Tag Archives: real world

Reflection: Ako@Home

25 May

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Our platform for delivering digital learning during Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, Ako@Home, proved to be a successful model.  Microsoft Teams provided consistency of delivery and flexibility in its capacity and proved to be an appropriate place for both the sharing of resources and virtual face to face engagement.

The key to the success of Ako@Home were some key habits generated through our Manawa Mission dispositions of Ako, Manaakitanga and Wāhine Toa. These habits were:

  1. Students checking their email every morning
  2. Staff and students following the daily timetable
  3. Finding a quiet place to work
  4. Embedding the relationship with lead pastoral carers, Manaaki teachers.

The key support person at school was the Manaaki Teacher, who contacted students every week. Through this process, I’m proud that our staff were constantly looking at ways to move forward and offer our students a better educational experience, instead of defaulting to a compliant “it worked before” mentality. I was excited about seeing positive energy from our staff in preparing our students for their futures, as a result of this unusual experience. As we reflect on Ako@Home, we must continue to move forward by re-considering our structures and reflecting on our teaching.

I saw many things in our students during Ako@Home. Our students have engaged in the learning at times that suited them. They have self-managed; driven their own learning and behaviour, such as making the effort to contact staff themselves one on one when they had questions. They made choices, problem solved such as solving technical problems and discovered how to use digital tools themselves. They felt empowered and a sense of accomplishment. They developed skills that will one day truly assist them moving from education to employment. At home, they noticed real-life and reconnected with whānau in their homes. They genuinely applied our Manawa Mission dispositions.

Some students struggled. In saying this, we need to remember that it is OK to be stuck or to have a hard day.  In fact, this should be welcomed as I would suggest that if we can find ways to get past difficulties or hard days, we can find our way forward towards real learning. As teachers and caregivers, we need to try to avoid finding solutions for our young people straight away. While it might be frustrating when our young people don’t follow our instructions, or we feel understandably worried for them when they are not managing their learning, we need to resist rescuing. These challenges lead to enhanced learning.  By helping our young people develop these key life skills we are also helping them to experience that sense of achievement that can only be truly experienced after a struggle.  This builds determination, resilience and a growth mind-set.

Community

1 Mar

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Schools can ill afford not to have students as their central focus. Building a stronger school community requires an investment in students. Quite simply, schools were built for the education of children.

As per usual one of our annual goals is based on this developing community. Establishing that strong community requires schools to ensure that learning not teaching, collaboration not isolation and results not intentions are the norm. This describes the definition of a professional learning community, but that phrase has become so misused.

Strong leaders are essential for building a strong school community.  They need to keep one eye on students and the other on the myriad of management tasks that our society has placed upon them.

As teachers  are constantly honing their own skills in order to enable a better experience for their students.  They push the envelope and don’t ask why but why not! They lead the school to see the vision. Successful leadership is both an art and a science.

Education is and should be a demanding profession especially when we realize that we hold children’s’ futures in the palm of our hands. Lastly, strong school communities need to function as effective teams. Teaching and learning has become far too complex for any individual to make the necessary impact on all students. Effective teams need to develop a shared vision and guiding norms. They require trust, understand that healthy conflict is important and  are committed to achieving results. The need for outside accountability is eliminated because they have developed a collective responsibility. Effective members understand their own roles and responsibilities and foster a team approach to forwarding the vision. They support one another! But, make no mistake they are present for the sake of the students…always!

Many of our communities are unable to build the world that we need or want. Therefore, it is crucial that our school communities build and model that world. Our children are our future and without strong school communities it will be a bleak future at best.

 

Innovation and some more…

6 Feb

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“The road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it’s those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing. Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others are unlikely to do because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.” – Seth Godin

 

Discomfort is something that most of us do not actively seek. Yet, when transformation is required and change is necessary, discomfort is exactly where we need to be. Gaining a growth mindset, stretching our limits and activating our own learning requires us to be challenged.

