External Critique

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.

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All is well, or is it?

I was worried how last week would go. How could I possibly keep up the excited puppy heights of hosting the Geography Awareness Week TeachMeetNZ and being at the inaugural EdChatNZ conference?

The Monday following EdchatNZ conference saw me spend the day in the Take Action big module I am co-teaching with Bryce and Martin. I spent 2 of our blocks helping Martin in the workshop as students constructed marble runs while their groups were affected by changes in government policies.

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Students also had similar experiences with Bryce as they played Volleyball with Government policies affecting the rules for each team. The final block focused in on actions we can take as citizens other than voting and brainstorming issues of interest to the students. Continue reading

How Might We create the learning experience of a conference more regularly?

Since my post on overcoming the conference to classroom chasm I have been wondering about maintaining the intense learning atmosphere of a conference when we are no longer all together.

Now, twitter is great for continually accessing information, ideas and resources but there is something all together different about the learning and networking that occurs at a conference. The Network for Learning Pond may be aiming to provide this for New Zealand teachers but at the moment is just a search engine, I look forward to seeing what the Communities function looks like when it is released.

Last year as we designed how Hobsonville Point Secondary School would operate we often talked about how it was exhausting even though we had no students. We realised it was because we were effectively living in a conference 24/7. We were given time to rethink education and were encouraged to read as much as possible (see here for readings that influenced us in our first term).

I still am privileged to work at HPSS and get access to amazing PD and rich learning conversations daily. We have, however, stopped sharing our reading as much as we used to and I miss those amazing conversations that developed as we shared and critiqued things we had read.

Then today, a great conversation erupted on twitter with @AKeenReader @chasingalyx @beechEdesignz @mattynicoll @shiftingthinkng @MissDtheTeacher and @mrs_hyde about sharing some of our edu-nerd reading we are doing. End outcome is that we are meeting/holding a workshop at the #EdChatNZ conference to organise a book chat to happen once a term where we read the same Edu book then meet up online (twitter or GHO) to discuss how we found it.

So now, I have my daily conversations, regular school PD, twitter chats, the odd Google Hangout (with long term critical friend Michael Harcourt or with new US critical friends Grant Lichtman, Bo Adams and Thomas Steele-Maley)  a new Edu-Nerd book club plus 2 conferences in this next term. Think I’m good for maintaining that conference feel, how are you going to keep the learning going?

 

This post is Day 19 of My Questioning Quest.

Anchor Points

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Image sourced from Wikipedia

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