Principal's Blog - A Principal Led Approach
No doubt you have heard lots in the news, through politicians talk and in magazines about the need for innovation. It is the current buzzword and we are being challenged to use innovative practice in schools and in learning.
To get to grips with this I am currently reading The Innovator's Mindset.
I am being reminded about the sea of change that we are all tossed about on and that we now need our own compass to guide us rather than rely on the original map.George Couros shares that inspiration without implementation is a waste.
Actually this is not a new concept at all. We have always had great explorers who have gone on to chart waters previously unknown. Society has taken on board new developments and changes from these explorations. But what is different, is that change through innovation can happen much faster in a modern world. Those sacred institutions like schools where previous methods have been set in stone, are being given permission to change and innovate so that our children have better opportunities for learning and development as future citizens of both our communities and country.
There is another mindset that says actually we are doing okay aren’t we? Why change what is good? Well the truth is we don’t change what is good, we let that evolve and develop to suit the needs of our school and the children in it. We do however, need to consider that some past (and even present) practices and approaches are unsuited to future aspirations. We do need to think about those complex issues that challenge any school such as getting our Year 8’s ready for High School. Do we get them ready for the High School that we remember attending or do we presume that just like us they are evolving and meeting the needs of 21st century learners? I believe that we get our children ready for High School by finding out what these schools are doing currently and what they plan to do in the future. I believe that we find out from our community what you want for your children and their future.
Before we get to the end of this term let’s have a community evening, a hui on what innovation means to us and for our school. Please email me with any queries or thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org As George says 'Change is the chance to do something amazing!'
Kia ora and welcome back to 2016.
It is lovely to be back myself and after a time of ill health it is wonderful to be in the school environment full of purpose and excitement for our direction. There are new faces and we welcome new teachers Matt Hannagan, Dionne Wallace, Colleen Robson and Sammy Macdonald. We know you will add value to our school. We also have some new teacher aides join our team to support in class learning - Alex Douglas, Yvonne Munroe and Allyson Lee you are such a bonus!
Thank you to those parents and families that attended our Meet the Teachers last night. We hope you are clear on our direction for this year and will be supporting learning at our school. I know you would have enjoyed meeting your child's teacher.
This year is the fourth year we have had a Wildly important Goal so important that it can be articulated by EVERYONE. We want you all to be involved in talking about learning, your learning and your children's' learning too. If we all aim for life long learning then we all need to use a language that is positive and moving forward. Don't forget to ask questions of your children when they come home -
What did they learn that was new today?
What did they find hard? (A perfect time to discuss resilience and persistence)
What do they do if they do find something hard? (It can't always be ask the teacher!)
Ask what did you think about...?
How did you work out that problem?
Did you take time to reflect?
How do you make learning easier for yourself?
Kia ora and a warm welcome to the 2015 school year.
What is so special about a goal that is so wildly important that it buzzes and captures everyone?
This year to embody our school's vision and mission statements we have chosen as our WIG (Wildly Important Goal)
Skilful thinkers know;
happiness helps the learner grow.
You all have goals but when you only have one and make it wildly important, then it must infuse into every part of what you do. This is what we plan to do and have this one learning goal (not an achievement goal or target) but an overall goal that helps our children to become well rounded thinkers who can focus on their learning and time at school focused around happiness. We will have four key understandings that we wish to convey to our children this year across all that we do and plan for:
Noticing the world around you (I am part of a bigger picture, I can be responsible and respectful, I am engaged in what is happening around me...I care)
Helping and appreciating people (being part of a community as a contributor and participator, I am happy being with you just as you are)
Knowing I am responsible for my own happiness (I don't need things or others to determine how happy I am)
Learning how to take care of your body (happy bodies feel safe, eat good food, recognise what emotions do etc)
This is a very topical issue at the moment arising our of neuroscience and if you are engaged with social media, health and wellbeing issues or wonder about mindfulness...you will have seen something on this matter.
We don't want just high achieving academic students for our school. We want our children to be happy in their learning, happy in themselves, happy to take risks and discover how much more they can do and be. We are committed as a whole school staff to this endeavour this year and hope that you as a part of our community can be involved with us. Our first assembly next week on THURSDAY and our Meet the Teachers Night will be focused around this concept.
Resources and Books about Happiness:
Gretchen Rubin and her book The Happiness Project
2015 is going to be a great, happy year!
I am very mindful that many parents of children engaging in a digital world feel a little out of control at times! There is a lot of informal learning taking place here and if parents are not involved in how their child is interacting socially in a digital world, then it is easy for small things to become big things which in turn affect relationships and family life. Your child needs you to take control...by being involved, showing guidance and setting rules in place.
You can't control the internet and neither can the school for that matter. You can't control the access other families allow their children as we all have different views and values and expectations. However, you can make sure you have clear family guidelines for using the internet such as when devices are handed in at night, shared passwords and pages so that you can see what younger students are doing. Social media like facebook offers guidelines on ages to be on facebook. These are sensible as you need to think about what your child will be seeing and learning about. What is your family comfortable with? Do you know all the social media your child is connected with e.g. facebook, snapchat or instagram etc. You could learn them together.
Vodafone has put out a new site for parents to help navigate the waters: http://www.vodafone.com/content/parents.html
I can't recommend the Get Started page enough!
It is that old saying 'knowledge is power' make sure you know what is going on for your child in cyberspace. If you know how it works then you have the power to set the tone and direction for your family.
Together you are lifelong learners.
This term the teachers are focused on 'learning to learn' one of the principles in the NZ Curriculum and why shouldn't we be? After all learning for the 21st century child is ubiquitous - it is ever present and everywhere! By now we all know that learning is never ending and life long. It always has been, although in today's world there are constant changes and this brings pressure to bear on us all to continue to learn. To do this we need the skills to be able to do this effectively and efficiently. A simple example is your cell phone think how much it has changed from the first one you ever had? You have had to learn what is required to use new skills so you can experience new opportunities.
