Monday, January 26, 2015

Graduating Teacher Standards - Are they future-focused enough?

As you may (or may not) know, one of the many and varied roles of the New Zealand Teachers Council is to approve and review all Initial Teacher Education programmes. It was during my first council meeting where a number of the new Masters ITE programmes were being approved that the question came to me (once again): Are the Graduating Teacher Standards future focused enough?? The reason I asked myself and others this, is that I felt the courses we were looking at could have offered more. It wasn't that they weren't rigorous and well thought out, it was just that they felt lacking, particularly in the 'future-focused skills' area. When I voiced these concerns the response I got was, that we couldn't demand the courses to include anything that wasn't demanded in the graduating teacher standards. On reading the standards more closely I am not so sure. Surely if you take the second point of Standard One "have pedagogical content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their   programme" and place this statement into a 21st century context aren't we demanding that courses provide them with the appropriate pedagogical content of the 21st century? Or are these standards too open to interpretation? Does one person's view of 'appropriate pedagogical content' vary so greatly that it in a sense becomes redundant? I can of course understand why the standards were written this way, anything too specific would become outdated within a heartbeat. But that said, is there something more we need to add?

I realise my ability to influence these discussions might be hampered by the fact that NZTC is now in it's twilight hours as we stare down the barrel of EDUCANZ taking over, still, no harm in trying.

So if the Graduating Teacher Standards in their present state are not (in my opinion) ensuring we have cutting edge, future-focused ITE programmes, what needs to change? Or is it not the place of the standards to determine this, it actually the providers themselves? My opinion is it probably a combination of the two. Firstly, you would hope that providers would take it upon themselves to ensure their courses were as future-focused as possible, I mean that is what they are preparing teachers for isn't it. Surely the courses wouldn't be designed to maintain the status quo? It's possible that our desire to base all practice on a strong evidence base is going to limit innovation in these courses. If you are only willing to offer what has proven to work in the past, then surely we have an issue. In terms of the graduating teacher standards changing, I think it is less about change and more about providing a current and future focused appendices to support the standards. This could be a document that gets reviewed annually, informed by what is being seen during ERO reports and areas that need focused on right now (I apologise if this doc already exists and I just don't know about it...). In a way I'd liken it to how I imagine the WOF system works (or seems to work from the outside), the same things might be on the list each year, but you get the sense they have another list somewhere that gives them an area to focus on, because current stats suggest it is an area that needs addressing. Wouldn't it be great if we had a group of innovators, risk takers and trail-blazers who helped to inform this secondary list of requirements. Recommended foci might include ensuring that every new teacher has researched how a range of IT interventions might best be used to support effective pedagogies. That all new teachers know how to make the most of a BYOD classroom environment. All new teachers would begin their career well versed in the work of Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, with Sue McDowall, Ally Bull, Sally Boyd and Rosemary Hipkins and the paper Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective and understand why we must prepare our students for the 'knowledge age' and prepare them for being increasing self-directed and self-reliant. And the likes of Professor Welby Ings might encourage teachers to value creative expression over rote learned "Excellence".

Maybe if we provided these annually updated insights into what our Graduating Teacher Standards look like in our current and future contexts we could make them available to all teachers, to provide an innovative and future-focused support document for our Registered Teacher Criteria as well. Then, taking it a step further, why don't we use these innovative, future focused, status quo challenging ideas as a basis for free online MOOCs available to all educators that could share their learning through an online teacher community (surely NZTC...or EDUCANZ and N4L's Pond could nail this one) and learning reflections could be make up part of a teachers online portfolio for appraisal. Okay. Now I'm getting sidetracked. But you get my gist, graduating teacher standards (and maybe even RTCs) are not enough in isolation to ensure that all ITE programmes are producing not only competent teachers, but innovative and future-focused educators as well.

The graduating teacher standards as the exist at present are below. Have a read and let me know what you think.

Future-focused or protecting the status quo?

Graduating Teacher Standards: Aotearoa New Zealand

These standards recognise that the Treaty of Waitangi extends equal status and rights to Māori and Pākehā alike.

Graduates entering the profession will understand the critical role teachers play in enabling the educational achievement of all learners.

