknowledge the three workers building our school who were killed when a tornado passed through in 2012.

I want to emphasise our vision with our students:

To create a stimulating and inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in a changing world.

It will be stimulating when we see students and teachers excited about their learning, planning it together, asking questions, seeking ways to show the evidence of their learning, looking for ways to participate, to contribute and to lead. We achieve the inclusive part when all, students and teachers alike, no matter their gender, their gender identity, their ethnicity, their nationality, their learning needs, their aspirations or their personalities find that they have a place in our school, a place where they are valued, where they are respected, where they are able to flourish without fear or anxiety.

I also want to emphasise the key principles that drive our curriculum decision-making. We want learning to be as personalised as possible. If students want to go to a school where everybody is doing the same thing as everyone else, where students plough their way through a textbook, where students complete worksheets for homework, where teachers provide all of the information, where they answer all of their questions for them, then this is not the school for them. Our teachers expect students to be involved in planning their learning, asking questions but not expecting someone else to provide the answers and they expect students to grow the responsibility to take charge of their learning.

As I have said earlier, we believe learning is a relationship-based activity, that’s why we all gather in a school together. It is not just a one-way street between a teacher and learner as an individual student. The best learning is based on powerful partnerships: partnerships with students and their teacher, with other students in the class, with teachers and students throughout the building and with our community both down the street and throughout the world. And if the result of this learning benefits someone else, helps them solve a problem or learn more themselves, then our learning comes alive.

Deep challenge and inquiry is a cornerstone of our school. We’re not about covering lots of stuff at a surface level, ploughing our way through textbooks, doing test after test, collecting credit after credit. We want learning to be deep, we want students posing and answering questions that are relevant and meaningful to them and which prepare them for a world which is quite different to that for which traditional secondary schools were designed for.

Like all schools we've still got challenges going forward especially as we cement our pathway to high quality qualifications and the development of personal excellence for all of our learners. However, there is a great vibe in our school. We've welcomed 11 new staff and are about to all come together for the next stage of our exciting and wonderful journey,
Taheretikitiki Building Relationships Amongst Staff

Collaborative Planning

Workshopping Learning Design

Project Planning and Decision Making

No comments: