Term Two has just finished and the last two weeks have highlighted one, seemingly obvious, realisation about the current state of education and that is that;
we live in interesting and in many cases confusing times.
There is no doubt that we live in a time of educational change where the status quo is being constantly questioned. With any change comes an element of fear and trepidation. This is natural but it also needs to be acknowledged so that it can be rationalised.
Over the last few weeks I have constantly been reminded and reflected on the cartoon below. Most of us agree that education has to change to keep pace with the demands of an ever changing world. We have a duty to prepare our young people for the world that they are going to inherit. But when that change effects our personal and individual lives we hesitate. We don’t necessarily want our personal lives or our personal situations to change because change is hard and uncomfortable. This concept is captured in the cartoon below we all realise that change is often necessary but we are not sure if we individually want to have our world upset by changing ourselves.
This confusion and the reality of being in a world of constant change was highlighted by a number of events that involved Rolleston College directly or indirectly, over the last fortnight.
On the one hand the final week of the term was an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on our second term. This culminated in the full school performing the school haka on the last day of term.
The learning and collaboration needed to arrive at this stage can not be underestimated.
This was preceded by the first inter whanau singing competition. All learners were involved in their whanau chant, waiata and song. Both of these celebratory events were examples of culture and identity and how it can be created in a new school.
Two nights before these celebrations of culture we held our termly exhibition night where we celebrate the learning that has taken place over the term. The range and depth of learning that was on show is captured in the photos below.
The evening also allowed learners to talk about their learning in particular curriculum areas and the rocket design, creation and launching was a good example of how integrated learning in an authentic context can produce some impressive results.
So. as I have said, on the one hand there was so much to celebrate and I could list so many more examples but that is not the main point.
The main cause of celebration is that learners are grabbing opportunities, learning and growing and in the process of stepping up they are not only learning content but also key values such as accountability, communication, and collaboration.
This is the interesting times part of this blog. In reality though this is only half the story because these are also confusing times. Like all other new schools we are asked where is the Maths where is the Science along with many other questions. To all of us who are totally immersed in the day to day running of the school the Maths/ Science and all of the other learning areas surround us on a daily basis. The Science and Maths involved in making and launching the rockets seen above is obvious. But it is not always as transparent and obvious as it had been in the past and this leads to some confusion. Is Maths more then a series of exercises in a class that is designated purely and simply for the learning of Maths?
These questions should be asked, they are a natural part of any change process.
This confusing times element was brought home to me when I was reading through one of our wide circulation newspapers last week. At the same time as I was witnessing the varied and exciting learning detailed above this paper published three articles relating to current educational trends and when put together they help to highlight the confusion that goes alongside the interesting. The fact that all three articles appeared on the same day merely heightened the possibilities for confusion.
I must stress that this is not a criticism of the newspaper merely an observation of how a variety of points of view can be presented in the same paper on the same day.
The first article was a positive article on how schools need to specifically address the emotional well-being of their learners. To counter the anxieties felt by many of our young adults the article explained how schools have to play their part in growing mental fitness amongst our young. No question there and on reading this article I reflected on how we as a new school have focused on the care and development of the whole child.
The second article was the main editorial that reflected on the Governments releasing of a digital plan to strengthen digital technologies within the school system. Initially this is a plan aimed at primary schools but has obvious relevance to the secondary sector. The need to provide learners with the skills to enable them to use and benefit from modern technologies is obvious and indisputable. The only concern the editorial raised was the danger of equity of access to these technologies across the socio-economic divide. Again no argument there, I would go as far as say that we, as a school, are fairly advanced in making the use of technology ubiquitous in our learning programmes.
So two articles that highlight the need to change, the first frame from the cartoon at the top of this blog. I would suggest that there would be general support for both of these initiatives.
The confusion that goes with change was highlighted by the third article. An opinion piece written by one of the papers journalists. It contained no facts , no details but was merely a series of wanderings, somewhat confused wanderings true but still similar to the questions that many are asking.
The writer described himself as not being fit to be a parent and a self proclaimed loud mouth who had noted that the more ‘expensive’ [his words not mine] schools in the region were still pursuing traditional delivery and low student teacher ratios in traditional physical environments and he wondered whether we were actually experimenting on the vulnerable in our society as he assumed that all of the innovations were being carried out in schools lower socio-economic areas. He wondered whether in years to come the ‘expensive’ schools [I can’t express enough how offensive I find that term] would be playing catch up or would the schools from ‘poorer’ areas that had implemented these modern innovations resort to building walls and returning their spaces to more traditional classrooms? Now there is much to dispute in this article but it was an opinion piece, for example the assumption that physical space equals innovation is simplistic to say the least and the socio -economic claim is just plain wrong.
It is not my intention to dispute his assumptions, the errors are not important, what is important is that this was a personal opinion piece and reflected the concerns of many, it was interesting to note that this was the only article of the three to illicit letters to the editor over the next few days. This opinion piece does link to the second frame of the cartoon at the top of this blog. All too often we agree with the need for change but we are not sure if we want to personally change. In many aspects it is natural for us to want others to change first and when all proven and nice and tidy then we will adopt it. There is a discomfort in being any sort of early adopter no matter how widespread that change is internationally.
The interesting part of education today is just how exciting the opportunities for authentic learning, authentic ownership an authentic accountability are and how these opportunities are being seized by our learners. The confusing part is that is does look and feel different and therefore alien to many of us. Education is not alone here, this week marks the 50th anniversary of our adoption of decimal currency, I am old enough to remember the trauma and anxiety felt by many at that time [including my parents], more recently MMP, NCEA, GST were all initially terrifying and caused intense debate but they quickly became the norm and all part of the development and growth of our nation.