Thursday, October 20, 2016

Conscious Thought

Over the last two weeks we have been running an induction programme for 32 of our new staff-an induction programme that will continue for the majority of this term and for two weeks in January before our ākonga begin.

Every activity we've run has been very intentional and had conscious thought put into the purpose and outcome of the activity. It would have been very easy to just create a set of activities that would be enjoyable and fun and/or a set of activities that would "tell" our new staff all about the curriculum framework we have developed and the way we want to work at Haeata but that's not what we wanted to do.

We created a set of four guiding purposes for our induction programme and we have used our curriculum framework learning principles- which have a direct link to our school values to design the learning we have been doing together. Relationships are at the heart of our learning principles- but also important is authenticity, connectedness, culturally intelligent, inclusive, social, open and personalised learning.

Induction Purposes:
Build excitement in who we are and what we do
Getting to know the rest of the team- personally and professionally
Understanding Haeata-tanga- the way we will do things at Haeata, our identity at Haeata- individually, as a collective and as a Haeata team
Make connections- individually and as a team- within the team, and out in the community- whānau, local community, Christchurch

The term began with a mihi whakatau followed by kai and mihimihi so that connections and introductions were formed. Day 1 saw a myriad of icebreakers designed to help people get to know each other on a superficial level quickly and as a whole team. 

This was followed by our SLT presenting their digital korowai for ten minutes each. Staff were asked to sign up to a timetable to present their own digital korowai over the next fortnight. We know we will be a school that makes continual and regular use of technologies, but we didn't want to put technology training as such into the programme but rather consciously require people to build their technology skills by using technology to complete certain induction tasks. We've been blown away by peoples presentations- staff have been sincere, and honest and shared more of themselves than we had any expectation of- given we've only known each other a few days. We've laughed and cried with people as they have shared their journeys- both professional and personal.

Day 2 saw a workshop conducted by the EBOT on the well established values for the school. In the afternoon our kaiārahi (leaders) ran a passion unconference. Again this was a conscious decision to introduce staff who were not aware of the concept of an unconference, and of the language and expectations that come with an unconference- smackdowns, making choices on the spot, not doing how many people will attend a session etc. We expect to be working in a future focussed area of education and unconference is a big part of the PLD scene in future focused education currently, so we wanted to expose all staff to this early on.

Day 3 saw more icebreakers introduced- but this time rather than in the large groups- splitting into our hapori (learning teams), so that we could begin building deeper relationships with those other kaiako they were going to be working the closest with. The SLT ran a workshop titled unschooling and led some thinking about the importance of using the privilege of the time we have this term to de stress, to revive, and to read and reflect- to revisit our assumptions about learning and schooling and to build new beliefs together.
This afternoon saw staff introduced to their own Managing My Learning google site, so that they could begin reflecting and gathering evidence of their learning from the start. A practice we expect to be ongoing and continual for all staff and ākonga.

Day 4 saw our hapori leaders run their own session- a combination of icebreakers and some general chatting about excitements and fears, and some question gathering. Everyone was also led through a workshop around the learning principles we will use at Haeata for designing learning.

Day 5 was an Amazing Race. We began with a shared breakfast- 35 people who didn't know each other 5 days before all working together in a very small space in a very small kitchen to prepare and eat kai together. And it worked.

Again, conscious thought was put into creating Amazing Race teams to bring people together across the entire staff again, as the last two days had been spent a lot in hapori groups getting to know those people better. We are very consciously building opportunities to build relationships across the school as well as within hapori. We know that people might need to move hapori at short notice in February- when enrolments are more clear. We also know we have 10 more staff starting over the next four weeks, and another six who will begin in January. We need to very consciously build relationships now, but ensure those relationships are able to bend and sway and welcome new members to their teams easily as the term goes on.

Teams were given instructions and set off on their race while the SLT prepared and cooked a BBQ lunch. In the afternoon teams created a digital presentation of their race and the weekend with the presentations being shared over refreshments and some prizes being awarded as we all reminisced on the first week together.

We have used the frameworks our kaiārahi and kaiako will use with ākonga- learning principles as a design tool, breaking our time up into Kauapapa Ako ( the large group all learning together based on some of our big kauapapa, Puna Ako ( smaller groups working together to consolidate and extend some of the concepts from kauapapa Ako, and some MAI time (for people to follow their own lines of learning and wellbeing). We have integrated wellbeing activities throughout the weeks, just like we expect kaiārahi and kaiako to do with ākonga.

SLT modelled karakia, waiata mihi and tuku mihi all week and now hapori have taken on responsibility for that a week each over the remainder of the term.

Feedback from staff was overwhelmingly positive. They have relaxed, they have got to know each other in multiple ways. They have connected. Developing cultural intelligence has been a constant theme. Things have been social and open- everyone has shared honestly with each other. We have given some space for personalised learning. Staff have begun to be exposed to some of the backbone of the Haeata curriculum framework in a really authentic and inclusive way. And relationships have consciously and intentionally been at the heart of everything we have done.

"Conscious, reflective, intentional action is the bridge between theory and practice. " Jan Robertson

A video summary of Week 1:

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Power of Connections

Am sitting at the airport waiting for the first of two flights to fly home after three day in Rotorua at ULearn.

Sounded like a great idea in March when we decided as a leadership team to put in submissions to present at this years conference.  Heading off to Rotorua this week we were very aware that our staff begin next Monday and that time pressures were well and truly hitting in and I think beginning to wonder if this was a good use of our time.

I think we would all now say that it definitely was.

