SCIL Vision Tour 2014: World’s best museums are the epitome of personalised learning

As a child I can remember running around the old Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, where UTS is now located, flicking switches, seeing lights and mechanical things buzz. It was fun. I was the daughter of an engineer, and I think some of this rubbed off onto me. I always loved to tinker with things and play with technology.

Over the past few years when planning the SCIL Vision Tour we have made a point of not just visiting schools, but looking at the variety of places where learning occurs. This includes museums, not the dusty-old-stuffed-animal kind, but the ones where learning comes alive.NEMO

NEMO, the science centre on the harbour in Amsterdam proudly displays the sign “Forbidden not to touch”. This place provides a whole body and mind experience of science. Where else can you actually stand inside your own giant bubble?Universe

Universe, the science theme park in Sonderborg, Denmark, goes beyond hands-on, they aim for “body on” learning.

The Jorvik Viking Centre in York immerses the visitors in the viking experience and an archeological dig. It captures all the senses, there is even the smell of the era.

Great places of learning capture the hearts, minds and imagination. The Third Teacher Consultancy came up with: 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING + LEARNING which includes elements that bring the museum experience to school:

#14 MULTIPLY INTELLIGENCES: Allow students time and space to choose what they want to do – their choices will illuminate their original strengths.

#54 THINK HANDS ON: Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating and making things with their hands

#72 PUT THEORY INTO PRACTICE; Give students spaces – studios, workshops and laboratories – where they can test ideas

and, of course…

#16 EMULATE MUSEUMS: An environment rich in evocative objects  – whether it’s a classroom or museum – trigger active learning by letting students pick what to engage with.

What if schools were like the museums where there is ‘push and pull’ learning as needed? Great museums ‘push’ information in innovative, engaging and creative ways, but also provide opportunities for learners to ‘pull’ in what they need. This is truly personalised learning.

What makes a great museum? Of course, I Googled it and found Museum Planner 

“we plan and build wonder”

The answer to my question started there. A great museum creates wonder. When we visited Danfoss Universe in Denmark, in 2011, we heard from the director about the underpinning to the learning. The science theme park grew out of the vision of the Danfoss founder Jorgensen Mads Clauson, who said,

Universe

Yes, we could lift a car!

“We need a new place to bring passion for science and technology back to our children. Danfoss Universe shall be such a place.”

Today the park is brimming with excited learners of all ages exploring all sorts of science related subjects, in a ‘body on’ way. But underpinning the fun is the theory of interest development, each layer building on the last:

Trigger situational interest

Maintain situational interest

Emerging personal interest

Maintained personal interest

The role of the great museum is to provide the trigger for wonder, that can be maintained beyond the experience, where the student wants to take if further – create the context to become lifelong learners

Great museums captivate the imagination and provide a place where passion for learning can be unleashed. They are visually stimulating and the best indicator is that we don’t want to leave.

Could schools be like that?

As educators and school designers we need to take the opportunities to see the best and most creative learning environments in the world. Not only for our own ‘body on’ experience, but to observe how young people can be interested and curious, independent of the teacher. Given the right environment and left to their own devices they will learn and explore, discover and create, and hypothesise and synthesise.

Schools have much to learn from great museums.

This October, the SCIL Vision Tour will again have a focus on museums as part of the tour. Some museums visits are planned as part of the tour, including Cite des Sciences in Paris, In Flanders Field in Ypres/leper and possibly (if itinerary allows)  forbidden-not-touch at NEMO in Amsterdam. In addition there may be time for the participants to choose to visit some of the world’s most famous ones, Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuseum, British Museum, British Natural History Museum.IMG_1389

2 – 16 OCTOBER, 2014
SPAIN – FRANCE – BELGIUM – NETHERLANDS – UK
Register your interest: contact info here

@anneknock

Leadership again: “I’ve opened the space for learning, now what?” #thingsyoushouldneversay

Imagine if the story of the stork delivering the baby was true.

