Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stand Up and Lead

Knowing I was going to be away from school a fair bit in the next two weeks I wasn't going to go to *BOPPA/CNISPA 2 day conference in Taupo this year.
However the agenda arrived and the opportunity to hear David Hood and Bali Haque speak and then spend two days discussing the changes needed in the senior secondary school curriculum with secondary principals and curriculum leaders was just too important not to come to.
Getting there and finding the school story session was being led by Maurie Abraham was the icing on the cake.

My Takeaway-

Lots of people want to be the early adopters but want someone else to take the risks, to do the leading from the front. 

We know the rhetoric about the pace of change. We know serious changes are needed in our system. We know that the wellbeing of young people is being compromised and that that is becoming worse. We know that there is a culture of assessment driven learning programmes in most of our schools.

If we are truly teaching a dispositional curriculum how are we modelling this for our staff and our learners? Are we showing true value in this by making it as important as anything else we teach? Or do we show what we really value by what we choose to put our emphasis and time on assessing?

We like to blame the system. But maybe, just maybe, schools have done some of this assessment driven stuff themselves in their interpretation of requirements and even in their drive to keep up with if not complete with other schools.

We need to have courage and lead a change. We need to know what our  moral purpose is and we need to show leadership. We are the sector leaders. We ask our students, our whānau, our staff, our communities to trust in us. Maybe in turn we should trust in the system to support us, as we take big bold steps. 
Let's stop talking about being on sides. Let's stop taking sides. We all want the best for young people. Let's put our energy into that.

Let's talk about positive and constructive learning and make that the central part of every conversation rather than the assessment.
Many things in our system are world standard.We have some amazing documents. Especially Te Whāriki, Te Marautanga o Aoetaroa and the NZC. Let's use them as they were designed to be. Let's use national standards and NCEA as the were designed to be used not as the driver of our learning programmes. Lets stop saying "but if we didn't have to ..."  and start saying "we could try it this way..."

To truly and absolutely focus on learning rather than assessment we have to change what we do.  Sure we will have to put ourselves out there. And we will need to work and strategise how to take learners, staff and the wider community with us. 

We are all worried about workload level of our staff, and as leaders we should absolutely be monitoring this. To make significant and big changes will require time and effort for our staff and we can't ask them to do that if we don't take away some of what they currently do. 

  • How much of what they currently do is necessary vs something someone somewhere thought was a good interpretation of something we don't actually have to do. 
  • How much of what they currently do do they do because we expect it just because we always have?


If we want better for our young people, then we need to stand up ethically and morally as the leaders and we need to seriously think about what the balance is on learning and wellbeing of the young people in our schools. 
We need to take leadership, and stop waiting for the system tell us what to do, or to resource us differently. 
If we listen to people like Maurie Abraham, and I do with absolute conviction, then we need to act now. 
If we stand up as leaders and all act, system support will follow. And if we can't all stand up then at least some of us need to with some sense of urgency, and then gather those early adopters quickly so we get to a tipping point in our system wide practices.

Start by articulating what real success for the learners in your school looks like. What is the purpose of your school? Critically review NZC. Critically review the requirements of National standards and NCEA.  Make sure every practice- including and especially every assessment procedures matches your purpose and that everyone in your system can attest to that.

Be brave. Be prepared to stand up and stand out. 
Challenge doing things the way everyone else does them. Ask where it says we have to do things the way we are. And if you think you know, go back and read it again- critically.

Know NZC intimately. Especially the first half. And Follow it. 


*(Bay of Plenty Prinicpals Association/Central North Island Secondary Principals Association) 

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