#edchatnz Conference – my reflection blog

I love that there is a blogging meme going around – it is awesome. Here are my brief, yet well considered responses…

1. How did you attend the #edchatnz conference (face 2 face, followed online or didn’t)?

I was lucky enough to have the inaugural #edchatNZ conference at my lovely school, Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I was teaching, and therefore part of the conference on Friday, and totally F2F on Saturday.

2.  How many others attended from your school or organisation?

All! And several from my other organisation, NZQA – Steve and Alan as my former NZQA ‘bosses’!

3. How many #edchatnz challenges did you complete?

Hardly any! Maybe two. I helped @michaelcentrino with some Twitter stuff and was in the Taheretikitiki Learning Community Selfie

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?

  • @pamhook – I have had the pleasure of working with Pam before but we had a lovely, critical discussion about the perils of a new school and SOLO taxonomy – these are unconnected ideas! – and I continued to be awed by her.
  • @Melmoore – I felt that I met Mel properly at the end of the conference and it was awesome to connect with someone who has similar ideas about assessment and how it can empower students. I know that we can connect online, which is just as good.
  • @marywoomble – great to be sitting in the same workshop and realise that we are retweeting each other – great minds think alike! Again, more time together could have been awesome and I’m looking forward to the possibilities presented through our #socscichatNZ

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?

– I would have loved to have been able to attend the political debate that @claireamos chaired. I was teaching, which was really cool as well (don’t get me wrong), but it would have been great to have been able to take students along to this as well. Luckily we are having our own political debate next week (student led) with local politicans but I won’t be there.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what thing would they have learnt?

I would have loved to have my old principal and friend Vicki Barrie there as she is so keen on being innovative in education. Unfortunately she is currently working towards her masters so (rightly so) was busy over the weekend. I would have also loved for some of my fellow Classics teachers to be there – notably Paul Artus!

7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?

As I teaching on Friday, I felt that I didn’t meet heaps of people I wanted to meet/chat with. While we met, I wanted to hear more from Sonya (@vanschaijik) as I love a lot of what she is doing online. I really enjoyed by brief conversation with Red (@rednz) – want to connect more with him online, wickedly funny guy!

8. What’s the next book you are going to read and why?

I purchased The Falconer by Grant Licthman when I realised that everyone else in my office has already read it/ only have an electronic copy. I’ve got a long haul flight on Friday so it may be my reading there. I am also about to read “Lead with Wisdom: How Wisdom Transforms Good Leaders into Great Leaders” by Mark Strom. I purchased this in a bookdepository shopping spree and love that it seems to be a mix of leadership and philosophy.

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?

Get more teachers on Twitter! As president of my subject association I feel that my role is to provide links for people and Twitter is a connection to the wider educational sphere. Watch this space!

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?

Yes! Absolutely!!! I do this all the time and while it is not a nice feeling at time, a smidge uncomfortable, it is what we need to do. However, we need to be there to support them.


A confession

This is my confession. Hi, my name is Megan and I am a hypocrite.
Why? I have been pushing with students at HPSS the importance of self-assessing and reflecting on learning, I stood in front of my learning community at Hobsonville Point Secondary and extolled the virtues of “looking back to look forward”, of the power of their voice as an assessment agent. Yet, I haven’t written a blog for well over a month and have instead attacked my “to-do” list like a marathon runner who can see the finish line in sight.
FYI – for me that is only a metaphor, having never been involved in anything that could resemble a marathon.


Where has my reluctance to reflect come from? I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get that question out of my head. I think that there are several factors. One has been the dreaded to-do list, and the reality that some of that stuff was very important and actually did need to get done, as a result I lost sight of why reflecting was important. That it is a valuable use of my time and an important part of my learning. Yesterday, I cracked a KAMAR related problem, with online help, which had been plaguing me and several other staff members for weeks. I was elated, that had been a good use of my time. I’m not going to apologise for all of the hours of planning, making mistakes, working with the KAMAR people that led us to this point. Instead, I am going to reflect on the fact that shorter, less exciting summaries of my learning journey – even at that point – would have helped me to process my thinking.

Another reason has been that I haven’t been able to trust my voice over the last term. I’ve really struggled with one of my modules, and have felt completely incompetent and useless, I wasn’t ready to write about that and share how I was (and to be honest am) feeling about teaching well outside of my learning areas, to have the realisation that all those academics were right, there is a fundamental difference between content knowledge (which I have) and pedagogical content knowledge (which I don’t). A lesson two weeks ago brought me to a puddle of tears as I stood there thinking “I don’t know how to help you” as students floundered and struggled to figure out the problem/challenge I had set for them (the tears came the next morning, did manage to keep it together until there were no students around). I have never been in a situation where I felt so incompetent.