It will feel foreign, it may cause some anxiety but in the end it is the only path to betterment. No deep learning comes without a time of discomfort!

But discomfort in itself, cannot lead the change process. Discomfort for the individual must be accompanied by support in the system.

“Transformation requires a culture of discomfort within a safe and trusting environment!”

Organizations must create environments where innovators feel safe in discomfort. Leaders must be very clear in their messaging and their actions that innovation is sought after, mistakes are expected and discomfort is the norm. That support is critical to ensure that acceptable risk taking is present and ideas are constantly percolating.

“Discomfort is not about thinking outside the box, it is about creating a new box that is flexible to meet the needs of the organization.”

Education has been in the same box for over 100 years and most changes have been tweaks or superficial at best.

Asking teachers to create cross curricular connections, focus on essential outcomes and go deep with learning  as opposed to covering every bullet in the program of studies may be liberating but also extremely uncomfortable to those who have always done it that way.

120 minute lessons alone is not innovation..

Support is a non-negotiable in order to allow discomfort to flourish and systemic change to be abundant. Permission must be granted to create a new box. But, permission granted must be permission taken.  When an education system has provided a safe and trusting environment for discomfort, educators must get uncomfortable. They must look for opportunities to create rather than barriers to uphold.

Schools are full of educators who can create the new box. Innovation and creativity are just waiting to be unleashed. All we need is less resistance and a desire for discomfort!

 

Reading log: Star Date 2020

9 Jan

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Day nine in my attempt to reflect each day and it is getting tough. The holidays for me is head space time without the demands of parents, pupils and staff. I do love the summer break to get away from it all but I like many others simply can’t help myself from thinking about school.

When I’m on holiday if I switch off. My mind full of summer reads always has a huge variety. As many who know me understand I set myself a reading challenge every year of 104 books. I know, that is two per week. Where does it come from? In 1996-97 I had a year out studying and in that year I read 104 books.

I’ve started the latest Jack Reacher and I’ve even got a few leadership books to advance my pedagogical thoughts. Like many in the profession several my close friends are also teachers and guess what we talk about during the holidays… Yes.. School.

For several years, I even attended a summer school with the aim of deepening my knowledge and to get ready for the challenges of the new year.

I don’t think any teacher ever fully switches off. Yes, I can turn my email off and enjoy the quality family time I crave for the rest of the year but for me (and I know I’m not the only one!) I’m still a teacher and it is my job – 12 months of the year.

By the way included below are my favourite five books from 2019.

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Rise of Superman: Part Two

28 Jan

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Routine is the cornerstone of productivity. But you’ll rarely enter a state of flow just by doing the same thing you did yesterday.

Instead, find an environment that challenges you on a daily basis and pushes you outside of your comfort zone (a bit). Think of the surfer who’s forced to adapt to every individual wave they catch. According to Kotler in Rise of the Superman, it’s this novelty, unpredictability, and complexity that will set off your state of flow. Kotler says there are a few environmental qualities we can look for to help trigger flow:

  • High consequences:Find environments and activities where your actions have real consequences to you. While an athlete might pick a harder course or opponent, for you, this could be as simple as speaking up during a meeting if you’re shy or publishing a post you’ve written on Medium if you’re afraid of comments and public feedback.
  • Rich environment: Find environments that require more of your attention and for you to react quickly to changes. Kotler gives the example of the Pixar offices, which feature a central hub for places frequented by all different employees regardless of their department.

“Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations,” said Kotler. “As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.”

How could you use flow in your environment?

I am current experimenting with my routine. I will let you know the results.

Parenting and Leadership

26 Nov

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I have been reading and tweeting this week a great deal about teaching, being a Dad and our community. As I reflect on my last term as a leader I can see lots of similarities between being a good Dad and a good leader.

It’s not all about you: your role as a Dad is to raise an independent adult. Sometimes your child won’t like you. That’s ok. You are not their friend, you are their Dad. A good Dad knows it isn’t about your child liking you, and sometimes you won’t like them; but it is about you loving them regardless.

