Tag Archives: vision

Sabbatical – Part 7

What have we been working on at school? Vision & Values

The purpose of this sabbatical was to compliment and support where we were already headed as a school.

Significant work was already planned or had taken place leading up to my time of learning and reflection. This sabbatical was to reflect on how the assessment and reporting arms would contribute to and compliment (or not) our work.

So what have we been up to and why? Here is an overview and some background.

1. Pre-ERO conversations…

As part of our preparation leading up to our last ERO visit, I posed a question to the rest of the leadership team: How can we show ERO that we know how are learners are progressing in what we really believe is important? (I was also new to the school having been in the principal’s hot seat for about a term).

We knew that we could show this in reading, writing and maths but we couldn’t in the areas that made up our school vision at that time: agency, creativity, excellence.

But it was not all doom and gloom! There was a massive light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout 2016/17 the school lead a Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) project that focused on learner agency. One of the last acts of this project was to develop a tool to support learners in self assessing themselves against the key elements of agency.

The Agency Wheel as this was known, was a solution the very question I had posed the team. I knew they would be on to it!

2. The Agency Wheel, Maths Dispositions and the Key Competencies

The emergence of the Agency Wheel kick started a whole lot of other conversations. These came about from a range of noticings in our learners and a desire to pull into the wheel our school values, the NZC through the Key Competencies, and a maths dispositions framework which was gaining momentum through involvement in the Maths Specialist Teacher (MST) programme.

What is shown below is when a few of the leadership team sat down and started trying to map out all of these threads and align them to the Agency Wheel.

So what happening next… not much; summer holidays and 2 key members of the leadership left for higher honours.

The Wheel got parked, but not forgotten.

3. Our Vision & Values

At the same time as the Agency Wheel emerged, the school was also wrapping up significant community consultation regarding our school vision, values and strategic direction.

This resulted in 2 changes:

  1. The vision changed from Inspiring agency, creativity & excellence both within and outside the four walls of the classroom to Empowering agency, innovation and leadership. There is so much more to the why of these changes – if you want to hear it, please just get in touch.
  2. Our values changed to the 10 shown below. Yes – there is another story behind this…

4. Beliefs around Learning and Assessment

As a staff we took a day to explore the following concepts:

  • Learning – what are our core beliefs?
  • Assessment – Perform and audit of what we do & why.
  • Our Context – Identify our learners and explore global impacts on learning?
  • Assessments – What do we need to keep/develop?
  • People – What type of learner, teacher, parent will make it all happen?

We made the following realisations:

  • That we needed to get the balance right between the front end (vision, values & competencies) and back end (curriculum area achievement objectives) of the curriculum.
  • That we needed to reframe our approach to assessment and the tools we use in order to align these to our core beliefs.
  • That we needed to clarify and develop our understanding further about these things called dispositions.

5. Learner Behaviour

(Not learning behaviour, in old speak this is about behaviour management…)

As far back as 2017 it was clear that the way we managed inappropriate behaviour required a bit of a refresh. Not a huge refresh but to align documentation with practices and to make it consistent and consistently understood across out school and community. Initial conversations centred around maintaining our positive approach strong in the pastoral care of children and how we can better use our values as the foundation of a positive behaviour programme.

Coming together as a staff we focused our discussions around the following 5 areas to help us review our practice and start designing a refreshed way forward.

  1. Summarise our thinking so far
  2. Complete self-assessment & summarise
  3. What do we know works in other schools?
  4. What innovative ideas do we have?
  5. Agreed actions moving forward

Through unpacking and sharing these areas we recognised needs in the following 4 ways

  • Our school values underpin our expectations for behaviour
  • Our values need to be broken down into observable behaviours
  • Our current systems and documentation are outdated
  • We need to explore other approaches eg Restorative practice

The first 2 points became very apparent. Our values outlined the types of expectations and behaviours we want in our children BUT they currently were not deliberatly incliuded in our approach and more importantly, were not brokenm down with clear descriptors to enable staff and learners to compare their behaviour to.