Another reason is end-of-term-itis. For me, this has been impacted by my usual trick of leaving for the northern hemisphere a few days early (adding to the rush), of solving problems by reverting to my default position of “I can fix it so I know it gets done on time”, and of trading hours in the school term (weekends, late nights, early mornings) for the promised land of two weeks exploring, not working, and relaxing on my overseas holiday. I kept thinking, I’m going to reflect on this in the holidays, I’ll take my draft reflections which I have been storing up and turn them into something good that people want to read.

But I know that if I don’t reflect on my feelings around my teaching, or give reflecting the kudos and gravitas it needs, I will wallow in a pit. What brought me out of the pit? My wonderful critical friend at HPSS, the realisation that the awful module was nearly over (it is the end of the term), the fact that our students so honestly and thoughtfully reflect on their learning and, if they have bought into my vision around empowering students through assessment, why can’t I?

They are learning in a new way, in a new school environment. I promise that reflecting will help them. Yet I am no different, I am nearly one year in on my journey as a learner at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I’m learning in a new way, in a new environment, teaching like I have never done before, using my time in completely new ways. Of course, I need to reflect.

Right now, I feel like less of a fraud. Over and out.


Individual education meetings

Teachers being crammed into a school for parent interviews whilst trying to explain a students’ learning and progress in the term over the cacophony of every other conversation are not part of the way that we do things to Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Instead, our recently held student-led Individual Education Meetings reinforce the vision and values of our school “learners enjoy innovative personalised learning, engage through powerful partnerships and are inspired through deep challenge and inquiry to achieve academic and personal excellence.” (From HPSS.school.nz)

By JohnE777The IEMs were loosely structured around Hattie and Timperley (2007) questions about powerful feedback – “where am I going?”, “how am I going?”, “where to next?”

We held the meetings in the final week of the term. Students led their parents/whanau and their learning coach through their celebrations and progressions towards their goals for term one, with the coach their to support and challenge them along the way. The meetings we held in our learning commons, so parents/whanau could experience what it was like to be a learner at HPSS. Students discussed their learning progress with evidence from a range of sources: from their work in their modules, big projects, learning hubs, from their regular reflections on their learning and self-assessments of their learning modules, from assessment narratives generated by their module teachers.

Students at HPSS are being empowered to take a more active role in their learning. When discussing IEMs with students in my learning hub, many were nervous, scared or feeling out of their depth. One student asked me why he had to lead the conference, when in reality it was my job as a teacher. Moments like these are too good to miss! The throw away comment led to a great discussion, including a role play, around what it is like to have no voice, no say, to be spoken about -sometimes spoken to – but not to be the speaker. My role as a learning coach is to support and challenge the students. For some, running their first IEM was daunting but a realistic challenge. Most of the preparation work was done with the learning coach and hub in the weeks leading up to the IEM. For other students, my job as coach was to support them by taking the lead in some aspects of the IEM – which was negotiated in advance. The coach acts as the third participant in the conference, an advocate for students, the conduit and filter for the evidence generated by different module teachers and the big project guides.

IEMs work for our students because of the learning relationships already established between the student and the learning coach, and the learning coach and the parents/whanau. Our regular one-to-one conferences which I wrote about earlier in the year build those strong relationships. Read that post here.

During the meetings, the students, coach and parents/whanau finalised the learning goals for the next term, the success criteria of the goals, the strategies needed to meet them, and the roles that each participant would play in enabling these goals. More on goal setting at HPSS here. It was imperative that all three partners in learning – the student, their family, their coach – take some responsibility as each plays a vital part in empowering the student. The personalised learning goals are going to form the basis for discussions during the student-coach conferences next term as well as students explaining “where they are going” and “how they are going” during next terms IEMs and use the information gathered to figure out “where to next?”

At the end of the IEMs, students, coaches and parents/whanau all have a take away – each gets a copy of the IEM summary document (which was co-constructed and finalised during the meeting) and each gets a copy of the assessment narratives on modules (student self-assessment and teacher generated feedback). Essentially these documents become the school report. What I like about these though is that there are no surprises – the student has shared, and documented, both the celebrations of their learning and acknowledged where there is some progression but the student is not quite there yet. The students and teacher evaluations of learning use the same format for module assessment – each has commented on where they are going, how going and where to next – and both voices have an equal weighting.

This was the first student-led IEM at HPSS. I imagine that things will change as we grow into our new school, as we grow in size, as our practice changes and evolves. However, I also imagine that IEMs will be a stayer. They must, as they empower our students in their learning and build strong, positive connections with our families.

