So all good things must come to an end! Today my sabbatical ended and I headed back to my fabulous class, which is also a good thing. I'm kind of excited to start trying out some ideas that I've gained during my term off and to see how I can use my environment to support and enhance learning for my students.
Firstly, I started playing around with the classroom design. This term I am teaching collaboratively with 2 other teachers for Maths, 1 other teacher for Literacy and up to 5 other teachers for Inquiry, Discovery Learning and some Literacy.
I decided I would like to make my classroom more of a "watering hole" space, with a larger floor area. In the past, I have had quite large tables that took up all the room, so I switched these out for tables that are smaller. I still wanted the kids to have a "home seat". It's something I use for many of my management routines - I can take the roll in 2 seconds flat - but they will only be there a couple of times a day. This may be something I'll need to learn to let go!
I wanted to create more options for students to choose a space to work in. So now I have table spaces, a huge floor space that can fit 3 classes when required, and more "rooms within rooms".
We also have our learning studio space that we use all the time. The open space seems now to dominate the room, while before the tables definitely did.
So the kids seemed to like the new layout today and are already beginning to move around the class more than they did in Term 1. When I had big tables, it was often like they were fixed to a spot, so it was great to see them doing this. It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few weeks, with collaborative teaching and learning getting underway.
I thought it would be interesting to talk to some of the Provisionally Registered Teachers working at my school, to hear their first hand experiences about working in a MLE. Even though it is a while ago now,(!) I can still remember my first teaching position and the excitement of finally having a class to call my own! The hours of setting up and all those resources finally going up on the wall. My very own teacher desk and one desktop computer in the corner with a printer that had Microsoft Works, Dangerous Creatures and Encarta!!
I wondered how it would feel to not have that experience. To go from teacher's college straight into a shared learning space. To find out I interviewed Jacinta, Caitlin and Jason, provisionally registered teachers at Clearview Primary. They all began teaching at Clearview Primary in 2013. Jacinta and Jason had previously been student teachers in our stage 1 space when they were being operated as single cell classrooms.
Caitlin commented that as she was used to having an associate teacher in the room, she had found it easy to work alongside other teachers.
Jason said it was great to get management tips and tricks from more experienced teachers.
The PRT's said there wasn't any preparation at Teacher's College for the possibility of teaching collaboratively or in a shared teaching space.
The PRT's felt the opportunity to work collaboratively with experienced teachers was a fantastic opportunity. They could observe colleagues, plan together and have support with making overall teacher judgements.
The PRT's felt they had a strong bond with the students in their home class. They said it was essential that at the start of the year you had the opportunity to develop relationships with that group of students. For Jacinta and Caitlin, they spend two afternoons a week with their home class, the rest of the time is spent teaching collaboratively. They both felt this was an important time to focus on pastoral care and relationships. Jason spends more time with his home class, as his team is currently developing their collaborative practices.
Jacinta had taught in a single cell classroom last year for three terms. She noted that working in a shared space, you can lose some flexibility. For example, in a single cell classroom, if her writing session was going particularly well, she could continue with it. However, timetable restrictions in a shared space and with workshops running to time, you are unable to do this.
Jason also felt that some flexibility was lost and it was often difficult to find time to fit in "bits and pieces", like buddy classes and when your class was on presenting assembly.
The PRT's found that developing collaborative practice takes time. There have been extra meetings as their team has constantly sought to reflect on and improve their practice. As one of the teaching spaces only opened this year, it has been challenging for all teachers involved to develop the systems needed.
How will Colleges of Education respond to the changes in teaching pedagogies? What changes will they need to make to prepare teachers for new environments and ways of working?
How can we ensure that "teachable moments" and flexiblity can still be allowed for in a collaborative open space?
What changes to Advice and Guidance programmes will schools need to make? For example, should a PRT teach collaboratively with their tutor teacher?
It was great to hear from our PRT's who are all having a highly successful year of teaching. In some ways, if working in a MLE is your first experience, you are at an advantage over those of us who are having to unlearn and relearn in order to transition to teaching in a MLE. I hope to catch up with our teachers in Term 4, to find out what other reflections they have on the year.
This week I visited Waimairi School, hosts of the well received "Think Forward" conference this year. Principal Mike Anderson spoke at the CEFPI conference (see previous blog post) about the challenges his school has faced as a result of the Canterbury Earthquake. Despite the disruption caused by the earthquakes, the school continues to move ahead, developing their learning environments and pedagogies.
Waimairi currently has Te Puna, a new entrant block with 5 teachers working collaboratively. This is the newest building on the campus. Two year 1/2 teachers are also team teaching in an adapted space.
Mike described the journey the school has undertaken over the past few years. A lot of initial work was undertaken examining the values and beliefs that underpin all aspects of school life. There was a lot of time spent developing the vision for teaching and learning at Waimairi. Mike believes that it is vital that all the staff (not just teachers, also support staff) are part of professional development, and that you need to spend money on the people in your school.
Discoveries at Waimairi:
The teachers who are teaching collaboratively are taking time to reflect and critique how the teaching and learning is developing. They are constantly refining their practice based on their observations and student needs. They are adapting their spaces and using furniture creatively.
A learning space was created for less than $800 with two existing classrooms. Walls were removed and a cloak room carpeted, to create a fantastic learning space.
