Monday, May 25, 2015

Could we be missing Something?

We're talking about effective practice and how to best meet the needs of our learners. We're looking at how to develop self regulated learners in single cell classes. Evidence available from shows that meta-cognition and self regulation along with feedback as having high impact on learning and achievement.
So we're wondering how to best create the conditions that promotes these outcomes. We're currently pursuing creating self-guided programmes in single cell classes. We are working on having greater learner voice and choice, through having must do and can do activities within various aspects of our programmes. Learners will be involved in the development of some of the learning activities.
Having just come back from a trip to Christchurch that focussed on collaborative teaching approaches, I'm now wondering about the "power of more than one".
We were reviewing our moderation practices today and then I gave a quick report from my trip and the link was made between the two - with more than one teacher about, moderating would be enabled on a more frequent basis, there would be ongoing moderation as learners are discussed between teachers.
I am learning more and more about personalising  learning and collaborative teaching. I am learning about more advantages for both teachers and learners in taking a collaborative approach in an "innovative learning environment". Such ideas as a learner not connecting with one teacher might be avoided in a space that has more than one teacher, learners might gain different perspectives on the curriculum. Teachers worry about not knowing their learners so well. I know this is a real concern in many schools and one parents might have too - who is actually looking out for my child?
We don't feel we know enough yet about this to implement it successfully and there is a high level of angst in my community about taking this approach. So currently we're  looking at how we can ensure our learners are offered all they can be in a single cell setting.
If there's  one thing I hear over and over again, get the pedagogy right, then go from there. We have work to do to ensure that our classes are running how we want, that we all share some understandings of what we are wanting to achieve and how to go about achieving that.
Perhaps some teachers will select to work in a collaboration in the near future. In the meantime, we need to get our pedagogy right about enabling learners to be self guiding and self regulating.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A lasting impression

We all know that schools are called upon to do special things on a daily basis. The staff in many Christchurch schools have been called upon to do the extraordinary. 48 hours, five schools and one outcome. Respect. I went to learn about collaborative practice and certainly came away with way more knowledge and ideas around this, I also came away with something I wasn't expecting and something I wasn't prepared for. Hearing what different schools had done for their community following the quake made me realise even more how vital schools are to their communities, they're more than places of learning. They can be a refuge, solace and a hope.
The leadership that principals must have shown over the past few years is something rather special. Having a new build on top of everything else is something to look forward to but also so much more work in the meantime. Split campuses, shared campuses, no campus at all. The e,optional needs of staff, children and parents,  as well as turmoil in their own lives and it's  a wonder how many kept going. It really is.

So, thank you to Halswell School, Waitakiri School,  Pegasus Bay School, Clarkville School and Breen's Intermediate. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly, for sharing your story so openly and for what you have done. Meeting you all has been a privilege. Learning from you has been an inspiration.

Note- I was one of ten Principals from the Manawatu who visited five schools in Christchurch over two days. Brilliant trip.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Our approach to professional learning at our school.

We're trialling something new at our school to support professional learning. Professional learning networks have been offered, with each staff member leading one. I lead my first session today about personalising learning, sharing back from my sabbatical. Our next session will be in ten weeks with everyone sharing some practice.
The intention behind the PLNs is for learning needs to be better met, for everyone to have a say in the professional learning programme and for everyone to have a leadrship role. We have an experienced team and most of us have been working together for a few years, so the time and the culture is right.
I am hopeful that over time the PLNs will develop into carefully planned for sessions that run for as long as necessary to achieve set outcomes.
The PLNs have generally been attended by everyone, but they are not compulsory to attend. Some staff have been brave enough not to attend Some sessions which I salute and would encourage. This is the type of thing I want happening in our rooms, so support it fully at this level too.
In addition to these networks, staff are each in charge of their own professional learning budget. This can be used for anything to support their own learning - further study, conferences, travel, etc. We also have a teachers only day where school visits are the focus. Teachers select the schools themselves based on their learning needs. We are sending two teachers to ulearn and these two contribute some of their professional learning funds to the cost of this.
I think that everyone's professional learning needs are better met through this approach, as opposed to our previous traditional staff meeting approach.I have been able to decide my own professional learning programme to support the goals that are set in my appraisal and I think the experience is one that everyone should have. That is, being in control of their own learning. This is what I want for everyone in our school; teachers and children.  I am surveying the staff at the start and end of the year to see if this has indeed better met their learning needs.
Tteaching as inquiry is firm embedded. We are also in the second year of  Accelerating learning in literacy. Our interventions are the basis for our TAIs - we're not doubling up work.
There is additional funding in the professional learning budget for things that pop up along the way, so we don't miss any awesome learning opportunities.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Self guided learning and another reason why...

We sometimes double guess ourselves. I'm not sure why. Perhaps we need to ensure we have done our research properly to feel we have an evidenced base to justify our actions. However, something like self-directed or self-guided learning has plenty of research behind it and many schools are heading in the direction of personalising learning. This is more and more common in MLE's and for those of us in single cell schools, it's about MLP. It is possible to transform traditional practice in a single cell class. It's happening already. In lots of places, like our school.
The double guessing comes when we're questioned by parents (or by colleagues) about our approach and when things aren't quite going right, a new approach is quickly identified as being a potential problem.
And what about preparation for high school? How can students having choices and having to manage themselves possibly prepare them for high school? Sound familiar?
My thinking is, school is first and foremost not about preparing learners for a future life. They're living it right now. We should be giving learners what they need for today. It's ridiculous to suggest that everything a learner is doing is preparation for "real life" and that at some stage they'll recall the skills and learning for when it really matters. It matters now! They need to use and apply what they've got now.
I also believe that the skills and experience gained from managing oneself through a self guided approach will actually give a learner the skills they need to be successful at any time. Being able to prioritise tasks, know how much time to give a task and to know one's own strengths are essential. This knowledge and these skills can only be gained through being given opportunities where learners gain experience in applying them. (And when you look at it, these are actually skills that would make a learner successful when they do go to high school.)
There isn't an age when these skills can be acquired, it's no use saying that these are things a learner will be able to do in the senior school. Nonsense! Learners have been making decisions and learning plenty in their first 5 years of life and it should be that this type of learning continues when they first start school - not ignored for 4 or 5 years and then reintroduced sometime later in their schooling.

So, to all those innovators out there, trying new things and wanting to transform their practice - I encourage you to keep going. Kia kaha. The easy thing to do is "pack up" and revert to what has always been done. Is this a lesson we want our learners to learn? I think not.

Is school just preparation for life?