Sunday, January 31, 2016

Back to Study

Mindlab Post 2/10

The last 24 weeks of study have been eye-opening. I came into study with some degree of a lack of confidence in my ability to write- particularly academically. Upon reflection the past few years of writing blogs and becoming active on twitter have really helped. The need to write concisely on twitter when a posting can only be 140 characters has, I think, been particularly useful for becoming more succinct in what I want to say.

Near the beginning of our post-graduate study we did a reflection exercise on our personal key competencies and I wrote this blog post

Studying over the last year has prompted me to make some changes to my day to day practice. 

The most significant of these was a commitment to a specific study time. Alongside colleagues  also studying we agreed on a timespan and committed to studying during this time, in a space at school. 
A shared meal was held first and some congratulatory refreshments afterwards when we had done our four hours  to motivate us for the next time! 
I think this probably speaks to the “managing self" key competency. For me giving myself permission to focus solely on the study at hand rather than putting it off because there was something urgent that needed doing for the next day at school was a key to getting into this study- included just taking time to read and view study materials. 
In the past it has felt like a luxury to do this when the were “things’ that needed doing. It has now become much more of my daily practice. While I have always been an active and avid reader, reading or viewing things, reflecting on them and recording them so I can access them for future use is already proving itself to be hugely beneficial in my new position.

Another change, not quite as embedded as daily reading and viewing, but one I will continue to work on has been an exploring of different ways to reflect on what I am reading  and viewing. I had tended in the past to just write summary notes, but have started to explore different ways of doing this- sketch notes, and various other visual reflections. Not something that comes naturally but because it doesn't I have to think about it- more than I did when I’m just making notes, and I think this is helping me to not just summarise what I have read, but really reflect on the learnings and the implications for my own practices. Using language, texts and symbols has helped me develop a higher level of reflection than I think I was previously doing when I read.

I have loved being involved with this study and intend to now keep going with continuing into a Masters now I have more confidence that I have the practices and skills that will support this.

Friday, January 22, 2016

All the Best for 2016 TKAS

I always find the end of a school year to be a strange phenomena. 
There are celebrations of what has been achieved but also regrets for what has not been done.
And when the end of the school year also means its moving on time there are even more celebrations, and probably a few more regrets as well.

(I think you understand teaching more fully the day you accept it will never all be ‘done.’)

I left behind people I fully intended to catch up with one more time, but didn't in the craziness that was the last month. 
I brought with me work that wasn’t quite finished. 
And I know I left behind things in the rushed packing.  (And yes TKAS staff it has been passed onto me that you are all having competitions about what to do with the lovely big pink that I left in the office.) 

Leaving very quickly after school finished, as I needed to for a variety of reasons, I got to my first stop and was feeling I had real unfinished business, and that I’d left too many things started but not finished. And then a staff member- completely surprised me by sending out of the blue a text with this image attached.

with a text that read:

Recharge those batteries and don't worry

we will step up
we will plan
we will implement
we will make mistakes
we will reflect
we will adapt
we will overcome

(Thanks Sol)

And that just reminded me that it really is all about the kids and the learning. That’s always held the highest and strongest priority and when sometimes the paper-war went sideways that was ok because from Day 1 I remember Scott always saying people before paper. We really tried to live that as much as we could over the last five years.

And it also reminded me that I’ve done my part as best as I possibly could at the time, and its other peoples time now.

So to all those about to head into another year at TKAS:
  • Stand tall and proud.
  • You are leading some ground breaking learning.
  • Share it. 
  • Tweet, Facebook, Talk- whatever you prefer, but share your stories and your magic. There is incredible stuff happening in your school.
  • Look after each other.
  • Be like geese! (You all know the story….. and the lessons from the story!)
  • Look after the plant I forgot and left in my office. It speaks to challenges of a time gone past, and I did keep it alive for two years more than everyone thought I was going to!
  • Enjoy what you do. 
  • Laugh and cry with your learners.
  • Be human. 
  • Be amazing.
  • Be you.

All the best for the year ahead.

Reflecting on My Oneword 2015 - Share

You can read the original blogpost here.

My Goal
How I did
What Ive learnt

I will share the load- ask others for help, delegate tasks to others and give them the time and support to do those tasks.
I will share leadership- we have constructed a really distributed leadership model of school wide teams for the year and  my job as the educational leader in the school is to coach the leaders of those teams so that  we have real sustainability.

I think that we all did pretty well at this. Transforming the way you do things in schools requires you to really change the way you use time. There are so many traditional time consumers that we really have to question the purpose of in our schools. Giving our through school teams a whole day out together each term was a real priority so that they could get some real traction on their ongoing work- the kind of traction you don't get if you are meeting for 30 minutes after a busy day teaching when you've still got marking to do and planning to create for the next day. 
Coaching was a bit up and down. Not as consistent as I would have liked because other commitments took me out of school too much last year. 
Probably the most fascinating thing was closely observing the process of learning communities (known as syndicates or departments in other schools) operating with no official leader. This had to be given some real time, because people are not sued to collective responsibility. Its easy when you can do your best and then pass it onto someone else but when all of you in a team have responsibly and when there is no “middle man” to blame or fix it takes time to settle into flowing roles and responsibilities. And it takes huge communication- communication that is not always comfortable and sociable, but is really collegial. 

