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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From Knowing to Empathising

The start of a new school year brings with it a whole bunch of new students to get to know. Principals around the country will be urging their staff to get to know their learners and reminding them of the importance of relationships to enable learning to occur. So what does this actually mean? How do we get to really know our learners?

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A Catch Up

I have just had my largest break from blogging since I started 2 and a half years ago. Blogging is a big part of how I reflect and progress but priorities have shifted a bit lately with family circumstances. I have still reflected, tweeted, discussed with coteachers, critical friends and colleagues; but the blog has sat here much quieter than normal. That said, here is what has been happening in my classes lately:

Learning Hub

The early part of this term was focused on students’ IEMs. This is a 3-way conversation between students, their parents and me as their advisory coach. The highlight of this day is being part of genuine learning conversations. Celebrations and challenges are shared, discussed and implications considered.
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Growth Mindset Activities for Students

There has been a lot of talk about Growth Mindset around the education scene in New Zealand over the past few weeks. Stemmed by the visit of Carol Dweck for a series of conferences in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This can obviously apply to both staff and students in schools, and some people have been asking how to introduce Growth Mindset to their students.

An obvious place to start is the TEDx talk by Carol Dweck on the Power of Yet followed by a discussion with the class.:

Here are a couple of activities that I have done with my Learning Hub during Term 1 on Growth Mindset: Continue reading

Getting Strategic With Goals

“That was great. I have never thought that deeply about my goals before.”

Hearing this from a normally quite cynical Year 10 boy was a great end to a session I ran yesterday. Our Taheretikitiki community is focusing on the Hobsonville Habit of Purposeful this week and it was my turn to run the community activity. Being early in the year, many of the Hubs have been developing goals for the year so the focus of the session was to develop strategies that would help them reach their goals.

Whiteboard notes that will make sense if you keep reading!

Whiteboard notes that will make sense if you keep reading!

The image above is the whiteboard notes from our Goal session and show the steps that we went through. The steps above the green line happened as a whole community (~79 students) and the last 3 steps were back in their hubs (groups of 11-12). Continue reading

Transformation and Discomfort

There is a lot of talk about transforming education or transforming schools these days. Many of the ideas or initiatives linked with this though leave me wondering whether we really understand the challenge we face to transform education in New Zealand. Many of the initiatives I have discussed with others lately are based around STEM and/or digital technologies, so that will be the slant of this post. All of these initiatives are truly innovative and are having great outcomes for students and teachers, but I wonder is it enough and are they focused on the right things?

In our experience here forming Hobsonville Point Secondary School, the hardest thing about change is the discomfort that occurs. This was also backed up in EdJourney where Grant Lichtman says that change is not hard, change is uncomfortable. To me, none of the innovations and initiatives trying to bring about change are really addressing this discomfort well. Continue reading

Student Echo Chambers

Yesterday I wrote about breaking out of my echo chamber, so of course my thoughts then turned to my students. Are our students operating in echo chambers and should this be something we worry about?

Well yes, I believe this is something to be concerned about and here’s why. Deeper understanding is developed through:

  • encountering multiple perspectives
  • confronting cognitive dissonance
  • empathising with situations different to our own

If students are constantly interacting with people with similar opinions to themselves, how are they going to do any of the above? Continue reading

How Might We purposefully develop students’ learning dispositions?

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we focus on developing both academic and personal excellence. This mirrors recent changes globally in education where learning dispositions are becoming a more important focus for many schools.

So far we have been focusing on doing this in our Learning Hubs (our version of an advisory system). But there are also moves amongst some staff to have these being developed within the learning modules as well. This makes sense. I can think of last term where I focused on developing students curiosity as well as increasing their skill level within my robotics class.

We have 10 learning dispositions we focus on called the Hobsonville Habits:

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

This term we are focusing on making the learning more explicit for students. They have eportfolios set up to track their own progress and need teachers to help advise them to tag their progress accordingly – learning areas, Habits, phase of our Learning Design Model etc.

As an attempt to make the Habits explicit, our Learning Community (Taheretikitiki with the other coaches being Megan, Lea, Bryce and Danielle) are taking on a Hobsonville Habit Challenge. Each week this term we are challenging each other to share how they are using 1 of the Habits.

  • Week 1: Purposeful
  • Week 2: Refective
  • Week 3: Curious
  • Week 4: Resourceful
  • Week 5: Contributive
  • Week 6: Adventurous
  • Week 7: Creative
  • Week 8: Resilient
  • Week 9: Compassionate
  • Week 10: Responsive

Students and teachers are going to share on a wall in our area plus on social media using #hobbyhabitschallenge how they (or someone else they notice) are using that habit.

My modules really kick into gear this week so I have been purposeful in planning to develop dispositions amongst the lesson plans (helped in massive amounts by the Key Competencies for the Future book I finished reading last week!). Will let you know how this develops over the term to see if I get better at doing this (already seems better in my head at least than just doing a tick box “of course I taught that Key Competency” type approach I have done in the past!). For a great example of how this can work see the section in Sally’s post on how her and Lisa purposefully focused on 4 habits for their Thought in Sport module.

How do you develop learning dispositions with your students?

 

This post is Day 27 of My Questioning Quest

Is school discipline a breach of human rights?

This post is prompted by this article by Dan Haesler which covers the idea that removing students from a class (or more formally from school) may be a breach of students right to dignity and an education.

Our school is strong on restorative practices. This is lead by our Principal Maurie Abraham who regularly presents on implementing restorative practices and by one of our Deputy Principals Lea Vellenoweth who recently made us cards for our lanyards to help us remember the “Mini Chat” script:

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Our practices are reinforced (and challenged to improve) by Marg Thorsborne who is an inspiring pioneer and trainer of restorative practices. After her recent visit we have realised as a school that our next steps are to further educate our students and parents in what restorative practices really means.

I really like the “warm and demanding” approach that restorative practices promote. As a teacher my primary role is to help students learn. As Maurie pointed out late last year:

When students do not learn a new skill or concept we teach it to them again and again until they learn it. The same should be true of behaviour. If they don’t have the appropriate behaviour, it is our job to teach them the appropriate behaviour not just to mindlessly punish them.

 

This post is Day 18 of My Questioning Quest.

 

How Might We help students develop empathy for distant issues?

I see empathy as a key step in gaining a deeper understanding of issues and it is something I am trying to develop in students in my Social Studies (and Geography when I get back to teaching senior students again!) classes. When focusing on local issues or the local impacts of global issues, this is a step that is straight forward to implement. Exploring, observing, interviewing, listening etc to how it is affecting people. How do we do this effectively though for issues or case studies that don’t have such a local impact though?

Films can sensationalise and/or trivialise the impacts on people

Documentaries can be extremely biased

Role plays (thinking land mine victims by tied up legs etc.) are well meaning but do they really get students truly feeling what it is like – have seen plenty of giggles and laughter while doing this, definitely not how a true victim reacts.

Distance, time zones, language and cultural barriers can reduce our ability to interview, survey etc. whilst cost severely limits our ability to observe and explore the area.

In Geography and Social Studies we rightly study issues from all around the world. I want my students to be able to develop the deep understanding of these global case studies. How might we help students develop empathy for distant issues?

 

This post is Day 17 of my Questioning Quest.