Monday, 6 February 2017

Change - the theme for 2017

When I first looked at applying for a job at Haeata, I went to an information session where Andy Kai Fong spoke about what he envisioned for the school. The one thing that stuck in my mind from that session was him saying if you don't like change, don't apply. Things will change, continually. One term will not necessarily look like another and we will always be looking to be better. It really resonated with me and I knew that Haeata was the place I wanted to be.
So here I am. The beginning of a new year that marks change in so many ways. Our students were welcomed on Friday, with much media interest which you can read and view. TV1 (32:39), TV1 (5:47), Maori TV (11:14), CTV, The Press, Radio NZ. There is so much interest in what we are doing and how this kura will work and I am sure that will continue over the year.

There is change for a community who have had their schools and their routines broken by school closures and redevelopment. We have all been through so much with the earthquakes, but this community in particular has really felt the brunt of the disruptions. It is time for change. Time to move forward and grow as a community, with Haeata being a part of that new growth.

There is change for our students. They have been part of school communities that they know and are comfortable in. This is a difficult time. New environment, new staff, new routines, so much change for them. It will take time for them to get to know us, to feel comfortable in their new kura and to be able to understand and learn about our different way of doing things. We don't have subjects or a strict timetable. We aren't focussing on assessments and what they have to do to pass. It's not that they won't have these assessments available to them, but just that we are coming from another angle - the student. Here is the link to read more about the Haeata curriculum. It's hard for those students who have been in the current system for so long. To change their thinking and give them the freedom of choice and the power to think for themselves will take some time and for many will be very difficult.

There is change for our staff. Many of our staff at Haeata are new to Christchurch. They have come from all over the country and are some of the best educators I know. The upheaval of many from communities they have been in for a long time must be very hard. There is a real feel of community at Haeata which hopefully has made them feel welcome. The way we work together, the support for each other and the way this kura approaches Te ao Māori has been nothing short of amazing. I really like this blog by Lex Davis who sums this up well.
One of the comments made last year by one of our leadership team was about how this can be quite a difficult time for many when a new school is started. You are all appointed specifically for this kura and so many of us have been leaders in our schools. All of a sudden there are a lot of very capable people around you. Instead of perhaps being the one person in your school pushing for innovation and making change, you are now one of many and all of our staff are like this. This can be an amazing time, where you embrace the challenges and not being the only one, but for some it can also be quite hard, as you are no longer the only one people look to for inspiration or support. I know I took a while to get used to this, but now I am reveling in the fact that I am surrounded by people who are keen, motivated, innovative and ready for change.

I have been reading a lot of articles about change in education and a few I have read recently have resonated with me. There is a real call for change and how we do things. This white paper talks about the "urgent case for reimagining today's schools". I particularly like this paragraph:
The modern world demands that we create the conditions in our classrooms and schools where students have freedom to pursue their questions, not ours, where they can create their own curriculum, and design their own paths to mastery. Classrooms where they act as apprentice learners who work with teachers who are master learners, first and foremost, not where they are seen as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge.
Roger Shank wrote this article about why students hate school. He's right. So much is a waste of time, unless you want to pass exams. His final paragraph just makes me want to change education even more. I want to make school a place where what you learn will matter in your future.
So, my advice. Know what matters to you. Learn that. Temporarily memorize nonsense if you want to graduate but have a proper perspective on it. Nothing you learn in high school will matter in your future life.

There is change for me personally. I have learnt so much over the last term. So much about our Māori history and te reo. So much about education and possibilities. So much about our kaimahi (staff) and how we will work together. I know I have changed. I have taken a step back in some ways, to sit back and let things happen a bit more instead of feeling I am having to drive things. To listen to others more and be prepared to make changes in what I do. It's about having faith in those around you. Knowing that all of the wonderful people I am working with have experiences and knowledge that they are prepared to share and discuss with each other. This is special. I have only ever found pockets of this before, rather than a full staff approach and it's challenging. You have to let go of things and be part of a team. You have to accept that you don't always have the ideas and that others are more than capable of offering great things. I know I will learn even more over the years I am here and that I will change even more. I feel very blessed.

On our last day before our students arrived, Andy shared this poem with us. I feel it really sums up the journey we are on.

Time to change,  make change and be changed.