When I was young, kids’ TV shows didn’t dare mention, or even allude to, the real method of conception and delivery. Instead, we saw the image of a stork delivering a baby, perhaps unsuspectingly, to the happy couple.

The Stork

“The baby’s here, now what?” Imagine that.

Prior to the arrival of our first-born, by the conventional method of course, there was much preparation for this newest family member. We made initial plans and preparation for the responsibilities ahead – bought supplies, furniture and the enormous amount of equipment that the small person apparently required.

When he arrived we muddled our way through. As time went on we adjusted our plans and expectations, however, the months of preparation were essential. This baby was going to change our lives. It definitely wasn’t a matter of ‘business as usual’ once he arrived.

Open Space Learning: From conception to inceptionPArklands

Like any great idea, plan or endeavour there is a point of conception, when the idea was first formed. I have heard anecdotal accounts of teachers arriving for the new school year, finding walls down and shared learning spaces created. It didn’t end well.

Just like prior to the arrival of a baby, there are significant preparations to be made. The role of the team/school leader is to simultaneously listen and respond to concerns and to reinforce vision and direction.

At Northern Beaches Christian School shared spaces for learning are constantly being developed. In 2008 it started with Year 7 in the Global Learning Village, 2010 with The Zone for Stage 3 and Year 8 Quest for an integration of Science and Geography. Over the past few years the idea has spread across primary, to maths, design, technology and music.Rhythm & Blues

The development of each of these spaces requires constant attention, prior to staff and students using the open space, and then continued development, even after occupancy:

From conception – the germ of the idea

1. Reinforce a positive mindset, while considering every concern

If you truly believe that opening and sharing learning spaces are the right thing, then stick with it. Listen to concerns, respond to them, be empathic and supportive, while simultaneously resolute about the decision.

2. Design the space to achieve the vision The Zone

A sledgehammer to the walls is only the first step. Unless the physical environment is carefully crafted the space will more than likely default to a modified single cell use. Name and define zones within the open space.

3. Constantly communicate the desired culture (behaviour)

Be clear on how the space will be used. Communicate it and communicate it again. Share stories and paint pictures. Spark excitement and enthusiasm. The more that the leader talks about the changes the better.

To inception – the starting point

4. Be fluid and flexible Design Studio

Once staff and students start using the space adjustments will be made. This is normal. The vision remains clear, but execution needs to be tweaked. As a leader, be involved in all these discussions. It is important to keep the vision clear.

5. Take action to ensure that behaviours don’t default to old ways

Without reinforcing the vision, culture and desired behaviours old habits can creep in. Cupboards and bookcases can become walls spaces become delineated instead of fluid zones. Communicate vision and communicate it again

Opening spaces for learning is definitely not a ‘business as usual’ activity. Like the passing of time between conception and delivery of a baby, preparations for this ‘baby’ needs to commence as early as possible. School leaders not only need to fully own the decision, but give teachers the support and encouragement for the idea to grow and mature.

@anneknock

 

 

Leadership Culture 201: Two steps to transforming your school

CompassTwo steps to transforming your school:

Step 1: Find your true north

Step 2: Do everything that will make Step 1 happen

Many of us agree that the historical model of school is broken and not serving the future, or even the present. Often the factory analogy of separation is used to describe the education that many of us received:oldschool

  • Separated rooms

  • Separated teachers

  • Separated classes

  • Separated furniture

  • Separated preparation and planning

This model has led to teachers as the driver, represents dependence and independence (not interdependence), one size fits all, confrontation, control and the relational tensions that often arise. Students usually become either compliant and passive vessels, or defiant and active resistors.

Many educators know that transformation is essential, collaboration is necessary and rethinking student success an imperative. We also know that it’s not a simple thing to transform a school, but perhaps distilling the magnitude of change to a few key priorities can help.

