Monday, September 27, 2004

Sign of new growth?

It is a great spring day in Taranaki ( New Zealand). Nothing beats sitting on the deck listening to the tuis ( birds) and watching them feed off the kowhai flowers. I live in a valley, in the bush ,with a view of a stream and small lake. All very relaxing.

I hope if you are a teacher ( or even if you aren't) you are enjoying the break from school. It is a great time to sit back and reflect before the final term.

It is at times like this I wonder what inspires me to keep pushing for the 'voices' of creative teachers to be heard? Why is it so important for to share their ideas?

Simple enough as all the imposed 'expert' solutions only leave us 'burnt-out', confused and always playing 'catch up'! Trying to implement ideas that have little in common with classroom reality inevitably results in mediocrity. And then the teachers get blamed again! And more imposed ideas follow to solve the last mess! This just breeds a low trust compliance environment. Not much fun for creative individuals.

Creative ideas, in any area, always come from the 'edge' so ideas of creative teachers are important, but only if they are listened to! The challenge then, is for school leaders ( and in turn teachers), to create the conditions for creativity to flourish. Just as important is to encourage schools to collaborate and share expertise between each other. Ideas will then spread as if an 'epidemic'!

This would be a dramatic shift from the competitive, 'top down', accountability and efficiency ideology imposed in the early nineties. As well creativity wasn't helped by a 'blame and shame' School Review Office audit model.

It is great though, now , to hear that the New Zealand Ministry of Education is ( following world wide trends ) reviewing the clumsy imposed curriculums all schools have suffered the past decade or so. It is currently away being 'stock taked'. Don't expect any thought that they might admit to having made a giant mistake!

All the talk is now of: 'key competencies', the importance of the teacher, of high expectations, of a need to focus on pedagogy, of good relationships, for schools to work together, and the need to listen to the 'voices' of the students and their families.

Didn't we know all about the importance of all this? Doesn't it sound a bit like 'back to the future'?

Whatever it is now a good time for teachers and school leaders to take the initiative and to create new creative schools that focus on developing the passions, talents and dreams of all students. And it is an ideal time to develop collegial relationships with other schools and parents.

I hope while you are enjoying the spring growth you can sense the possibly of a new creative era for education? How do feel about this or is it just the sun getting to me?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

New ideas emerging?

I can see blogging  could become compulsive!

Local Government elections are currently being held in NZ. More often than not they fail to grab the imagination of the citizens. In Auckland, however, there seems to be a battle of style emerging between the two main mayoral candidates and the vision for the city they have - or lack of it.

One candidate is facing up to the idea that the city is increasingly becoming impossible to live in or visit. To solve this requires a sense of the 'big picture' and the need to focus on the 'common good' rather than vested interests.

I attended a meeting held in our city, New Plymouth, held by the Government. This was an exercise in 'direct democracy' - a chance to listen to the voice of the people. It was interesting to note that the people invited were people involved in the social and 'people' services in our community and not the 'business elite'. It was a useful exercise but what was missing was any picture of the kind of country the government wanted to create. A lack of vision again. Still the intentions were worthwhile.

To often issues in these debates relate to infra-structural or personal concerns but 'common good' issues are emerging. Our country, like our biggest city, is not a good a place to live in for many. Although the wealthy have done really well there are a growing number of dissatisfied or worse still alienated people.

Most of the institutions in our community are still run from central government, or if not, run semi independently of community government as are our schools. Many of then have trouble communicating between each other and many have trouble communicating within themselves. As a result people are 'falling through the cracks'. Ideas of decentralisation and collaboration are at least begining.

I'm hoping in all this there is a movement towards the reinvention of a more participative democracy. All Western countries seem to be suffering the same problems; cities are becoming environments of 'first world' citizens with 'third world', often alienated, communities within them. The individualism and materialism of the 'Market Forces' ideology of the nineties has made the problem worse. The answer just can't be to hope the problem will go away, or to make the schools sort them out, or to throw them all in jail.

Hopefully it is time to time to replace the current conservatism ( protecting the 'status quo' and turning a 'blind eye' to growing communal problems) and to consider the 'reinvention' of our society? This would require leadership at all levels; from the Prime Minister, Mayors, and leaders in all organizations. Leaders are required rather than managers, and this includes school principals. This blog is my contribution.

All a bit serious for Sunday morning!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Schools more than in trouble?

Just listened to a debate on education on TV this morning. A lot of talk about students bullying teachers mentioned the presenter - no real problems, said the three guest principals! Then of course the usual debate about the NZCEA ( an approach that defines learning units into lots of individual assessment criteria; but one that at least gives all students an opportunity of success). There was also a brief mention about students entering into a very different world but the answers given reflected a self satisfaction , and no real questioning, of the current model of education. All it seems we need is some 'tinkering'.

Isn't it time to face up to the fact that our current secondary system is just is not capable of accommodating all the students ? Isn't it time to re-imagine schools and to recreate them as true learning communities.? Currently, in NZ, about 19% of all students leave secondary school with nothing to show for their time. This at least would seem to me to be a good reason to provide some alternative organization in every major centre to cater for these school phobic learners? Add to this the number of creative and innovative people who have succeeded in spite of school and there is a real need to create schools that place focus on developing the talents of all students.

We must believe that all students can learn given the right task, time and assistance? As Edward Hall ( the anthropologist) wrote, 'The drive to learn is as strong as the sexual drive'.

One book I would recommend is 'Our Schools Don't Work Anymore' by David Hood.

At least one of the principals said in the debate that the focus should now be placed on improving teaching - now there is a good idea!!Even our Minister of Education has heard of this! I guess this is a start!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

My first blog !!

I am really looking forward to posting ideas about creative teaching and the need to transform schools. So next time I will begin seriously. I am hoping that lots of people will join in.In the meantime visit our website to see what we are all about. Blogging looks like it could be fun!!