Gilberthorpe school

Gilberthorpe school

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Delving deeper conference May 2016

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.


  1. I love the reading groupings idea. Sometimes we stick to doing things because that's how they have always been done and when presented with a different way that just makes sense, we have a 'of course' moment. I think our senior team would benefit from looking at things more this way.

  2. I agree that I felt that Julia’s keynote speech “Why? Why now? Why not?” had me really challenging myself about the why in regards to my professional practice and this is certainly something that I have been thinking about since. It is important that we encourage the students to delve deeper but that we too delve deeper and continually question, so that our practice is constantly evolving. This was particularly evident to me in the second half of her speech where she talked about this in direct relation to the redevelopment of physical environments in schools. She told us to get rid of this focus on modern learning environments as this should not be the focus. Instead technology and reorganisation of space are just enablers that can improve our end goal.

    Really moving into collaborative teaching is a hard task to design the space in the necessary ways. You need to answer the educational question before moving to pedagogical questions and designing the learning, before actually designing the physical space. The space should reflect the learning that needs to occur, not the other way around. Julia ended her presentation with a great quote from Kathryn Fitzgerald ”Believe in the dream living on the edge of chaos.” Which I take to mean that teaching is hard job especially if you are constantly trying to achieve the dream of having your students succeed as much as possible. But that is what teaching it all about, as Julia said we don’t want to make a faster caterpillar, we want to make it better. When you’re doing your best for your student’s success sometimes it might seem like chaos but really that’s the best kind of classroom because you know the teacher is reaching for the best outcomes. It’s particularly important when you have many struggling students to celebrate all that we do to try and improve this and realise that our programmes and reflection of them is helping.

  3. The reading comment is very true. We know that all students learn in different ways - some in large groups, some need smaller groups, some need to feel at the top, some need that challenge of not being the best in the group. It will be awesome to see how this develops within the senior hub this term.

  4. Delving Deeper Conference Reflection, Mike. Friday May 13th, 2016

    'I can give you information but I cannot give you understanding. That is up to you'.

    Delving deeper: to search deeply and painstakingly, or to dig a specified distance.

    As the above statement indicates, I cannot give you understanding of what I learnt, in black and white but I can present what I learnt and hopefully you can reach an understanding.
    The conference was opened with an address by Dr J Atkin. She spoke about the different eras in education. She said that we were moving out of the industrial age, into the knowledge era and we are transforming into something, but the question is, 'what?'
    The children of today will have to deal with things that we never dreamed of. The knowledge era that the next generation are dealing with, means they are life-long learners, learning throughout life as well as virtual life. They can and will be learning at anytime, anywhere and because of this the needs for the future are:
    1). new pedagogies
    2). we need to foster skills and enjoy learning together
    3). deeper learning and deeper engagement

    The first session I attended was led by teachers from Spreydon, Cashmere and Addington Primary Schools. These teachers shared insight into the new pedagogies for deeper learning, global initiatives and how it is impacting and influencing us on shared understanding of and collaborative approaches to deep learning across a cluster.
    Through this session I began to see why Gilberthorpe is part of a cluster. I needed to understand the culture or common language that my peers were saying. I now understand the meaning behind the words. The cluster works together, enabling understanding and growth to occur among teachers.

    Session two was presented by Victoria Laurence, the topic being, 'Using digital technology to enhance collaborative teaching and learning'. She shared her journey as she delved deeper into digital technology and how she used it in her school day. She also shared on how she and her peers use technology to help collaborate. Victoria showed us apps she has used during the last 2 years that have helped her daily delivery. Imovies, stopmotion, piccellage, tellagami, puppetpals and seesaw, 40 ways to use google apps.

    Session three was self regulated learning in single cell classrooms. Although we are moving into a collaborative approach to teaching, at the present I am still in a single cell classroom. I needed to know how to adapt my planning from a single cell to a collaborative unit. The presenter talked about children taking ownership of their learning. One example was that she would let the children plan their day. They had can-dos and must dos during the day. This could be used in a collaborative teaching approach. Another idea was passion projects. These are self directed projects that the children work on individually, then share about what they learnt.

    I can sum the conference up by going back to the title. I was able to delve deeper and so understand in a much deeper way, the new pedagogies and so increase my own understanding of current practices. I can suggest to my peers that if there is another conference next year, you can start your own journey of understanding by attending it.