PDOur team at SCIL, the innovation centre at NBCS in Sydney, works with educators to kick-start or facilitate one or a few priorities on the journey of change. When edu-visitors come to the school I often sense they are overwhelmed by the possibilities and sometimes have difficulty articulating the impact of the experience. We notice that there can be two main responses:

  • I want to do everything

  • I can’t do anything

Over time we have refined our process and program for the day to help visitors interpret the experience and begin to articulate their next steps. Essential to this is the concept of navigating the journey and finding their own ‘true north’. What they are seeing when they come to NBCS is almost 10 years of development. It didn’t happen overnight, but under Stephen Harris’ leadership this ship is navigating toward ‘true north’.

Step 1: Find your ‘true north’

Authentic leadership requires a compass to guide and map the path ahead. Mariners know that locating true north is essential for accurate navigation. Magnetic north varies from place to place over time. To find true north it is necessary to know, but not follow, local magnetic variations. Finding your true north, rather than the magnetic north, will mean that you aren’t meandering but focussed on where you are going.

What is ‘true north’ for your students? It may be something like: To create learning culture that gives every student every opportunity to succeed.

What is ‘true north’ for your staff? It may be something like: To support and challenge educators to grow and stretch as they provide students every opportunity to succeed.

What is ‘true north’ for yourself? It may be something like: To be the leader that my team/school needs me to be for their success.

Do everything that will make Step 1 happenplectrum

Once true north is identified and success is articulated, then what? Perhaps it is gaining alignment of your community across a few important areas:

  • empowering students

  • growing staff

  • renewing parent and community mindsets

And then setting your priorities and milestones that will break down the ‘separated’ mindset:

  • Articulating the desired culture for learning, relating and leadership

  • Rethinking pedagogy that empowers the learner

  • Questioning everything that has been traditionally associated with ‘school’

  • Establishing shared language

  • Ensuring collaboration on all levels

  • Creating the physical and virtual environment to support

GatewayWhen the teams leave NBCS after their day we hope they have been given the time and space to process and develop at least one ‘next step’. Transforming the concept of school, something that is so embedded in our society, is not for the faint-hearted.

But we feel, at least, that as we grow a tribe of like-minded and committed educators we all know we are part of something very important, life-changing.

@anneknock

To visit Northern Beaches Christian School and find out more about what we do at SCIL visit our website 

 

 

Let’s change the way teachers learn, so we can change the way teachers teach #mim14

We’ve just concluded our fifth Making it Mobile workshop, held at Northern Beaches Christian School. Excited and passionate educators arrived from Queensland, Victoria, ACT, UK, NZ  and Sydney.

At Making it Mobile we present a professional learning experience that gives meaningful and helpful input as well as providing teams with the time and the space to play with the ideas and create something they can implement with their students in the following week. The  professional learning is presented in a physical learning environment that recreates the open spaces at NBCS. IMG_1214

The workshop is held over two days. The first day has input from our SCIL team. A keynote from Stephen Harris sets the scene for rethinking the paradigm of school, then we commence the rolling workshops, practical, hand-on input to get started or perhaps grow as practitioners. IMG_1228

Our workshops are led by teachers who have been using these ideas and practices with their own students. We want participants to be able to implement new approaches to learning, that are collaborative and engaging no matter where they are. There is a process to the workshops across the first day:

101: Blooms Gardners Matrix – how engage students and provide choice with minimum resources and low tech

201: Personalise Learning – how can you use technology/apps to create exciting learning opportunitiesIMG_1230

301: Project-Based Learning – getting started in with PBL

All the while, participants are reminded of the theme for the following day:

What will you build?

The next day teacher-teams have the time and space to play with their ideas, a very rare luxury. The participants get to work, with the NBCS team who are on hand to provide on-the-shoulder help. As I walk around I am reminded of the phrase, “learning is hard fun”, eavesdropping on deep conversations about learning.



