The weeks before a school show

I’m a drama teacher. But this year I am a part time drama teacher. One of the joys of splitting my time between my two jobs is that I get two really rich experiences – teaching in a student-centred, MLP, MLE/ILE, brand spanking new school and working as a professional learning facilitator who supports schools around leadership and assessment.

But sometimes those two worlds collide. Today feels like a massive impact. We are thirteen days away from opening night. Our band is not quite ready, we are missing some of our key set pieces, a huge chunk of time was spent getting the programme organised, costumes are still being made, some actors had moments where they lost their nerve, we waste a lot of time in transitions etc.

I know from experience that all of these are normal but today feels particularly trying. Balancing and juggling two jobs has been difficult at times but this week is feeling quite rough – three days working out of time as a facilitator, full day rehearsals during the week and weekend, and a mix of meetings and lessons as well.

So why am I blogging? I’m fearful that we may not quite make it to a polished show as there are too many variables at play. Last year’s inaugural show came together at the last minute but this was not a scripted performance. By devising our own work (which did have challenges of its own) we were able to modify and adapt. Also, I was available 7 days per week if needed. And I’m not this year. I know that I am not indispensible and am only one person. And that is what is getting me through – the performing arts team at HPSS is simply wonderful, the bulk of the students are committed and on to it, we have other supports in the school – like our delightful Sarah Wakeford, Learning Partnership Leader extraordinaire!

Alice in Wonderland will open on the 1st of December at HPSS. I would imagine that the days and hours leading up to opening night will be very chaotic – as all shows often are – but the curtains will open with an excited group of students ready to go!

Building student learning focused relationships – critical friendships

Working in a learning hub is a great way to get to know students individually – to know their strengths, passions, aspirations, their learning, their whanau.

However, the challenge is how to get them to build learning focused relationships with each other. Teenagers tend to have some difficulty in providing peer feedback which is deep, honest and useful. In order to keep social relationships strong, they may not be truthful or as truthful as necessary when supporting each other in learning.

In Orakei hub, I tried (unsuccessfully) to set up the concept of tuakana-teina within my hub. Some struggled to articulate where they could support others; interestingly, they were all able to state where others in the hub could help them.

So back into a new term, I have a new plan. Rather than pushing some students towards a tuakana-teina model (this may be on the cards for the future), we are using a critical friendship model.

I introduced the concept on Monday and asked them to select (via google form) some students that they would like to work with and a justification why, as well as any student that they would prefer not to work with. Not surprisingly, many of the students picked their close friends. I looked at their selections and paired them up with their second or third choices.

Today we started off our extended hub class with:

  1. listing characteristics that they wanted to see in their (yet unnamed) critical friend
  2. listing characteristics that they individually would bring to the critical friendship – strengths. Then they followed up with areas where they felt that they may struggle being a critical friend
  3. Then they found out who their critical friends were
  4. Next step was to compare their lists to establish their agreed ‘rules of engagement’

    Students sharing their expectations of the critical friendship

    Students sharing their expectations of the critical friendship

  5. Then review their critical friend’s “learner story” and give feedback on the quality of their reflections (we had already co-constructed the success criteria for this).
Working with critical friends

Orakei hub students: Working with critical friends

Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” – Don Tapscott

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/dontapscot564023.html#0IYxafpIQOGSAvsj.99

 

 

Support students to develop processes to work towards their goals.

I’ve been working on making our learning goals more visible with my learners at HPSS. This is a document that I found on pinterest that we used to make our goals, steps towards our goals more visible. We completed these individually, then sought peer feedback from the learning hub around the quality of these, and have now pinned them on the wall of the hub so that we can be accountable for our goals.

Here are some of the students’ documents:

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And peer feedback from another student:

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A huge focus at HPSS is the concept of ‘ako‘ where teachers and students learn from each other, I always participate in the learning. I shared my professional goals with my learning hub, sought feedback, and refined my processes based on the feedback. Here is mine…

My goals

Teaching with intelligent mindsets – Jamie Fitzgerald

Teaching for intelligent mindsets

Auckland 15th March 2015

The final presentation of the day was from Jamie Fitzgerald (A.K.A the guy from Intrepid NZ and First Crossings – www.inspiringperformance.co.nz) which I must admit was not (initially) as exciting for me as either Guy Claxton or Carol Dweck were. And I had lined up for ages to get my lunch, so I was tired and not really that keen on listening to some adventurer guy. What a fixed mindset I possessed and I am pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised.

These are my stream of consciousness notes taken during his one hour presentation.


“The secret of success is not predicting the future, it’s creating people who can thrive in a future that cannot be predicted”

Fostering growth mindset – from position of curiosity

  • What could be possible?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will we work together?
  • How will we measure progress?
  • What have I learnt?