Waimairi has worked with Angus McFarlane to create a culturally responsive environment. They are keeping this is mind as they develop their collaborative teaching programme.
As part of professional development, teachers are involved in a walk through model, where they have a critical friend. They visit other classrooms, then reflect on their own practice.
Inquiry learning drives the curriculum at Waimairi. Each term, students are involved in a process along with curriculum leaders and teachers, where the focus for the next term's inquiry is developed. This ensures student voice is heard in an authentic way. Community involvement is high, with sharing of high quality work, projects and performances.
Google docs are used by students to enable learning 24/7. Staff use hapara's teacher dashboard to organise their student's work. A focus is the development of purposeful, effective feedback.
Waimairi is part of a cluster and will be having some rebuilding and redevelopment in the future. They are the first cluster in Canterbury to be ready for the Master Planning stage.
Staff will visit Melbourne in the next school holidays, to gain inspiration and ideas for the future development of their school and cluster.
It was excellent to visit Waimairi and talk to Mike, staff members and students. A great teaching and learning environment and awesome opportunities ahead.
If you missed it, so worth checking out this story on Campbell Live this week. A great tour of Hingaia Peninsula School in Auckland and some experts weigh in on MLE development.
So still waiting for this video to be released, but here's a glimpse!! Christian Long (The Third Teacher +) showed this clip at CEFPI. Still waiting for the big reveal - but what an idea for a reality show. $1000 and one weekend to revamp your classroom! Way better than X-Factor any day!
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What a privilege to visit the fabulous Breens Intermediate School today! For those readers from other countries, an intermediate school is a "bridging school", between primary school and high school. It covers two year levels, Years 7 and 8. They are quite unique in the fact that students only attend these schools for 80 weeks.
Principal Brian Price showed me around his fantastic school and I was able to speak with various teachers, leaders and students. The classrooms were built in the 1970's, but once again, this is an example of a school adapting their traditional environment to enhance teaching and learning. About 5 years ago, many of the internal walls were replaced with windows, to open up the classrooms and deprivatise practice. The school has also reorganised some spaces, taking storage rooms and specialist spaces where able to develop three learning "hubs". Furniture has been adapted and purchased to create flexible learning areas.
Discoveries at Breens:
When students enter Breens, there is a rigorous induction process. Interviews are held with parents, teachers from the feeder schools and with students. The year begins with a three way conference. Teachers do their best to place students in a class where they will experience the most success. Students do have a home class, but there is ownership of all students by all teachers.
Within the learning hubs, the teachers plan and teach the students collaboratively. As a staff, they visited several Auckland schools for inspiration, and attended the "Think Forward" conference. Senior leadership has also played a vital role in the development of team teaching.
Breens has strong values underpinning the school culture. The students have a deep understanding of the values and they are an integral part of everyday life in the school. The school's visual metaphor draws on the community, family and feeder schools as the supports to grow strong students.
Each learning hub has three teachers and up to 90 students. Two of the hubs have large gathering places, where the students assemble each morning. This means the day starts with shared karakia and waiata. Notices and messages are shared. Students and teachers can also work in this space throughout the day.
The school also has an excellent library, known as COIL - Centre of Information and Learning. Students can access this anytime. The library area has been really well developed, featuring several "rooms within rooms". A support person is available to help with research and there is excellent ICT access.
Breens is a BYOD school, with students able to bring a device of their choice to support their learning. There are also multiple technologies available around the learning hubs for student access.
Teacher spaces have been developed in each hub. Team Leader Nathan Maclennan, described how easy it is to collaborate in the teacher space. Planning, professional conversations, moderation and reflection occur on a daily basis. The teachers plan using google docs, so plans are easily accessible. Assessment is also recorded on the google docs - teachers can make anecdotal notes about students that can be accessed and added to by the other teachers. In some cases teachers are focusing on specialist curriculum areas, for example, one teacher doing literacy groups, another doing maths groups.
Students have a lot of ownership and independence with their learning. In one of the blocks I visited, each student had a personal timetable and knew when they would meet with a teacher for workshop style instruction. Meanwhile, they had negotiated tasks and challenges to be working on. Students were motivated and engaged, working in a variety of spaces and using ict tools to suit their purpose. This year the students are also responsible for their own blog, which they are using as a record of their learning. This was also inform three way conferences and provide a way of sharing learning with families.
Goal setting is authentic and visible. Students set goals each term, then reflect weekly on their progress. Breens is introducing a coaching model called "Learning Advisors" where students will meet with a coach to discuss their progress on their goals. Mentors will also share their own goals, and model active listening. Students will develop skills to share with their peers and give feedback and support.
The students I spoke with at Breens were very articulate when talking about their learning and how they were using the space in the learning hubs. One comment some Year 8 students made, was how well they knew the Year 7 students in their hub. They said in their past school, those year divisions were quite strong, but in this environment, it didn't matter.
I left Breens, inspired with some new ideas to try in my school. The teachers and students are definitely demonstrating the values of being bold enough to try new ideas and it's a beautiful thing!
How can I make goal setting in my own class more purposeful and effective? Younger students often find goal setting difficult and easily forget their goals. How can I make goal setting an integral part of learning for my Year 3/4 students?
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.