Links to other resources:
Information on student-led conferences in the New Zealand Curriculum – http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Reporting-to-families-whanau/School-stories/About-student-led-conferences
When students lead parent conferences – http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/apr96/vol53/num07/When_Students_Lead_Parent-Teacher_Conferences.aspx

The anatomy of a “learning hub” at Hobsonville Point Secondary

Over the last few months I have been asked to explain what my job is. People used to understand that I was the Head of the Classical Studies Department but when I tried to explain that I was one of the Learning Team Leaders at Hobsonville Point Secondary they were stumped. So I tried to break it down, I explained what Learning Hubs were about and then said that I was leading a group of these in a Learning Community. As this point I either got glazed expressions or nods (usually polite ones). So then I tried using analogies (this worked with teacher friends) – “I’m kind of like a dean, who is also a head of house, who has some responsibility for professional learning, who still has a tutor group, who provides support for other tutors but doesn’t dictate what learning needs to look like”. What a mouthful and I’m not convinced that the description is 100% accurate.

So, what is a ‘Learning Hub’?

A Learning Hub is a structural part of our school organisation. It is a small group of students (maximum 15) who work closely with each other and one significant adult, their Learning Coach. Each Learning Hub is part of a larger Learning Community – the three inaugural communities at HPSS are Taheretikitiki, Waiarohia and Tiriwa.  For the whole time the students are at school they will stay in the same Learning Hub. In doing so, they will develop positive partnerships with their coach, other members of the mixed age hub, other hubs in the community and whanau. Hub time is part of the school timetable – every morning hubs get together to co-construct learning and build relationships and there are two extended blocks of time in the week where students will engage in a variety of activities around learning to learn, goal setting, reflecting on learning etc.

HPSS Leaning Hub model

HPSS Leaning Hub model

Learning hubs are where the distinct aspects of our school curriculum come together. Learning in the hubs focuses around ‘my being’, ‘my learning’ and ‘my communities’. The student is at the centre of learning and the whole student is developed using this model.

  • My Being focuses on the student’s well being (hauroa) and their individual learning preferences (quadrants based on Hermann’s brain).
  • My Community focuses on the students manaakitanga (moral purpose), whanaungatanga (relationships) and whenua (connection with place)
  • My Learning focuses on goal setting, gathering and using evidence, phases of the HPSS Learning Design model, learning to learn, and reflecting on learning

The aspects of the Learning Hub model are surrounded by the Hobsonville Habits which underpin all that we do at Hobsonville Point Secondary School – adventurous, creative, compassionate, contributive, purposeful, reflective, resilient, resourceful, responsive.

A Learning Hub essentially becomes a family at school for students. Learning Hubs are inspired by a range of educational research and practice, including the learning advisory model used in Big Picture schools.

What is a ‘Learning Coach’?

A Learning Coach is the significant adult for up to 15 students at Hobsonville Point Secondary. They are the academic and pastoral mentor for the students in their hub. Their focus is on the individual students in their hub – working alongside the students and families to create a caring, supportive, challenging environment, acknowledging and supporting personal interests and passions, guiding the students through their personalised learn path (co-constructed path through the big projects, passion projects and specialised learning modules).

Learning Coaches work with students in their hubs to reach academic and personal goals through careful support and guidance. Coaches will conference with each student in their hub once per fortnight – the focus ranges from goal setting, to co-constructing evidence of learning, to module selection, to ….? Liaising with family is a key part of a coach’s role – they will be in regular contact with parents. After each conference, parents will be contacted by the coach to share what happened and what the next steps are. This as a form of frequent reporting will be powerful for both the learners and their families. Once a term, the students will run an individual education meeting, with the support of their coach. In doing so, the coach supports the students to become empowered and active in their learning.

What is an ‘Learning Team Leader’?

A Learning Team Leader oversees all of this for a community. In 2014 there are three LTLs at HPSS – Sally leads Waiarohia, Yasmin leads Tiriwa and I lead Taheretikitiki. So my description above comes close to describing what we do… but it doesn’t do it justice. It has been a privilege to work with such enthusiastic LTLs to really shape what the Learning Hubs will look like here. We are led by Lea, as Deputy Principal in charge of Learning Relationships.

What does it look like in practice?

That is something that is still evolving, afterall it is only our second day with students! But what I have seen so far is that the students are already forming good bonds, coaches work with small groups to really spend time with each students personalising their learning. There is a strong sense of place – the experience of being overwhelmed that many students have on the first day of school were minimised. The focus of conversation is around fun, relationships and learning. I’ve yet to overhear a conversation about incorrect uniform – nor do I want to! Coaches are empowered to modify and change plans to suit the needs of their learners. It is pretty exciting stuff.

To sum it up in the words of Orakei hub (my hub in Taheretikitiki community) – awesome, fun and exciting!


Taheretikitiki Learning Community exploring the HPSS value of ‘collaboration’

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

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