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.
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.