Am struck by the similarities in Jamie’s description of his planning for Antarctica exped and teaching as inquiry – the focusing inquiry, to set the path, the invention and adjustments on the way based on evidence…

Your brand is your rep – it is what others say about you when you are out of the room. Expectations in people’s minds and actual experiences need to align – uniqueness and consistency.

“If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything”

Example of his training for Antarctica of dragging tyres around suburban NZ streets…

“Hey loser, where is the rest of your car?”

Importance of the elevator pitch – keep your purpose succinct and invite questions

What does success look like?

Important question for teams to consider…

  • Establish daily routine
  • Hold self to account – importance of duration for success – try to create the wonderful day 7 days in a row

RASCI model as model for accountability

Responsibility, Approval, Supportive, Consult, Inform

IP RASCI Solid

Power of storytelling

  • To build resilience and perseverance via storytelling – someone who overcame struggle
  • What happened, how did they overcome it, what would that look like for us (in the context of their polar exploration)
  • Principle of shaping a conversation to affect or change or align mindset around progress through narrative

AGENCY! Growth mindsets is about making choices (Jamie’s work with Big Walk)

How raise an issue was important

  • Protocols around raising issues – rotation (row, eat, sleep) three times – then if still on your mind, you can raise it but it must be in German accent.
  • Decide to keep rowing or throw out sea anchor (love this as a metaphor)
  • Great to have a clear protocol

This is self-regulation! Pause, examine evidence, adjust if required…. Sometimes you leave others behind if they are not reflective!

 30 miles analogy

conditions were the same for all, all had opportunity to have conversation from position of curiosity, but “sometimes when you think you are making the least progress, you’re actually making the most”

“Let’s stop making the measurable things important and make the important things measurable” – MacNamara

 

When you’ve had a great day at work, what has happened?

CIP Research, UK

No 1 thing – made progress

Progress doesn’t need to be tangible – instead can be intangible

What gets measured (focused, informal convos) gets done.

Conversations of progress.

What have I learnt?

Need insights to create more opportunity in the future

“I would prefer to have goals in front of me which may not be attainable rather than a weekly shopping list” – Fitzgerald

would rather have 90% aligned and 100% committed, rather than 100% committed

Guy Claxton – Teaching for intelligent mindsets

Teaching for intelligent mindsets: Auckland 15th March 2015

Teaching intelligence

Guy Claxton, King’s College London

 

  • Fixed mindset one of the most powerful brakes on intelligence.
  • We are trying to teach with the breaks on, no wonder it is a grind!
  • Intelligence is the word we give to our understanding of when the mind is working at full strength – as is creativity and wisdom
  • Intelligence characterised by times when we bring all of our resources together, we are firing on all cylinders, and we cope with situations that are complicated.
  • What is the mind like when it is at its best? Same for boys and girls?
  • Intelligence – understood in 19th – 20th cent by phrenology
  • What evidence do we use to justify judgements made by teachers about intelligence – gifted, struggling
  • Hierarchy of subjects – rational (maths etc.) at the top of the hierarchy and those involving the body (music, dance, drama, design) lower down the food chain
  • This preconception has been blown apart and is shattered by contemporary research (including Dweck).

New Kinds of Smart (Lucas and Claxton)

  • Intelligence is made up of a constellation of aspects of our minds
  • Composite, attitudinal, physical, distributed, social, expandable
  • Intelligence is distributed – not just a single person on their own, esp. if deprived from social tools. Yet we treat students as if their intelligence is their own possession.
  • Intelligence is the sum total of your habits of mind” prof Lauren Resnick
  • Intelligence as a jazz combo: plays off each other, plays sweetly, knows how to orchestrate itself.
  • Links to mindfulness, so important in a world that seems to inspire students to be distractible

Cognitive combo

  • Attention
  • Investigation
  • Imitation
  • Imagination
  • Experimentation
  • Reasoning
  • Reviewing

Attitudinal

Intelligence is powerfully expanded – and contracted – by mindsets, beliefs, attitudes and vulnerabilities”

Fixed mindsets like a computer virus – perverts functionality

Accelerators:

  • Growth mindset
  • Tolerance for uncertainty
  • Fair-mindedness
  • Empathy (perspectives)
  • Craftsmanship

Brakes:

  • Fixed mindset
  • Intolerance for uncertainty
  • My-side bias
  • Egocentricity
  • Approval

Are senior secondary teachers keen to preserve students’ ability to think on their feet – flounder intelligently.

  • Fair mindedness vs. my-side bias
  • Keith Stanovic (sp?) – Canadian researcher – found that high IQ may result in people developing more sophisticated versions of “my-side bias” (focusing on how to prove my perspective)
  • Roger Berger (Austin’s butterfly guy) Creativity emerges from having a go, reflection, having another go, reviewing, having another go etc.
  • Ability to accept suggestions from peers and see how he is bursting with pride when he creates a scientific rendition of a butterfly. Flies in the face (no pun intended) of usual process – product aspect of learning – true creativity comes from having goes at getting it right.

