Monday, 20 March 2017

Class of 2017 - What will they say about their teachers at their class reunion?

                                                            School Prefects - 1933  

Over the past two days I have spent time talking and remembering my school years at Christchurch Girls's High School. We were the class of 1967 - 50years ago! It is quite scary to think about how quick the years have passed. It was wonderful to catch up with ex-classmates, find out what has happened since we left school and of course discuss our old teachers, the school, our two Principals, friends who were absent, look at the old photos and discuss our education compared with today.

One of our classmates produced the school rules, hand-typed (with errors) on 4 yellowed pages.Yes, we did wear hats and gloves, were silent in assembly, rode our bikes in single file in Hagley Park (both hands on the handle bars) and certainly did not talk to students from Christchurch Boys' High or Christ's College!

However, as we shared what we have all been doing with our lives and we discussed our education, it was obvious that we all felt that we had all received a solid academic education. Yes, by today's standards of ILE's, student agency, coding, flipped learning etc, it was very traditional - but that was 50 years ago. Some girls in the "A" stream learnt Latin and French, while the "G" stream could continue with French and some classes where University was not seen as a choice, did typing.

As we talked about what we had all done with our lives, many of us went on to be teachers, principals, doctors, and lawyers. Many had Masters degrees  or a PhD. There were farmers, women who worked in a wide variety of business ventures or were business owners, even a Minister. Saturday saw 55 women at lunch sharing our lives and memories of school. It is true that we didn't like all our teachers or subjects, some of us may have failed Physics because we did our English homework sitting at the back of the room, but there were also subjects we enjoyed and did well in,teachers who we had affection and respect for, lifelong friendships made.

Life in 1971 was more predictable, slower-paced and school leavers could be offered several jobs to choose from. Fast forward to 2017. Can someone really make money out of sharing their life on Instagram or You Tube?  Can a 17 year old design an app in his bedroom and sell it for several million dollars? Can a few friends get together with an idea and start a company before they leave school?

Yes, all this is possible in 2017 - but what what can we teach our students that will also help them to be successful in life if being a You Tube celebrity is not for them. Do we go back to the
key competencies
thinking,  using language, symbols, and text, managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing.
Although we didn't have the key competencies in 1967 perhaps what we learnt could fit under those headings.

So, what would we like our students to say about their teachers, their school, their education when they leave and meet up for their school reunion?  

Cross-posted from HERE

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Prove It!

Posted on 16 February 2017 Cross-blogged from HERE, with permission.

Last year, none of my Selected options had enough enrolments for the courses to run in Term One, 2017. Instead, I was asked if I wanted to take a class of "Proof", a course about forensic science and New Zealand law. Fortunately for me, and sadly for two other staff members who did the original course design and brief, there was a timetable clash which meant I was being offered the chance to lead one of the two classes of Proof.

A lot of planning went into getting this course ready and making it feel authentic, including writing a script for the first crime scene, setting up a crime scene, and preparing the evidence for the students to use. Some amazing colleagues gave up their own time to help with staged interviews, to plant evidence leading to them as suspects, and even to pop into class to be grilled by the students.

Today was my first 100 minute block, and all of the effort was worth it. I can honestly say that was one of the most invigourating, enjoyable "lessons" that I have ever "taught". Not only were the students engaged, they were challenged and having fun. Word must have got out, because we had a lot of visitors during the lesson...

It was a huge relief to see that our crime and available evidence is not too easy to solve. They may only be Year 9, but these students have already exceeded my expectations in other things in the first few weeks. Luckily, we have written in enough stumbling blocks and misdirection to keep them engaged, entertained and driven to succeed. They have been asking questions that I never considered when writing the script. Overachievers!!

We are very lucky. This is a Selected course, so students opt into it. We also have two uninterrupted 100 minute blocks on subsequent days (Monday and Tuesday for one class, and Thursday and Friday for my class). We have a small roll in a big school, so can close off a lab to set up as a crime scene. Only the last of those things will change in the future, and it is definitely not an insurmountable barrier.

I am buzzing at the moment, more than I ever have after a lesson in 17 years of teaching. I am genuinely excited about what lies ahead in Proof...

The grand plan goes something like this for "Proof 1.0":
Week One: Use evidence to solve a crime scene - Crime Scene #1. The evidence has been collected for you and suspects interviewed. Now use this information and your own observations to create a timeline and deduce "whodunit".
Week Two: Reflect on Crime Scene #1. What went well? What did not? Reveal the true story and reflect on our own conclusions and assumptions.
Week Three: Learn about some forensic and other crime-solving techniques via online games. Students will decide which skills they want to become experts in. We will seek out experts (and do some actual teaching and experiments, of course) to help students become competent at, for example, collecting and analysing fingerprints, or interviewing suspects, or collecting and analysing fibres. The students decide, we guide them to those who can help...
Weeks Four-Six: Learning skills and proving competence and/or proficiency in these skills. During this time, I will be writing Crime Scene #2, based upon the skills the students have elected to learn.
Week Seven: Crime Scene #2
Week Eight: Reflect upon Crime Scene #2. The class then plan and set up Crime Scene #3. This may be a Murder Mystery evening for teachers, parents and/or friends. It may be something completely different. The students get to choose how to celebrate the amazing learning they have achieved.

Author's Note: Since writing this, there has been a change to the plan. More time has been needed for the exploring of key ideas, such as eyewitness testimony, which has put things back a bit. I am now co-writing Crime Scene #2 with one of the learners, and this will be the foundation of the Celebration of all ākonga learning. It may still be something we set up for friends, kaiako and/or whānau, but time constraints have forced a small change to the plan laid out here. M

We will be offering learning experiences beyond the obvious scientific observation and analytical skills. "Proving" is tougher than "knowing". Writing convincing arguments. Articulating convincing points of views. Weighing up the value of evidence. Formulating questions for interrogations. Using evidence to catch people out on a lie. Teamwork. Resilience (there will be deception in Crime Scene #2, so students will get frustrated). Science. English. Social Sciences.

