Thursday, September 9, 2010

The little things don't really matter!

Gosh doesn’t a massive event like the Canterbury Earthquake suddenly jolt everyone back to that which is truly important which family, friends and colleagues—ha tangata, ha tangata, ha tangata! This week at school we should all be going a little gaga—the IT has been down most of the week, we are shifting all of the resources around the school to make way for a big new build, the school production which sees 700+ kids all participating on the stage is only a week away and it hasn’t stopped raining!!! However, I would have to say in light of events down south, everyone has remained calm, smiled there way through the week and above all propped each other up. There is something uniquely special about groups of adults working alongside each other, for the benefit of the greater good. Well down team!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ned Hermann

I was recently involved in an exercise where a group of us assessed our own thinking preferences via the Ned Hermann brain dominance instrument (HBDI Many will know this as the colours self-assessment method, whereby your result is either strongly blue ( logical and analytical), yellow (creative and holistic), green ( structured and sequential) or lastly red ( relational and emotional). Although there is a lot more to it than this simple analysis, the results do actually point to the manner in which you prefer to think, react and act. Of the 4 of us involved, we all agreed that the pictures created of each individual were quite true to form. We enjoyed discussing together what this all meant for ourselves as a group—our strengths and where we might be lacking. The exercise was facilitated expertly, so that no-one style felt superior or inferior to the other—always a concern with these types of activities. In fact the conversation around how when under stress a person resorts to acting even more within their preference drew out information that was insightful for us to understand about each other. Great stuff!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Leading Change!

Constantly I am reminded that real change happens in a school setting only when everyone buys into whatever the proposal is to be. At present we are revisiting where we are all at with what we call the Powerful Learning process (our take on Inquiry). The teachers are all at different stages in their own understanding and therefore implementation, with only a few feeling really at ease and comfortable with what we are trying to achieve. This week’s PD session seemed to go round and round with not that much progress, only a lot of talk. Frustrating as it is, I need to remind myself that this is good—the talk is progressive, everyone is involved and I am confident that the end result will be a good one. Engaging everyone’s ideas can be long-winded but it is worth it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Success at last!

Isn’t it great when a few majors all come together and actually work!! At school recently some of our critical “change management” steps have been implemented successfully and it’s all worked well, even better than I would have predicted. Each of the events have been a long time coming with lots and lots of effort going into building up our capacity to enable this to happen. It is a delight to see it all come to fruition. All of our kids have led their very own student-led conference, sharing their learning with their parents without their teacher being present. To us this was a major line in the sand—after years of talking about moving the locus of control in our classrooms, this proved that it can actually happen. Secondly our mid year reports went out on-line this time, rather than in the traditional hard copy—another smallish step, which has very big ramifications. Thirdly our trial group of 6 classrooms are striding ahead with our new e-portfolios, another exciting venture.
In all of these cases, the greatest thing is the excitement that they have generated with the staff—they are their successes and the desire the loudest of accolades.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Great PD for all

We had an absolutely fabulous PD session at school last week, focussing in on ensuring that everyone (30+ teachers and a couple of TAs as well) were comfortable making movies for themselves. Everyone, including myself, was put in the position of the learner, given the equipment required, a purpose to choose from and most importantly 12 support people who were students from our Y6 classes. You could almost feel the tension in the air as our enthusiastic AP set up the experience—no group work today, no excuses—everyone was to make a 100 second movie in the 3 hour slot and everyone had to push themselves into a situation where they would be stretching what they already knew. This meant that the technically able had to learn something new and the more reserved of us had to actually do it—for some this was a first! The kids were amazing—patience plus!
Lifelong learning was really to the fore—perseverence when things went wrong, risk-taking for everyone in front of each other, support that was just in time and heaps and heaps of laughs and fun! At the end of it all, it was smiles all round and lots of people feeling very very proud of themselves.
On reflection it was an interesting adult learning experience—not so much talking, lots of doing and creating—interesting to consider when one thinks about our students experiences in the classroom.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