IMG_1218
IMG_1220 IMG_1229

IMG_1233
IMG_1236

The day concludes with each team providing a quick visual summary of their learning, then participating in a gallery walk as ideas are shared and critiqued.

As I spoke to one of the excited participants, she passionately described what she had learnt and the ideas she will implement into her teaching and learning program on Monday.

It is very satisfying to see educators work through the process of anticipation, excitement, struggling with idea, engaging in deep conversations and emerging with real and tangible ideas.

@anneknock

IMG_1238

 

 

What’s in the ‘secret sauce’ of an innovative school? The SCIL story

The ZoneNorthern Beaches Christian School (NBCS), on the suburban fringe of Sydney has gained a reputation for innovation. There are many components that make this so, including, engaging learning programs, the physical spaces and places around the school, passionate and engaged students, and motivated and inspiring teachers.

For the many hundreds of educational visitors who come to the school each year these things are clearly evident. They visit NBCS hoping to learn from their experience, keen to implement ideas into their own teaching practice in their own school.

TofflerYet, what they are experiencing on any given day is the result of years of dedication to the vision to reinvent ‘school’ accompanied by a dogged determination to grow the capacity of educators with, as Toffler described the it, the ability to “learn, unlearn and relearn”.

In 2005 the principal at NBCS, Stephen Harris, began to think deeply about the impact of technology on the future of school and learning. The journey of innovation started in a couple of key ways. Firstly, he put the building blocks in place to enable online learning, and secondly,  established Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), a ‘place’ where teacher innovation and professional learning could have expression. Each of these weren’t just good ideas, but seen as essential parts of the vision of education for the future.

As the vision and culture of NBCS was embedded and the learning spaces transformed, the school started to attract attention from across Australia and around the world. It started with educators who wanted a tour of the school, then the SCIL team shaped the innovation as professional learning packages for other educators. From 2010, SCIL began to broaden its reach, PD programs for teachers and school leaders, international study tours and executive consultations began to be developed.

Innovative teachers often feel the constraints of those who fear change, they may have great ideas but are regularly told, “No, we don’t do that here.” or “No, the government won’t let us”. The original iteration of SCIL provided a place for innovative educators at NBCS to bypass potential discouraging responses and play with their great ideas.

Professional learning can even be fun!The culture at NBCS gives permission for innovation to flourish. This is accompanied by professional learning that empowers teachers to embrace change. It is one thing to cast a big vision, and another to maintain it. On a weekly basis, all staff at NBCS participate in PD, with content and delivery sourced from the wealth of internal capacity. An important part of growing a great staff is their ability to share with and to equip colleagues. The beginning of each new school year time is set aside for whole staff PD – to cast vision and set priorities for the year.

This experience has had the added benefit of enabling the teachers to lift professionally. When visiting groups spend time talking to teachers, it is fascinating to hear them articulate and re-articulate their approaches to learning, how they use the spaces and engage with students. It is second nature for the teachers to use the language of innovation, as they are surrounded by it on a daily basis.

The secret sauce? When educators come to NBCS they often make the comment, “I thought I was coming to see buildings, and now I know it is so much more.

Quote

That “much more” is the seemingly intangible element, how the vision for an innovative school is continually cast by the principal and then lived and breathed across the school. Essential to this, however, is continual professional development that is focussed on current and future learning needs of the educators, addressing the identified priorities. The educators at NBCS have the responsibility to equip a generation of young people who are independent, engaged and passionate about making a difference to their world.

A responsibility they do not take lightly.

@anneknock

What does it really mean to have a culture of leadership at your school? It’s just like yoghurt.

Culture is the result of the fermentation process that gives yoghurt its unique texture and flavour. We can’t actually identify this elusive element called ‘culture’, it is just  there, otherwise it wouldn’t be yoghurt. The added fruit or flavourings may enhance, but they aren’t what make it yoghurt.

In the same way, a culture of leadership is something that runs through a school or organisation. It is evident in its “texture and flavour”. Leadership can be added like the  fruit, but it is more effective when it forms part of the whole product.