Professional Knowledge 
Standard One: Graduating Teachers know what to teach
  1. have content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their programme
  2. have pedagogical content knowledge appropriate to the learners and learning areas of their   programme
  3. have knowledge of the relevant curriculum documents of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  4. have content and pedagogical content knowledge for supporting English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners to succeed in the curriculum
Standard Two: Graduating Teachers know about learners and how they learn
  1. have knowledge of a range of relevant theories and research about pedagogy, human development and learning.
  2. have knowledge of a range of relevant theories, principles and purposes of assessment and evaluation.
  3. know how to develop metacognitive strategies of diverse learners. 
  4. know how to select curriculum content appropriate to the learners and the learning context.
Standard Three: Graduating Teachers understand how contextual factors influence teaching and learning
  1. have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.
  2. have knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori to work effectively within the bicultural contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  3. have an understanding of education within the bicultural, multicultural, social, political, economic and historical contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Professional Practice
Standard Four: Graduating Teachers use professional knowledge to plan for a safe, high quality teaching and learning environment
  1. draw upon content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge when planning, teaching and evaluating. 
  2. use and sequence a range of learning experiences to influence and promote learner achievement.
  3. demonstrate high expectations of all learners, focus on learning and recognise and value diversity.
  4. demonstrate proficiency in oral and written language (Māori and/or English), in numeracy and in ICT relevant to their professional role.
  5. use te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi appropriately in their practice. 
  6. demonstrate commitment to and strategies for promoting and nurturing the physical and emotional safety of learners. 

  7. Standard Five: Graduating Teachers use evidence to promote learning
  8. systematically and critically engage with evidence to reflect on and refine their practice. 
  9. gather, analyse and use assessment information to improve learning and inform planning.
  10. know how to communicate assessment information appropriately to learners, their parents/caregivers and staff.
Professional Values & Relationships
Standard Six: Graduating Teachers develop positive relationships with learners and the members of learning communities
  1. recognise how differing values and beliefs may impact on learners and their learning.
  2. have the knowledge and dispositions to work effectively with colleagues, parents/caregivers, 
  3. families/whānau and communities.
  4. build effective relationships with their learners.
  5. promote a learning culture which engages diverse learners effectively.
  6. demonstrate respect for te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in their practice. 
Standard Seven: Graduating Teachers are committed members of the profession
  1. uphold the New Zealand Teachers Council Code of Ethics/Ngā Tikanga Matatika. 
  2. have knowledge and understanding of the ethical, professional and legal responsibilities of teachers. 
  3. work co-operatively with those who share responsibility for the learning and wellbeing of learners.
  4. are able to articulate and justify an emerging personal, professional philosophy of teaching and learning. 
Source: NZTC Website

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Holiday Reading Review - How to Thrive, Lean In and just basically be a #GIRLBOSS

I have been collecting books to read on my Kindle for some time now. Over the last seven days having time offline and being away from the house meant I finally got around to some much overdue reading. Interestingly there seemed to be a bit of a theme, a theme which could loosely be called "women kicking ass online". Whilst I didn't pick them (consciously) for this reason, it is interesting that the role models I have picked are all in the online tech world - Arianna Huffington being the person who established The Huffington Post, Sophia Amoruso being the women who established Nasty Gal clothing (originally an Ebay shop that is now a $100 million e-commerce store) and Sheryl Sandberg who is the COO of Facebook. What actually drew me to these books were their messages and in particular the messages they had for successful women. 

Arianna Huffington has been on my radar for some time, I have followed The Huffington Post for a while and I really enjoyed her TED Talk 'How to succeed? Get more sleep' where she talks about how we can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. She was also a name that kept coming up as I began to look more and more into the idea of wellbeing and mindfulness. Maybe it was turning 40 last year or maybe it was the fact that the last few years have been feeling busier and busier and I have come to the decision that if I am going to continue doing all the stuff I love doing, I was going to have to look after myself as well. I have always thrived on being a super busy "yes" person. I also struggle to do just one thing - I love being at HPSS but I love it even more if I can also be on the NZ Teachers Council, NetSafe board and so on. I am invigorated by the diversity, the busyness and the challenge of constantly learning in each of my new roles. However I am also aware that I need balance, downtime and calm as well. On that level I thoroughly enjoyed Thrive. She really does touch on some very real issues we have now about being "connected" 24/7 and the way we seem to have festishized the concept of busyness. And to what end? If we don't have our health (and happiness) then what do we have anyway. On this level, Thrive reinforced what I have in place for my New Year's Resolutions and my thoughts expressed in Mindfulness and the Machine. BTW - I am really enjoying my evening switch off time and daily meditation. 

