Monday, 27 February 2017

Reviews and re-visings

This year we are trialling an integrated approach to teaching and learning for our year 9 students.  Each term there is an overarching theme link to the four future focussed principles outlined in our New Zealand curriculum:

“The curriculum encourages students to look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation.”

This term we have taken on the issue of sustainability and ways we can more sustainable in the community.  In their classes, students will select a project and work in groups to come up with ideas of how to sustain an issue or problem in our community.  Issues were chosen around relevance, interest and the problems identified by staff and students.  One of the main drivers for our integrated sustainability curriculum this term was our Manaiakalani clusters focus which is on the health of our local streams and pest eradiction, one of the projects that students can select under the sustainability umbrella.  At the end of the term, students with the best projects are invited to show their learning at 'Te Taiao o Tamaki' which is a showcase of projects from around the cluster - we are really excited about this!

The social studies department has been leading the teaching and learning around sustainability and this has been an interesting challenge.  One of the challenges for our department has been trying to fit in to a already busy and defined programme something that can prepare students for their individual projects but at the same time ensuring that there is some link to other curriculum areas.  In saying that, other departments are invited to contribute to the learning rather than create a programme that will work alongside the social studies department.  This is definitely something that I feel needs to be clarified and refined better thus the reason why I have chosen this to be my teaching inquiry.

I think back to a trial integrated project we did last year on the Olympics and although we gained a lot from giving it ago, the struggles were far and wide.   We learnt a lot from that unit.

Lately I have worked closely with my department on what the teaching and learning of the sustainability projects 'look like' and I have tried to use my digital (although somewhat limited) expertise to guide them through some of the process.   One of the issues we have needed to overcome was blogging.  Creating a blog, then understanding the need for a blog (especially a teacher inquiry blog) has been one that teachers are trying to get to grips with - I've noticed that it is confronting for staff and the thought of sharing their inquiry and thoughts and reflections with the world can be daunting and terrifying!  I feel that this fear is real and we will need a more supportive approach for the teachers that digs down to the roots of the 'blogging phobia in public' issue rather than smoothing over it and expecting everyone to conform to the expectations of doing a blog and sharing it publicly.

Thinking about reasons why blog, I found this simple (very Americanised) video on blogging that makes sense to me:

There are group of HOD's at our school who don't have tutor classes but meet every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday's to go through different relevant aspects of our curriculum and looking at understanding how each others departments operates.  I've found that they have been really beneficial in that we are united in our vision and can support each other in the planning and implementing of relevant programmes such as the integrated unit - we are fine tuning every time we meet and move closer and closer to developing something that is the right fit for our learners and for our school.

My desire to take on the challenge of developing an integrated programme at year 9 level is linked to a PLG meeting we had in February 2016.  It was a cluster wide PLG so not only were our HOD's present but most of the leaders of teaching and learning from the primary schools in the cluster.  We were asked to contribute to a padlet and the question on the padlet was:

Write your hypothesis for what you see as a problem during the transition from Y8 to Y9. Include an example of evidence or a scenario of what this might look like.

The page instantly filled up with comments that students had told their year 8 teachers - "it's scary"..."meeting new teachers and students is hard"...

Below are some of the comments:

This resonated with me.  At first I felt like the college was being blamed and it made me angry.  How were we supposed to know this?  We've never been told?  Then it hit me...we didn't know this because we didn't ask.

After the Woolf Fisher Research presentation on the 7th February, 2016, writing was identified as a major issue and I was horrified at seeing how badly year 9 Boys did in writing.  Here are the stats:

This has become my inquiry!

Then I put myself in the students' shoes and it made total sense.  Looking back to term 1, 2016, our year 9 students really struggled to settle in to school.  I was teaching a year 9 class who I enjoyed, but battled on a daily basis just to settle them down and try and engage in their learning.  I had a feeling of helplessness, which turned into determination and finally into action - something needed to change!

When I think about our year 9's, I think about my granddaughter Satori and how she will feel when she starts school in year 9.  Will she be scared?  Will she be able to cope with such huge changes to the teaching and learning that she has been used to?  Knowing what I know now, I feel the future of education has been entrusted to us by the parents and grandparents in our community, so we need to get it right!  Watch this space!

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