Creating these descriptors was clearly a priority moving forward for our school.

6. Exploring Dispositions

The purpose of these discussion and work was to follow up and act on our previous need; to clarify and develop our understanding further about these things called dispositions.

This started with an activity designed to bring out what dispositions our learners need, prompted by the following questions:

What is it about your students that makes you think they need to learn how to think? 

What do you see them doing, hear them saying, and what are they feeling?

How would you like them to be?

Take a group of teachers and ask them to contemplate these questiosn and record their thoughts in their section of the template. Then they discuss, debate, compare, contrast and agree on a set of areas their learners need to grow in. Shown below.

Now take that set and list them on the left, now try and align this on the right to the disposition/competency/thinking/attitude that may need to support them overcoming the problem identified. Shown below.

What did we learn from this process?

  1. There is a very strong link between what our learners need and our school values
  2. There is also a very strong link between the underpinnings of the agency wheel and what our learners need.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, there is a plan of how we can bring this altogether. Read on for Sabbatical Part 8…

Reviewing our School Values

The New Zealand Curriculum describes values as deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed through the ways in which people think and act.

This year I am facilitating a full review of our school values, a process that is recognised strategically by the Board, along with a review of our school vision, as a priority area. Why? Well here are a few of the reasons. Our desire is to have our school values;

  1. visible around the school
  2. articulated by learners, parents and staff
  3. actively modelled by learners, parents and staff
  4. used to frame up/underpin learning, expectations and behaviour
  5. provide a starting point in our decision making process.

There is currently little to no evidence of this taking place and this gap has guided our review and development in this area. To start this process we have based the conversations around a set of 3 core questions:

  1. What is important and desirable in our school?
  2. How should our students be thinking and acting?
  3. What is to be encouraged, modelled, explored?

Taking these 3 questions we have had meetings and conversations as a staff, with our parents, at our whānau hui, and what I believe is most important, with our learners. Outcomes from some of these meetings are shown below.

Students getting their ideas down on paper. Our parents prioritising and defining what is important to them.Thoughts from a staff member.

As you can probably imagine this led to a huge number and variety of concepts as the different groups documented what was really important to them. Through a process of grouping similarly themed ideas for each of the different groups and ordering them in terms of their popularity, then repeating that process after all the groups’ ideas were pooled together, a final list of 13 values were put on the table.

There was lots of rich discussion and questioning along the way, e.g.

  • Is that a value or a skill?
  • What does that mean to you as I think of it meaning something different?
  • Isn’t that a concept that sits over the top of those values? Do we really need respect as a value?
  • Is that just a non-negotiable anyway?

Going back to the NZC definition was our guiding light and kept us on track. Additionally perhaps the most important aspect of this process was to take a lot of time agreeing on a definition of each of the shortlisted values so that when we communicated these to the students, parents and community there was a clear statement by what was meant by that term. We hoped that this would clarify any misunderstandings.

Perhaps the most challenging part was how best to integrate the thoughts of our whānau into this process. They suggested that manaakitanga (caring, looking out for each other), whanaungatanga (treat everyone as your family) and kotahitanga (being as one, the same, treating everyone as the same) were the values that should guide everybody and everything at school. We have no disagreement with these and without question they will be included in the final make-up.

As we don’t yet know what our values framework will look like when it is ‘presented’ to our learners and community (e.g. represented through a visual form like a local landmark, tree etc, or as an acronym). When we offered the shortlisted values to the community we showed how manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga related to them, without yet knowing how these will be shown by the end of the review and development process.

So where to now? The voting process is drawing to a close so the votes will need to be counted. We are still discussing a number of questions including;

  • If we believe that the students’ voice is crucially important, do their votes count more than others?
  • Or, should it be just a straight vote and the what comes out on top are the ones that are selected?
  • What is the best number of values to have? Is it a case of less is more?

Once decided, they next step is to develop a framework to ‘hang’ the values off. We are currently working with our local iwi Ngati Kauwhata to better understand the history and traditions associated with the local area. We are hoping that this will support us in developing a visual representation of the values.