Then, we are looking at where we go from here: Proof 2.0. What will the next level of course look like? When will it be offered? Just for Year 10? For any student from any year level who has completed Proof 1.0? Will the timetable allow for that? Should it? Will Proof 2.0 provide opportunities for students to earn NCEA credits? Should it?

This is what teaching can be like. This is what learning can be like. And I get to do it all again tomorrow...

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Unlearning what Schooling is

Posted on Cross-blogged from HERE, with permission.

"This school isn't strict enough," was the lament of the 14 year old girl I followed as she was leaving the learning space for the fourth time during the morning and I was remonstrating with her to return to her allocated group and space within the flexible learning environment 280 11-15 year olds and their 12 teachers were thrust 10 days earlier.

"Tell me about that," I requested. "Every time you have left I've followed you and requested politely that you return. What do you mean by strict?"

Her answer saddened me. It also angered me, and challenged me.

According to this beautiful young lady- who so obviously has much talent and potential, but also has been very challenged by her past schooling and in turn has been and is immensely challenging of schooling and authority in any form, I was informed that strict meant shutting you in a room where you couldn't leave and making you do a worksheet silently.

So the conversation went on with me explaining that I didn't really think a random worksheet would help her learning. The response: "this isn't about learning, it's about being a proper school. "

My heart sunk. Here I was observing a group of teachers working harder than they ever had, who were pushing themselves way outside their comfort zones and their past specialist teaching areas, creating and  delivering high interest, practical, hands on learning activities requiring discussion and debate and thinking, and here they were facing a group of pre- teens and teenagers who have an understanding after 6-10 years in our education system that proper learning, or at least proper schooling, consists of sitting in a room silently or quietly doing worksheets. Or at least being told what to do and what to learn and how to learn it and complying.

Since when did learning have no place in schooling in some of our young people's minds and lives and hearts? What are we going to do about that? Are we going to continue to perpetuate the myth that "well-controlled" classrooms where everyone is silent or at least quiet and appears to be actively following instructions and doing the task adds up to effective learning? Or at least effective schooling?

Are we going to continue to explicitly and implicitly give young people the message that learning (or at least schooling) is something that an adult has to do to you in order for it to be proper or real?

We spent three months together as a foundation staff working on unschooling ourselves from our notion of what learning in the school system has been in the past and what it possibly could be in the future. We knew we would be working alongside some young people who have been completely disenfranchised with the schooling system they have worked in and we were determined that we will re- engage these young people. The ones who couldn't conform to the old system, the ones already jaded by a system that so clearly doesn't meet their needs.

We knew we would have to work hard to induct young people who have achieved and had a traditional sense of school success validated by their past experiences. We are having to work even harder to induct young people who have been failed by their past experiences of schooling into an understanding that schooling can equal learning and that this learning can be meaningful to them in deeply personal ways. We need to accept that just because they have been failed by one system they are not just going to magically accept and become part of a new system.

We worked solidly, and without the normal interruptions of a school, for 7 hours a day on this for three months as a staff in our build up to opening. And we just broke the surface. We need to very careful we don't judge ourselves, or allow others to judge us, because some of our young people haven't immediately fallen into line with a completely different way of schooling- even if they were failed by previous systems. We need to have patience, and tolerance and belief in what we are doing. We need strong support systems around us to prevent disenchantment in what we are doing and to prevent temptations to fall back to the past when it gets hard. We need to reflect back on all the talking and learning we have done about implementation dips and learning pits.

And we need to keep going. To keep changing and transforming what being at school is and means.  How learning and schooling could be. One day at a time. Sometimes even one hour or one minute at a time. Definitely one young person at a time.

To all our kaiako and kaiārahi and kaiawhina working so hard every day delivering and every night preparing I want to publicly say- you are awesome. You have a vision and a commitment to developing individual young people to be both learners and the best people they can be that is admirable. You are showing resilience and compassion, passion and commitment and it is an honour to stand amongst you.

It will take time, And that is okay. Change, real change, has to if its to be effective and sustainable.

I look forward to the day I can have a conversation with the young lady quoted above and she can equate her schooling with real life learning that is meaningful for her and where she is in her life right now.

And I have every faith that with the support of our Haeata staff that time will come. Every faith and a total belief.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Come to Eduignite at Haeata

When: Monday 3 April
Time: 6pm
Where: Haeata Community Campus, 240 Breezes Rd, Wainoni
What: Share a five-minute talk with auto-advancing slides OR come along to listen and connect with Canterbury educators. 

What is EduIgnite? Ignite Evenings are held in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes. EduIgnite is an Ignite Evening run by educators, focused on education.
The rules:
  • Drinks and nibbles are always provided, and anyone is welcome
  • Attendance at your first EduIgnite evening is ‘no strings attached’
  • Attendance at your second EduIgnite Evening requires you to do one of two things: i) bring a friend, or ii) present an EduIgnite talk.
“Fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking, social, local, global—Ignite is all of these and more. It’s a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd. Run by local volunteers who are connected through the global Ignite network, Ignite is a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections in each city. And, via streaming and archived videos of local talks, local Ignites share all that knowledge and passion with the world.” (

Come along to experience the crazy, mad, inspiring event that is an Ignite Evening.


Early childhood, Primary, Intermediate, Secondary, School leaders, General


Collaboration, Connected learning, Professional learning