It has been an inspiring two weeks following the learning and dialogue that has been going on via #CENZ15, and at ULearn15 as a #notatULearn participant – thank goodness for Twitter! A big thanks to CORE Connected Educator for making available recordings of interviews, etc if we were not able to make it in ‘real time’ or ‘real place’.
As I got to the end of this week without having written even one of the three #EduBlogNZ challenges, I was trying to come up with a way of getting three to fit into one. I was going to describe this as ‘cheating’, but I like to think of this as an integrated piece of learning that provides evidence to meet more than one standard, or challenge, as the case may be. It is even working across levels of the ‘curriculum’ as I have taken aspects of challenges from the different levels of blogger expertise.
CHANGE – how? what? why? who?
This concept and these questions have occupied much of my thinking and learning over recent years. I have been privileged to take part in the Sport in Education Project, and as the Project leader in my school I have had to work with people to become ‘more confident with discomfit’. We (and the other seven schools throughout NZ involved in the project) have had some pretty amazing success stories come out of the project. While in this particular case sport has been the context to drive change in curriculum, it does not have to be; it is about finding the right hook for your learners. The key learning for me has been around the need to build a responsive curriculum that serves the interests of our learners, and that we need to work together across learning areas, rather than operating in our subject silos.
But there have been and still remain huge barriers to the sustainability and growth of this change. And they were clearly articulated when I listened to the interview with Grant Lichtman.
Fear and inertia – the fear that the downside of taking a risk is greater than the upside; and the inertia of being successful in the past, or of conflicting forces that impact education (political, economic, cultural, social pressures).
So my question has been, how might we move teachers beyond the fear and inertia? “How might we enable teachers to be more confident with that discomfort?” as Steve Mouldey asked Grant in the interview.
Grant spoke about how changing the system has not been part of our upbringing or skill set that we have been exposed to. That we need to have conversations, asking ‘what do we want to do in education?’ ‘what is holding us back?’ That schools need to come up with a new definition of collegiality where we challenge and collaborate.
The best part (for me) was that Grant then gave a fantastic, practical example of how we can work towards building a culture of trust within our schools, by walking around and visiting others more frequently. He suggested that teachers spend at least 3 minutes every day poking their head into someone else’s classroom, and then give tweet them feedback. When a school in the USA did this they noticed a shift from discomfort of people coming in to ‘evaluate’ you, to people wanting to be visited by their colleagues.
One of the biggest barriers I have observed in a secondary school is that people are reluctant to leave the four walls of their classroom, and people are reluctant to open up their classroom for colleagues to observe and/or team teach. I am fortunate to be in a curriculum area where we do a lot of team teaching, and due to the nature of our teaching spaces being far more open and visible (especially outdoors where there are no walls!) we are a lot more open to colleagues moving in and out of our spaces. This builds greater trust and therefore greater collaboration when it comes to our teaching and learning practices. Unfortunately this is not common or accepted practice across the curriculum areas.
This term I am going to present the challenge to my department that on days that they have a non-contact (bit tough on days you teach all day!), they need to spend at least 3 minutes visiting another colleague in their teaching space. Afterwards they need to give feedback to their colleague in the form of ‘I like..’ ‘I notice..’ ‘I wonder..’ or ‘What if..?’ – 140 characters or less. I am also going to share this idea with other HOD’s and encourage them to try it within their departments. Maybe by the end of the term we might have enough people interested to take it cross curricular?
Karen Melhuish Spencer nailed it when she said “Making feedback and practice-based conversations part of the way we do things round here… true community of practice.”
For some reason the image and song that has just come into my head is the Weebles! (Showing my age! Are they still around?)
“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. There may be some discomfort, and we may get a case of the wobbles when we are challenged, but we will not fall down. And not because of our egg shape, but because where there is collaboration and a ‘true community of practice’ there will be people around you who will have your back and ensure that you don’t fall down, or that if you do, will pick you right back up again.
It was awesome yesterday being able to kōrero kanohi ki te kanohi with Jo Smith and throw around some of our learning so far from #CENZ15 – this is what we produced, and our non-selfie 🙂
#EduBlogNZ Week 2 Challenge Combo #notatULearn15