The Heart of a School

The blog post this week looks at how we integrate a set of values into a primary school to drive the learning in this community. A school is a hub for a community and the children that travel from their homes into the kura all come from different backgrounds, values, beliefs, religions etc. It should be a complex interaction but it isn’t. I wonder why? The secret is that generally we are united by a common purpose – wanting to do good, grow and learn, contribute and be accepted, appreciated and valued. To be valued we work around a set of values that help us give and get value.

At Kelburn at the beginning of this year we had 8 values guiding us  – Aroha; Responsibility; Fairness; Manaakitanga; Inclusiveness; Interdependency; Powerful learning; Resourcefulness.

Through our work with our children on student safety and acceptance this year we have linked these values into once main concept – Manaakitanga – ‘where we work together to create a shared sense of community’. We did this to address the concept of student safety, to make sure that the children were leading their own community and stepping in when others were isolated and unsafe. In promoting bystander intervention we have developed the ‘Upstander’. It has been a huge success and this word – manaakitanga – has become a key part of our vernacular.

What about the other values – where do they sit now? Our dialogue and conversation with our children indicate that we have  indeed do have a HEART to our school…the way we are, the things we do that make us move, work, make us breathe if you like.

In true primary style we have unfolded an acrostic HEART which feeds our Manaakitanga.

H – Hauroa

E – Excellence

A- Aroha

R – Respect

T – Teamwork

There will more on this later but these key concepts/values support the way our school operates during the day. Yes we work at the curriculum – the things we work with the understand the things we need to learn know. But we need to know HOW to know – and it is the HEART that makes us grow to learn and work together.

In regards to the ILE or new learning spaces – often people say there is no evidence for change or that changes are necessary. There is and it has been consistent over the years in what education reports via the media or in commentary around schools. We also know so much more about how children learn, the brain works, individual differences and perhaps the key – using different furniture for learning. The one size fits all model does not stack anymore – or is acceptable in this day and age with the information we have.

Flexibility for creativity is the key. Working together creates stronger outcomes.

The key evidence that has produced all the thinking around the ILE and shift in design for new learning was produced in a massive OECD study in 2013. It showed that traditional jobs were disappearing through innovation and education had to change to make our learners of today better prepared for a different future than it was in the past. It suggested change based on 7 developed principles –

  1. Make learning and engagement central to the design of the school
  2. Ensure that learning was social and often collaborative
  3. Be highly attuned to learner motivations and emotions
  4. Be acutely sensitive to individual differences
  5. Be demanding of each learner but without excessive overload
  6. use assessment consistently with learning aims with strong emphasis on formative feedback to the learner
  7. Promote the connectedness of the curriculum and subjects

The key themes of social, collaborative, engagement, integrated curriculum, individual differences and high and realistic expectations were key.

At Kelburn, when I walk through I see growing collaboration and social learning between the children – a higher degree of students explaining their learning to others, how they decided things, how they achieved things, what they are proud of and what they might do differently next time. Children are more deeply embedded in the learning process and not just working to produce the requested result. It is more personalised and individual, understanding of difference and children are proud to share and others are proud to celebrate this with them. Together we grow.

In the new learning spaces things will still be just the same. The groupings link 3-4 teams to each teacher in  a learning space – nothing really changes. There will be a purpose to the learning, a task to do, a process to do it and a point where we all come back to the middle to explain and show our work and present our outcomes. There is no change to what we have been growing in 2018 – our Manaakitanga – where we work together to create a successful community.


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