We've been in the fortunate and privileged position of having the last 9 months to think and read, and visit and reflect and cogitate. To form the basis of a curriculum and to think deeply about all the "That's The Way We've Always Done It," rhetoric in schools and to interrogate this and ask why a lot until we had a direction for which we would like learning to evolve at Haeata.

So I guess many of the sessions we attended were more affirming of the learning that we've been privileged to do than new stuff for us. But we would also all say that the process of considering and creating presentations about some of our work is hugely clarifying for our own beliefs and practices.

And the absolute real power in the last thee days was the opportunity to connect. To connect with people we only know or recognise form the online educational community. To connect kanohi te kanohi with old connections and create new connections. To talk and to challenge with old friends and with new connections.

Years ago I read Will Richardsons book where the subtitle is Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education.

I think that is a big part of the power of the ULearn conference. Where else do you get nigh on 2000 educators together in one space? (And with a significant more joining the back channels of live streaming and following the twitter threads.)

For me, personally, I reconnected with educators I worked with as long ago as 20 years ago. Amazing conversations , amazing stories to share and reconnections to form.

For us as a school we've been able to share a little part of the journey of Haeata so far and our passion and excitement for what is to come. 

Transforming education, and particularly transforming schooling is happening in little pocket all over Aotearoa. 
The power of connections is moving us steadily towards the tipping point where the changes so deeply needed in ours choosing system will become the whole clothing rather than just the pocket. 

The power of the understanding of the need for change when 2000 educators connect at an event like ULearn is palpable. Continuing to connect with each other- post conference is how we will work together in order to push that change over the timing point.

Thanks to all those old friends and colleagues Ive reconnected with in the last three days. What an awesome opportunity to do so. 

And welcome to all this new connections to my personal and professional learning network. Long may the conversations continue.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Looking Ahead to and Reflecting Back On ULearn

Preparing to head off to ULearn in a couple of days has made me reflect on past ULearn conferences.

I’ve been attending ULearn since its navcon days. I was motivated by hearing inspirational speakers like Julia Atkins, Joan Dalton and Cheryl Doig speak at the very first navcon I attended back in the early 2000's. In fact I would say my entire teaching landscape changed after that first conference. Having been involved in curriculum integration practice and reference groups for years, inquiry learn gin was the missing linkI’d been searching for and hearing Cheryl speak about the power of inquiry learning drove an immediate change in my practice. Hearing Julia speak about the history of education and the need for schooling to change gave me some of the language to be able to articulate what I'd been working towards in a classroom for some years. Hearing Joan present about the power of the language we use gave me much cause for consideration and reflection. I've continued to read and watch so much written and said by these women over the years. I am indeed fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with them all through the years, and particularly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with them all this year on such a close level. They were indeed some of my first edu heroes- well before I ever knew if that term.

Changes in my teaching practice to include inquiry learning and in my leadership to really consider language used, combined with a new motivation and the ability to better articulate why schooling needed to change drove the next few years after that initial conference. By 2003 the benefits of Collaborative teaching and collaborative Practice followed. 

Within a couple of years I was back at ULearn, as it was known by 2004, with my co- teacher and we were presenting ourselves; on teaching through inquiry, on running self regulated programmes and on using technology to support these practices.

Through the years I’ve been to ULearn just about every year, missing 2012 and 2015 only. In 2009 my entire leadership team attended and it consolidated a lot of things for us as a team leading a school through some significant changes in practice. In 2011, as Principal of a different school I was fortunate enough to be able to take my entire teaching staff of 20 to the ULearn conference. A fantastic learning and social experience for all.

As I work on my presentations for this year I am feeling nervous. Although they are on topics I am passionate about, and I think have a fair experience in the old imposter syndrome hits in. (See previous post written in January 2015.) Adding to the nerves is the fact that I see a number of people I know signed up for one or more of my workshops. It’s always nerve wracking to present in front of people that really know you-warts and all! As a presenter you are always very aware that people have paid a lot of money to attend this conference, and you don’t want to be wasting their time or investment.

It is often said you get out of this conference as much as you put into it. As a fairly shy introvert I can remember the first few conferences and sticking like glue to the people I was attending with. I would flinch when the presenter said “turn and talk to someone,” thinking no-one would want to talk with me. Now I really get that phrase. To get as much out of the investment of going you need to talk, and think and reflect and you need to share that with other people to get the most out of your reflections. Social media has helped. Talking to people online has made it that much easier to find a commonality when you meet them in person- in fact its now fun to meet those people you get to know so well in online forums.

As I flick through all that is on offer this year I am really hopeful for the future of education and of schooling. While there are the technology ‘how=-to” theres also many many workshops on the bigger picture- on people who are transforming practice in their classrooms on a daily basis and why and how they are doing this. I look at workshops we were running back in this mid 2000’s about self regulated learning, about removing silo-subjects from the teaching landscape, about  collaborative teaching and they were more the exception. Now these kind of workshops are much more the norm. Maybe we really are getting near some kind of tipping point in New Zealand schools?

So, as I sit here on a Sunday preparing workshops instead of enjoying the beach on a warm and sunny holiday afternoon some people might ask why? Why not just go and enjoy the conference?

The conviction that things need to change. Still. The power of understanding the transformation needed to change practice. The chance to network and to build those understandings in wider and wider groups. The oporutntity to be part of the tipping point, that I hope we are on a pathway towards reaching in New Zealand schooling.

I look forward to seeing many people at ULearn- old colleagues, old friends, networks of people I know online but not face to face and I look forward to connecting with others using the #notatulearn hashtag.

And I hope that the people attending ULearn 2016 get just even a little bit of that inspiration I got from Julia, Joan and Cheryl all those years ago.