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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Curiosity, Passion and Provocation

Over the last few days I have observed a couple of situations that have set me off wondering about curiosity again. One of these was with my own children and one with my Year 10 class.

Yesterday we visited Kelly Tarltons and I saw pure wonder and curiosity on the faces of my children. My 3 year old son ran round with joy, pointing at things that caught his eye and asking for a closer look. My 7 year old daughter spent her time reading the signs and asking questions of the staff to find out more about what she was seeing.

It was an awesome 2 1/2 hour adventure and their pure curiosity and wonder about it all made it even better.

It was interesting afterwards to reflect and compare this experience with the lesson with my Year 10 class on Friday. Continue reading

A Breath of Fresh PD

Last month I went to 2 conferences: I started April at the Teach Tech Play Conference and ended it at Energise 2017. These two events were such a breath of fresh air.

Admittedly, the locations were a major help. Teach Tech Play was in Melbourne so I got to have a weekend exploring there before the conference started. And Energise 2017 was in Queenstown, where I didn’t have extra days to explore but the scenery was amazing enough at the venue:

These different locations also meant that the teachers at the conferences were a different group than I regularly see at conferences in the upper half of the North Island. This means that I got to meet lots of educators that I knew through twitter and also to meet new faces that I hadn’t interacted with before. (A special shout out here to Rachel Chisnall who I met face to face for the first time the night before we presented a workshop together – led to great opening lines about welcome to our workshop, we met online). Now, I really like the crew of educators that I have got to know over the years at local events, but it was great to break out of that chamber and interact with different people for a change. Continue reading

Disce Vivere: Learn to Live

Last year two members of our staff were discussing how many students were leaving school without some of the skills that would really set them up for their future. Conversations like this probably happen regularly in school staffrooms around the world. What makes this story a bit different is that these 2 teachers decided to do something about it.

In May last year, Bronwen Wilson and Kat Wells set up a meeting with me to pitch the idea of a Life Skills Programme. Their staffroom discussion had developed into a shared document where they put together a proposal. The proposal was to combine the skills of staff at Lynfield College with outside specialists to deliver a programme covering topics such as mental health, careers, digital citizenship and sexuality which were considered useful for student’s lives but which they might not get the chance to be developing through their normal curriculum.

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Principal Steve Bovaird sharing his Time Management tips

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Three Thought Sparks

A bit of a different post to my usual ones where I unpack things going on. In this post I simply want to share 3 things that have sparked thoughts for me this week.

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These sparks are on very different topics but have all kicked my brain into overdrive at different times this week. Enjoy: Continue reading

What Could Education Look Like In The Future?

A series of recent activities, events and discussions have seen me imagining a range of future education scenarios. So, this post is an attempt to write up a few possible scenarios. What could education look like in the future?

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I have always been a large advocate of listening to what teachers have to say about education. I much prefer to read books by teachers or those who are working closely in/with schools over those who have lots to say but lack the authenticity of recent work on school grounds. The same with blogs – I’m a big ol’ nerd, who loves to read blogs of what teachers are thinking about and doing in their classrooms.

Teachers, though, have a very vested interest in the future of schools. Will those of us whose jobs depend on the system staying fairly much the same way it is now, really investigate all possible options for the system could shift? Continue reading

What does Student Centred look like?

Student Centred is one of those vague buzzwords that is used regularly but never really defined in practical terms. This post (based on an Ignite talk I gave last week) attempts to paint a picture of what student centred practices actually look like, both in the classroom and from a leadership perspective.

For me, the key to student centred practices is empathy. Truly seeking to understand how students are experiencing their learning, where each student is at and what their individual needs are, so you can help improve their learning. Student centred practice is focused on doing what is needed to help each student understand and excel in their learning.

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As I have written about previously, data is a great place to start in getting to know your learners, but there is a whole lot more to do if you want to understand them. Achievement data, personal data, surveys, observations and good old fashioned conversations should all work together to help you empathise with your students.

Student centred teaching is not just about what they like but about thinking how what they like/are interested in links with what they need to understand in class. How can their interests be used to help them understand the key concepts and skills from the curriculum. Continue reading

2016: The Year for Balance

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2015 was a great year professionally for me. It contained many highlights in school, some great conferences, an epic year as an eFellow and ended with me getting a new job as a Deputy Principal. So, how do you follow that up?

To follow this up, I will be focusing on one word to help guide me in 2016: BALANCE.

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Sir Gateway?

Many people may get annoyed with this post, in fact it may even be considered sacrilegious by some. Sir Ken Robinson is extremely well known, liked by many and revered by some. His TED talk from 2006 has been watched almost 35 million times. Yet on finishing his most recent book I was left with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

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#edsketch15 Going Strong

As May began I posted an idea to share a sketch every day this month. 10 days in I am stoked to say that a great group of teachers have joined me in #edsketch15. The large majority from New Zealand and Ireland (thanks Bianca for spreading the word in Ireland!) but also being joined by teachers and students in India, Australia and the US.

Here are my first 10 sketches from this month: Continue reading