Physical

  • Importance of the body in intelligence – connecting body and mind
  • “The hand is the cutting edge of the mind” Jacob Bronowski
  • True creativity often stems from gesture, if ignored it can hamstring
  • Connections between cognitive performance and physical expression
  • Discusses how we feel and think through our heart, gut, skin, lungs, brain – the body as a connected being where intelligence/ thought happens

Distributed

“We make the world smart so we don’t have to be” – Andy Clark

  • it is person-plus-tools
  • deep in our genetic make up to be designers of tools to extend and develop our intelligence

Yes, we do group work but when stakes are high we expect students to work independently. This is so important regarding how we, as a whole, approach assessment.

Social

Intelligence is a social triumph – Phil Brown and Hugh Lauder

  • Two heads are better than one (sometimes)
  • Communities of practice
  • Social and digital learning
    • Personal learning networks

Sugatra Mitra’s hole in the wall – perfect e.g. of social aspect of intelligence

Expandable

All the instruments of the orchestra of intelligence improve with practice..

We can teach in a way that builds and broadens habits of mind

  • Resilience, imagination, empathy, resourcefulness, reasoning, craftsmanship, reflection, collaboration
  • Links to HPSS Habits and Values
  • The joy of the struggle – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when working on ‘The Office scripts’.

Build imagination by using language that encourages imaginative thinking. Move away from “is” language – fixed idea – i.e. the rainbow is red, yellow etc. – Is there actually red? Or is it “man-salmon” (a quote from Steve)

Instead but on “could be” language rather than “is” language…

Love the “empathy specs” to build and stretch empathetic thinking

Building reflection

  • Teachers should coach students to think like a reflective practitioner of learning – essential skill
  • Landau Forte College school in Darby – learning powered school (video clip, see if it is online…)
  • Learning how to learn
  • http://www.landau-forte.org.uk/

Intelligence is NOT Fixed

  • Children can become smarter – and so can we
  • Schools can aim to build learning agility /power / growth mindsets
  • Learning powered students do better academically
  • Why train children to be diligent clerks when we can help them become intelligent explorers?

It is our moral, ethical responsibility as teachers to build students’ intelligence – aims for a more advanced NZ – aspects of citizenship

Question from floor re assessment limiting intelligence

Response – it is up to us to build learning power in students. Not a matter of choosing assessment success or life long learning.

These questions about NCEA and summative, high-stakes assessment are frustrating me! This is another example of how teachers’ fixed mindsets about NCEA and assessment are creating barriers for our students…

 

Streaming

Currently similar in levels of achievement and performance (CLAPS!) – evident in athletics, sports etc.

Problem only comes when you insert the virus of labelling this as predicitive of performance expectations – interesting in terms of how we are using our e-AsTTle / OTJs

Making the relevance clear

On Friday morning we (the HPSS assessment team) supported our staff to develop their curriculum rubrics. The idea here is that there is clarity from the learning goals of the module through to the individual aspects of our learning design model which formulate the learning objectives to be assessed.

We are using SOLO taxonomy as the qualifiers to unpack the curriculum levels. I am so very grateful to the wonderful Pam Hook for her support in developing this approach. Friday’s professional learning was really positive and most teachers were feeling empowered around making the learning clear for their students.

Clarity and relevance are essential components of effective pedagogy. If the students (or teachers) are not explicit in what the learning is or why it is relevant, there is the risk of engaging in busy work. Likewise even if the teachers are clear, students who do not understand would simply comply rather than engage in the learning actively.

Saturdays are my day off. I often work on Sundays – prep, blogging, marking, providing feedback for learners etc. – but Saturdays are for me. So when I was laxing on the sofa, watching rubbish TV on Sky’s Vibe channel – I stumbled across Mary Portas’ “Queen of the Charity Shops”. In this show, Mary is overhauling a charity shop (in a similar manner to other challenges she has tackled in the retail sector). I was hooked, partly because the volunteers were resistant and partly because Mary’s point about selling were so profound.

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She talked about the two key things in retail – features and benefits. Features are what makes up an item – be it an exposed zip, 5 inch heels, pleather jacket – whereas benefits are why the shopper wants/needs said item. So as I was sitting there, on my day off, I realised that this could be a useful analogy which we could apply to learning. This is the hook for relevance.

So often, especially in secondary schools, students are often learning something for the sake of learning it. Or they don’t know why they are learning it. Or they can’t see the point of what they are learning.

What if we, as teachers, were to commit to “selling” the features and benefits of a concept, context or skill in our teaching practice. Heaven forbid anyone read this as “because it is on the test” but instead what if we were to make the relevance clear for our learners so they can make sense of what they are doing and why.

