We want to ensure schooling at Waipāhīhī is relevant, effective, and powerful, for the children of today. The shift in the use of our physical space and in the educational understandings of how children learn best underpins this. It is evident in the way our teachers are teaching and our classroom spaces are being used. Improving the learning of our learners is the primary goal and there are a number of initiatives that are working towards this. In visiting our classrooms you will see less closed doors, children moving fluidly across traditional classroom boundaries, teachers collaborating in their teaching, and students begining to self regulate and manage their learning, with expectations and support appropriate for their 'age and stage'.
Our focus at Waipāhīhī is to adaptively change our teaching and learning practices (pedagogy) to ensure we are best meeting the needs of children in the 21st century. Most parents today were in school when the teacher directed the learning and the students did as they were told. Chalk and talk was the medium, there was little technology. Today classrooms look, feel and function quite differently :
"During the 20th century, the concept of learning underwent important developments. This shift is reflected in the vision of the New Zealand Curriculum which is to develop students with lifelong learning competencies namely, relating to others, using language symbols and text, participating and contributing, managing self and thinking (Ministry of Education, 2007).”
Today learning is socially constructed and the environment plays a crucial role in what is learned and how the learning is experienced (Nuthall, 2007). Significant bodies of research on what improves learning, and landmark studies such as John Hattie’s Visible Learning (Hattie, 2008) mean that we now have a much better idea of how learning occurs. As a result of these developments and others, we know that quality learning is a combination of the following elements:
The role of technology is vital in each of the above as it puts the learner in control, and enables personalisation of the learning. In the 21st Century the impact of the internet, online collaboration and the access to knowledge have fundamentally changed learning by shifting accessibility. Students now want to control where they learn, what they learn about and how they learn. The traditional classroom is no longer the only place students go to learn as the ubiquity of technology has reinvented and accelerated the learning process (Care, Griffin & McGaw, 2012).
What does Collaboration look like?
The traditional view of teaching is one teacher with the sole responsibility for a classroom of children. Teachers often feel that their classroom is their own private island and each classroom is different to the next (Little 1990). There are few jobs in society that require an individual to work entirely on their own. Most jobs require communication with other individuals to ensure best practice. Cooperation amongst educators is essential to ensure there is continuity and cohesiveness within schools. Collaboration involves a greater partnership between educators.
Watkins (2009) distinguishes between cooperation and collaboration with the idea that cooperation implies individuals working together to achieve individual goals, while collaboration involves working together to achieve a group goal. As a school we are examining and exploring the ways in which collaborating with each other improves our learning and the learning of others. It’s not just about having open rooms, large spaces, and access to digital devices. Collaboration is about working with others to use strengths to accomplish goals. It’s about being part of a team, doing your part, and demonstrating commitment and perseverance. This way of working together allows children and adults to build a stronger and deeper understanding of concepts, as they are challenged, supported, and affirmed in collaborative environments. Learners can more ably identify their strengths, express their ideas, and build empathy towards others.
Our challenge as teachers in our school is to develop our abilities to set tasks and learning opportunities which teach and foster these skills. We are learning alongside the children in partnership with them.
Our staff are committed to working with each other as partners in learning. We need to ensure we have shared goals to improve the learning experiences of our children in what is a fundamentally different time where change is the only constant! This is not about changing things for change’s sake, but about finding better ways to engage with today’s students. Children are now part of a world which is increasingly technologically advanced. Communication and interaction is becoming shaped and dictated by our digital skills. Our digital initiatives and professional learning opportunities for staff are helping us to think about the ways in which we capture children’s engagement by using technology as a tool to deepen learning. They also help us to think creatively about the ways we use technology to be effective in helping children make connections in their own learning, and most importantly, make connections with others.
Changing practice within a building paradigm from the past!
