Monday this week we had the pleasure of flying south - not a phrase you hear very often in the elongated chill of winter defying spring, but Christchurch actually felt warmer than Auckland. Almost half of the new schools being built currently in NZ are based in Christchurch, so it made sense that the Professional Learning conference we facilitated in partnership with the Learning Network was based down there. We were wonderfully hosted by the team at Rolleston College, currently based at West Rolleston Primary whilst like us their facilities are being built. Other new schools such as Haeta school and the older sibling of our new schools family Rototuna Junior College (opened beginning of this year) came through to share perspectives on a range of topics such as advisory, curriculum design, collaborative teaching practices and creating culture. The natural formation of learning support communities is crucial as we share our experiences to reflect and inform our practices.
The keynote speaker for our conference was Nathan Wallis unpacking the science of the teenage brain and Neuroscience informing Maori pedagogy. He was amazing, super engaging and very informative. He had a great way of framing the science with context whilst remaining responsive and approachable. As a parent firstly it really helped to provide perspective for brain development of our teenagers and what must be addressed in order to even earn the right to engage in learning.
If you ever have the chance to hear Nathan speak I would highly recommend you take hold of the opportunity as it will change the lens with which you look to interact and understand teens. The two biggest take away ideas I would share are that teenagers function through their emotions 90% of the time so rather than trying to engage them with their thinking it is normally easier for them to describe how they are feeling which we can use as a starting point of communicating. The second key take away is that in order to engage teenagers brains for learning we have to address their natural survival needs including the emotional needs in order for their brain to recognise they are safe and activate their brain for learning. All this in reflection sounds like common sense but it is the order and detail with which we do it that improves the effectiveness of these practices.
In the spirit of collegiality we were warmly welcomed in to South Auckland Middle School on Thursday morning by Villa trust director Alwyn Poole. They are offering a very exciting and well structured curriculum which thematically engages learners in a range of topics interweaving Learning Areas and assessments. The passion of the staff and their use of environment and timetabling to build learning opportunities was encouraging to see. Key takeaways from the experience were the celebration of learner success and design thinking displayed through the environment and student clarity of expectation with assessment. We look forward to further learning opportunities growing from the joint passion of serving our dynamic communities.
Continuing the theme of collaboration and our navigation south we had the pleasure of venturing out to the Dilworth rural school campus which houses year 9 male learners. It was truly an eye opener at what is possible with different models of learning environments. Dilworth have gifted us one of their Taonga to our staff, Asha Tupou-Vea, who has been instrumental in setting up this rural campus from its establishment. Having our new OJC staff member guiding us around campus and providing context of the learning was extremely insightful.
John Rice and his team were very generous with their time and hospitality providing time to discuss their pastoral care systems, mentoring initiatives, project based authentic learning around community service and restorative practice vs restorative justice. Another key feature of our trip was the strong outdoors programme which the school provides two full days of outdoor learning opportunities for every 12 days of learning. This was very informative as they suggested it was about immersing learners in outdoor exploration. On a side note they also commented on the impact the dietary changes they made to the food provided for learners impacted their learning; they had a low carb low sugar menu available and they have seen a clear turnaround in energy and engagement in the students' learning.
Progress is not progress until it is reviewed. With this in mind we had the opportunity to celebrate and learn from external eyes and ears with ERO visiting us Wednesday morning and meeting with the Board of Trustees in the afternoon. We received positive feedback regarding our staffing development and the up-to-date research informing our practice. They also commented on the authenticity of our community engagement including the depth of interaction going into our enrolment process.
Areas of learning for us to develop were to look at transdisciplinary opportunities for developing our leadership from external industries outside of just education to provide a variety of mentoring and perspectives on leadership development. We were also encouraged to begin to think about preparing how to operate the high number of visitors we are likely to have due to our progressive environmental structure and dynamic modern learning initiatives. Lastly we were encouraged to explore technological support for administration which would assist to streamline our functionality and allow for greater Learning Coach to Learner time.
Leader of Learning Kat Liu-asomua has been working to develop partnerships across the community and local business spectrum to create innovative learning opportunities for our learners discovering new resources and networks we are calling Ed-ventures. Education ventures which embrace synergy between real world industry and the potential of community social action. Watch this space as we are looking to provide learning opportunities which extend beyond the classroom not just in a physical sense but in the experiences, concepts and solutions which will emerge from this unique utilisation of industry and community experts. Kat has been working hard to solidify these multiple partnerships and opportunities which we will be unveiling closer to the school start date.
Carol Barrett our Executive officer has been on board three weeks and has already made an impact on administration process and infrastructure. Of most importance is that she has updated the enrolment packs online so if you have not yet downloaded your pre-enrolment documents be sure to get started. Our administration team will be growing and we are looking forward to announcing our new team member by the end of term four.
OUR ENVIRONMENT - THE THIRD TEACHER
Establishing community relationships has been priority as Education is developed by people for the people, with this in mind we have been fortunate to receive support from our local Iwi representative Zaelene Maxwell-Butler from Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki. It was important for us to acknowledge Tangata Whenua as our treaty partners and as curators and guardians of our local community. Guided by Zaelene we were able to name the various common areas which relate to navigational tools which reflects the journey of migration and new possibilities. We will be unveiling the official titles later in the year, we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our gratitude to local Iwi for their support and commitment to tautoko - the growth of knowledge and values for future generations.
It would not be a true OJC blog update with out a progress report on our facilities. The latest addition to the visual landscape is the courtyard taking shape. The sun soaked courtyard which spring is finally unveiling has seen the shaded area poles being placed up. The high point for the skyline is the base being laid for the linking bridge which connects the school. The detail of the cabling and piping is amazing, to see the organs of our school body really does grow an appreciation at the depth of knowledge and expertise going in behind the scenes to form our facilities. The environment and skill set of the workers on the site reflect opportunities for learning that the environment will offer our learners and is truly exciting.
This coming week we meet to unpack our vision statement further with our Board of trustees. Kelly, Viv and Fred continue to prepare for next terms induction of new staff. We will be looking in more detail at restorative practice models and gain insight of community project learning based at Albany Senior and Junior college.