So what does that look like then? I’m teaching two distinct things tomorrow. In my learning hub we are focusing on “my learning” or understanding themselves as learners; tomorrow’s lesson is going to be around goal setting.

  • WALT: To set relevant, effective goals as learners
  • Features –  relevance, informed by evidence, timely, measurable, knowing how to measure them
  • Benefits – by setting your own goals, based on your needs, you put yourself in the drivers seat of your learning

Whereas in my Year 9 module (with a social science focus) which I teach with Tracey, we have a different learning objective altogether.

  • We are learning to “evaluate the impact of Irish migration on American society”.
  • Features of this will be the specific aspects of migration
  • benefits to consider negative and positive perspectives of migration, to challenge our own assumptions about migration

I’m keen to explore with the students the benefits that they see. We could co-construct these as a class or in smaller groups.

Both of these benefits will link to the wider educational impact of learning for the individual. It is not about the stuff we are learning; it is about why what is happening in the classroom is relevant for each individual.  Sometimes inspiration come from the strangest of places.

 

Learning to learn: Herrmann’s Brain

I wrote this blog post late last year, left it in draft because I wanted to add something but couldn’t recall, so here it is – a little out of date but still very relevant to my thinking right now…

Understanding yourself as a learner is a key to success. Knowing when and how to apply different modes of thinking to different situations is a learned skill. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, one of the focuses of our hub curriculum this term is around building the students’ capacity to understand themselves as learners. We are using a variation of Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain model as a means of unpacking the students’ learning preferences. While we had introduced the students to the model earlier last year, it was definitely time to come back and delve a little deeper.  In term 4, students across the school were empowered with some understanding of the parts of the brain, what they do and how this may link to our learning preferences.  This was a bit of a stretch for me to prepare for the learning coaches to use as I had to make sure that my understanding was deep enough it so I could translate it for others to use. Using terms like ‘limbic system’, ‘cerebral cortex’ and ‘corpus callosum’ is far removed from my drama/classics teaching experience so I was thankful for one of our biology teachers looking over the presentation beforehand.

When I presented the science of the brain to the students in my learning community, Taheretikitiki,  and I was astounded by the questions that they were asking (here are a few) – many of which I didn’t have the answers for:

  • can we combine our thinking quadrants to use them together?
  • can we learn to think in each mode?
  • what part of the brain covers addition or bad behaviour?
  • What happens when one part of the brain doesn’t work anymore?
  • Can we tie autism to the parts of the brain?

We talked through the whole brain model and the brain for about 40 minutes. I love that the students in my learning community are hooked on knowing and understanding more. One of the focuses of our school is on empowering students and I think that understanding how they think and how the brain works is essential – there were so many students hanging back during their break to ask more questions. In our community we built on the thinking quadrants in our extended hub community time. The students had to refamiliarise themselves with the quadrants, but this time focus on the common attributes of each thinking mode, expectations held by people when that mode is their preference, and what each quadrant struggles with. There was a cut and paste collaborative activity to get the students used to using the language of the quadrants, their descriptors, strengths when using that mode of thinking, as well as what each quadrant struggles with. Then the learning coaches offered a different activity for each of the thinking quadrants.

The catch… we had to plan an activity which would challenge us to work with our least preferred thinking quadrant. Steve worked with  the strategic quadrant (green), Bryce worked with the innovative quadrant (yellow), Danielle with the red quadrant (relational) and I had the blue quadrant (thinking). I found this really challenging. As a learner. For me, the whole point of the preferences is that this mode of thinking is not what I would normally be drawn to. So I had to really think about what types of things I wanted the students to engage with – being analytical by dealing the specific information in a logical manner. Making connections between ideas to draw some kind of conclusion. I thought about it all weekend. And it was only on Sunday night that I decided to use some ponderous riddles for the students to analyse facts to come up with an evidence based conclusion. Upon reflection, I realised that this activity was really successful. Thankfully, the feedback from the coaches involved was also positive. Each of us had to work outside of our comfort-zones, which is always unnerving – and I was so thrilled to see the students actively engaging with some different modes of thinking. Our coaches’ debrief included us noticing how some students used different strategies to deal with the problem presented, the Hobsonville Habits that we could see visibly in their learning, and the types of questions asked.

So where to next?

The new year has arrived and my role at HPSS is slightly different this year, as I am not leading Taheretikitiki community due to my secondment. However, I still want to consider how to empower the students to understand themselves as learners, to move beyond their preferences and to make this aspect of thinking more visible in the school. I’m working my way through Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain Business book and while the context tailored to the corporate world, as indicated by the title, I’m busy transferring to what it looks like in the classroom /school context. I’m excited about the communication and creativity sections – lots of scope there to tie into growth mindsets and Hobsonville Habits.