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The PLC. A catalyst for growing together, from the inside.

It is simply unbelievable how many educators think the best (and often the only) way for shifting pedagogical practice from 'here' to 'there', from what we are doing in the class today, to a place where we need to be tomorrow in order engage, inspire and motivate our students, is to 'call in the experts. To send individuals out to a place where someone tells our teachers what they should be doing and where we get a free lunch and a free pen! This crazy practise of education is only seconded by teachers who still think they are the ONLY source knowledge in the class, the type of teacher who likes the sound of their voice because it gives them comfort!

 

In ANY school, where growth, inspiration, motivation and engagement are considered important precursors to raised academic achievement, we should be looking at growing from within. A couple of years ago I first realised that in order to shift pedagogy I needed to have my teachers, who like all other teachers are professionals, needed to engage in meaningful conversation about teaching. So with the incentive of a heavily discounted iPad, we started our Professional Learning Community. Teachers who volunteered for the programme (to get the discounted iPad) were required to complete several tasks.

  1. Complete several professional readings of their choice
  2. Blog a summary and response to the readings (this was very important as it got teachers into the blogosphere/digital environment and the response needed to be a judgement call on the reading, I agree/disagree with this reading because...)
  3. Read other the papers from other staff members and the respond to their response in the comment section of the blog. This was also hugely important to the process as in order to delve deeper into our beliefs about educational practice we needed to have these deeper discussions.
  4. All members of the community needed to attend our eTools meetings twice a term. They were also required to share an eTool twice a term.

Each part of the process was deliberate.

  • I did not want to simply 'give' iPads to our staff because I wanted teachers to have some ownership on the iPads and to have to 'buy' into the professional learning community.
  • Teachers needed to 'blog' their reading summaries and responses so they would become familiar with an online learning environment.
  • Teachers needed to take a position with a paper formulate judgements in order to operate at a other thinking sphere.
  • They were then required to respond to another teachers position or response to a paper to deepen thinking and interaction even further. Obviously our school could only do this successfully through its already strong trust between staff.

Our eTools meetings last year were very much a 'stand and deliver' what you have done with an app, device, web2.0 tool or similar. The focus I had was really for teachers to see and be inspired by the amazing things the teacher next door is doing. The professional learning community is not about the 'expert' who has not taught in the class for twenty years. It was slab out the teacher next door and growing as a community together, from the inside. Towards the end of last year I noticed that the gap between those who could and those who could not, was growing. We were leaving some of our team behind! This is not the place we want to be in, so our focus for the eTool meetings have changed this year. I have adopted more of an 'un-conferecne' / 'camp fire' mentality. Before our twice trembly meetings we look to what teachers would like to know more about and set up several learning environments and ask some teachers who are a few steps ahead of others in their journey (not just the experts!) if they would facilitate the learning discussion for other teachers in one of the learning environments. Once again, all very deliberate. I am trying to model to teachers what is very possible in their own classes. It is not about me standing up and telling our staff what I think they need to know, it is about a shared approach and being given the opportunity to sit around a camp fire with someone a little further along the journey and to have that professional conversation.

More than anything we have done as a leadership this has been a catalyst for incredible growth in our teachers and as teachers grow, students benefit.

Obviously, it would be remiss to completely rule out the importance of involving external facilitators and 'traditional' forms of professional development, I am simply arguing the importance of growing from the inside first. It is cheaper, your teachers already understand your school culture and the 'go-to' person is now right they on staff!

 

Measured Change

Over the past six months I have been privileged to have been part of an incredible change process. Elim Christian College in Auckland NZ was granted a Maximum Roll Increase by the Ministry of Education from 500 students to an incredible 1000. God is so Good! With the physical limitation of the school site it was time to build. What an opportunity! The school proprietors (Elim Christian Centre) acquired good land that had already been designated 'Educational' on the town plan and the rest is history…

On July 1, there was a ground breaking ceremony and incredibly on February 7 the school opened with around 350 students! Not a single day was lost to bad weather. Once again God is Good! During this process

Twelve months into the new school and all is going well. We continue to make changes and adapt to the challenges that come our way.

Nationalised Testing and Accountability

 

This morning I could hardly believe what I read in the newspaper. An article was written of a principal's reaction to the soon to be reality of Nationalised testing.  This principal said he would find the test which produced the best results and then fudge the tests so he would have the most successful school around and parents would flock to his school!
I agree with one thing - that we would be well advised to use the test which gave the best results (hmm...is this really a good Christian response?  Maybe as far as being good stewards goes) However, to fudge test results, what would this prove!
I do realise there is a concern from many principals that the results of the testing will be published to the masses in the form of league tables. That parents would not be able in interpret the leagues accurately with decile, gender and ethnicity in mind. However it does evoke a Christian response!! I am unsure of the validity of the concern from any Christian Educators perspective.  
Surely we will have the opportunity to 'educate' our parents (newsletters/website/parent meeting) about the outcomes of the school and what if the testing finds 'failures' in and shortcomings in our systems and/or school curriculum.  Do we not want the best for our students?  I know the resounding answer to this question is yes, but is it yes, so long as I do not have to eat humble pie?
I have always found parents to be very supportive of the school so long as nothing 'surprises' them.  With the ongoing standardised testing we have at school, parents already know which areas of the curriculum our school is strong at and where the weaknesses are.  They also know what we are doing to strengthen such weaknesses.   
As a Christian Educator I would have serious concerns if coming accountable to our parents would be such a concern.  The publication of assessment results surely is secondary to the accountability we have before the Lord in the running of our schools. 
 
Well that is my take for what it is worth, bring on the testing, I look forward to finding areas I can improve on...hang on haven't we been doing this for years...I guess I might be concerned if I had been hiding weaknesses from the parents...
 

 

Professional Learning Group, eLearning and eTools

As tools and pedagogical practises evolve and change who do we rely on as Christian Educators to inform us on Best Practise? Do iPods and iPads make a difference to student achievement.

This Professional Learning Group proposes to use the passion and knowledge of people within our collective of schools to commit to meeting together, participate and provide readings and to reflect through the use of blogs about eTools and eLearning practises which we consider noteworthy. ie those which we consider will contribute to student achievement.

The group would meet together once a term, participating in and providing professional reading in eLearning and contributing to an eLearning blog in response to each reading.   The objective for the professional group would be to put together a paper/presentation about effective eLearning tools and practises for Christian Schools in New Zealand.  People from outside the group would be able to keep abreast of the readings and reflections through the participants blogs.

In order to participate in the group candidates would FIRSTLY, and very importantly be teachers who are recognised by their school leadership as a very good classroom practitioner, and secondly (not to be confused as the most important) someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about ICT.  Our meetings will be spread around participant's schools and schools with a strong reputation in this area. The expectation is to see good practise where possible.

Requirements for participating schools would be that the teachers involved will be released for two days per term – one for meeting, discussion and debate, and one for professional reading and reflection.  Schools would also need to cover some travel and actual expenses.

To register your interest in this Professional Learning Group please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blessings,

Shaun

Leadership

  • Nationalised Testing and Accountability +

    This morning I could hardly believe what I read in the newspaper. An article was written of a principal's reaction Read More
  • The PLC. A catalyst for growing together, from the inside. +

    It is simply unbelievable how many educators think the best (and often the only) way for shifting pedagogical practice from Read More
  • Professional Learning Group, eLearning and eTools +

    As tools and pedagogical practises evolve and change who do we rely on as Christian Educators to inform us on Read More
  • Measured Change +

    Over the past six months I have been privileged to have been part of an incredible change process. Elim Christian Read More
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