Blanchard quoteIn the last decade the nature of leadership has shifted to being the intrinsic ‘influence’ of potentially all, rather than an elite program for a few. As one of my favourite writers on leadership, Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” This idea paints a picture of relationship, inspiration, collaboration and empowering. It is a far cry from the notion of “the boss”.

Growing up on a diet of American sitcoms and drama, I learnt from TV what it was to be a ‘boss’. They didn’t talk about leadership back then. The boss was male, old, grouchy, shouted, told people what to do, had a big corner office a female secretary and a view. Back in those days there were just workers and bosses, there weren’t teams, people just did what they were told.

The world was different then, ‘culture’ meant you went to the opera and ‘collaboration’ was just another word for cheating. Fear, blame, command and control drove the “boss” culture and power was vested in the few.

In the 21stC leadership can be everywhere. Leaders are in the mix and making things happen. They create the texture and flavour for change to occur. Rather than identifying a few, the opportunity to lead is available to the many, if not all.

Instead of command-and-control, what are the elements necessary for leadership today? In a survey of CEOs around the world by IBM asked about the key traits needed for success today and into the future, the top four were:

  • collaboration

  • communication

  • creativity

  • flexibility

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

Future Forecast, McCrindle 2014. Source: ABS

These areas were identified as essential skills that CEOs actively sought in recruiting new staff. If we then recognise that our students, and our younger teachers will morph and change throughout their careers, how are we providing opportunities for them to develop these skills.

In the highly regulated school environment, with external pressures that often feel like command-and-control this can be a challenge. Nevertheless, we will not serve the rising generation unless we give them opportunities to acquire these essential skills.

We need to provide opportunities to grow leaders who are equipped for:

Purposeful collaboration: Working together as a team to achieve shared goals

Effective communication: Sharing information through whatever means necessary to inspire, encourage and effect change

Creativity in practice: Where a new and valuable idea is developed for aesthetics, for simplicity or to solve problems

Flexibility in execution: Allowing for a range of appropriate responses to a given situation

The way we design schools and then structure the learning activities directly impacts the effectiveness of a leadership culture, through:

  • Openness both in the physical space and to new ideas
  • Freedom of movement and expression
  • Teams collaborating on meaningful projects

It is important that leadership is in the mix with the culture of a school and is available to anybody. Through the opportunities that technology brings and the potential of global connectedness, young people have the ability to lead and influence like never before. Schools then, need to be the place where their leadership has the space to be nurtured and grown.

@anneknock

PISA-badge-of-honour or lifelong-learner-skills: Which do we value more?

IMG_0118There was such a flurry of edu-activity this week, headlines like these shouted from the pages of newspapers, or the modern-day media news equivalent:

“China’s poorest students outperform <insert modern developed nation>’s wealthiest in international maths test”

For example…

UK: TES and The Independent

Canada’s: The Globe and Mail

As I was driving home one afternoon this week, the news radio host was discussing how the children of Shanghai’s waste removal managers (garbos) apparently achieved higher score than our own dear Australian children. Now that Finland has slipped off the edu-radar, now the edu-bureaucrats are beating a path to Shanghai.

The (UK) Independent: Education Minister to travel to Shanghai to find out secrets behind maths scores

Well, actually Shanghai have been doing so for the past few years. When Finland was on top of the PISA tree I attended a briefing session from the Finnish Board of Education in Helsinki. It was noted in the presentation that South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai had spent considerable time and resources sending teams to do the same. The PISA-engine spawns an entire industry.

There are the high stakes in this high stakes testing. International test comparisons create an unhealthy competition to be at the top of the rankings. As a result, learning becomes disconnected from a meaningful reality. The testing regime fuels the fear of parents and grows the coaching industry. Recently a colleague was telling me about a senior high school student who had accepted a place at a selective high school. Once enrolled, the student was required to reassure them that she would attend classes. Apparently, many students in selective high schools don’t regularly attend school,  their main focus is after school coaching, school is irrelevant.