Most of our school buildings were built in a time when direct instruction was considered the only pedagogy that resulted in effective learning. “Factory-style’ learning (where all students learn the same things, at the same time, in lock-step fashion) has largely disappeared from our classes. However the actual classroom layout largely remain as they were originally designed, and still retain the suggestion of factory-style learning. The collaborative practice inside our learning spaces is working to change that perception. We want our practice to define the space we have and not to let the space define our practice!
Our schools property plan focus for today and into the future requires us to be strategic with the intent of how we take our space development to a new level. As a school that is situated at one of the ‘growth ends’ of Taupo it is our responsibility to advocate and develop a plan that will see our whole school environment and site develop proactively to ensure we best meet the learning needs of the 21st century learners that are with us now, and, of those that are yet to come.
Through being innovative and creative in our thinking and design we will further support and strengthen the connection between our learning environment provocation and our pedagogical initiatives.
At the heart of it all is the desire to challenge our own practice so that each one of us innovates and changes what we do to meet the need of each and every learner that we work with. We want to give our Waipāhīhī kids every chance to enjoy, challenge and extend their thinking at every level. Strong collaboration amongst us all is a key part of ‘how’ we can make that happen.
After months of negotiations with the Ministry of Education, and more talks since the strike on August 15, we still have no new offer. Our union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, continues to negotiate in good faith, but the Government says it will take time to fix the issues. However, time is the one thing we don’t have. Around the country we’re seeing:
- 40% reduction in teacher trainees
- Zero applicants for some teaching jobs
- More children entering school
- More children with additional learning and behavioural needs
- Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession, often within the first five years of graduating
More tellingly, Education Council statistics showed the number of teaching graduates gaining their practicing certificate had decreased 32.5%, from 6249 in 2007 to 4217 in 2017. Over the same time, the number of teachers who did not renew their practising certificate within six years has increased 151.4%, from 2456 in 2007 to 6174 in 2017.
The staff at our school want your children to have the very best education we can provide. We’re standing firm in that commitment and believe the time is now to ensure that schools can offer every child the education and support they need, and that we have a sustainable teaching profession into the future.
We appreciate your support. We are hoping that continued negotiations next week will show some progress as there is growing anger among NZEI members that the Ministry's game plan appears to be about dragging out the negotiation process for as long as possible. Please talk to your child’s teacher if you have any questions, and consider signing this petition to the Minister of Education in support of teachers. https://campaigns.nzei.org.nz/time/petition-teachers-and-principals/
Our town is well served by a range of primary schools, our intermediate, two secondary's and recently (having just achieved full registration with the Ministry of Education, a private school. You may have read the article in last Thursday (August 23) Weekender titled "Special school achieves registration" that detailed some of the facts around how they operate. Our school has always supported the work that Gaye Vartiainen and her team have strived to provide for a range of learners needs. Both Gaye and I, alongside our respective staff teams, have a passion for doing everything we can to make learning relevant and appropriate for the children in our care on any given day. There's an old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" and it is in that spirit that we openly sign the agreement to support the parental choice of a child attending one day or more as part of the programme that ADDI offer.
However, both places of learning operate under different conditions. To compare one against the other is not what this is about. ADDI charge fees and provide small, specialist learning groups. Waipahihi is an exceptional, mainstream, public primary school that provides an enriching and connected curriculum with a dedicated team of teachers. One cannot be compared to the other, however, both can be seen as a compliment to each other. It is in this spirit that we as a school are committed to continuing to build our working relationship with ADDI in the future. It is in this spirit that, if you as a parent are making a choice to include ADDI as part of the way you want to meet the learning needs of your child, we invite you to make sure that this is done in communication with your child's teachers. Together, we want the best for all our learners. Together, we can work together to compliment what each environment can provide.
Primary teachers and principals across New Zealand are currently negotiating their collective agreement with the Ministry of Education. An initial offer was brought to union members to consider, but it has been rejected. NZEI (the union for Primary Principals and Teachers) has surveyed their members and they have voted to have a full day strike on August the 15th.
The wider education sector is nearing crisis point. The major points around this are:
What are the they campaigning for?