Core Elements of My Community of Practice
- Rototuna Senior High School was opened to students in February, 2017 and has been marked as a Decile 10 school. It is located in Hamilton North and has an opening enrolment of 92 students, approximately.
- Our Community of Practice was established in October, 2016. Already since this point, we have evolved and adapted to suit the needs of our akonga to ensure we deliver the New Zealand curriculum with innovative practice and integrity.
- We consist of 14 teaching staff, ranging across subjects, and are led by three senior leadership figures. Staff moved from Germany, the South Island, Auckland and the United Kingdom to fill these positions. This pattern in itself highlights the shared values of colleagues and passion they had for 'new education'.
- As RSHS is a new school there is critical judgement in the wider community regarding the "effectiveness" of this teaching practice. As such, our community of practice has an acute awareness of the pressures and expectations that lurk in the shadows of our opening year. Notably, there is such a shared belief in our system and approach towards NCEA that this is not a daunting prospect but rather a motivating one.
- We practice what we preach and evolve around two philosophies: student centred learning and inquiry always.
- The Rototuna High School cloak is an acronym that reflects values shared by akonga and colleagues alike: C = Challenge our mindset, L = Learning is connected, O = Ourselves as learners, A= Ako always, K = Kindness and respect
Break Down of Potential Issues in my Practice
1. We are in the process of establishing our school culture through both controlled measures and elements of organic direction. We would act against our beliefs if we were to direct it without the influence of our learners and being responsive to their values too. Currently, I would describe our school climate as an inclusive, settled, and warm learning environment. The culture behind this is built on strong kaupapa Māori values of ata (positive relationship building), tuakana-teina (the shared role of experts in learning), and manaakitanga (ethos of care).
2. It's early days and issues are yet to rear their ugly heads; however, we are critical in predicting issues and barriers we may face. A key focus in our discussions have been our approach towards covering NCEA and the New Zealand Curriculum. We are aware of the importance to conduct accurate, formative, tracking to ensure we can report qualitative data to parents and the wider community. Stoll (1998) described our concept of learning as ‘balkanisation’ where teachers are neither isolated or work as a whole school, rather, they (we) work in small, focused teams. Learning through co-teaching is an incredible experience for learners and teachers alike but, again, there are some surface issues with planning, delegating tasks and ensuring all curriculum components are covered. We must be honest and respectful in our co-teaching pairs as our community of practice heavily relies on the power of authentic, professional collaboration. It is okay to be lost, but we must ask someone else to temporarily share their map with us.
3. There are strong expectations and (positive) pressure from the parent community for us to ‘deliver’. This is a blunt way of describing the weight our school carries (in its opening year) to highlight the power of this educational model, the value added to their (parents) child’s learning experience, and the 21st Century skill of growing adaptable, collaborative learners. This isn’t a Houdini model of learning but one founded on research, shared beliefs and a passionate group of educators.
Trends in a Nutshell
- Education today must step beyond the factory-based model we fell privy to in the nineteenth century. With other industries having to undergo rapid change and restructuring to keep up with the demand of the 21st century, so too must schools. It is a huge discredit to the learner to remain stubborn in the ways of delivering the curriculum. It is not that the curriculum is outdated, but rather individual’s approach towards it that needs to be redefined and employed.
- The diffusion of power is seen internationally across businesses and schools. There are examples of positives and negatives within this, but I believe the intent behind it and the framework in which we see power shift and transform creates strong opportunities for deep, engaged, empowered learning. It connects well with individual empowerment – a trend we must nurture, for if any individual is to be successful in the future world they need to have confidence in their own ability, personal value, and a resilient backbone.
'Six Guidelines towards Culturally Responsive Practice'
- Care for Māori as Māori.
- We must have high expectations (mana motuhake) and vocalise these regularly.
- Create a learning environment where Māori (and all cultures) can draw upon their own knowledge and find value in it.
- Manage interactions with reciprocity that provide depth of feedback and feedforward. The power of akō and tuakana-teina.
- Demonstrate a range of strategies and tools with purpose and control.
- Use evidence of student performance, and gaps, to guide teaching. Be responsive to the need(s) of the learner.
Russell Bishop (Edtalks, 2012)