To provide a reality check on the situation in Shanghai, The Guardian/The Observer painted a different picture: Nine hour tests and lots of pressure: Welcome to the Chinese school system – From the article:

Chinese parents and educators see their own system as corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair.

Many parents consider the gruelling nine-hour test [college admission exam] a sorting mechanism that will determine the trajectory of their children’s lives.

As long as China’s education system remains vast but resource-constrained its schools will default to testing as a reliable indicator of competence.

Nearly half of Shanghai’s school-age children belong to migrant families and were effectively barred from taking the test

Although students from 12 provinces took the test in 2009, the government only shared Shanghai’s scores.

One recently retired teacher at a Beijing middle school said she earns extra money by teaching an after-school cramming course called maths olympiad

If we look only to scores in international tests, we are ignoring the breadth of learning and the reason for education and the important contribution that schools play in raising and equipping the next generation. As Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University stated:

“The education system here puts a heavy emphasis on rote memorisation, which is great for students’ test-taking ability but not for their problem-solving and leadership abilities or their interpersonal skills,” he said. “Chinese schools just ignore these things.”

The previous Australian Prime Minister wanted to link reform of the school funding system to student performance in international tests, setting the goal for Australia of being among the top five nations in reading, maths and science by 2025.

I believe this aspiration is at the cost of developing problem-solving and leadership abilities or their interpersonal skills, the skills our young people need for success in a changing world, those skills that are essential for bringing solutions to big problems our world faces.

In this one area, I take an either/or position, I’m fairly certain that we either build a generation of innovative, creative leaders, or help them pass tests, so that we can wear the PISA-badge-of-honour.

@anneknock

The story of a (probably) ‘naughty’ boy: Seek first to understand

‘Naughty’

It’s not a term I use. The word ‘naughty’ doesn’t solve anything or help anyone. It has become one of those general descriptors, a label. Back when I completed my Masters of Education I specialised in behaviour. I have always found the way that humans act and respond to circumstances as fascinating. At the time I concluded that every behaviour displayed is usually there for a reason. Our job as educators is to find that out.

2ofusOn the weekend I read yet another story of a young person who found that he didn’t seem to fit at school*. ‘2 of Us’ is a regular column in my newspaper’s Saturday supplement. Will and his mother, Barbara, told their story. I was particularly interested in Will’s story, a young person with unique talent that didn’t seem to fit at school.

Barbara was raising her three children on her own. From her own description of him, Will seemed very challenging:

Will was definitely not the teacher’s pet. He spent a lot of time standing outside the classroom door or headmaster’s office – just for trivial things, nothing serious… I drove him to school every day of his life  – otherwise he would never have been there on time.

His early life was dogged by poor eyesight that was undetected until he put on a pair of magnifiers and then his whole world changed.

Will’s remarkable talent for music began to show. Not only a remarkable guitarist, but he was a master at Guitar Hero, in a music shop she discovered:

He was able to play the guitar faster and faster, without missing a note and ended up with a whole group of people watching.

Will showed a talent for music and technology. At one stage he also became an under-12 rollerblading champion. It was around this time that Barbara saw his disconnection from school:

A teacher at [his] High School told me that it was a shame Will didn’t apply himself to his schoolwork because he could do anything he wanted to.

The irony of the situation is that he was doing what he wanted, and music and technology was the spark that started his remarkable career. He changed to another school, but left before completing his final year. However, he had been visiting music clubs and taken it upon himself to arrange lessons.

Today Will is an extraordinary music producer. He is producing tracks for some of the most famous people in the industry. Recently he toured 30 American cities and made a seven week tour of Europe with his music.

