So big is it (as it should be) that we broke it down into bite sized chunks (our strategic goals) which are currently:
1. To provide future focussed individualised learning
2. To create and sustain an inclusive learning community
3. To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community
We felt that these were three key things that would need to happen if we were to progress on ur journey to being that centre of creative excellence. Each of these is then broken down into two annual goals:
Annual Goal 1: Embed the culturally responsive pedagogy ‘Learn Create Share’ to develop future focussed individualised learners.
Annual Goal 2: Assist every student to develop an appropriate individualised educational pathway
Annual Goal 3: To enhance staff and student wellbeing
Annual Goal 4: Increase community engagement
Annual Goal 5: Promote student leadership and followership capabilities
Annual Goal 6: Promote a growth mindset amongst students and staff
We have developed a series of measure for some of these things, but some are quite hard to measure. That doesn't mean that they don't matter though, and I have been quite taken by what I see as I move around our kura talking with staff and students.
Strategic Goal 3 is a great example. What does increased risk taking look like in a school? When I arrived at the school in 2016 I was told that students mostly didn't like to perform on the stage, or more generally in front of their peers. Having highlighted the need for all of us to take risks if we are to become more creative, what does this look like now? Every assembly has student performances. At the end of term 1 this year almost every year 8 and year 9 student was on stage performing. That looks to me like a culture shift amongst students. Putting yourself out there in front of people feels like a huge risk. What if they don't like me? What of they make fun of me? I could equally feel that way every time I speak in an assembly, or write a blog post. These fears are natural. What matters is being prepared to give it a go. And our students are increasingly developing the resilience necessary to do this.
And let's remember, taking risks by definition means there is a chance that we will fail. But that's OKAY as long as we try to make sure we don't make the same mistakes twice.
Similarly I try to encourage staff to take risks in their work. And again I emphasise that failing there is OKAY too. If we don't try new things, and experience failure every now and then, how are we to grow?
A number of staff have recently attended a couple of conferences, one in Christchurch, and one in Auckland. They all expressed the view, having listened to a wide range of presentations, that as a kura we are well ahead of many others in our development of better ways to cause learning (which after all is our prime purpose). This is affirming feedback for our staff who themselves are an outstanding group of professionals.
Similarly I recently attended a major conference in Melbourne. In the past I have sat in awe of our Australian and international colleagues. This time I felt that we had pushed our own practices, our own school cultures and pedagogies, well ahead of many of our colleagues.
Many of these things can't be measured, and that's my point. But focussing on what can be measured is often counter productive. Focussing on processes, or in our case on building strong relationships for learning, on good pedagogy (Learn, Create, Share), on encouraging responsible risk taking, on being culturally responsive in every aspect of our kura, these are the things that make a difference.
And does it make a difference? Yes.
How do I know? When I look at assessment outcomes, I see NCEA results that continue to improve across all groups of learners (and yes I mean ALL). This is no chimera. This is real tangible stuff. Take your eye off results and focus on process.
We focus on the things we can control. We expect the best of students and ourselves. Most importantly though we are focussing on things we can't easily measure. The results can look after themselves.