Saturday, 13 April 2019

You usually get what you expect .. arguing for clarity.

For almost three years now our Hornby High School vision has been 'A centre of creative excellence he puna auaha'. It's a big, bold vision. Some would say it's an audacious vision. But a vision is meant to be aspirational, a statement of where we are headed, even if we never actually reach it. It's our guiding star, in the same way that the pole star guided our Polynesian voyagers.

As our 'guiding star', so too is it a statement of what we expect. While big, hairy, and audacious (to quote the phrase from Ewan MacIntosh), it hopefully leaves us in no doubt about what we need to expect from our students, and from ourselves.

And the interesting thing is that what you expect, you all too often get. At the end of the term I saw an outstanding example of this from one of our year 8 students, Kade. When trying to think of a product to create in the soft materials phase of his technology work, Kade imagined a cactus in 3D. He had to imagine it and plan how he would create that 3D idea using a series of 2D pieces. This is no mean feat, and one that actually requires quite a degree of mathematical thinking.

Here is Kade's blog post on the project.

Similarly this past term I saw this behaviour amongst a group of my colleagues, our technology teaching team. They have been challenged in so many ways, not the least of which was to re-imagine how to cause learning in our new flexible spaces (as have our arts and science teams). All of them (technologies, arts, and sciences) have done an amazing job of adapting to their new environment, a brilliant example of one of my favourite Churchill quotes 'We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us'.

The technology team have had the added challenge of re-imagining the very course structures that they deliver. They began that process by adding in what we termed a 'connect' class' where children from our client schools get an initial class of specialist teaching in arts, sciences, or digital tech, before embarking on the other technology work that they have traditionally received.  Whatever else has happened, we know that we have happy children leave us at the end of their technology experience each day.

This has all proved to be hard, but change is hard. Teachers ended the term exhausted, yes change is hard. Teachers ended the term keen to continue to evolve these courses, even though change is hard. And I couldn't be prouder, prouder of them, prouder of what they have achieved so far. And they are not alone as these 'values' are apparent across our kura, across our curriculum, within our amazing teaching team. We have a wonderful staff team, a team that understands the 'moral imperative' behind what we do, the imperative that demands that we push not just for equity, but for liberation for all learners.

Image result for pat sneddon equity liberation

In my opinion, much of this is possible because we have clarity of vision, and that vision has created an expectation of creative excellence. This technology experience is an illustration of staff applying the vision to their work, their pedagogy. It is one more example of what creative excellence might look like.

We also have clarity of pedagogy, with our manaiakalani pedagogy 'learn create share'. That is what staff are doing. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that LCS is the game we play. In fact it is the only game for us in terms of our pedagogy. They have created a new paradigm by activating prior knowledge on how best to cause learning, they have shared their thinking in different ways, that have learned new things, and are applying that new learning to a new 'iteration'. One of the things that makes me proudest is their willingness to fail, to accept that sometimes things don't work quite as ell as we would have liked, and that failure is NOT the end of the world (not that they have failed, because in fact they have not). And now they will look at applying their learning to our next iteration. We have no idea what that might look like, and that in itself is exciting.

Whatever else you can say, I think you CAN say:

  • Change is hard
  • You get what you expect.
  • Clarity of vision makes the journey easier
We expect creative excellence. We are still trying to work out exactly what that might mean, what that might look like. Isn't it fascinating that that is what we seem to be starting to get, because in my experience you usually get what you expect, in education and in life.