The second book I read was an entertaining read, #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, in some ways she reminded me of a younger brasher Huffington. Both are American Greek Orthodox and make reference to their culture throughout their books. Amoruso, at 30, is less concerned with balance (I suspect she might write that book in another 20 years) and more concerned with being an individual. Her key messages (for me anyway) were that you needn't have qualifications to succeed (an increasingly common thought) and that you if you are willing to work hard you can do anything. She also likes to remind you to be proud of who you are and to let your "freak flag fly". Her story is pretty damn inspiring. As well as being being wry and witty it also makes some serious suggestions such as never taking out loans and always saving 10% of every pay check (whoops, not achieving those...unless KiwiSaver sort of counts?). I also like her attitude that shows the power of being brazen and working hard to prove yourself - before you get the promotion. She makes some excellent observations about her own generations' sense of entitlement and their expectation to be promoted and highly paid often before even proving themselves - I'm guessing Amoruso wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. As a teacher I really like this as a message to young people heading out into the world. We most definitely have a crew of #GIRLBOSSes at HPSS, I look forward to sneaking this book into their recommended reading list this year. 

The third part of my holiday week reading was an interesting compliment to the first two. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to do just that - "lean in" and "sit at the (boardroom) table". By this she means that women need to stop doubting them selves and become leaders in the business world. It was interesting to read the statistics to see just how unequal women still are, in pay, power and influence. It was also interesting because it made me realise that my personal approach is already one of "leaning in" and most definitely "sitting at the table", heck if anything I have stop myself from dancing on the table. It was a good reminder that I probably need to not assume everyone is the same as me, and that as a female leader in education I need to ensure that I am encouraging (and creating opportunities for) other women to do the same. It was interesting too to have my attitudes challenged, - that if I simply refuse to acknowledge my gender to be an issue it is a defence mechanism and could actually stop me from seeing the issue for others around me. Even though I know equality for women is still far off, and I do still refuse to see myself as anything but equal, this book was a good reminder that it is still an important issue and whilst it hasn't affected me in my career (yet...I think) it may affect others or may even affect me in the future. The other message I took away from this book was that motherhood should never be a reason to slow down in your career (if you don't wish it to be). Again, I never doubted this myself and heartily agree with Sandberg that having children and leaving work at 5.30 doesn't mean you are any less committed or efficient. If anything having two children have only made me more efficient (helped by the fact that I have an ace husband who always made lunches and seen the girls off to school). However I did feel like Sandberg could take on a bit of Huffington's advice and find just a little more balance. I kept getting the feeling that her message was very much one written from slightly shaky ground of a pathological workaholic - great advice throughout, but needs to be taken with a dash of Huffington.

All three books were most enjoyable reads and read in such a short time frame seemed to form something a timeline or maturation of thoughts around women's success. Amoruso presenting a youthful slightly anarchic and aggressive view of how to get to the top, Sandberg encouraging us, somewhat feverishly, to get to the top and bring other women with you and Huffington rounding it all off with a more maternal calming tone to ensure we look after ourselves once we get there. 

Interestingly I feel like I have a foot (if you could have three) if each of their camps - still striving and scaling the mountain in my quest for greater leadership as Principal, Minister of Education, Prime Minister or possibly even Master (or should that be Mistress) of the Universe (and don't you worry I will most definitely let my freak flag fly when I get there) whilst also trying to find some balance and calm to ensure I enjoy the climb and enjoy the view on the way. 

I reckon I've got thriving, leaning in #GIRLBOSS written all over me. You?

Below are the book summaries from Amazon.

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

In Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world.

Arianna Huffington's personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye -- the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group -- one of the fastest growing media companies in the world -- celebrated as one of the world's most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?

As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success -- money and power -- has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward.

In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we're going to topple over. We need a third leg -- a third metric for defining success -- to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don't commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes -- they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.