My dream is that school is a place for all young people to thrive. That instead of Will, and young people like him, seeking his inspiration outside of school, they would be inspired and excited to be at school. The learning, the physical environment and the style of teaching should converge to create the perfect storm for learning – with the capacity of meeting the interests and learning styles of all students.

Perhaps then we may see those described as ‘naughty’ as engaged, inspired and able to pursue their passion. And school would be a place with the tools, technology and flexibility to make it happen.

@anneknock

*I know that there are always other perspectives to a story, but I’m just going with what I read in this article.

The Article: 2 of us 

A story of a young girl’s dream. How do we help our kids to reach for the stars?

Driving to work the other morning I was streaming a BBC Radio 4 series Loose Ends, I started listening to the program as host, Clive Anderson was introducing his next guest. Her story captivated me.

Maggie struggled at school, she was dyslexic, reading and writing was a challenge. She described her experiences at school,  “I was up the back of the class with the safety scissors and the glitter. I was very disenfranchised”. Maggie went to 13 different schools.

Image‘Maggie’ is Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, Research fellow University College London and a space scientist, building satellites that go up in space, and a science communicator, translating the complexities of science into a simple format for everybody to understand. Her degree was in physics and PhD in mechanical engineering, the perfect match for making satellites.

Today, Maggie is the host of the BBC TV program The Sky at Night, one of BBC’s longest running programs. She has recently taken over as host since the death of the long-standing and much-respected host, Dr Patrick Moore.

As a young child Maggie had always wanted to go into space, after watching the children’s program The Clangers. Despite her learning difficulties, she always had a dream about science and space.

In the interview she said,

Then I started doing science classes and I remember distinctly when the teacher asked a question, I put up my hand, I looked around the class and no one else had put up their hand, so I put mine down because I was the dumb one. “Then I thought, no, give it a try” and I got the answer right. If you have a dream or desire, it can carry you through and make you determined to succeed.

At school, Maggie didn’t feel encouraged to pursue her dream to be a scientist.

That’s one of my arguments with teaching. I think we should get people to aspire, to reach the stars, to aim very high. I think sometimes they fear that and say, oh no, well Maggie, why don’t you go into nursing? Nursing is a wonderful profession but I don’t think that was what I was cut out for. So I think we should get kids to aspire and have dreams. To overcome the hurdles and I think if you have a dream you can do that.

Maggie knew how to work the system:

The last school I went to the teachers asked me “what stream should you be in, the upper stream or the lower stream?” I said, “Yeah, definitely the upper stream,” because it is so much easier to get transferred down, than it is to get transferred up. So I just blagged my way in, really, an opportunist.

How do we help to make school the place that gives oxygen to the dreams and aspirations that every child . Maggie had a strong sense determination, she knew what she wanted to do. Her circumstances (13 schools) probably meant she didn’t have that one teacher that could share the journey and nurture and encourage her dreams, but she did it anyway.

Can we counter Maggie’s argument with teaching:

  • Know our students
  • Listen to the things that make their eyes sparkle when they talk
  • Provide opportunities for them to pursue their dreams
  • Make the path smooth

And most importantly, let’s make school the place where dreams can flourish.

@anneknock

Reference:

Bio information

BBC Radio 4: Loose Ends, broadcast Saturday 8 February

Starting the year at NBCS: Putting the F.U.N in PD to build a positive culture of collaboration and connection.

We all knew it was coming.  It's a building site

At the end of 2013, as the school year was finishing, the construction (and demolition) crews were coming into NBCS. Project Barcelona, the much awaited development of transforming the physical space of ‘school’ into a whole new model was underway. The brief that principal Stephen Harris gave to the architect was to create a new heart of the school that provided a space for learning, connection and social interaction.

When the staff returned a week before the school year started they would see the
Barcelona Airport
significant disruption that Project Barcelona would potentially bring to their routines, the construction site is of significant proportions in the middle of the school campus:

Project Barcelona will define the heart and spine of the school campus and lead the way in new innovative learning. (WMK, Architect)

The inspiration came from Barcelona Airport, with its large canopy overarching the activity within. 

