Saturday, 30 August 2014

Heights Teacher Only Day - Navigating Towards Relevant Schooling - 29th August 2014

I am going to attempt to explain how absolutely transformative and revolutionary today's professional development was.

Heights have significantly raised the bar for future professional development because the keynote that was given by Maurie Abraham (@maurieabraham), the Principal from Hobsonville Point Secondary School, was seriously that awesome.

I thank the Board of Trustees immensely for allowing that day to happen - for the organisation and the delicious kai at the Novotel and also for the bus journey into town as a Heights whanau which was as equally empowering.

Maurie - you have sparked that little revolution we have been having at our school - hopefully enough that there are some serious changes. Am not sure whether we would change into having 100 minute blocks, but the possibility that people may have heard your messages is even more important.

The revolutionists were spread throughout the room as were those who choose to stay as they are. I myself was sitting by our fabulous admin and teacher aides who are a mixture of change and tradition.

The minute I heard that Maurie was coming to talk to us I knew that there was going to be some inspired people. It was the reason I had nervous butterflies the night before and why I was walking around school with a bounce in my step that morning and why I kept saying 'Kia ora' in response to what Maurie was saying throughout his keynote.

I'm on the bandwagon. I got on promptly with my hands holding on tight at the start of the year in March when my eyes were opened by Steve Mouldey's (@GeoMouldey) presentation at the PPTA Issues and Organising conference on Hobsonville Point Secondary school and the way that their students are learning. Because it isn't about the flash technology or the beautiful new school. It is simply (and I thought quite obviously) about the way students are learning.

The way students should be learning today - as inquisitive, curious, problem-solving and collaborative young 21st century learners.

Maurie made some serious points today. I particularly liked the comments about how schools still don't allow cellphones to be used at school or how schools still enforced other archaic methods. The laughing from the staff saddened me because he had phrased the comment in a way where he wasn't targeting us at all - he had said something along the lines of - isn't it crazy that there are schools that ban cellphones at school? It was sad because that's what we do. And we haven't moved with the times or seen the value of our students having their own devices that they can use.

Maurie's style of keynote was great too - his panda birth and baby clip at the start made those who weren't sitting up and paying attention - pay attention. It was shockingly brilliant. I need to find it for my class. Haha. He had videos throughout his presentation which spoke to us - well to me anyway - and they helped break up what may have sounded to some as trying to push us into the 21st century.

The point is that we're already here. Been here for a while actually. For those resistant to change this may have sparked some questions about the way that they teach or their thinking around 21st century learning and teaching.

Maurie's keynote reflected thoughts I had from when I first watched Sir Ken Robinson's 'How Schools Kill Creativity' TedTalk at Waikato University during a session while training as a new teacher. That was back in 2010.

Maurie talked about how we continue to expect our students to sit down and pay attention - still teaching like we're in the 18th century within the industrial age. How teachers say that kids are naughtier now - are they? Or as Maurie said, have they just stopped accepting so much?

He made a very valid point about the fact that students live in an 18th century world at school, with bells and people to report to and people who are on their case about needing to learn more and better - and then when they leave the gates they're back in the 21st century world.

How are we teaching our students to be reflective, self-regulated learners if they are not given the chance to do so. They leave at 18, as Maurie said and don't know how to learn for themselves. They have to learn those skills later on.

Why aren't we teaching them those transferable skills now? The importance of being a motivated self-regulated learner, someone who will work well with a range of different people, someone who can collaborate, multitask and problem-solve.

You may say we are - but are we really? We enforce deadlines and give punishments when it hasn't been completed to satisfaction or on time.  We expect them all to be ready to be assessed at the same time. We expect that they will pay attention no matter how we are teaching them.

The overall point that Maurie was trying to make I think was that we need to be more aware of how our students are learning and prepare them for life - not just outside of school, but within it too. Enable our students to become self-regulating, inquisitive and collaborative learners by allowing that environment in our classrooms. Enable ourselves to be inquiring learners too. Never stop learning in fact.

We put too many roadblocks in front of our students. Why not take many of them away and allow them to create, evolve and grow?

Teach different. Don't allow the way you used to teach to become the norm. Adapt to new situations. Be comfortable and love that others are succeeding. Be encouraged by your failures because you will just try another way around it. Have goals and think about what you want to do to develop your teaching style to enable 21st century learners to learn. Be agentic. Be aware of a changing world around you. Focus of the many positives, and ignore the negatives. Find relevant professional development that will help in succeeding and achieving your goals. Develop a growth mindset. Challenge your way of thinking - that you've always done it that way - so why change? Challenge the way school is run - it doesn't have to be like that. Challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Be inquisitive. Be curious about the world around you. Learn with the students. Learn from the students. Share the 'power'. Teach students to be free-thinkers - constantly able to adapt to new situations, problem solve, collaborate and challenge resistance.

For pictures and tweets of the keynote - check out my Storify I collated of our #HeightsTOD discussion and note-taking:

I just want to say again - the hugest of thanks. Truly. Nga mihi nunui ki a koe e matakite. We appreciate all that you have said and done for us. It's up to us now to do something about changing our school for the better.


  1. Kia ora Alex.
    Your blog post inspired me to write my own on my blog as a way I guess of confirming that the changes we are initiating at our school are on the right track. Thanks so much for sharing this and here is the link to my post for you to read if you like to

    1. Awesome Kerri! Thanks for commenting and letting me know it's helped you on your blogging journey in some way :) I truly appreciate it!! Am looking forward to reading your post :D