I hope this week’s edition finds you well.
“Wiliam (2011) argues that engaging in classroom discussion really does make students smarter. So, when teachers allow students to choose whether to participate or not – for example, by allowing them to raise their hands to show they have an answer, or settling for a lack of response – we are actually making the achievement gap worse, because those who are participating are getting smarter, while those avoiding engagement are foregoing the opportunities to increase their ability.”
‘How I Wish I’d Taught Maths’, Craig Barton, pg. 345
CULTIVATING COLLABORATIVE CULTURES
While COVID hasn’t been eradicated unfortunately, schools are starting to get back to something approaching normal (on a good week).
In last week’s newsletter I referenced Michael Fullan and Joanne Quinn’s ‘Coherence Framework’. This week I wanted to zoom in on one aspect of the framework.
While each of the areas in the framework have been heavily impacted with the challenges of the last two years, cultivating collaborative cultures has been nigh on impossible.
Thankfully this is starting to change.
Collaborative cultures are about two things: cultivating the expertise of everyone, and focusing on a collective purpose.
Another way to describe this is social capital. It’s important to note that a school with high levels of social capital will achieve much more than a school with a few high functioning educators who work mostly autonomously.
With some semblance of ‘normal’ returning, it is important that we reboot the collaborative cultures in our schools.
Almost 12 months to the day I was at Gembrook PS, and we had a whole day of professional learning focused on reading. Despite the obvious obstacles of the past two years, it was fantastic to see the school achieve some excellent results in reading last year.
This has allowed us to build on this success and now our focus is on writing. Our professional learning day focused on the latest research in writing, engagement, and the writing process. Staff have already been in touch to say how much their students are loving writing, and the writing samples I’ve seen reflect this.
Gembrook is doing so many things well, but the collaborative culture that has been developed is a feature.
There are many actions that have led to this culture, but I will share some of the stand outs:
· each year they run a Study Group around a text that matches the sharp focus area for improvement they have targeted. Staff have the opportunity to discuss the reading, as well as the new practices they have been trialling in the classroom
· the principal class team have an unrelenting focus on teaching and learning, and buffer their staff from any distractions from the main game
· PLC time supports teachers in the work they have to do in the classroom the following day
The school has an abundance of social capital and is an excellent place to work.
With the school calendar dates being slightly different in NSW to Victoria, it allowed my colleague Matt Knight and I to be part of Moama’s first day for staff. Unfortunately, due to COVID it meant we needed to run the day online.
Thankfully the operations guide has been relaxed and Matt and I were able to be onsite recently for a follow up session that included learning walks and a modelled lesson.
The number one thing that I would be asked to do in my work is to model lessons. It would be the favourite thing that I get to do, but the right conditions need to be in place for it to be an effective strategy to employ.
The key ingredient is that there is follow up after the lesson. Otherwise, there is the chance that it doesn’t inform practice. I’m very invested in my work so I want to make sure that every minute I’m in a school is maximised.
At Moama, Scott McKenzie is involved in everything when Matt and I are engaged with the school. Significant numbers of staff are released to see the modelled lesson, the lesson is videoed to use in future sessions, teachers are provided with time to get feedback after the learning walks, and there is follow up long after the visit has finished.
Thank you to Bern for letting me work with her lovely grade 2 class 😊
There are two exciting Assistant Principal job opportunities that have recently become available. One at Cobram PS, and the other at Kyabram P-12 College.
I work directly with both schools, and if you’re interested, feel free to get in touch.
If you would like me to share a job you have going, let me know and I will include it in the newsletter.
Speaking of cultivating collaborative cultures, Study Group is going ahead online in term 2, and it’s free (you will just have to buy your own copy of the selected text).
If you want to join the talented group who have committed to learn together you will need to let me know asap.
Thanks for reading and see you next week,
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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