Sunday, October 27, 2013

Disney and Ken Robinson's Lesson - Find Your Tribe

I often (read almost always), think of my life as a Disney movie and as such, carefully consider the lessons to be learnt from Disney. One such important lesson is that one must overcome adversity before you can live happily ever after, think Cinderella and her evil step sisters. Sometimes one needs to take a calculated risk, think Tangled and Brave. Or, as Mator from Cars would teach us, one must often persevere in our attempts to connect with people (or with cars in Mator's case). However, it has come to my attention that I have missed an important Disney lesson. Fortunately, the infinitely wise Sir Ken Robinson pointed it out - find your tribe, because together you will be more and do more.

I started my second week at Hobsonville Point with the mission to catch up on some of the reading that happened before I started there this term. Of course being a TEDster, I began with Sir Ken Robinson's book, The Element. Although he has some fantastic insights about finding your passion, the part that really stuck with me is that of finding your tribe.  The tribe being a group of people that challenge you in a positive way, people that drive you to do more and to be more. Tribes often share a vision and as such, they can question, challenge and motivate. I realised then that I already have a tribe. And an exceptional one at that. My tribe is called #edchatNZ. They have challenged, motivated, questioned and inspired me fortnightly for more than a year now. And fortunately, I think many of the tweeting teachers have found the same.

I suspect that it is due to these teachers on twitter and their impact on my growth and aspirations that I may have found a second tribe to be part of. For two weeks now I have been able to go to work and be surrounded by inspirational personal and professional stories. I have been able to question my visions for education and my classroom with support rather than with the well cultivated cynicism that plagues teachers lounges all over the world. Granted that there are oodles of experience and learning to do from the individuals in any staff room, I have realised that in certain environments, my own thinking becomes limited, lower order thinking if you like. Maybe they will inspire an idea for a lesson or a better classroom management strategy. Maybe they will cause me to go back and look at the way I planned a lesson or a unit and restructure. However, I have found that the right mix of positive, passionate educators in a room, my own thinking, questioning and thirst for knowledge is extended. They keep me awake at night. Whether it is because I lost track of time reading a great book they recommended, researching a new perspective or idea they exposed me to, or simply lying awake at night with all the ideas that have been generated and are now keeping me awake.

Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." I am fascinated and curious what the future will bring for all the members of the Hobsonville Team and their students. With such passion, commitment and skill all reigned in for one vision, I think the results will be exciting indeed! 

PS: If you aren't already, I urge you to follow the Hobsonville tribe and #edchatNZ on Twitter!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Entering a parallel universe

Every school is different. Every school has its pros and cons, its opportunities and challenges. But so far, my first week at Hobsonville Point Secondary School has brought nothing that you would expect in your first week at a new school. Granted, we do not have any students yet. The thing is however, that the absence of children is not what has made this first week of school so radically different from experiences in my other schools. For a start, on no previous occasion was the first official meeting with all the staff preceded by a performance of all the existing staff on their ukeleles. Shorty followed by the school handing over my own ukelele (in pink - they even try to match your favourite colour). I have since had two ukelele practices. So far I can only play C. 
The Hobsonville Point Ukelele Orchestra aka. The staff of Hobsonville Point Secondary School

Although the week has had multiple team building activities including sculpture making, the therapeutic hippie circle, using the design model to inquire into each other's high school experiences and a whole lot more, what has stood out for me, was the professional reading. One of our sessions on Thursday was spent with the previous intake's staff sharing the professional reading that they had done in the previous term. I love professional reading. It helps me to question and on occasion, if it is a good book, shift my perspective. More than that though, professional reading helps me to maintain my blue skies thinking. And in this, is why my first week at Hobsonville has been such a contrast to previous schools. Where I used to be part of a small group of people who did professional reading, where I use to be the one to question, to agitate, to dream. I am no longer alone. No longer does one get the feeling that you are swimming up stream. Everyone is swimming up stream and rather than spending time trying to convince people that things need to change, you spend your time figuring out how we are going to make it happen. This realisation, above all was the highlight of the week for me. 

My Reading List at the moment hence includes:

 The other highlights were visiting the local areas where our students will come from next year under the guise of making a video for our new school website. We managed a visit to the Whenuapai air base in the process, Herald Island and a few other great spots.

We were also lucky enough to visit the new school site still currently under construction. The flow and the spaces along, without furniture and equipment was already enough to get us ecstatic about the possibilities. I sincerely hope that we have a massive treasure hunt, amazing race combo on the first day when  we move in with our students.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Winston Churchill

Mixing it up with maths games - often as possible.
Thanks to the students who were
always so keen to try out my games!
It seems that I have reached the ending of a major chapter in life. For the past year and three quarters I had been a science and maths teacher at a junior high school. A six month position as a long term reliever had turned into a year position as a long term reliever and finally into a permanent post. It seems that for many of recent teacher graduates, long term relief is the only way to get in anywhere. And luckily for me, it gave me a chance to work in an amazing school with inspirational people but in particular great coaches. I would like to dedicate this post to the people and the lessons I learn from them, the staff but also the students.

Some of the highlights:

  • A visit in my classroom by John Key himself. 
  • The annual year 9 geology field trip - there is no shortage of volcanoes in Auckland, but visiting these with a truly skilled storyteller who weaves the science and the cultural legends into one field trip is an extraordinary experience. 
  • Being sent to attend the Spectrum Education Habits of Mind Bootcamp. Fantastic conference! The google apps for education summit in 2012 was also definitely worth attending. 
  • Having an exceptional mentor in my head of faculty who was able to recognise that I may be a PRT, but I needed some kind of responsibility.
  • John Key visits my science classroom
    to see ICT in action. 
  • The professional reading group who met every fortnight at seven in the morning. This meant that in a casual environment, I had the opportunity to question the school principal and learn directly from him and other school leaders. 
  • Being invited to attend a presentation by a student presenting his social studies project on his Iwi's land claim history to his whanau and friends. This was a truly special event as it was the first time I had witnessed what genuine empowerment of culture looks like. Seeing the difference between lip service and authentic empowerment was mind blowing.
  • Experimenting with Bring Your Own Device and using ICT in the science and maths classrooms. Due to the school's policy for teachers to experiment and students to bring their devices to school, I was able to undergo an incredible learning curve in refining my pedagogy for e-learning. As a result, I am now an e-learning facilitator for NEAL and my next position also has an e-learning part to it. 
  • Watching the 2012 solar eclipse
  • The GCC challenge. Our school participated in the global corporate challenge in 2013. For 16 weeks, each person wears a pedometer all day, every day aiming to get a minimum of 10 00 steps every day. In teams of seven we then compete against each other. The school funded this for us. This was a fantastic team building experience but also an exceptional effort of the school to emphasise, support and encourage the wellbeing of staff. Although the challenge was optional, almost all the staff participated. It also meant that for a little socially awkward moth like myself, making friends became a lot easier as you decided to go for walks together after school and to the sushi shop at lunch!

Incredible annual year 9 Geology field trip
A great moment from the
Spectrum Education Habits
of Mind bootcamp
Riding a hovercraft at the science

Project Runway Wearable Arts