Connections that Speak from the Heart

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I continue to be intrigued about this.

Seesaw is offering a platform for our students to really share their own voice. The voice we so often hear as teachers, in a face to face situation, is what the students think we want to hear. Now I am hearing students really talk openly about what they are wondering, what they are learning and what they think about their learning. If the learning is visible and your students use of Seesaw is for sharing learning then you are going to hear student voice that will get you excited. I also know it gets their parents excited and when we see comments from our parents that is huge for motivation.

My students and I reflect on our learning at the end of each day. As we listen to the learning being shared, we critique each post to make sure that it is about learning. That has been a learning curve for all my students. The students don’t hesitate to delete an item that they know isn’t about learning. If I am absent from the class, the students are still posting and sharing their learning via Seesaw with their teacher. It is very rewarding to know that the students curiosity and motivation to continue with their learning is still there when I am not.

Here are year 2 students talking about their maths learning with making patterns:

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.ef3762c5-f5ff-4f28-bb6c-6546fd904ea4&share_token=o5nG5ovGTWyanWtPRszHyQ&mode=embed

Here are year 2 students telling their audience about their wonderings on the story they were discussing in reading. We have since read the story and discussed the outcomes of our wonderings. There was a lot of anticipation for finding out what happens.

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.6121dcf1-d8a9-418b-9981-a19f416fdf32&share_token=NP06mbnJRVylMkWHvoL7Dw&mode=embed

This was interesting to me because the students and I had been planning together what we were going to do with all our learning on being in a Positive Learning Community. In this post the student talks about what we were planning to do and also talked about the sentence type she was focusing on.

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.e8b5bfcc-5cb5-4d8a-bb36-1ecef10037ad&share_token=H-JNzhFqTb-pTxFth-OMPQ&mode=embed

Planning with students is very new to me so I am interested in talking to others who are doing this. Please leave a comment or message me to share you thoughts, ideas and resources that inspires you and how you plan with your students.

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Connecting our Learners to Online Teachers

During ULearn 17 Olivia Graham and I presented in the research stream on the Grass roots project we conducted in our school, Wairakei Taupo. We also took part in the Connected Conversations panel where we streamed live to #notatulearn17 followers. You can see this panel conversation in the accompanying video. Our presentation starts at 16.10 minutes.

In our analysis we found three key themes where learners benefit from learning online:

  • Life long learning in a connected world
  • Student agency and personalisation of learning
  • Digital citizenship

What we also found were key areas that we need to work on:

We found there was a disconnect between what was happening with the children’s learning in the online classes and their face to face learning. We felt that we need to join these two educational pathways  through the student’s goal setting within our ILE using the key competencies to guide this.

We also identified the need to provide more support for students to enable them to develop their digital capability that is necessary for an online learner. We felt this could be achieved by including our Year 5s as well as Year 6s. In this way we would develop student experts who were leaders to assist those younger students learning online for the first time and develop a culture of sustainable support for learners.

Grab some popcorn and enjoy our story.  Our presentation starts at 16.10 minutes.

Return of the Reluctant Presenter

Recently my twitter handle @melaniem8 has been tweeted out regularly, due to my  part in the Connected Conversations at ULearn17.  We will be live streamed during our conversation.

Say What?

That is what I keep asking myself.

I have been missing from posting to my blog  in the last 12 months for a number of reasons.  I have a number of posts written in draft form yet to be published.

As I was getting lots of notifications on twitter, I thought I better see what is happening in there. I had a great laugh when I entered my twitter profile and clicked on my blog link which went to my last post titled ‘Presenting Sucks’. I wrote that more than a year ago.  When I read the post I realised this is all true about presenting, for me anyway, yet here I am doing it again. Not only presenting to a group in the room but being livestreamed.

Since my last post I have learnt a lot.  One of the things I have learnt is that being uncomfortable with doing something you know will benefit you and your ideas is a good thing. It means you are doing great things. Hello discomfort!

File_001 (1)That is what I am doing, getting really uncomfortable,  sharing research alongside an inspiring colleague I have the good fortune to work with. We have been given a great opportunity to do some research into how the VLNP-Virtual Learning Network Primary- impacts on our students. Our story surprised both of us and made for some excellent conversations. I believe the conversations we  have had, made the research even more empowering to both of us than if we had done it on our own. Collaboration at it’s best.

If you can’t make ULearn 2017, join the connected conversations via the twitter feed #ulearn17 and #notatulearn17.  I will also post the research into my blog once we have presented.