In this deeply personal book, Arianna talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters -- of juggling business deadlines and family crises, a harried dance that led to her collapse and to her "aha moment." Drawing on the latest groundbreaking research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives. (Source: Amazon)

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

The first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online wasn’t fashion—it was a stolen book. She spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had resigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless, and working a mediocre day job she’d taken for the health insurance.

It was there that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Sophia’s never been a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is winding as all hell and lined with naysayers.

#GIRLBOSS includes Sophia’s story, yet is infinitely bigger than Sophia. It’s deeply personal yet universal. Filled with brazen wake-up calls (“You are not a special snowflake”), cunning and frank observations (“Failure is your invention”), and behind-the-scenes stories from Nasty Gal’s meteoric rise, #GIRLBOSS covers a lot of ground. It proves that being successful isn’t about how popular you were in high school or where you went to college (if you went to college). Rather, success is about trusting your instincts and following your gut, knowing which rules to follow and which to break.

A #GIRLBOSS takes her life seriously without taking herself too seriously. She takes chances and takes responsibility on her own terms. . She knows when to throw punches and when to roll with them. When to button up and when to let her freak flag fly.

As Sophia writes, “I have three pieces of advice I want you to remember: Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let The Man get to you. OK? Cool. Then let’s do this.” (Source: Amazon)

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. 
Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfilment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. 

Written with both humour and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can. (Source: Amazon)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mindfulness and the Machine

Simply Being App
This is something I have been thinking about for a while, borne mostly out of my own bad habits of being "connected" and "online" for most of my waking hours. I suspect I am not alone. I love technology and I love it's capacity to provide instant information (and gratification) at the click of the button. In many ways technology allows me to be hyper-efficient - emails responded to quick smart, meeting minutes created and shared on the spot, sharing or rather over sharing every magic moment, meal and milestone instantly. In my teaching I was an exuberant early adopter of technology, embracing the way that it allowed me to make learning available 24/7, supported young people to share and publish rather than simply "hand in" work. When I am not teaching I am learning via this hyper connectivity, reading articles, blogposts, watching TED talks and connecting with educators around the globe via Twitter and Google+. When not learning, I am still online, shopping (ebay, Amazon and a Paypal account make it way too easy) or I am indulging in my passion for design and interiors, stalking folk on Instagram and creating mood boards for imaginary second, third, forth careers as a stylist, nutritionist and all round satorialwhore. In the fleeting moments left over I do manage Yoga once or twice a week, face to face offline sit down dinners with my family and read on yet another device - my Kindle. And I love it. I love the connections made, I feel like I learn constantly and get a huge amount of enjoyment from sharing as well. I genuinely believe our lives can be enhanced and definitely believe learning is enhanced and supported through this access to technology. 

But at what cost?

What are we missing whilst trapped in the magnetic glow of a laptop, tablet or increasingly our smartphones. One thing I have become increasingly aware of is the fact that I struggle to put down my device. My iPhone is more often than not glued to my palm, it's crappy battery life sending me into irrational panic attacks as I worry I might be forced to go offline - my God, how will I cope?! I also check, compulsively and mindlessly: my inbox, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - what do I think I am missing in the five or so minutes that passed?? And what am I really missing as a result? Children are excellent at identifying the issue with my 9 and 10 year old daughters often pointing out that I am always on "that thing". I am also increasingly aware that I kid myself that I can effectively multitask and think I can conduct conversations with my kids and husband whilst staring zombie like at my LCD lover. And it's not just me. We are all doing it in this household. Whilst I'll admit I am the ultimate recidivist offender I do also note that it's increasingly common for all four of us to be subtly lit from below whilst pretending to watch "reality" TV. Zombie TV habits to support our zombie online surfing, or in the case of my three amigos, zombie game playing. I have also started to become aware of pretending I am having an actual conversation with my children or husband as I grunt and stare at the screen. My lucky family get to live with the lazy stereotype of a teenage boy - not ideal, I mean there's good reason for teenage boys not being Mums (no offence teenage boys...although I suspect you being part of my readership is slim). And it's not just my at home behaviour that is beginning to disturb me. It's the checking of my phone at traffic's not like I'm driving is it. Or the poor manners that have crept into my catching up with friends, family and colleagues - don't mind me, I'm just ignoring you whilst I just check my Facebook. Okay more like my Facebook, Inbox, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, weather....and if you are really lucky I might even photograph my food and share it with the world. It appears my online habits have eroded something I hold dear, my manners.