Great Dads listen: they respect their children, valuing them as individuals, people who have a voice, ideas, passions and interests. Good Dading isn’t about creating a clone of you, but empowering them to live their own dreams.

Loving Dads are willing to say sorry: It takes humility, but you must be open to the possibility that on occasions your child may be right, and you’re the one in the wrong. Apologizing isn’t a sign of weakness.

It’s about modelling: As a member of the SLT we need to be the best we can be every day and if not apologize for it.

Be the guide on the side: Good Dads are there not to judge, but to catch a child when they fall, helping them to bounce back and have another go.

And the most obvious, Dads love each of their children: they are a gift from God and they are at the centre of our schools.

I hope I am a god Dad. I pray and know that the experience has made me a better leader.

Future Learning: Have a Voice

3 Oct

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Ehara taku toa, he takitahi, he toa takitini

My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective

With the end the term comes Pathways discussions with students as we reflect on their successes. This something that so many contribute to as the students move to their next step. We as teachers know this better than anyone.

My wife tells me this is important as we are in a changing economy with different worker skills. She was emphasising the same things the front end of our NZ Curriculum and the Tomorrows Schools review are articulating.

  • Broad knowledge base. Understanding of key knowledge and ideas in many fields.
  • Flexibility – Can adapt to new situations
  • Prepared for continuous learning
  • Pro-active engagement. Learners are active and engaged in the learning process. They are curious, develop interests and passions, take learning initiatives, conduct research, check information, become pro-active learners.
  • Learners are adaptable, flexible
  • Problem Solving. Good at using what they know to figure out how to solve a variety of complex problems that are new to them.
  • Work well with others.
  • Literacy and good communication skills. Good readers of both fiction and non-fiction material. Good writers and communicate well with others.
  • Thoughtfulness, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  “Habits of Mind” Skills and Attitudes – Have “grit”, perseverance, curiosity. Learn from failure. Disciplined, “hard-working”, collaborative.
  • Leadership. Demonstrate the ability to take charge, be proactive, plan with others, take initiative, form a positive climate and culture.

How do we build an educational system around developing this deep learning knowledge base and promoting this deep learning level of skill development?  How do we prepare our students for the future of work and citizenship? Many are already on the path towards the type of education that will prepare the next generation for both the economy and civics of the future. We must all do this together. Everybody must have their say or at the very least feel heard.

Authentic Learning

14 Sep

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Authentic learning is a measure of connectedness based on pertinence, interest, and immediacy of a given context. Relevance is critical. Teachers will have a difficult time increasing rigor for learners who do not find the tasks at hand very relevant.

There are degrees of relevance. Something is less relevant if it is an isolated experience and far more relevant if it offers knowledge and skills to support life-long endeavours. Relevance is also contextual. Studying the setting of a story will seem less relevant to a student who hates reading literature than it will to a student who aspires to be a novelist. Fortunately, teachers can increase the relevance for everyone by helping learners find personal value in the studied content or skills. For example, disinterested readers can understand that their entire lives are defined by their personal settings. They can then begin to explore the variables within their own control to alter their settings for the better, making setting a relevant concept to explore beyond literary options. When content (e.g. literature) is used as a medium (not the end goal) to explore critical, real world skills, then relevance is maximized.

When considering if learning is relevant, as a teacher I explore the following questions:

  • Are the questions, prompts, or tasks interesting for the learners? Consider age, region, and modern trends as variables.
  • Might the questions, prompts, or tasks unintentionally exclude some learners (e.g. those who aren’t interested in sports, those who don’t have access to gardens, those who don’t wish to become historians, etc.)?
  • Do the questions, prompts, or tasks replicate processes that are authentic to ‘real world’ applications?
  • Will the questions, prompts, or tasks be fun or engaging? Will they be explained in the context of life-long application?

