The one word challenge was set by Chris Kennedy a month ago. It has taken me a little time to put my thoughts down but my one word is Create. This year I will be working to create opportunities for professional learning, innovative learning environments and a strong sense of community.
Create Opportunities for Professional Learning
Caulfeild educators have been implementing inquiry learning into their classrooms for a number of years now. We follow a model/cycle of inquiry teaching that fosters an environment rich in authentic, personalized and transferable learning. Now, just as we have done with technology through SAMR, we are taking our own inquiry learning deeper. How do you fully implement a program of inquiry that has the richness of an IB program but the flexibility of an inquiry disposition that educators such as Kath Murdoch share? We have found that balance with Lee Crockett of Global Digital Citizen Foundation. Over the next two years Lee will be our professional learning coach on professional development days and after-school sessions. The work will involve delving into the new curriculum, creating units of inquiry based on essential questions, conceptual learning and authentic tasks that take shape through formative assessment practices. It is an exciting time as ten of our staff members have already entered into this learning process.
Simon Breakspear speaks about radical incrementalism. His example of the car spoke to me when he said “you must honour the past, but design for the future”. The car (until recently) was not thoroughly redesigned over and over again. Instead technologies were added and components were tweaked. Through our work with Lee we will embed all that is good with inquiry at Caulfeild, but we will create an IDEC Program of Inquiry that will be robust, vigorous, consistent throughout the grades, and redesigned and rethought to further learning that matters for our students in the modern world.
Create Innovative Learning Environments
The classrooms of today do not look so different from the classrooms of yesterday. This year at Caulfeild we are going to create new spaces. In a previous post on the Third Teacher I detailed our learning journey as a community around classroom redesign through visiting other schools and innovative businesses to explore and learn about how we could change, and why we should change. With the support of our Parent Community, we have now taken that learning into a process of transformation. After lengthy discussions and information sessions, a number of furniture companies in the education space will, based on our ideas, needs and wants, present in the coming weeks their models for classroom redesign that reflect a modern environment. Our team will take that information and make informed decisions for moving forward. In the Spring of 2016 our intermediate classes will look very different and in September of 2016 our school will have learning spaces filled with micro-environments that support student choice and foster the inquiry learning we value at Caulfeild IDEC.
Chris Wejr wrote about choice and the community school a number of years ago. It is a blog post that continues to influence my thinking in a world where schools tend to be identified with a specialty. Caulfeild IDEC is no different as we are “the technology school”. That identity/focus has brought people in from areas far beyond our catchment. As an inquiry school our 1:1 laptop program and 120 iPads allow for “just in time” learning opportunities and help shape our students to be the next generation of innovators. That said, our technology does not define us.
For me, along with strong pedagogy and innovation, a successful learning environment is built on a sense of community that fosters connectedness and belonging. It is the relationships that students form beyond the classroom walls and the engagement of students beyond the curriculum that are important. To make this happen at Caulfield we have grade seven student leaders who take responsibility for numerous high profile mentoring roles throughout the school. We engage in regular buddy time activities that both support the big idea of our whole school inquiry (our beliefs and values shape who we are and who we want to be as a school community) and connect our students to one another on a personal level. We value cross-grade conversation and interaction at recess and lunch. Our teachers coach various athletics events and lead various clubs from coding to yoga. The parent community organizes after-school activities such as art clubs, STEAM workshops, athletics and other interesting initiatives. Connection and belonging fosters a sense of responsibility to those around you, empathy for others and the strength to persevere. It takes a village to raise a child and we believe that everyone in our community has the responsibility to ensure that each and every Caulfeild student feels cared for so they may confidently achieve their personal excellence now and into the future.
This is what we are working to create in 2016.
What is your one word for this year?