What a great day today was. An opportunity for educators across Canterbury to share their learning journeys.
Background to the conference :
Teachers right across Canterbury were given the chance to put their hand up and share what they have been doing in their schools. They would run a 45 minute workshop on a relevant topic and then all of those in attendance would visit three workshops over the course of the day. Julia Atkin, who is internationally renowned for her work within education open and closed the day.
Julia challenged us to think about the "Why" of what we do. Always question, why are we doing this? What benefit will it have?
She gave some great examples that have come from the OECD (Organisation for Economic and Co-operative Development) of the types of skills that were on the rise and also those that were declining. What it all boiled down to for me was that we now live in a world where change is a given, it is often rapid and at times we move into the unknown. It will continue to do so, always evolving. Julia mentioned that "the world is one giant, complex problem" and therefore this is what we want from our learners. We want them to be complex, problem solvers. To do that , they need a wide range of skills, many that we teach through our key competencies. At Gilberthorpe I think we need to explore further more student choice, using their passions to increase engagement and collaboration in a manner that promotes all of these skills in a meaningful way.
The three workshops that I attended were around collaboration for leadership and also a practical sense. The other looked at the journey from boyhood to manhood and how this had a huge impact on developing young Maori boys into men in a local High school.
Session 1- Boyhood to manhood.
I found this to be inspiring. Remi from Kaiapoi high brought 3 students along to share their journey and I was hugely impressed. The fact that Coralanne, director of education Canterbury was also in attendance reinforced my thoughts that there is a huge need for systems such as this.
Essentially what happened was that at Friday final period of the day, these boys of all ages across the school were allowed to catch up at the basketball court. This was a sanctuary for the boys, a place to catch up, be united, support each other, talk, mentor, get a kick up the behind when needed and also chill out or play. It had so many purposes for those boys. The students feeling of being united and part of a group was, in my opinion, the most significant factor. I would compare it to being part of a team. You were there as an individual but still bound by the collective, if you let yourself down, you also let the group down. TKT (name of group) gave a genuine forum to talk about many things that wouldn't work in front of a classroom. The support this group provides everyone with, both during the Friday sessions but also throughout the school week was impressive. I think more schools would benefit from having these types of groups. Some students were chiefs among the group and helped mentor the younger. Full credit to Remi and the boys for sharing, keep up the great work.
We made some connections and may look to visit them with our boys class or have them come to us.
Sessions 2- Leadership to allow collaboration.
I enjoyed this session with Andrew and the team for Tai Tapu school. They have been on their journey for just over 3 years and the work they are doing is fantastic. It was great to sit in this session and here many key pieces of advice that we have utilised in our journey also.
I loved the work that they are doing with google, in particular, google drive for assessments that students have daily access to to show where they are at with their learning. These are being shared at home and allow some fantastic conversations, not to mention the students know exactly where they are at and are discussing this at home. It has also dramatically reduced their official "reports" because it is happening naturally.
Session 3 - Collaborative teams and the how.
This session again allowed me to reflect on the approach we have taken and in many ways it was similar. Take your time, trial and error, talk talk talk and ensure that each team has a shared understanding/agreement of the way things will run. Be ready to compromise.
The piece that intrigued me here was Jenny speaking about how the groupings were organised across the team for reading and writing. They used many different sized groups to cater for the need. Some groups had 15-20+ students in them as they were able to cope with the content and remain engaged, other groups may have the more traditional size of 6-8 based on the need. I would really like to explore this further with our senior team, sometimes we make it too difficult on ourselves by trying to have "no more than 8" in a group. Jenny talked to how this was very much possible, as always it comes down to the needs of the learners.
Overall I thought the day was fantastic, I know we're are doing some great things here at Gilberthorpe and we also have much to keep tweaking and adjusting based on the ever changing needs of our learners, it is a great challenge but one I know we are all up for. I would like to think that next year, we may have staff putting their hand up to lead a session, watch this space!
Refresh, Learn Grow.