Few learners will accept robust challenges if they 1) don’t believe someone is there to support their efforts, and 2) can’t find a worthy reason to engage in something that will not be easy.

Don’t Stop Believing

19 Jul

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One of my mentors often says to me “You have to believe in yourself”.   You cannot accomplish anything if you do not believe in yourself.   However, this statement does not fully apply to education. Educators work in a comprehensive system; therefore, educators can believe in themselves all they want to, but there is a truckload of other factors and people that affect how one teacher can perform.  In other words, if every teacher in the system is to reach the pinnacle of success, it will require beliefs that are much deeper than a tangible belief in ourselves. At this stage, it make want to dance around my lounge to that song by Journey.

Belief in yourself is not the ultimate goal for educators but the first step. If an organization desires to reach the pinnacle of excellence, a bunch of people who believe in themselves is a great goal but if the focus is on kids, individual belief isn’t enough because believing in yourself and no one else can only impact 1 year in a child’s life.   If you don’t believe me that believing in yourself isn’t enough, then watch “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or any other Hollywood movie of a teacher with the ultimate belief.

My role this term will be to believe and empower my team more. Teams that trust in each other believe in each other. They have positive presuppositions about one another’s motives, abilities and contributions. They lean on each other in times of difficulty and hold each other to high standards because of that belief.  A team of individuals who believe in themselves and in one another is a huge step up from any belief in yourself because it takes courage, trust and confidence in something bigger than yourself.  Furthermore, teams that believe in themselves expand a positive influence and impact directly onto more students, but this is not the ultimate belief. The team only impacts one segment of the system, not the entire system. There has to be something bigger to affect all tamariki in every day of their education.

Digital Passport

30 Apr

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“We must think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy”

Before I begin a big thank you to MINDLAB for their assistance in this PLD.

After attending the ANZAC Day Dawn Service this week, I completed the Digital Passport course which gave me an insight into the new curriculum.  To prepare the next generation for the future, this has answered the call to teach our tamariki code. But many now recognize it’s not enough for students simply to know how to write code. The capacity to build a product or solve a problem requires an entirely different literacy.

The focus of the new digital curriculum is shifting from teaching the specific skill of coding to teaching computational thinking—or the ability to follow a step-by-step process to solve a problem. The future workforce will require a solid grounding in the discipline of thinking computationally. We think of coding not as a skill but as a literacy. I was reading article this week which suggested “We don’t teach reading because we believe everyone will write War and Peace,” therefore  “we don’t teach computer science with the belief that everyone will be a computer scientist. We teach it because it is increasingly a skill we need to operate in and understand the world around us.”

Much like students learn to read and then read to learn, coding and computational thinking are intertwined. Computational thinking will be fundamental to many of today’s students’ careers and interests in the same way that knowing how to read is fundamental to everything they do in school.

Computational thinking is defined as the ability to “develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.” According to Code.org in the United States, there are more than 503,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but only 35 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, and fewer than half of U.S. schools teach computer science.

Much like reading, it’s important for students to learn the basics of computational thinking early, especially for girls. As digital technology increasingly becomes integrated across the disciplines and year levels, access will become more equitable. A quick and easy algorithm exercise for young our tamariki is to ask them to tell a partner, step-by-step, how to tie a shoelace without showing them. A bonus in this exercise is that it includes making a loop, which is a coding principle.

Our tamariki can solve a lot of problems when they understand the language and process of computing. Letting those problems be real, and identified by the students themselves, keeps students engaged and trying. An example could be to ask students to identify a problem in their community, research existing technology, and design an innovative app to solve the problem.

If we want our tamariki to be comfortable learners and creators, for their own interest or as part of the workforce, they need a basic understanding of how computational thinking works. If a child can talk about how something is made or built, then when something doesn’t work right, they can debug it or tweak it. Our job as teachers has always been to support our tamariki as they start exploring bigger ideas and provide the tools they need to be able to do that. Now let’s help them take that next step.

 

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