So what now? They say recognising you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Step one nailed.

For me the next step is where the mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is enjoying a genuine renaissance in the western world, both in the business and education worlds and I suspect it is no coincidence that this is occurring at the same time that we are reaching saturation point in terms of our technology use. Just as we have seen the "slow" movement grow as the pace of life increases to points of ridiculousness, so too are we seeing mindfulness come to the fore just as our behaviours become increasing mindless. However, I don't believe it needs to be about being overly reactive and shunning technology, I believe it is simply about being more mindful about how we make the best use of the technology. Excuse the sexist trash talk, but it really is time to ensure that technology is my bitch, not the other way around. This isn't about foregoing technology at all, in fact technology is incredibly powerful and closing the digital divide needs to be a huge priority. It is simply about ensuring that technology is supporting my attempts to be a well-rounded successful human being and not thwarting it by sucking my into it's digital void.

So how how can we ensure we have a more mindful relationship with technology? Well I am employing a range of strategies. Maybe it's the English teacher in me, but the first step has been reading up on mindfulness, Thrive by Arianna Huffington has been particularly powerful as it helps to hear from someone whose perspective is aligned to mine, someone who embraces technology and someone who has always relished being a hyper busy "yes" person (admitted she has took this to the next level somewhat...). I really enjoyed the way Huffington speaks from experience, names the elephants in the room and then suggests ways we might challenge the status quo. A highly recommended read.

The second way I am tackling my marriage to the machine is by putting in place a few ground rules: switching off by 7.30-8.00 at night, leaving my phone in my handbag at cafes and restaurants (any friends reading this, feel free to call me on this one) and having technology free holiday time (I head to Kawau on Wednesday and plan to stay offline until the following Wednesday). This may not sound like much for some, but for me this is a big healthy step in the right direction. I am also working on my acts of conscious mindfulness when using my devices as well and actually thinking about what I am doing, working on doing one thing at a time, mindfully, rather than jumping between tabs, skimming, scanning constantly - easy said than done, believe me.

I am also looking at developing my mindfulness practices in other ways. I already do Yoga a couple of times of week, I am looking to add to this regular walks with my kids and dogs (sans phone) and fortnightly sessions with a personal trainer (believe me it's impossible to be anywhere but in the moment when you are being forced to work out that hard). The cost of the trainer has been covered by giving up my daily takeaway coffee (yet another mindless behaviour I realised I wasn't really even enjoying).

The final way I am working on my mindfulness is, rather ironically, is by using a mindfulness app. The app 'Simply Being' is beautifully simplistic, offering 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes guided meditation supported by voice and music or voice only. I am doing five minutes a night just sitting cross legged on my bed with the aim of working up to 20 minutes over the next few weeks. It is amazing what five minutes of simply doing nothing can achieve - well worth a try.

And it's not just my habits I am concerned about, as a Mum and as an educator I really do worry about their generation, at least we know another way of operating. I believe mindfulness and mindful use of technology is something that needs to be taught and modelled (hence wanting to change my own behaviours). I don't buy in to the rhetoric that BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Distraction, I believe technology must be available to all students, just as long we commit to supporting them to manage themselves at the same time. It's important to acknowledge that teenagers with devices are like labradors with food, they ain't going to stop gorging themselves unless you stop them (for the most part). Mindfulness in and of itself has a real place in our curriculum, increasingly we hear about schools who adopt mindfulness programmes and see all kinds of improved outcomes. It's also about teaching manners, maybe that what we need in schools - Mindfulness, Manners and Machines 101.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reflections and Resolutions

AKA Happy New Years 

Looking back on the last year it seems hard to comprehend how it all fitted in to 365 days. 2014 was awesome in many senses of the word.

Being part of a team establishing a new school which is genuinely trying to redesign how we approach secondary education in NZ was both a blast and a challenge. As I have often articulated - if it is all easy peasy, we probably aren't doing it properly. 