Under these conditions it is essential that staff commence the year with a positive frame of mind and then model and reinforce this to their students. It was going to be a challenging year and a half, but the outcome will be worth it.

What are the challenges facing the school’s community?

  • The hoarding erected around the perimeter of the site creates an inner ring of corridors, interspersed with viewing windows.

  • There are only two ways to get around from one side of the school to the other… the long way or the long way.

  • Perceived loss of gathering spaces (and toilets) for students

  • Significant rooming changes due to demolished buildings

  • The knowledge that this project won’t be completed until the second half of 2015

  • Noise, trucks, workers, dust.

This is not a scenario for the faint-hearted! It was important to be clear of the outcomes of the beginning of year staff PD Days:

  • Set a positive attitude for the year ahead

  • Staff to model this positive/can do approach to students

  • Staff are still able teach innovatively and collaboratively

  • Build the culture that we are all in this together

Stephen Harris devised a series of collaborative activities that would build community, get people working together, know their way around the school, make a contribution to enhancing the physical environment, tackle the pressing issues and, most importantly, have fun.

Each year at NBCS the week before school commences has a series of first gatherings

Day 1: Senior Leadership Team (SLT)

Day 2: Senior Leadership Team and School Executive Team (SET) – Learning Leaders and Stage/Grade Leaders

Day 3: All staff together.

This process began with the SLT. Stephen led the tour around the school, making note of toilet changes, learning space changes and the impact that these will have on the leadership of the school. And then the fun began.

The day before, he had created the first mural to brighten up the hoarding. It was an outline of himself. Then the SLT were placed in groups to devise a pitch that would build on this lonely figure to create something fun. Each group were to pitch their idea, Dragons Den style to the others. When the project was selected the SLT become the project team to make it a reality. This activity set the tone for creating a mural along the hoarding, but also put the SLT together within a collaborative project, working together on assigned roles and owning the outcome.

SLT Collaborative Project

The finished artwork

When SET arrived the next day the culture of fun and collaboration was underway. This larger group, together with SLT, about 40 people was set a different challenge for collaboration. Stephen presented a moderate budgetary allowance, to fund a way to encourage staff and build morale. Using the Dragon’s Den method of pitching an idea, combined with the Athenian method of casting votes with broken pieces of a clay pot, each group set to work. The composition of the groups were random, an important element of building community across the school. The winning group’s idea was selected after the old pots were smashed and each of us voted using a piece of clay.

On the third day of the series, the fun really began. Within a 90 minute time frame mixed groups of primary, secondary, admin and SLT were presented with the challenge:

Choose at least 3 of these activities and complete within 1.5 hour timeframe

Physical challenge: determine the fastest way your team can go on a lap of the short stay car park. Timed as a relay circuit. I'm pretty good at riding that chair

Art challenge: comedic / fun interpretation of some aspect of school life on a construction panel

Artists at work

Lego challenge: create a representation of a building at NBCS

Working with Lego

Photo challenge: photograph your team in an outrageous location or activity on site

The photo challenge

Film challenge: create a 60 second video advertising any aspect of the NBCS site as a holiday destination. Watch Steve Collis’ NBCS Caving Adventure on YouTube

The creativity that came out of the activity was amazing. The fun laughter and energy around the school was contagious, as people gathered art materials, film props, snuck into construction vehicles for photos and raced around the carpark. Along the way people learn new skills from their colleagues.

The initial outcomes were definitely achieved, but the greatest outcome was an incredible sense of community and connection amongst the staff. The newest teachers immediately felt like part of the community and we all had new and shared experiences that we could laugh about. In addition to these, there were team-based activities directly related to the work for the year.

Once the students arrived there was an atmosphere of excitement for what lay ahead.

How did the staff at your school year start?

How are you reinforcing your culture of community and collaboration?

@anneknock