Thursday, August 27, 2015

RHS on tour #2015

10 of us set off for Auckland at the crack of dawn, well we were meant too, but the flight was cancelled  - so it was slightly later than the crack of dawn! 
The plan was to visit 3 schools to look at curriculum design, pastoral approaches and collaboration. 

First stop was Alfriston College - unfortunately this was a shortened visit due to our flight cancellation. Nevertheless we did see their innovative authentic learning classes in action. 

The Yr 9 learners are grouped in Whanau (houses) and have 800 minutes of authentic learning in their Whanau groups. 4 teachers are tagged to each Whanau (20 in total) and they plan the learning around termly connections. There are always at least 3 teachers in the Whanau class working with the learners 

The programme is in it's first year and each term has seen an adaptation to the programme. Learners track their own learning through daily reflections that are available to the parents, as is teacher feedback. 
Not all specialist subjects are covered in the teacher groupings. So collaborative planning and coaching of the teachers a key part of the journey. 

Next stop Hobsonville Point where our Commissioner joined the tour - the target here was not to be 'wowed' by the amazing building but to focus on what curriculum and learning look like. 
We were able to see the 'small learning modules' in action. These are the connected units of learning  that the students opt into. What was especially impressive was the ways in which the students were able to talk about their learning with us. The connections with the community around the learning was unbelievable. A group of students shared their work around a coastal walkways project ( English and Technology). The technology was the design of structures to populate the walkways and the English component was around the legends and Storting of the designs. It was like listening to a Yr 13 discuss their work. High level thinking and deep thinking. 
The work will occupy the coastal walkway on the map below - seats, lookout architecture etc. The school really has an amazing community connection. 

Another module was based around English and Science - the science component they were looking at was magnetism And the students were writing sonnets. The study of sonnets was focussed on the elements of love and death. One student was discussing with Ros his teacher, the aspect of attraction in love ( the link to the Science). Different forms of poetic writing were linked to different scientific aspects. The students were also creating a timeline of scientists and writers who had been innovative. It was an interesting combination to see in action. 

Leaving HPSS we experienced the worst of the Auckland traffic and motorway system - rain, nose to tail  traffic and excruciatingly slow trips down the motorway. 

Day 2 began at Mission Heights Junior High, a 7-year-old Yr 7-10 school. The students were grouped in whanau/houses with learning coaches, and A LOT of time was dedicated to planning - every Thursday afternoon (3-4.30) Learning Teams focussed on the needs of the learners. Tuesdays alternated between collaborative planning and professional development, again from 3-4.30.

The school vision and values were evident everywhere - Principal and DP greet students at the gate most mornings. The vision of 'growing greatness through innovation' constantly evolving personalised learning was 'lived' in the school. Kids confidently talked to us about their learning - the level they were at and what they needed to do to move on. Constant reflection around - are we living the vision? and can we see the vision? are a key to improvement. 

Simple acronyms expand this vision 

G ood citizens
R esilient
E nterprising
A spirational 
T hinkers

What struck a chord with many of us was the DEEP learning sessions - an hour at the end of each day. The premise is that all staff have a passion and they put it forward and offer a class. These can be small or large scale. Some of the community are also paid to run programmes.

D iscover 
E nrichment 
E ssential
P assion

Not having teachers spending valuable amounts of time on pastoral admin was a winner for us - a pastoral admin officer was attached to each house - and made perfect sense.

Collaborative planning across thematic units was a real focus - there was however flexibility for year groups or  house areas to approach the term's unit in an individual way.

From MHJC, we returned to Hobsonville Point to spend some time looking at their learning hub and learning coach model. Small groups of students with a learning adviser who monitors curriculum coverage and module selection. Here we actually had time to sit down and reflect on a couple of days of visits. This really assisted us in firming up our thoughts and suggestions for ways to move forward with curriculum design. 

Many thanks to DI and Maurie for hosting us so generously and providing a space for us to work in. 

Common themes across the schools included- 

- a common language across all faculties
- connected curriculum
- learning coach model - 1 teacher 15 students
- student choice / input into the learning contexts 
- follow your passion
- community engagement 
- articulate learners who could explain what was happening around their learning 

On a final note we experienced some of the best and worse of what Auckpand has to offer -  from amazing blue sky as we crossed the Harbour Bridge on Wednesday to the miserable grey drizzle that almost gridlocked the motorway on Tuesday meaning we spent 40 mins to travel the 6 or so kms from Manukau to Sylvia Park.

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