National Standards

Whilst I have been working hard to not spend unnecessary time and energy around debating the pros and cons of our new national standards, it seems that it is a hard topic to escape from. I have been in 3 principals’ meetings this week where it was the only subject of discussion and visitors to our school today asked me outright for my opinion. So what do I think?
As always in debates such as this one, there is merit on both sides of the coin. While I join with many of my colleagues in my nervousness about the consequences of such a system, in my own personal experience as a school principal the concept of standards (or a more favourable word—expectations) has actually resulted in overall school improvement.
Yes it is true that the experiences in the UK and the US are not great and all of us should take heed of the lessons to be learned. Yes it is true that the standards will not be totally valid nor 100% reliable—this is exactly why they should not be called standards. However, having lived with our own school-based expectations for the past 10 years and having reported using a 5 point scale, based on these expectations, I would have to say that there have been some positives around this practice. While our own system was definitely not a “pure science”—it did trigger 2 positive consequences—the simple act of naming where each child was at, sharpened each teacher’s practice and the use of the generated data affected the manner in which school-wide decisions related to resourcing and funding were made.
If only a version of this experience could occur across the country, then all of our children would be better for it. However and this is a big however, this would need to occur within an overall positive learning community, not one where all of the participants are polarized around opposite points of view. What a shame all of the various stakeholders across our very small country could not have got together to work out a way forward. Let’s hope that there is still space for this to occur.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Graduation Experience

Participated in my own capping ceremony yesterday and what a great time we all had. It is interesting to reflect upon the experience, especially the question of whether all that pomp and ceremony is relevant in this day and age. It would be easy to say no, there is no connection in today’s fast-paced, digital world to the historic rituals of trencher donning in gowns and hoods. However after participating in such an event, I would have to say that for a brief period of time to engage oneself in this world of academia was indeed a thrill. There seemed to be something really heart-warming about following the traditions of those who have gone before, engaging in a context that has survived many a year. It caused me to reflect on the importance of the rituals we follow in our school—such events as assemblies, welcomes, farewells and traditions that have become embedded into the fabric of school life. They do have their place; they form a sense of timelessness and security for students and adults alike. This is a good reminder to reflect upon the next time a school practice is terminated just because we’ve being doing it for a while. Traditions and rituals are about belonging, not to be under-rated in importance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Adult Learning

What a fabulous example of effective adult learning I experienced on Fri/ Sat at the AppleITSC Conference here in Auckland. The 2 days sped by with my engagement on full steam for the whole time. One could not help but reflect on what it was that made it such a successful learning experience and how this could or should impact on future adult professional learning experiences that I organize here at school.
Firstly there was a well balanced combination of input from experts and thought-provokers, time to experiment and “get ones hands dirty” so to speak and also time to chat and network with others around you. Catering for different learning styles was well managed and balanced within the physical set up of the space provided. Large bean bags, circular tables and the like were mixed together with couches and singular seats to cater for all. Keyboards and i-phones clicked away as others spoke acknowledging the fact that engagement does not always mean silent eye contact.
Sessions where the learners could make their own choices as to what they wanted to focus on were the norm, allowing everyone to pick and choose their own learning needs. Most importantly experts were on hand to provide support and advice whenever required. This was done for even the ignoramus types like myself, who may have been too embarrassed to ask in other contexts.
Congrats to the organizers, it was time well spent! I will think hard on it, when planning our next PD.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Developing resilient students

Back to blogging finally! As I have been experiencing the merry-go-round ride of trying to sell ones house, I have also been reflecting on the importance of resiliency as a valuable human competency. That ability to pick your-self up when the going is not so good and keep on task or stay focused no matter what appears to me to be in high demand and of extreme importance in today’s world. When I think about those around me who seem to be making a success of life, I am in awe of the sense of resilience that they seem to have as an embedded characteristic—how is it developed? And why do some people seem to have more of it than others?
At our school, we are intentionally going about ensuring that our students learn how to be competent citizens of the future world—we focus them on what we have called the qualities of lifelong learning—questioning, making connections, persevering, sets goals and plans, reflects and takes risks. But what about the ability to be resilienct—some of us are wondering whether it is missing. Is it something that can be taught?
At our high decile school, we often observe the phenomena of “helicopter parents” those that hover so closely over their children protecting them from all that could do harm. Are these the same children who never get to participate in the experience of having to be resilient. I am interested in a book written by New Zealand authors, Tania Roxborough and Kim Stephenson, Raising Resilient Children, however before that I need to practise what I preach and be resilient and sell my house!!!