Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Road to Our School Community of Learning

We are on our way...and it’s a great feeling.

We’ve had a full on year so far, but the difference is that the tiredness is bearable because we are building something positive.

After six years in this school, the difference is palpable.  Why does it feel so different?

Staffroom talk

A lot of discussions in our breaks are now centred on learning.  We are sharing the excitement of a fab learning experience.  Teachers get together informally to plan or to moderate a piece of writing.  Staff get to the staffroom on time and the room doesn’t empty out when the meeting is over.  A two minute catch up turns into a two hour strategic discussion and we smile because we’ve solved an issue or come up with a great idea while “chewing the cud.”

Sustained PLD

Our professional development doesn’t consist of one off disconnected staff meetings led by the senior leadership team.  Last year our ALL initiative didn’t take off because it wasn’t given priority or time allowances in the school calendar.  This year, after a well facilitated meeting on accelerating literacy, the literacy leader and I came back to a school with an action plan to discuss and made sure that our fifteen week initiative was given the time allowances needed to meet its goals of building a literacy learning culture and community engagement. Teachers were grouped into PLGs of four teachers and given in school release for peer discussion of their inquiries.  The message was made clear that their development was important enough to give it in school time.

Distributed Leadership

The literacy lead teacher is a staff member who isn’t an expert in her field, but has a number of qualities that make her a great leader.  She shares these with the maths lead teacher.

  • Love of learning and a desire to keep learning and keep looking at how others learn and what they might learn
  • Listening to the needs of others 
  • Learning to deflect and filter negativity
  • Creativity
  • Ability to keep up with the paperwork
  • Understanding of the need for data to drive an initiative and to help filter particular needs

Middle leadership development

It’s important that middle leaders understand their importance in ensuring that syndicates of teachers are improving their teaching and learning and not just that their role is about administration and behaviour management.  This year has seen more input into the role, including targeted professional development opportunities.

We’re on our way...but there are still pot holes to navigate and a few learning pits to climb out of.

Teaching As Inquiry

The ALL and Maths development this year have both focused on learning through teaching as inquiry.  This hasn’t been an automatic success.  Teaching as inquiry requires a desire to trying something new in order to improve teaching and learning; it means dedication to being a data gatherer, a researcher, a risk taker and reflective practice.  No more nor less than we are required to do to meet the Practising Teacher Criteria, no more nor less than we expect from our students. No more or less than the values and attributes embodied in the Key Competencies, themselves an evolution of the future thinking of groups like the OECD, who last century began to discuss the need to change education to meet the aptly called wicked problems of our present and future.

It’s new for some.  They might not like “one size fits all” professional development, but they find it very hard to operate when given the freedom to follow their own learning path.  It means disruption to “doing it as we’ve always done it”. It means leaving our comfort zones.

Listening to Student Voice

In our inquiries we are getting better at gathering student voice and sharing what we hear.  We’re discovering that it’s not what they say, but rather what they don’t say that is most indicative of learning.  What we aim to hear is ownership of the learning process; we’re not there yet.

Self Regulated Learning

What we aim for is self regulation, where akonga are engaged in what they need to learn and how they want to learn.  To do this, they need to understand how best they learn and the reason for that learning.  We need to all realise that these learning dispositions need to be taught.

What we need to come to terms with is that akonga, the term used for learners in the Practising Teacher Criteria, is not just about meeting the needs of our child charges.  Teachers are akonga too.  When we as teachers - and teacher leaders - understand that we must keep growing our pedagogy, we will be better equipped to role model self regulated learning to our students.

OECD. (2005). The definition and selection of key competencies: Executive summary. Retrieved from​   www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd.org/dataoecd/47/61/35070367.pdf