So how was the the first year at HPSS?? In hindsight it was actually stunning. It is really only on reflection that you get a sense of just how much we all achieved in establishing an innovative, student centred brand spanking new secondary school. Admittedly there were many occasions where I was not feeling quite this positive. For one, the whole notion of "building an airplane while we are flying it" is not something I enjoy. Learning to go with the flow and accept that processes and protocols weren't all in place on Day One (or Day 200 for that matter) was something I genuinely struggled with. I reflected 18 months ago how the process of setting up a school had actually caused me to conduct many an internal argument - my future-focused creative self genuinely wanting to challenge my own mental models and trying to embrace the new and different. My routine, security loving self however soon realised just how much I really cherished clearly articulated structures, processes and protocols. That part of myself really struggled with us taking our time to work out "how we do things around here". And I'll be honest I am still struggling with this, although I do head into the new year with a genuine confidence that we are finding a happy middle ground. One where we are putting in place "enabling constraints", where we have just enough processes and protocols set (such as assessment and reporting timelines being established for the year) with still plenty of room for iteration, evolution and innovation (we have a commitment to our timetable being fluid and structures and curriculum design being up for review and re-visioning throughout the year).

It's an interesting dichotomy to deal with as it is in a sense the dichotomy we need all educators to be willing to wrestle with. If we have any hope of achieving widespread change in education to ensure we are delivering a genuinely relevant educational experience, we are all going to need to challenge that part of ourselves that actually thrives on the relatively unchanging nature of the school year  (recall the shock and horror caused by the Rugby World Cup) and the often unchanging way we even deliver what we teach (think back over the number of years you have been teaching, what do you pull out of that teaching bag o' tricks time and time again...). Now compare how much or how little school has changed since you were at school compared to how much or little banking, shopping, planning a holiday or any other routines have changed. How do we stack up? We talk about being adaptive experts, but are we walking the talk? The reality is that yes we are changing, albeit at a glacial pace for many. And there is good reason for the lack of change - one major being that our means of measuring achievement and academic success has not changed (yet). Why change if the way we measure and publish achievement doesn't require us to? Or even worse, penalises us if we change too much? Another good reason to not change is that change is bloody hard. Not only is change hard, but it can sometimes feel unrewarding - the students haven't been through the school system before, they only know what they know and are unlikely to do anything other than take that whizz bang innovative practice for granted, especially when even our fairly radically transformed schooling at HPSS is nothing compared to the constant evolution that they (the students) are exposed to (and expect) in their day to day technology soaked lives. Still, all of this aside, we must gird up our loins and commit to change, even if it might not seem to pay off in the short term. We need to look past simply teaching to the assessment and look at how we can prepare them instead for a life of constant change. As far as change being hard (and exhausting - ask any HPSS staff member if you need specific examples and evidence) we need to think less of "adaptive expertise" and more of "sustainable agility". If we really value education as a formal system we do need for it to evolve, but we also need to ensure we show we value the educators as well (and therefore avoid killing ourselves in the process).

And it is on this note I know want to share with you all my plans, my set of resolutions, which might help me work towards this state of "sustainable agility" by the end of 2015.

I love making resolutions, I love the idea that each new year can represent a new start. I also love the idea of sharing (surprise, surprise) these as publicly as possible. I find this kind of public declaration handy as it signals (for me anyway) a sense of commitment and accountability. I also believe (and this is the reason I share so much) that sharing can help prod and encourage others to think, act and share as well. So here they are, my resolutions for 2015:
  1. Write an Ed blogpost every week. (Yuss! Have at least achieved that one for Week One).
  2. Make sensible clean healthy eating an everyday habit (without the falling off the wagon weeks).
  3. Go for a walk with the kids/dogs, do yoga and work out with a trainer at least once a week. 
  4. Set myself a curfew for going offline in the evenings and use that time to put family first, read and work on mindfulness.
  5. Knock another 60 points off my Masters of Ed Leadership, get on to EDUCANZ and complete NAPP whilst still achieving balance.
I have much more I could waffle on about, both about 2014 and plans for 2015, but as I have committed to at the very least a weekly post, I guess I should save something for the future.

Would be very keen to hear your reflections and resolutions, and if you are keen to join me on my weekly Ed blog challenge let me know and we can come up with a hashtag such as #weeklyedpost for easy sharing??