My biggest learning: Sharing leadership and truly distributing it means truly letting go. You have to trust people, and you have to know that they will find their own way to do things.

I will share my story as an educator and our story as a school with the wider education world.
I think Ive really done well with this. 
Ive become really active on twitter networks. Ive particularly enjoyed participating BFC630NZ a breakfast chat started Kerri Thomson. The time suited me and I loved that it was just a short snappy 15 min conversation on one topic. It becomes strangely addictive to be on twitter at 6.30am each morning. 
I also had a lot of positive feedback and readers my blog.
I had great feedback from presentations I did at places like the national area schools conference.
I will certainly be continuing all these efforts as I move onto a new journey this year. I’ve already been made very welcome to Christchurch online by the CHCHEd group and there already a drinks session arranged to get to know face to face all those people I've got to know so well online. Such an awesome feeling when you are i a new city knowing no-one.

My biggest learning: There is a large group of connected educators out there, really working hard to change to face of schooling and education and learning. It is an amazing feeling to be part of that.

I will share my reading. I do a huge amount of professional reading but I don't always take the time to review that reading and consider the implications or pass that on to others.

I think Ive done better with this. Ive put readings straight u onto my personal reading blog. I’ve shared things with staff. I could probably she some of this more on my public blog as well. I strongly prefer reading on my kindle now. I find it quite cumbersome to read a real book. And I love being able to take nots on amazon.

My biggest learning: Link readings straight to my blog when I read it and timetable time to reflect on it within the next week!

I will share my learning- I am going to finish my degree and I am going to really commit to learning Te Reo. And by sharing that learning it will make me more accountable to commit to the time that learning will require.

So proud of myself here. Ive finished by degree and am currently doing the final paper for a post graduate certificate in Digital and Collaborative technology through Mindlab. Im so motivated Im moving straight into a masters for 2016. I loved the CORE te Recourse and Im going to continue to build on that my doing some night classes in 2016.

My biggest learning: having a regular once a week study night with a colleague also studying was invaluable. (Thanks, Megan)

I’ve loved the concept of having a onward 2015, and I know a lot of the TKAS staff did too. It was so easy to keep coming back to and reflecting on- no having to look up those goals you eat th beginning of the year.

Next step- 2016 onward. Letting this come to me at the moment.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Transitioning Planning Formats

In a school leaders Facebook group I belong to the following question was posed a couple of days ago:

I am interested to hear from leaders who have transitioned from traditional classroom planning formats (ltps, weekly planning, daily planning) and how they have achieved this. Examples or links to curriculum statements would be great to look at. I'm looking for a more dynamic, and responsive-to-student-voice way of doing things.

I responded saying that I would chuck some stuff up there, which immediately got lots of quests for "please-send it-to-me-too" and then I started thinking ok- what is it that people want, and what examples can I provide that are easy for other schools to follow?

So here goes:

I believe what you are wanting to transition to is a flexible way of learning and a way to be truly responsive to individual learners needs. In fact I think, amongst all the terms floating around out there- MLE/ILE etc I prefer the term Flexible Learning Environment the most myself.

In my experience first of all teaching in a FLE type situation in the early & mid 2000’s and then leading in two different FLE school situations from 2005-2015 the biggest thing you need to do as a leader is give your teachers permission to innovate and experiment. 

And this means you have to take away some of the demands of things like traditional long term plans where not only is “topic”  listed but also some quite in-depth literacy and numeracy AO’s and LO’s. Also think carefully about the language you use and that your teachers use. There is a big difference between "doing a topic" and "inquiring into a concept." And if you are truly inquiring into a concept- you cannot plan it all out before the learners even begin to inquire.

If you want new ways of learning for learners, then you need some different ways of teaching and then you definitely need some different ways of planning.

Teachers cannot plan an in-depth long term plan with specific writing and reading objectives ten weeks into the future, and also be truly responsive to learners needs. We all know learners are unique and trying to plan for each learners needs 10 weeks into the future is not being responsive. We also know that time is precious and freeing up teachers from some of those old requirements gives them time  to innovate and experiment. They might make mistakes and get some things wrong, but they can’t do new innovative stuff and be bound to all the old ways.