Presenting Sucks

Yes, this is true, for me anyway. I don’t know what it is except I get up there and my head fills with noise, my mouth goes dry and I forget what I really, really, really want to say. The real essence of my message gets lost in the fact I need to perform in front of a large audience. Now that sucks!

Over the last two days I was part of an amazing hui with the VPLD. What is so great about this group is we all have the same interest of doing better in this world of education. It is a supportive, kind, caring group and is all about mentoring each other. In fact mentoring is the essence of the group, it is the foundation of which the group was built on. Each one of us had a 3 minute slot to talk about what we had learnt in the past year. Here is the real message of my presentation which was lost with my nerves.

I learnt such a lot from the wonderful people in the room which enhanced my thoughts on what is important in my work. There was one message that stood out for me the most and this came from a number of people. Take care of yourself, take time with nature – biophilia and don’t forget the truly important things – yourself and your family.

The important stuff in our lives is who we are, our work is what we do. Getting a good balanceIMG_6615 in this world of education is surprisingly our biggest challenge. Getting it right is so,so,so important because one day, our work will finish and will be gone. That important stuff will always be there, will always need us and deserve us more than our work.

I have decided I will never get up and present in front of a large audience again. Not for my work anyway. I love sharing what I do, I love talking about what I do, I love listening to others about what they do and I love what I do. Presenting is just not my thing.

I have been pondering this little dilemma since flying home yesterday, it woke me early this morning and now I am at my computer at 6am on a saturday morning while everyone sleeps. I needed to do this to clear my head so I could give my all to my family and hobbies before Monday comes around again. I am good with it. I can still share here. I still have the next 6 months to talk with my mentor and I will always have my school colleagues to share with.

Perhaps I could  become a mentor……mmmm…..

Melanie M

Inspiring Leadership

Inspiring Leaders

One of my professional goals for this year was to inspire leadership in the teachers and students around me. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve this,  I just knew it was something that was a big part of my beliefs as a leader.  I also felt that our students would benefit from this. We have identified our students as passive learners because they haven’t been a part of the learning process the learning has been done to them.  In my research I have discovered that children who plan their own goals, set weekly schedules  and evaluate their own work build up their frontal cortex and take more control over their lives.

I very quickly learnt to build this capacity with my teachers I needed to accept that I was no longer  the person solving and doing everything. This was important to me because I knew that was exactly what we were doing to our learners which increased their passiveness towards their learning. I wanted my team to start leading themselves. When I first wrote my professional goal I pondered how I would evaluate this and my mentor and I came up with ‘When we see both teachers and student leading others’. Students are now running workshops and our teachers are researching and presenting to the staff. As a team we have been researching how boys learn and developing our understanding of the Innovative learning Environment we are creating collaboratively for our students. This is what we learnt, shared and used in our practice.

These are some little gems that I have discovered on my journey of inspiring leadership in those around me:

  • Allow my colleagues to solve their own problems with me walking beside them.
  • By listening with intention I am valuing what others have to say.
  • Notice the treasures in front of me and and allow them to shine on their own.
  • Let others know what a great job they are doing
  • Giving time to others is a valued gift.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

Melanie M

Fuel for Success

Leadership Values and Beliefs

My Leadership Values and Beliefs as they are today demonstrate a great deal of growth and understanding from me. My journey this year has at times being challenging as I have questioned myself about being a leader and becoming a principal. I basically missed having the responsibility of my own classroom and the rewards that brings. When I was challenged on this I decided that being a leader of learning was a priority for me. This gave me more focus and direction and less distraction and confusion about what the hell I was doing.

My Leadership Values and Beliefs

  • Grow leaders in teachers and students
  • Build capacity in making a difference and leading change
  • Provoke the thinking of the leaders around me with innovative practice and pedagogy
  • Identify, understand and value the aspirations of my learning community with a particular focus on our Maori community and increasing the achievement of our akonga

More Surprises

More reflection on my 2015 professional inquiry

At one point this year our teachers felt like they were in the pit and were struggling with some of our student’s  not managing themselves in this environment. As a team we thought that it would be time to define the different types of learners we had in our collaborative team. We decided we had three types and lined this up with the SOLO framework. The teachers also had discussions with the students and students identified where they belonged. Within this SOLO framework

Multi structural – Managed Learners

Relational – Self Managed Learners

Extended Abstract – Self Directed Learners.

The three are distinctively different and require a level of skill to work within. These skills need to be taught, modelled and practiced daily for them to become part of a daily routine. This is a work in progress.