If learning is ubiquitous then, as parents we need to make and take opportunities to support ongoing learning for our children. Formal learning that happened at school was generally organised and structured. We provided the knowledge and we followed the curriculum to make sure that the set skills were learned. Today we realise that informal learning is just as important and that the learning that happens outside of school contributes hugely to development, especially if we are learning to think creatively and critically. If it supports our children in becoming confident and connected then it is just as, if not more important. William, Angus and Joel went to the Otago University Science Expo in the holidays...their learning was monumental and this inspired them to write for the local paper. Awesome! Showing learning happens all the time!
If you are thinking as a parent how much school has changed then you might have had the chance to watch Nigel Latta the other night? We think it was a fabulous representation of how schools are changing and what you need to know as parents.
If you didn't then this is a must watch from 'tvnz on demand' http://tvnz.co.nz/nigel-latta/s1-ep2-video-6037627
It would be great if you particularly looked at Pt England School. Last week our school sent Sharlene Carki and Caron Sullivan to the Manaiakalani Hui - looking at a cluster of school that works together around the principles of Learn, Share, Care. All of these schools are working to improve the learning outcomes for children as 21st century learners, weaving the use of devices and technology into learning. This means daring to be different. We think that Weston School is not far off of this aspiration as we also dare to be different and promote the learning accountability of our students. Sharlene and Caron spent a good amount of time with the children and staff of Pt England and they were very impressed with the levels of engagement in learning. Engagement and the enjoyment of learning is just as important if not more so, as it leads us to achievement and success!
Kia ora e tu whanau
I am currently reading a controversial book on Hyper-parenting: over scheduled children and overstimulated children under pressure. As a mother of three children I found this really interesting and can recommend it to all of our parents. While my children are older now I see the increased pressure on parents to manage all aspects of their children's lives. After all if you aren't involved and active in what your children do then you aren't a good parent right? But do we need to manage our children's lives so much?
Some parents have worried about the impact of technology this year as we embark on yet another learning curve but what about exploring what Carl Honore tells us, that we are living in a... 'culture of speed, efficiency, and success at all costs which is damaging both parents and children.' (taken from Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting by Carl Honore).
These books share the idea of how we need to slow down and take time and links to research what the damage of too many activities can cause. We want self-reliant and confident children who can cope with the challenges they will meet in today's world. But are we supporting this or creating children who are resentful and reliant on us? Do your children have jobs at home like children did in the days of old - or are they too tired to contribute to the family (after all we are social creatures!) and therefore you do it for them? Each book talks about us all being part of a consumer driven society and a media driven society impacting on relationships in families. It has certainly given me food for thought and want to consider the pressure on families today. All books are available on Amazon some on Kindle and some as hard copy.
If you feel like being challenged and have time to enjoy your children instead of running like a hamster on a treadmill I suggest you might like to take the opportunity to read one of these.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with our Whitestone Learning and Change Network at a Regional Day in Christchurch including all participating schools in the South Island. Our network includes Little Wonders, St Joseph's, Papakaio and SKC as well as Weston...we are hoping that other schools will join us. We work collaboratively for the learning enhancement of all of our schools, which in a climate of competition is a new way of working. Already we have been moderating our writing across schools to check that a) we are all on track and thinking a level 4 piece of writing 'looks like this' based on set criteria and b) what does the High School want our students to be able to arrive being able to do (at the moment we figure if one HS can tell us then it is the same across the board)! Ultimately we want to work together to increase levels of student engagement and levels of achievement.
Our learning conversations developed around creating a growth mindset in all of our students for learning and how we can do this as adults as well. Imagine how powerful it would be to create this growth mindset in yourself and your children rather than foster the development of a fixed mindset. See what you think of this TEDtalk:
Kia ora e tu whanau
I hope this finds you well and keeping warm in the colder weather?
At our last assembly we talked about how this term we are going to re-explore the value of honesty in relation to keeping Weston School clean and tidy. In other words taking responsibility for our rubbish and being honest about putting in where it belongs!
Today at assembly we carried on with this theme and shared this video with the school. Do you know where so much of our rubbish goes once it gets into the water ways? It heads off to the garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean, of which there are five and the largest is the size of Eastern Australia!
We want our students to be a part of the solution not the pollution, so let them share this video with you over the weekend.
Have a lovely long weekend and see you next Tuesday.
Kia ora e tu whanau
Some of you are starting to ask about the purpose of gaming. What are its potential effects on students in terms of learning and behaviour which could be both positive and negative?
Image from Minecraft game.
To be honest this is a developing area for schools and definitely our school. It is not an option we have explored deeply as yet but it is one that we expect to open up, especially as teachers are now starting to create games that will support learning: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/294372/interest-online-educational-game
I have sourced some online articles and websites which you might like to look at to build your own knowledge and understanding.
As online learning begins to open up and grow I expect that our own education system will take advantage of the opportunities offered in learning.
One thing that is sure with all the new material available is that we are all learners together.
Today in assembly we talked about what we need to survive and then what we need to keep up our self esteem and to find our passion!
Having a passion for what we do allows us to do all of those little things that make a difference to our lives and go a long way to making us successful. So we celebrated art through our participation in the A & P Art Show - such creativity! We celebrated our music through learning clarinet and saxophone and he Out of Hours Music programme - such talent! We celebrated sport through our boys win in cricket making them North Otago champions - awesome skills!
Lastly we really enjoy watching passion through the 2cellos playing Thunderstruck!
You will love this!