Friday, July 31, 2015

He Kaitiaki

Blogpost 5 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Today I went for a walk around our school at our learning break time (morning tea). 

I took the following photos in just one ten minute block of time.

In the staffroom I found a Year 11 boy proud of baking his first pavlova lats night, having brought it in for teachers to sample.... unfortunately by the time I ran back to the office and got my phone to take a photo the teachers had devoured it!
In the gym were a group of Early Years students having a game of netball against some teachers, teacher aides and administrative staff, being refereed by a couple of Year 10 girls

Coming out of the gym I encountered  teacher carrying a box of bananas and oranges outside for students to eat
(thanks to the Fruit in Schools programme)
Walking past the whānau room I said hello to the public health practitioner setting up ready to start hearing and vision testing after morning tea.
In the sick bay I found a young Year 3 student who was sick, waiting for her father to pick her up. her older Year 13 sister had come in to check up on her.

Walking outside I found a group of students ranging from Year 4 to Year 9 all playing a kicking version of four square
Further along the verandah were a couple of teachers working on laptops out in the sun, rather than inside in the cold.

And at the other end of the verandah were some super heroes hard at work.

Out on the field a group of boys were playing some kind of hybrid game- again students ranged from Year 2 through to Year 8.

And others are playing in the sandpit (bad photo!)

A teacher is talking to one of the pre school teachers over the fence that some senior students built for the pre school last year.

A teacher aide wanders out for a chat in the sunshine about what she needs to do next period.

What a wonderful display of aroha, manaakitanga and whānaungatanga I saw in just 10 minutes of a learning break.

Students and staff of TKAS- you rock!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

He Kaimahi

Blogpost 4 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Today has been one of those days of true work ethic:
7.00 At school to prepare for a training session I was running later in morning
8.15-8.45: Individual coaching session with a teacher
8.45-9.45 Run a Teacher Aide training session
9.45 drive into town
10.15-12.15 Attend community principals meeting
12.30 Drive back to school
1.00-2.45 SLT meeting to confirm some details of upcoming events, and to spend time discussing our coaching and appraisal focus for the next fortnight
2.45-3.30 Planning meeting with a learning community
3.30-4.30 Attend an in-house PLD session on Te Reo
4.30-5.00 Meet with office manager to discuss and approve financials
5.30-8.00 BOT meeting
8.30-9.30 Participate in edchatnz

Wow, thank goodness days like this don’t always happen and I normally get to spend some time in classes with learners. But sometimes circumstances conspire to give Principals days like this! Thank goodness for edchat so that I could spend the last hour of my full day focusing on some positive educational connections and collaboration.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

He Kaiako

Blogpost 3 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Today I am writing this as we wind up the third night at Mindlab where there are a group of local educators working towards a postgraduate certificate in digital and collaborative technology. 

Tonight we have learnt some basic programming and made music using play dough and assortment of toys in collaborative groups. We have discussed collaborative learning and assessed rubrics about them. We've completed a survey about educational researchers using a google form and looked at the results. 

We've explored digital tools to make compiling and accessing research easier. 

And while this has all been great learning- and I've certainly learnt new things and been pushed out of my comfort zone to explore things I might not choose to when left to myself the most valuable thing of Mindlab I am already coming to appreciate is that forced thinking, reflection and discussion time.

To be physically in a space for four hours, where you are exploring and thinking and discussing and justifying, sharing, listening and learning seems like a real luxury in todays world. It's already making me realise that I can lead very busy days and I need to make sure I continue to make time to do this. 

It's such an important part of learning and one that can go in the busy-ness of a leaders life.

I love learning- but as well as my usual work I am also completing my last Bachelors paper at Uni and doing a Te Reo online course. Sometimes I get caught up in getting assignments completed rather than focusing on the learning (exactly what we get frustrated with our senior students doing with NCEA) 

So I'm now seeing Mindlab as a great privilege to be part of. Its affording me the opportunity to me, take stock, really think and justify some of my learning beliefs. It is helping me ensure I am being a real learner.

And I'm looking forward to the seven hour drive with Morgan and Tara to Palmy and back at the weekend for Educamp. Was kind of wandering if I should be going with all the assignments I have due and the times Im away int he ext three weeks. But the thought of seven hours of time to talk about the stuff we are thinking and doing and seeing. And then a day at educamp talking with lots of different people. And then a seven hour drive home to talk more with Morgan and tara about what we learn during the day is exciting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He Kaiwhakarite

Blogpost 2 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Today I am thinking about how I manage all the resources in our kura in order to  produce outcomes that positively transform learning communities.

Managing physical resources- spaces, finances, administrative systems er all imprint part of the role and if we don’t ensure those systems are in place, operating and regularly reviewed then things can fall over and we spend a lot of inefficient time trouble shooting rather than focusing on learning. So those systems are definitely important.

However it os often said the most important resource in a school are its people. We have staff that have been with us for our entire five years, and others who are new this year, and a few in between. Everyone is at different places of their understanding of the curriculum we are trying to deliver. One of the things we identified last year was that to take our curriculum delivery to the next level we would need to implement a detailed coaching programme for our staff. 

We have trialled lots of different ways to manage this, as the ambition to meet weekly with every staff member and coach them was rather challenging to meet time wise. I know I ended up meeting the people I was coaching in teams to try to manage time for both myself and them. This wasn't always effective as although they may be wanting to work on the same thing they are at different places in their own capabilities. And the whole point of coaching is to ask the questions that get people deeply reflecting on their own practice in order to effect change in their practice.

