I hope this week’s edition finds you well.
“Agency is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative – the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives. The development of agency may be as important an outcome of schooling as the skills we measure with standardized testing.” (Ferguson et al. 2015, 14)
FUNNY OF THE WEEK
In 2022, the DET in Victoria has pushed for schools to have a focus on numeracy in their AIP. Over the last 6 years most of my work has been literacy based, with a much smaller part of my work being around maths. While literacy still represents the majority of my work, the balance has shifted to include a lot more work on numeracy, which has been really enjoyable.
Yarra Road PS has been one of the long-standing schools that I have worked with, and this year we have shifted our focus from literacy to numeracy.
With my background in English and maths I’m able to make the connections between the two. One of the key parts to this work is to have a consistent instructional model across the whole school (whether it be primary, or secondary; English, or other learning areas). The most common instructional model in numeracy is Launch, Explore, Summarise. Across the Victorian education system there has been a lot of fantastic work implementing the gradual release of responsibility and the workshop model into schools. Yarra Road is one of these schools.
In our recent curriculum day together, we collaboratively developed our instructional model for numeracy. In my work in schools, I don’t see it as my job to tell schools what to do, but I share my thinking, resources, and what I see working in other schools. It is then up to the school to make decisions based on their context and the next logical step for them.
Funnily enough the schools I work with that have amazing results in numeracy have adopted the workshop model as their instructional model. There is one subtle tweak required in numeracy, but the common language is helpful to students and educators alike.
Last Wednesday night saw the first session of our online study group around the text ‘What’s the BEST That Could Happen?’ by Debbie Miller.
I was joined by the following talented educators:
Dee McNamee Clarinda PS
Elena Ziebell Clarinda PS
Erin Beissel Clarinda PS
Cassie Ryan Cobram PS
Megan Lillingston Hughesdale PS
Dearnne Backhouse Mount Waverley PS
I loved the conversations we engaged in, and I’m hoping to be able to share it with you. I recorded the session and I’m hoping to start a YouTube channel, and/or a podcast so that you can hear all of the thinking that transpired.
While we covered a lot of ground during the study group, the main talking points revolved around agency and being flexible in how we utilise the workshop model.
We didn’t lock in a date for session 2, but the rough plans at this stage are to meet again later in the term to discuss chapter 2. There was also some discussion around trying to connect with Debbie Miller as a group when we are finished the text. Stay tuned!
12 FAVOURITE QUESTIONS
Debbie Miller’s text also poses some excellent, simple, but deep questions that we should all be using and reflecting on day to day. The title itself being proof of this.
It triggered for me an exercise I engaged in during my writing course last year. We were asked to come up with our 12 favourite problems. Hard problems, that don’t have simple answers.
[I haven’t lost my mind and can definitely count to 12. My list of questions has expanded to 20.]
1. How can policy be influenced in such a way that the funding model doesn’t create competition between schools?
2. How can a system provide enough autonomy for high achieving/performing schools to continue to grow?
3. What is the process to develop software/hardware that leads to efficient reporting of student progress that reflects the actual work they are engaged in?
4. How do we replicate the blue check type process that Twitter has in education?
5. How do we ensure that the opinions of educators who have brought about significant sustained school improvement are the loudest?
6. How do we ensure our high achieving students are challenged with their learning and still meet the needs of our lower achieving students?
7. How do we create an environment that produces greater coherence in schools/systems?
8. How do we reduce the amount of compliance within schools so they can focus on their core business of teaching and learning?
9. What processes can be put in place to capture, sustain and upscale the excellence within a system?
10. How do we maximise the time that educators have day to day to ensure they can perform at the highest level possible?
11. How do we ensure that schools focus on what matters?
12. How do we develop the cultural shift that high quality teaching and learning is the best thing we can do for students’ (and educators’) wellbeing?
13. How do we create pathways/systems that lead to education being seen universally as a profession?
14. How do we reform teacher training that places graduate teachers in high performing schools?
15. How do you develop a culture within a system where education is seen as a profession?
16. How can we improve the role description/job/reality of principals that takes into account their wellbeing?
17. How do we influence parents/society to view education the way it is in Finland?
18. What is the best form of accountability in education?
19. How can we create the conditions that maximise time for instructional leadership across all schools?
20. How do we ensure that schools narrow their focus?
I would love to hear from you if you have some hard education problems that I haven’t listed above.
For those of you who know me well are aware that I have been slow in my uptake of podcasts (or that I’m very fussy!).
Recently I read a promotion for a podcast involving ‘the most interesting man in the world’. That certainly piqued my interest and led to me downloading and listening to the podcast in one hit.
He is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine, which he co-founded in 1993. He also co-founded the All Species Foundation, a non-profit organisation aimed at cataloguing and identifying every living species on earth. In his spare time (!), he writes bestselling books, co-founded the Rosetta Project, which is building an archive of ALL documented human languages, and he serves on the board of the Long Now Foundation. The Long Now Foundation is investigating how to revive and restore endangered or extinct species, including the Wooly Mammoth.
I think it is definitely worth students listening to the podcasts as well, although there are some drug references in episode 26 that educators/parents need to be aware of.
Kevin Kelly is also a prolific writer and for his recent 70th birthday he published a piece titled, ‘103 bits of advice I wish I had known’. This article complements some previous tips he has written about in ‘68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice’, and ‘99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice’.
Each piece contains short and sweet, but excellent advice for all of us.
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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