Sunday, September 21, 2014

Four Years On

Just over 12 months ago we started this blog as a staff. The last 12 months has seen many exciting steps on our journey as a school. 

  • We have said goodbye to some key foundation staff, but we have also welcomed other staff.
  • We have moved into our brand new buildings, after three years in temporary and less than ideal physical conditions.
  • We have continued to evolve our thinking and our practice.
  • We are in the process of reviewing our curriculum delivery programme, as we have now been operating as a school for over three years.
  • We've taken part in some exciting PLD.
  • We've had visitors from throughout New Zealand.
  • Our achievement results continue to grow, as does the understanding of and engagement with their learning from our learners.
  • We've attempted to share our evolving thinking and practice with the world with this BLOG.

Here's some key statements staff have made over the last 12 months in various blog posts.

How can an (extremely) average student, of seemingly average intelligence, see the pitfalls of our current system; where highly intelligent, highly educated people cannot? (Because of the highly political use of education?)  I have absorbed so much in the past 4 years and I know where the changes need to be made. There is no one answer and there is no sombrero that will fit every head. Education needs to be a living organism that can grow, evolve and adapt to fit the nature of its environment. 

Fundamentally it is the parents responsibility to raise their children, but it is the teachers responsibility to know their learners, and to ensure everyone feels comfortable in their own space. When I say know your learners I don't mean just know their name. I mean know them. Look at them in the morning and from that one glance tell if something's wrong. Tell if they had breakfast that morning. Tell if they've been forced to come to school sick. Tell if they feel like they haven't been treated as an individual at home, and do your best to make sure every single individual feels respected at school.

They are the kids. You are the adult. We're all humans.

Our students thrive learning in this environment.  Learning and teaching at the same time. Teachers learning from students and vice versa.  Students sharing with parents. 

Why would we continue to imitate- and poorly because of our size- a secondary system that has dismally failed some of our most vulnerable learners for years? 
Why would we, when our kids live such whanau based lives, continue to segregate kids by year groups?

You require respect, but so do they. Don't treat them like they're the scum of the earth, because they're not. Respect them for who they are, respect them for what they could be, respect them as individuals, and they will do the same to you

Here I am sitting in this classroom of really engaged collaborative learners on a Monday morning and remembering how difficult Monday mornings used to be with them. 
Whats the difference? They have real control over their day. As teachers we have set up those systems and we are here to facilitate the learning and help the learners link that back to learning areas but they are definitely the ones in control. And so they should be. Its their learning, and when they have control over it, true control, then maybe we really will see the life long learning that the NZ curriculum aspires to.

It's time for teachers the world over to throw off their ideas of subjects. It's time to stop trying to invent new ways to make the curriculum more engaging, and to turn everything upside down. Take ideas or themes that engage individual students and see what parts of the curriculum you can link them to. Have discussions as a staff on what the actual idea of school is in the 21st century. Is it to educate people into a job or career path? Or is it to help learners become better people?

Preparing children for the future is not only our job, but our duty as teachers. Our school is determinedly focused on what is right for students learning, not what feels most comfortable for the teacher

May we as teachers too, create our own enchanting reality, expose our students’ beauty and intelligence and transform their lives with the gentlest of corrections.

Do we give our young people enough credit when it comes to their ability to learn?

I feel inspired everyday. The children in my class give me so much more than I could ever imagine. Love, acceptance, inspiration, drive, respect and more than anything, they like me for who I am, and I like them too.  I never really understood what being a teacher in a school like this really meant. Not only are we role models, we are Mum, Dad, a shoulder to cry on, tell secrets to and dream with. Our students really believe that they can be the best they can be and we really try to encourage them to reach far beyond what they believe they are capable of.

And take a look at it from another perspective, we can see that Education IS perturbation.
We welcome our students into our learning spaces and although they are quite happy to cruise along through life, we as teachers are the outside influence, we create all those activities and learning opportunities that force our students to challenge what they know, or think they know, and often times the learning is fun and exciting, and sometimes it is dramatic and highly pressured.

From our first notification of closure, to now, it’s been tumultuous at times and its been exhilarating at times, but whatever it is…I’m so glad I decided to go on the journey, what an adventure its been!

If we know that we learn best using multiple strategies and with different people at different times, why do we insist on putting 30 students together with one adult and creating a dependency on one person?

  • How would it look if we had learners from multiple years together?
  • How would it look if the learning was based primarily and significantly on learners inquiries and the teachers role was to facilitate the learning and help the learners focus on their next learning steps, on an individual basis?
  • How would it look if we had multiple teachers working with larger groups of students sharing responsibilities for all learners as appropriate?
  • How would it look if students had a real say in constructing their school day, week and year?
We developed our whole school- including our senior curriculum- very intentionally and unashamedly around what was best for our students and their learning. We fit the timetable and physical structure of classes around our student’s needs and best practice. The results are quite a different approach to learning in the Secondary School.

I won’t miss the individual classrooms with the teacher’s desk that was once a staple of a New Zealand education. I’m excited about continuing to team teach with other teachers; of being collaborative and cooperative in our planning and teaching; the sharing of ideas, practice, and passion for learning. It’s certainly not the ‘one size fits all’ approach I had going through school.

For us at TKAS helping our young people develop an understanding of their identity- past, present and future, the ability to be inclusive with all other people ( accept and have positive relationships with a range of people)  and doing things differently (being innovative) is the cornerstone to what we are doing (and are the three main points on our school logo).

I am trained as a Secondary teacher and the best PD I have ever done is teaching at Primary level. I can hear all you subject specialists throwing your hands up in disgust, but its true! 
Our school is not normal and for that I am eternally grateful. I have been exposed to a plethora of left field, educational tools and strategies that have challenged me in so many ways. 

Area schools have the advantage of being able to group years of students together. But in reality so does any school. It takes courage and it takes daring to buck a system! And it takes time to prove it's working to all those doubters who rely on what has been the way its done for so long.

If you are Interested in finding out more, have a read of the Blog entries or enter into a conversation with us on this blog or for an even deeper conversation register on this forum one of our staff is starting up and discuss some or all of the above with us.

Grass Roots Education Forum