Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Not Only The Kids Who Learn Here!

Danger! Super Heroes at Work!

I have grown to love the elegance of timetabling! Not timetabling as I once knew it when the concentration was on creating an administratively efficient machine that looked remarkably like last year's and contained the same type of 'acceptable restrictions' as in previous years and which required a shoe horn to force every one of our learners into! Such a timetable always resulted in comments such as , "I'd really like to do that but the timetable wont let me!" I'm embarrassed to say that I've uttered that tragic line in the past to either quell my own crazy ideas or to dismiss the crazy innovative thoughts of others.

The timetabling I've grown to love is that once subjugates the timetable to its role of representing the vision and values of the school and bringing life to the curriculum design principles that emerge from the vision and values - a timetable that is flexible and responsive with the needs of thelearner firmly at the centre.

As I said in my previous post we're onto our 3rd timetable structure. While our planned timetable for next semester is not different to the naked eye many of the principles behind its structure have changed. You may remember that I was excited about it being created over the summer on a piece of rolled out brown paper. We've now matured to the point we we have created our next one on a bare wall in The Tardis - our/my nickname for our visible planning space.

This was our first year with both Years 9 and 10 and despite the fact that Big Projects, Learning Hubs, SPIN Modules and MyTime were all delivered in multi age levels we decided to differentiate our Small Modules and deliver them as separate Year 9 and 10 Modules. Our reasons were valid but I must admit I would lie awake at night haunted by my dismissals of the Paradigm of One (traditional secondary schooling) which grouped kids together based entirely on the fact they were the same age. I lived in fear I would be reminded of that and be challenged as to why we were following suit. As well, I had aspirations that our Years 9 and 10 in the future would be differentiated as the Foundation Years of our school and would be able to access the appropriate programmes without us rationing them out based on their age.

I was also uncomfortable that we had moved away from teams of teachers working together to combine Learning Areas in the way they saw best fit the contexts of learning our students were suggesting to teachers and Learning Areas being combined without their input. While such enabling constraints did force some innovative thinking and it was important to experience this I still thought that perhaps administrative efficiency was having too much influence.

So what now then?

I was exhilarated and proud to be present when our Leaders of Learning overwhelmingly agreed that our Semester 2 Modules should be available to all learners and that we would seriously grapple with the generally ungrappled-with issue of true differentiation of learning.

By making this shift we found some of the previous enabling constraints were now less constraining and more enabling. Teams of teachers would now be free to collaboratively determine the Learning Area and teacher pairings. But we needed some rigour around how these pairings would develop based on our previous experience. Spurred on by Mark Osborne we decided to develop some 'Pairing Principles' to guide this process and here they are below.


The whole process has been enhanced by the determination to be transparent and visible. On the wall in the Tardis is everyone's allocated hours for next semester and my suggestion for their use. Staff can see how not only their own allocation is arrived at but also of every other staff member
As well, when every component was put up on the wall I photographed it and emailed to all staff with the invite to come and discuss what was being created. I also kept a running record on a whiteboard of emerging issues and questions to think about.




At tonight's LOL meeting in the Tardis and beneath the timetable wall above I shared the last remaining issue and within 5 minutes it was resolved collaboratively.

Tonight over a glass of red I've been thinking about another challenging but satisfying day. Kay Hawk spent the day guiding us through part of a robust process for SLT appraisal where she spoke of the need to "decrease feelings of lonely responsibility", the importance of being "explicit about the intent of different stages of consultation" and the vital importance of "an explicit school pedagogy."

Tonight's LOL meeting which dealt with the timetable and also included a robust discussion, ostensibly about developing a process to deal with student requests to move from one module to another but which was really about the importance of keeping the needs of our learners at the centre of all decision-making, somehow, in ways I still haven't clarified, resonated with those key messages I heard from Kay.

And then I remembered a snatched corridor conversation with Danielle at the end of last week when I was expressing my normal state of awe in which I held staff and their commitment to our kaupapa. Walking off she stated simply, "It's not only the kids who learn here, Maurie!"

Student Council at work in Tardis under gaze of Timetable!

Magic!

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