• Danny Hyndman

Issue #10

Updated: Feb 24

Hi Colleagues,


I hope you are all well and into the swing of things.


I was asked recently if I found my work to be repetitive?


I replied that my reality was the exact opposite. With the work that I engage in I’m always learning myself, and the team I’m lucky enough to work/collaborate with is always looking to improve the courses we are involved in.


There are some amazing schools/educators I get to work alongside who are always pushing boundaries, which provides me with insights I wouldn’t otherwise have that I can share with other educators.


I guess the short answer would have been – no.


STUDY GROUP


Another question that I often get asked is what do I think is the number one school improvement action I took that resulted in transforming the school I was leading from arguably one of the worst in the state to one of the best?


It is a question that I often reflect on, and it is impossible to answer in a black and white manner.


Clearly there are so many factors that go into turning a school around, and they are inter-related. However, my actions list would include: engaging with an amazing consultant; coaching; collaborative planning; relationships; professional learning; terminating employees; high expectations; the list could go on and on.


The number one action that I keep coming back to surprises people - Study Groups.


Now what is a Study Group you might ask.


A Study Group is where a group of educators study a text together that has a focus on a particular instructional area, eg. comprehension. Members of the group read an agreed amount of the text, trial practices from the reading, and then come together to share what they have learnt/discovered.


The benefits of engaging in this practice are many. The development of whole school approaches is often a feature, shared staff knowledge, common language, and most importantly a culture of learning and wanting to get better.


The choice of text is all important. It needs to be research based, but also practical. I’ve been involved in Study Groups across all areas of the curriculum – reading, writing, numeracy, spelling, vocab, primary, secondary, you name it. I’m always happy to help if you would like a recommendation.


If you haven’t already, now is the time to start thinking/planning for a study group in your school. If you want to know more about this, or have questions shoot me an email.


In fact, I’m even thinking of running an online Study Group this year depending on my schedule. If you’re interested let me know, and what you would like the focus to be.


MOAMA

My colleague Matt Knight and I work together at Moama PS. I love my work, but it goes up another level when I can share in the work with someone like Matt.


Due to the operations guide in NSW we needed to revert to online for the first day back – something we are all familiar with now!


Having the two of us allowed the day to be differentiated. Matt ran an induction regarding the pedagogy that is employed at Moama Public School – namely gradual release of responsibility and the workshop model.


The rest of the staff were with me, and we continued going deeper with the professional learning, in this case the focus was on the writing process.


We are both looking forward to getting back onsite to see the fantastic work that Scott and his team are continuing to do.


BRIGHTON

I rounded out the second week of term at Brighton PS.


In a short space of time the school has achieved some excellent results in reading. We are going to continue embedding the reading practices, but we started the year off with a focus on writing.


Much of the work we did on the day was putting ourselves in the shoes of our students when it comes to writing, as well as looking at the qualities of writing.


I have to admit that I feel a little bit guilty because one of the activities each team had to engage in was to sing the song relating to the quality of writing I gave their group.


This is something I wouldn’t feel comfortable with, which makes me a hypocrite I know!


They were all good sports though and there was even some enthusiastic piano playing employed by some teams.


The qualities of writing is simply research based language that came out of Oregon in the U.S in the 1980s. The purpose of the research was to develop a consistent language to describe writing. This was developed by evaluating thousands of writing samples across all grade levels and led to ‘six traits’ being identified as the characteristics of good writing. Ideas, organisation, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and conventions.


Unfortunately, in some corners, this research has been packaged up and is being presented as a shiny ‘program’. I’m hearing schools and educators saying ‘we do the 6 traits’ which is a red flag for me.


At Brighton we are using the qualities of writing to have a common language to describe what makes good writing. I’m excited to see what our students will produce this year!



HEALTH & WELLBEING

In the state of Victoria, the importance of wellbeing has been elevated across the education system. This is in direct response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (2021), which identified a range of increasing mental health challenges for young people aged 4-17.


I don’t think it takes a Royal Commission for educators to suddenly start caring about the wellbeing of their students. We all care.


As with everything in education there are many and varied opinions on what this wellbeing should look like. Obviously, I have mine too.


Steve Dinham in his book ‘How to Get Your School Moving and Improving’ writes that high performing schools have a philosophy of ‘give a lot, expect a lot’ – particularly in schools from areas of lower socio-economic status. “There is a tendency to dichotomise schools as being either of ‘welfare’ or ‘academic’ types. In welfare schools, there are frequently lower expectations, with an emphasis on inculcating ‘social’ and ‘living skills’ and boosting student self-esteem at the expense of academic achievement, yet in the two projects it was evident that the function of the student welfare in the disadvantaged or lower socio-economic status schools was more about getting students back into learning for their future benefit than making students feel good about themselves” (p. 61).


The takeaway is that by all means care for the wellbeing of your students, but don’t forget that the best thing we can do for their wellbeing is to have high expectations and provide quality teaching and learning.



Thanks for reading and see you next week,

Danny.


P.S Feel free to provide me with any feedback regarding the newsletter, or anything for that matter via email. Also, let me know what topics you would be interested in reading more about.


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