Leading learning – lessons I’m already learning

This week we had our long-anticipated 9 new staff members start at Hobsonville Point Secondary School – Bryce, Cindy, Danielle, Georgi, Liz, Maliiana, Martin, Pete and Ros – and it was so exciting to have a full staff (bar the few part-time positions we need to 2014).

I was reminded again this week why I came to HPSS.  Toward the end of last term, with the sheer amount of work yet to do, it was a smidge overwhelming. I really enjoyed the sleek presentation of the vision and values given to our new people by Maurie, Claire, Di and Lea – for me it was affirming and a reminder about why the careful and thoughtful planning and prep we are doing at the moment is so necessary to truly personalise learning to empower, engage and innovate students. While this could be considered a daunting task, the joy we have at school is a fantastic balance – we play together (with a much fuller ukulele orchestra) and we laugh. A lot. I think that the leaders of learning were aptly called the LOLs – I don’t know if I have ever laughed so much at work before.

Who are you?

The LOLs are going to be heavily involving in inducting the ‘newbies’ (although I think that we need to come up with a better term for our amazing people). We had the opportunity to share professional readings which had shaped our thinking at Hobby and Yasmin and I led the team through a ‘learning hub’ activity of sculpture making on Thursday (Sally was with us in spirit, if not in person). The LTL team are leading a lot of the PD for the new staff, utilising the structures and processes we are going to embed in learning hubs. This week, we led the team through a sculpture making activity where they made a sculpture about themselves (after listening to Yasmin’s dulcet tones reading a section from “The Whale Rider”). I think that on the whole, this was a really successful activity.  My sculpture (of which I have no photo) was quickly made – a glass half full of water to represent that I am an internal optimist – and this allowed me to mosey around and see and document the process.

Steve searching through the box of goodies

Steve searching through the box of goodies

Danielle and Martin hard at work

Danielle and Martin hard at work

Cindy and Georgi - listening to Cindy and the sea...

Cindy and Georgi – listening to Cindy and the sea…

Bryce of the meadow

Bryce of the meadow

Pete and his cairn and his sheep

Pete and his cairn and his sheep

I think I learnt a few things from this activity:

1. Presenting people with materials was not the best of ideas – tipping the box of goodies on the floor was a good feeling but that was actually a constraint for many. I think that it was only Sarah and I (and Maurie with his portable, compact sculpture) who ventured outside of these materials

2. We actually do need to align our thinking to a more sustainable school – the LTL team did go a little crazy in the craft section of the Warehouse. We have already presented a different approach for 2014 – aiming to use more reused and recycled materials

Trust at work

Hobsonville Point Secondary School is proving to be a school which operates at a high level of trust. I cannot believe that the LOLs and SLT have only been together for one term and already I feel so confident in our ability to support, accept and challenge ideas.  We spend Friday afternoon, when the newbies were experiencing the school zone, debating the timetable model for 2014. Compared to a traditional school, HPSS’s timetable is very innovative and will reflect personalised learning. We are not quite there yet but I am consistently reminded of the power of the high-trust model our leadership is based on. Maurie needed to solidify the timetable in order to move with budgeting, resourcing etc but was not only open to new ideas but was keen on having the input of the LOLs. We will get there in the next few days I am sure.

The newbies:

I have really enjoyed reading the blogs of our new team members (these are the ones i have read so far):

Pete – http://petefoodtech.wordpress.com/

Danielle – http://missdtheteacher.blogspot.co.nz/

Georgi – http://georgids.wordpress.com/

Also, follow them on twitter:

Ros – @rosmaceachern

Bryce – @44trees4me

Cindy – @CbwynnWynn

Pete – @McGhiePete

Danielle – @MissDSciTeacher

Georgi – @gingamusings

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Values, vision and visits

Reflecting on my journey so far I must admit that I didn’t realise how completed exhausted I would be in this new role.

We have spent the week looking at the values and vision of the school, visiting the new site and the school zone, getting to know each other – which is really, really, really important – and trying to begin to make sense of the reality of starting a school from scratch.

After our work on the values of the school on Wednesday, I couldn’t stop thinking about values in general. Schools are very upfront about what values shape their philosophy, pedagogy and everyday life. I have been so impressed so far is the fact that the values and vision of Hobsonville Point Secondary are going to be to the fore in the school.  I was thinking about what a society would be like where all institutions were held accountable against their purported values. Throughout history there are numerous examples of leaders/ societies stating their values, their vision and how they are going to be achieved. Yet, often this is not the case.

The session we had on values reinforced why I made the decision to leave my old school and apply for a job here.  I truly believe in students/ teachers/ whanau/ community working collaboratively to foster and develop opportunities for authentic learning. I love the idea of student centred learning and everything that it encompasses.

Having being reassured on Wednesday, we went over to the building site on Thursday.  After donning hard hats and high-vis vests, we were led through the site to really imagine all parts of the school. While I really loved the architecture of the specialised learning areas, it was the learning commons which really excited me. Structurally, the building reinforces the values of the school – personalised learning, powerful partnerships and empowered learners. Looking straight through the site was brilliant – the light, use of glass and openness will demystify the teaching and learning – something I am really looking forward to having been in ‘Nelson Block’ for the last 9 years. I am really looking forward to moving from being restricted by the four walls of the classroom and teaching within my curriculum area to working alongside others who are doing a range of different types of learning.

photo photo (1)

It is impossible to work at a level of continued excitement. By Friday, I was absolutely drained.  Thankfully we were given just the right task to work on.  We were sent out on a ‘zone discovery’ day to explore the four areas which make up the Hobsonville Secondary School zone. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, (and we did) was to find out about local cafes, the feeder schools, the neighbourhoods and document it all so that we could begin to build a sense of our community and present it as a video. Being teachers, we over-analysed the situation, with my only contribution being that we needed a story of some kind (I was feeling rather uninspired). Sally’s vast knowledge of iPad apps was quickly utilised and we settled on iLapse driving shots and whatever took our fancy at each location – including ‘history factoids’. The video was great fun to make and it looks quite good!

Monday back at school after a relaxing weekend was spent visiting the senior learning commons at Hobsonville Point Primary School. We had an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the students and pick their brains a little bit about the teachers (perceptions and expectations), learning (how/what they like to learn, their project-based learning, collaborative learning) and expectations (of high school, about co-curricular activities).  This was great and we gleaned a lot of information which we will now do something with.

I am still feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of what we are about to do but the feeling of ‘why did they hire me’ is beginning to fade. One of the hardest adjustments is to work with so many like-minded people. I am so used to being in the position of the blue-sky thinker who tries new/odd things by myself, it is so unusual to have those same ideas mirrored back during discussion.  I still feel the urge to pinch myself about the opportunity afforded here. After nearly 11 years of teaching, I am really enjoying learning again.

My current learning:

  • Slowing down the pace – not everything needs to be done in a few minutes
  • Taking time to read, think, reflect – my manic pace of the last few years will take some time to unlearn
  • the Ukulele while small, is not an easy instrument to play