I have had multiple conversations lately about the power of critique in forcing deeper thinking and the lack of critique occurring in many schools. A couple of years ago I wrote about how we might develop a culture of critique within a school. This was focused on actions within the school and looked more at the individual level. I have had great experience of how a Critical Friends set up can help. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we were all paired up with a critical friend. This worked so well for me that when I left, Claire Amos and I kept up our critical friend relationship going. My recent thoughts have been more around how an external critical friend could help provoke at a school level.
Critique is not something that we do or take particularly well in schools. Often within school we can be threatened by someone asking us why about our actions. Our typical response is to get defensive rather than being open to digging deeper. I have a hunch that external critical friends who are there with that clear purpose may not be so threatening. They aren’t challenging you personally but trying to prompt reflection on why the school has made certain decisions.
Early in 2013 I attended an Information Evening about foundation teaching applications for Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I had always liked the idea of being part of the foundation staff at a school and getting to develop the culture of the place, so was quite excited about attending this and finding out more. The meeting was everything I hoped for and more. Maurie, Lea, Claire and Di set out an exciting vision and I was amped about what this school was going to look like. So amped, I was ringing my partner before even making it back to the car, to tell her I needed to get a job teaching at this school – it sounded like my dream job!
MLE, 1:1 BYOD programmes, Dispositional Curriculums, new Timetables, new SMS & LMS, GAFE or Office365. All ‘new’ ideas coming into schools across New Zealand and all ideas being slammed by people because of the poor implementation.
Speak to teachers at conferences or scroll through any social media and read teachers comments. You will find teachers questioning or slamming ideas because of how they have been implemented at their school or a friend’s/local school. Teachers absolutely have the right to challenge the ideas being implemented but so many of these challenges are not of the ideas themselves, it is actually about the way they are being implemented.
Not enough PD or time spent helping staff upskill and see how they can best use *insert new idea here* is not a fault of the idea, it is a fault of the change management. Continue reading →
I recently finished reading a wonderful book by Grant Lichtman called #EdJourney. This book is the result of an 89 day trip in which he visited 64 schools and interviewed over 600 people on educational innovation and the future of schools. Part One of the book is on roadblocks to change and innovation in schools and then gives examples of how schools he visited have overcome these. The four major obstacles found were:
Time (the most common)
People (risk, fear and growth mindset)
Each of these are discussed in a chapter and also gives examples of how schools have overcome each of these. Continue reading →
It has been a while since I have posted a Question Quest post and this is a question I have been pondering a lot lately. This HMW question actually started as a why question:
Why are teachers so unwilling to be uncomfortable when they expect it of students every day?
I have been frustrated to see teachers across the country unwilling to take a risk and push themselves to try new approaches. It seems that it is about getting teachers to feel ok with that uncomfortable learning feeling. To me, discomfort is just a part of learning:
This post was originally written for The Network – a newsletter for the New Zealand Board of Geography Teachers:
Modern Learning Environments (MLE) seem to be springing up all over the country and all new builds or developments in schools now are supposed to be under this model. I have been teaching in a brand new MLE this year at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. So what is it actually like to work in an MLE? Continue reading →
This afternoon I was talking with my partner and our 4 1/2 year old daughter about what super powers we would want to have (flying for my partner, ice powers such as Elsa in Frozen for my daughter and teleporting for me) when I realised my Question for Question Quest today:
What teaching super power would you like to have?
I think mine would be the power to give students the confidence to take that big learning risk.
I know that my learning risks get easier the more that I take so it would be great to give students the confidence to take those first few risks. For some students it might be standing up and sharing an idea, others it might be embracing the fact their idea might fail but trying anyway, others it could be about taking the lead role in their group. If they had the confidence to do this a few times, it could really help them take further calculated learning risks in future.
What would your teaching super power be?
Would it change if it was only for 1 day? 1 week? 1 month? A term? Permanent?
p.s. Bonus marks for those who work out how to make that super power happen. I am certainly aiming to give all my students the confidence to take learning risks this term! Will let you know how it goes.
Earlier this week I had a mini-mental tantrum to do with my struggles teaching robotics. I pride myself on having a Growth Mindset but it absolutely disappeared on me as I thought “that’s it, next term I’m moving back to teaching the stuff that I know really well and that is my passion, not theirs (the students).” But after letting my tantrum go I was able to reflect and move forward with teaching robotics in a more effective way.
This whole episode (and how quickly it happened) reminded of a visual metaphor (I think that’s the right thing – I may be about to be slayed by the English teachers out there!) I thought of a couple of weeks ago when having a critical friend talk with Maurie. Continue reading →
We have an awesome opportunity at Hobsonville Point Secondary School to be part of a team looking to redefine secondary schooling. And I really mean awesome – in all senses of reverence, admiration, fear etc.
It is an opportunity to do something completely out of the ordinary which sounds great but at times can be scary, uncomfortable and unsettling. Now, for me, I see this more on the excitement level of awesomeness but I’m also someone who is scared of heights but absolutely loved the Sky Dive I did a couple of years ago.
As teachers we expect students to be ok with being uncomfortable, learning new things every week and embracing the opportunities that exist. But, at times, we aren’t ok with being constantly in that situation ourselves. This post is essentially about encouraging teachers to embrace those challenges and be ok with being uncomfortable whilst you do so. Continue reading →
Last year we started using the phrase “warm and demanding” to describe our approach (Maurie and Lea to blame for bringing this phrase into common usage). I remembered this from Restorative Practice workshops and quickly saw how it could apply across much of what we were planning. Initially I viewed this as being a phrase for our students, now I realise it describes how things are for staff at Hobsonville Point as well.