So in actuality I don't have a lot of easy formats and templates to share because if you are being truly responsive and involving learners in the process then that planning has got to be a lot more short term. I see teachers doing most of that work on a daily basis. Rather than the time spent on long term plans at the start of terms, and weekly plans at the start of weeks, I see the great time, and skill, needing to be spent each day evaluating and giving feedback to student learning and diagnosing what workshops are needed to be run on an individual and small group basis to move each learner forward in their learning.This of course requires a really flexible environment, and personally I think a collaborative environment helps greatly too. I know when I was teaching in our Year 6-10 community in 2014 this was where the time we used to spend planning was actually spent. Each day reading student work and giving feedback on it, and developing any workshops for the next day around what learners needed from what they were doing that day. (This was in an environment where 90% of the student learning was inquiry based.) We had the commitment to teaching skills as needed rather than to a pre determined set of AO's or LO's. True responsive teaching, requiring huge flexibility. We did use timetable and learners spent some time developing there timetables for the week on a Monday, but also had to revisit and make appropriate alterations each morning in line with emerging needs in there inquiry learning. You can read more about this here

I would say though that old adage of you value what you measure, and you measure what you value stands out as well. If we are valuing collaboration, and perseverance and creativity, and those things that are being talked about as the skills employers want in young people, then why is so much of our measuring still on the traditional stuff. If that is what we measure then that's what our teachers are going to see we value, and in turn thats what our learners will think is the most important. At TKAS we developed learning muscles written about here. Learning muscles were the focus of refection first and foremost- at the end of a day, during and at the end of an inquiry. Learning areas were reflected on too, but not until learning muscles were reflected on. If you ran out of time- as many teachers I think still do with reflecting, then that dispositional learning can often be that thing that its forgotten What message is this giving teachers and their learners? Yes we sill measured national standards and NCEA progress but this was not seen as our first priority. bur first priority is helping young people grow up into the best possible well rounded versions of themselves they can.

A school Vision is held by the community, and I think should be driven by the BOT and community- we are just the people that come in and out of that community. But as a staff we should be shaping the learning principles and practices the link to that vision. Having a clear easy picture of what the learning principles and practices are is important.

2015 TKAS Curriculum Delivery Picture
For me most of the documentation for staff was around learning muscles and learning principles. Regardless of what was being taught- whether it was  a self directed inquiry at Year 10 or  reading inquiry at Year 3 it was the learning principles rather than the reading, or science or social science that teachers really focused on as far as planning, implementing and reflecting. It was those things that they step back from and look at over time and evaluate if one is being neglected, or needs developing further.

For each learning principle it was important to define exactly what that meant for us.

We developed range of templates to help this.
(Example of our positive learning environment statement here)
(Example of our co constructed learning statement here.)

A planning sheet where collaborative teaching teams could think about the term ahead and discuss how they were going to meet that learning principle.
(Example- co constructed learning)

A reflection sheet where collaborative teaching teams , or individuals, you reflect on the term gone and how well they met that learning principle.
(Example-real life learning)

An observation sheet where leaders or teachers could observe each other- either in practice or in discussion- taking note of the particular components of that learning principle. (With some warning signs of the things we might see if this learning principles wasn't being truly enacted.)
(Example- positive learning environment)

When we did reflect on learning areas it was through school progressions and over time we were re-writing those progressions to fit under the headings of our school learning muscles- again giving a clear message as to the importance of those learning muscles.

An example of Level 2 reading progressions

If you want an innovative learning environment you can't expect teachers to try new things and teach in different ways but still be bound to the planning that was for a different way of teaching.

If you want a flexible and collaborative learning environment you can't simply put some classes and teachers together and then allow them to timetable all flexibility out of their programme by running exactly the same programmes they always have, using the same curriculum procedures, just on a bigger scale.

Students need to be helped to learn to self manage and be accountable for their time and developing their own timetables can help this, as long as there is space within a students timetable for them to explore and get into uninterrupted periods of learning- if their timetable is just a list of teacher workshops and a list of "must-do" and "can-do if finished must-do" activities then there is no purpose to having more kids and teachers together. 

The value in collaborative teaching is when we do things really differently and use teacher time differently and then means giving up some of the old traditions we have in classrooms that suit no understandable purpose apart from "thats what schools have always done."

And if you want  learning that really engages learners in a purposeful rather than compliant way, and isn't just focused around individual subjects but around cross curricula real life learning then some of those old requirements of things like long term planning need to be changed. Rather than teachers being compliant with paperwork they need to spend time really knowing NZC and being able to identify learners next steps from the cross curricula learning they are doing to help them move to deeper understandings and more complex learning. And this needs to be responsive. Just like effectvive learning can look really messy, so can and probably should, effective teaching and therefore by extension planning isn't going to be something that looks neat and tidy and pretty, or even consistent. For us we used an online forum to record feedback to learners,and anecdotal notes on learners and notes between teachers of what workshops and teaching was needed for individual learners. We had the time to develop a system that worked for us, because we had released ourselves from that long er planning that didn't serve any purpose. 

My advice would be free your teachers up as much as possible from the old paperwork requirements to experiment and try new things. Of course you need to know whats happening in learning programmes, and there needs to be some overall school connection. Figure out ways with your teachers for recording this that give them time and freedom to be truly responsive to learners needs.