Archive | December, 2018

A Changing Classroom

18 Dec

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With a number of reviews taking place there is no doubt we are working in an exciting but also a scary time for education. These reviews are challenging a great deal of what we know to be true. There was a time I had very specific ideas about learning and teaching. Some of these preconceived notions were based on my own experience as a student. There was a time until very recently I believed students should sit in rows, quiet classroom is an effective demonstration of classroom management. Students in the same class should do the same assignments and this is best demonstrated in test or essay format best exhibited with a pen and paper. Don’t smile until for six weeks or you will lose them. Most of all as teacher I possesses the information. I would impart my knowledge. The truth is things have changed and I need to relearn how to be effective. The professional standards provide me a guide to do this.

Students create their own learning environment. You don’t need seating charts and students can be moving around to ensure their space enhances their work, whether it is individual or collaborative. In fact some days students in my class never enter the room and the learning is just as effective. My classroom is operative but it is not quiet. Indeed at times it is chaotic.

The idea that every student in a classroom should be required to complete the exact same assignment strikes me as a little silly. Of course their assessment is well with NCEA rules but it learning that our tamariki find is linked to their learning journey or inquiry. Students are at wildly different places in their learning. Their assignments should be customized to appeal to their interests and meet them where they are at in terms of skill level. This can be demonstrated in many ways not only a pen.

Don’t smile for six weeks? Our tamariki indeed just find this strange. By not smiling I think you lose the students. I had a student come up to me the other day and ask ‘what was up with Mrs X’ as she appeared unhappy. Our world has changed. We are more relational and restorative. The relationship is as important as the content.

I am not the only “expert” in the room. Indeed with Google in the room and more informed students I am no longer the source of all that is true and correct. I try to have students investigate and inquire, research, dialogue about what they created, and korero with each other.

These changes have made me think. They have made my staff think. What changes have you observed recently and more importantly how have you adapted?

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Student Agency 2018

9 Dec

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Knowing your students is the cornerstone for teachers to build relationships needed to personalize learning. Providing opportunities for student voice and choice within the classroom is the most critical element to engage and develop independent learners. Voice and choice that allows students to drive their own learning and make instructional decisions is fun to watch. Yes, it must be aligned with standards and benchmarks but, when done properly, students demonstrate an ownership not seen in traditional classrooms.

Providing students with this voice requires flexibility which teachers including myself find hard. Flexibility within the classroom allows teachers to group students in multiple ways and to use classroom space in ways not imagined. However, developing flexible mindsets is the most important aspect of this element. Dweck (2006) points out that students who have a growth mindset will have greater student agency and efficacy leading toward independence. A staff member in our recent curriculum experiment told me her group “raised in self-confidence” when permitted to extend their learning and have voice on their learning. Her thinking around student agency for students became flexible and was based on what they mastered and demonstrated their best work.

Creating a Team

2 Dec

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Relational trust is so important in a team. Simply this does not occur straight away. People need time to find their role. This means that when there’s the inevitable conflict, it’s managed. People know each other. They listen to each other. There are agreements about how they treat each other and engage with each other, and member monitor these agreements. There’s also someone such as a facilitator who ensures that this is a safe space. Furthermore, in order for there to be trust, within a strong team there is equitable participation among members and shared decision-making.

While there is trust in a good team, there’s healthy conflict. This is inevitable and essential if groups are learning together and embark on some kind of project together. The team needs to disagree about ideas, there’s constructive dialogue and dissent, courageous conversations and thinking is pushed.

A good team creates a space for learning. In schools there are many reasons why those of us working in schools might gather in a team — but I believe that all of those reasons should contain opportunities for learning with and from each other. We talk about our students being lifelong learners and being collaborative. We ask our students to expose the key competencies. Do we in teams? So in an effective team, learning happens within a safe context. We can make mistakes, take risks, and ask every single question we want just like our students.

My Team

1 Dec

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This week I wanted to reflect on our senior leadership team. They have played an important role in my development and these are some of the key ways that I have benefitted from their service.

1. Confidence – Each mentor has helped me to make sense of difficult and complex situations and offered advice that has provided me with confidence going into new situations. They have provided frameworks for decision making, routines for organisation and procedures for continually developing in leadership skills.

2. Humility – We all make mistakes and it was interesting to hear about how each mentor learnt from their failures. It spoke volumes of their character and convictions and has reminded me of the great importance that humility plays in leadership.

3. Courage – They have all encouraged me to reach for the stars, and this has made a huge difference to my outlook. They have encouraged me to have the difficult decisions, to get alongside team members and to not give up.

They have made me a better person. A better educator. A better man.

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