Sunday, 17 August 2014

is where the best fruit is!

Week five at Hobsonville Point Schools already and “what a whirlwind of a term so far”  .
This weekend has seen an amazing fundraiser for our group of students  who are going to work in a school in Samoa  and the weekend before our school hosted the  EdchatNZ inaugural conference, attended by teachers from all over New Zealand.  I can assure you that there were many powerful and challenging conversations about learning occurring all over our school site which is the essence of any effective  and successful conference and believe me this was a successful one. Well done Danielle and crew!!

One of the biggest understandings that I was able to take away from this time spent with some great educators was an personally satisfying understanding that my practice is effective and that I belong in the collective community of passionate,  NZ,  21st Century educators. It has taken me a week to collect and organise my thoughts and assimilate the learning, but I think I am there!!

After some very recent conversations since the conference I find myself asking the  question,  How do/are we handling the shift to the new Educational Paradigm, not just as teachers, but as parents, students, stakeholders and even bystanders, who all seem to have and express opinions about it at various points.  The issue that I see, recurring frequently, is that those conversations, questions and expressions often seem to be driven only by personal  previous experiences, which are usually perceptions of what we have seen before or of what we already know.  With this type of ‘blinkered’ approach I have occasionally found myself teetering on the back foot trying to justify or defend such things as different  practices and approaches to learning, new pedagogies, restorative practice, student-self-directed learning and the list can go on.  

A quick and instant reminder of our School Vision from Maurie Abraham this morning snapped me back into reality.  As a school we have chosen the hard road.  This is not because we want to be different or because we want to “try out new stuff’.  We have purposefully embarked on a road to challenge the outcomes of  ineffective education provided widely in NZ schools.  Quite simply our students need more than just  an academic qualification if they are to thrive both now and in the future (I believe valid citizenship starts now).  With that in mind, why not challenge those perceptions  that can often be the  only destructive voice you hear.

How do we challenge perceptions?  Well I know how this works for me so I’ll make an assumption and hope that it could work for others. I feel most challenged when I am in place of uncertainty that has been driven by some really strong questions.  By this I mean that if we were to ask some really hard “What if  ?, or,  What would happen if…?” questions and then set out to answer them.  In the case of our school some of those questions are: What would happen if we don’t have a bell ? What would happen if learners could choose their own style and topics of learning?  What would happen if we allow a very empowered student and parent voice ?  What would happen if we use a completely different timing structure for our school?  What would happen we allow students a relaxed structure around learning, inquiry, gaming and internet use?  One thing I am certain of is that there are some very strong answers to these questions that could be driven by previous perceptions but I feel privileged and excited to be a participant and contributor to a school that is prepared to challenge traditional default  perceptions by encompassing the context of uncertainty as an environment for our own inquiry.
how we learn?

There is definitely something in our evolution that clearly evidences the fact that perceptions are challenged and changed by taking risks and that a great driving question causing uncertainty is the basis for change as seen in the clip above. The best questions are the ones that create the most uncertainty, I think, because they are the ones that cause lasting and definitive change as is required in education. I value educators and schools that are bold enough to commit to the hard task of delivering the answers to those questions and I met plenty of those mindsets at the conference. 

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