This term we have redefined our coaching model a little and set up some small coaching teams that will meet every second week focusing on the workshops being taken in a particular learning area and targeting student progress over the following fortnight, On the alternative week we will meet with each person we coach them individually more around their individual responsibilities, teaching and school-wide and their own self management strategies.

I have a reminder in my calendar to spend 30 minutes every Friday making the meeting times for the next fortnight- we are aiming to do a mixture of in non contact time and before/after school meetings. 

 So far, so good. Two weeks in and its working. Ive managed to meet all my teams twice and all individuals at least once in the last fortnight and its becoming much more manageable with a little more focus, purpose and deliberate timetabling.

He Kanoi Matara

Blogpost 1 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

It's an ongoing challenge recognising and valuing the past but envisioning the future and continually reaching for new ways to do things to engage our learners and prepare them for the future.  
To capitalise on innovation and simultaneously embed cultural imperatives into our learning programme is no easy feat. 

What are the ways we are trying to do this at the moment? 

Innovate by teaching multiple years together- our senior learning community has 90 learners from Years 6-13 learning with 6 different kaiako in one connected series of seven learning spaces. Embed cultural imperatives be embracing the notion of tuakana-teina. The learning community is really like one large whānau all learning together.

Innovate by collaboratively teaching and learning. Embed cultural imperatives by recognising the value of one village working together to raise a child. WE do not have individual responsibility for a learners achievement and progress- academically or "whole-life." We embrace collective respsonsiblity for all learners within our learning community and across the school.

Innovate by devolving some of the hierarchical structures of leadership traditionally present in a school. Embed cultural imperatives by taking different roles on different days, by being aware of each other and when others need support (whānaungatanga.)  We do not have official leaders of learning communities but expect them to operate as a team. Our leaders lead schoolwide teams where they are responsible for developing an aspect of our school curriculum further across the school. They are given whole day release times to meet each term and further this work. If we want them to have value we have to give them the time.

Innovate by thinking what it is we really want our learners to leave us with after 13 eyes and making this come alive. Embed cultural imperatives by placing the concept of hauora firmly in the centre of our graduate profile, and ensuring that both we and our students are constantly reflecting and assessing our students in all four aspects of the Tapa wha model.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Learning Muscles and Me

Last week at Mindlab we got to talking about the key competencies and how we show them ourselves as leaders and teachers. It’s an interesting concept. Teachers are often very good at expecting these things in students but sometimes forget about them themselves. Have you ever tried to facilitate a room full of teachers working on something and get everyone’s attention at the same time? Often those very same people who take a long time to focus their attention on the facilitator would expect immediate attention from children in their class. 

It was interesting to do a short survey of where people saw their strengths. The overwhelming response was that  the majority of people thought they had a strength in relating to others. Perhaps, not surprising in  rooms full of teachers we decided. However I happened to be sitting next to another principal and we were both quietly saying to each other that we hadn’t put that as our strongest, that sometimes it was just useful to get on with things by ourselves. Is this a signal of the kinds of people that become Principals, or a signal of the way the position can drive you at times, or a combination or perhaps just a coincidence?

At Te Karaka Area School we talk about and use learning muscles rather than the key competencies- although the learning muscles clearly relate to the key competencies. As a staff and leadership team we have developed skill and expertise in facilitating the understanding and development of learning muscles school-wide and it was our intention to try and use them to develop our staff PLD programme this year although that hasn't really happened.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on myself as a leader and set some targets in relation to our learning muscles.

COURAGE- I’ve got increasingly discouraged about the big gap out there between what teachers want to do and what they are “being allowed’ to do.  I need to have the courage to continue sharing our school story, and challenging the practices out there in other schools which are restricting innovation and growth to flourish.

CURIOSITY- One of the things I decided to do was take the opportunities for post graduate study through Mindlab. Although Ive worked with digital and collaborative technology for a while there’s always new things to learn.
I need to have curiosity to explore old and new- not assume IT’s stuff I might already know.

EXPERIMENTING/INVESTIGATING/IMAGINATION- Ive been working in the field of MLE/MLP/FF learning for a long time now- over 10 years and it’s easy to flick back to old solutions when people I work with have challenges.
I need to keep an open mind and spend time and energy collaborating and exploring all kinds of solutions rather than flicking back to some of the things that worked for me as they won't necessarily work for other people.

EMPATHY- It’s very easy in this job to get very task oriented because there is always so much that needs doing. 
I need to continue to take the time to have empathy for the stress and workload that people may be feeling and appropriately challenge and support.

STICKABILITY- Feeling a little like Ive bitten off quite a lot this term- last paper in bachelors degree, postgrad diploma at Mindlab, learning Te Reo paper by distance conference Im on the executive for and presenting at, a couple of national leaderships teams I’m on, coaching a significant number of our staff individually and in small teams, as well as all the normal principal stuff, and perhaps a little bit of teaching too!
I need to plan time carefully and stick to it!

I need to ensure I plan some time out and social stuff to balance things out a little. I need to ensure I use reasoning skills to prioritise and manage my time effectively.

REFLECTION- I tend to reflect much better on teaching and learning than on leadership.
I will put aside reflection time each week that focuses specifically on leadership

Thanks to Mindlab and @timgander for the amazing post grad study opportunity and for provoking my thinking already. Looking forward to the next 40 weeks.