The teachers identified our managed group as having all our target students and also complained that these students were disrupting the class by being noisy, off task, disorganised and often destructive of a breakout space we had available to the students.

I had a discussion with these students –  In a summary the target/managed students thought it was the rest of the class that was disrupting their learning by being noisy and off task, they wanted quiet spaces to go to and they wanted their teacher to be available more for them to talk to, they made reference to their teachers time always being taken up with the others students who were being, in their words, ‘naughty’. They also thought that they would be more comfortable with the teacher telling them what to do instead of having to write their own timetable. This surprised all of us and immediately things were put in place to support these learners – a managed timetable was created and time each morning was given to them to explain what the timetable was for the day and also gave them a chance to make decisions about their day with their teachers support. The teachers also ensure these students are listened to more consistently and were given them positive specific praise, praising them for the behaviours the students identified they needed to work on. When they get distracted they are to do what our group Expert, Harry, said he does

‘Ignore and focus on what I am Doing’

So even though we are aiming for student agency for our learners we know this will be at different levels for all of them.

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Find the Spark

After reading this article I was really frustrated and extremely sad for this family who lost their son. These are my thoughts as I tried to process my frustration.

School is something our kids have to go to, why do we try and squeeze everyone’s perfect imperfections into the same mould of ‘this is the way it has always been done’. If it doesn’t work find a way that does work for the individual. I like nothing better than the challenge of finding that one thing that lights up a kids face and you find their voice in this place called school.

 Anything outside of school, he loved to the fullest, his mother said.

Bring joy into school for all our kids kick TTWADI to the kerb and find the spark in each individual.

Please don’t misunderstand my voice here, I am not indicating that school caused this heartbreak. This mothers voice spoke loudly to me as an educationalist, a mum, and a person who learns with a difference.

This Ted Talk is a perfect example of what we need to do in schools. Hack the system and teach kids how to be Happy and Healthy.

Opportunities Made Possible

In my last post I mentioned that I would reflect on the spin off from my Inquiry and the changes myself and my team have been making in our pedagogy around student agency. This is an example of one of the surprises which confirmed that what we are doing has positive effects.

Opportunities made possible

Part of the Visible Learning process has been about students creating their own goals, setting their own timetables and making decisions about the workshops that they will go to. We discovered this freedom to make decisions about their learning time provided opportunities we hadn’t thought of.

For example, a couple of our students decided to timetable time to create a video, to enter a competition for Chinese language week. They created a video talking about their school speaking in Mandarin. We didn’t even know they could speak Mandarin. We were right, they couldn’t, they had used Google translate to find their words. The speaker wrote down the sounds she knew to enable her to say her English words in Mandarin.  Their video won the competition which gives them flights to Wellington to visit the Weta Workshops and to go to the Chinese Embassy for Dinner.

Ok, Now What

Student agency – giving the students the power to act on their learning.

Inquiry Question

How will  our leading of change influence teachers to develop beliefs, practices and habits around developing Student Agency – giving the students the power to act on their learning.

Rationale

Develop active learners who can guide their own learning with the knowledge and resources to understand where they are at with their learning, where they have been and where they can go.

Methadolgy

  • The learning is visible
  • Students help create the criteria for the learning
  • Students have the opportunity to learn how to become reflective on their learning

My Inquiry was a fascinating journey and although the visibility of learning needs a lot of work other exciting developments have spun off from this. I will write more about those in my blog.

Learning Progressions

Part of the learning being visible means that our students need to know where they are, where they have been and where they can go so that they can make decisions about their own learning. Our students are very new to this process and the journey has been challenging to say the least and we are still working on it.

At the beginning of the year our staff wrote our own Learning Progressions in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. We used the NZC, Literacy Learning Progression’s in student voice, the Literacy Learning progressions and various other resources to help guide us with this. We worked in teams and eventually came up with our own which are still evolving. With the teachers guidance students write their own goals and we frequently review these as needed or as requested by our students.

Next steps for the Learning Progressions: We find these too wordy for the students and will look at rewriting these. We will continue to use these in our student learning conversations and guide the students to use these when reflecting on their learning.

Student voice

This hasn’t always been as streamlined and as exciting as the video has indicated and we are still changing how we do things but the shift in thinking and the development of student agency is certainly being demonstrated with student’s knowing their goals and identifying workshops they need to go to. I have completed an interview with our target students except it was about 6mins long. I believe that even though they know and they say the same things as what these students know. Getting it out of them was like pulling teeth. I will hold onto this video and do a similar one at the end of 2016 to see if there has been progress.