Alright so I haven't exactly been updating all the time. Mainly as I see it - everything has happened in the last 2 months or so. Prior to that it was 'school as usual'. So let me quickly summarise what has happened recently and then go into it a bit more detail:
First LEGO League
First LEGO League
I haven't been teaching for long (since the end of 2008) but this would have to rate as one of the top 3 teaching moments of my short career. The First LEGO League is a tournament that runs around the world and brings kids and adults together to celebrate team work, persistence, resilience and creativity. It actually does a whole lot more but those are the words that sprung to mind. Our team (RunAMoc) started late in the season and we only had 4 short weeks to get ourselves there and compete! It was intense, with practice sessions every lunch and after school 4 nights a week. In the end on a sunny Sunday we left MOC, made it to West Lakes AAMI Stadium and ended up placing tenth in the competition.
I'll have a video hopefully up later on that gives a sense of the event. The entire run up to the competition, the planning the team work was amazing to watch and be a part of. The students were in the age range of 13-15 and most had not spent any class time together. Easily the best teaching moment I've had at the school thus far - interestingly enough it happened not in class but would be considered in 'extra co-curricular' time.
Dr Heppell visited and spent 2 days with us. He has a vision of education that I agree with and once again reinforced thoughts that I've had since I began this career - education needs to shift!
In fact we've had Crockett, McIntosh and now Heppell all visit and all inspired us to do something different. Some of us, we tinker on the edges because that space is easier to work with and some remain the same. Some teachers I've observed will succumb to the 'norm', the 'usual' and when the foundations around them are fundamentally the same I can't help but sometimes say to myself, 'I totally understand why'.
Heppell has mentioned coming back and visiting - I hope he does and I hope he doesn't recognise some of the buildings and classes he walked into next time around. I hope one day visitors walk into MOC and have no idea what they are seeing apart from it being astonishing. I hope that one day when a teacher applies for a job at MOC the vacancy title reads something along the lines of, 'Project Based Learning Teacher - literacy focus ages 13-15'.
If we are serious about bringing about change that Heppell and the other speakers we've had urge us to do then we cannot wait for the exact right balance of personal. It won't ever happen - that is unless I start my own school (maybe one day) but seriously, I've had a number of staff use the line 'we are not ready for a big shift, eg. in the timetable'. Guess what? We weren't ready for 1:1 laptops/ipads either. If we want to be critical we didn't really 'properly' plan out how to best utilise them but teachers jumped on board and have given it a shot.
A love of learning - that is what we have to strive for (some sentences in the next few paragraphs refer to Years 8-9 but also cover the school as a whole). Too many times my Year 9 HG students have talked to me about just 'handing in another task'. It's not the teachers fault. Believe me, I give my students tasks too. In the setup we have most teachers pumps out tasks and tests for the students to complete. It's the tasks and tests WE demand them to complete or else. Next year we start the same. I wish it was slightly different, I wish we had a literacy block for 1 lesson Monday to Friday across Years 8 and 9 in the morning - that to me would be a massive shift - a challenging start.
I'd work my arse off in the holidays to help teachers prepare - hell I'd be preparing as well but I'd be exciting. Every morning those teenagers walking into school knowing WHAT they needed to do in the morning (of course we'd be there guiding them, for example offering mini 10 min workshops). Creating an interactive ePub book for the younger years, reading a comic/book for the first time, looking deeper into a game and analysing the storyline. Right now - some Year 8/9's realise what they've got on in the morning when they rock up, some know exactly what they have and dread it, some are perfectly fine in the morning, know exactly what subject they've got but .... will have to wait for the teacher to begin the lesson before they know what is to be taught for that lesson.
I want every single middle years student to rock up at least in the morning at Moc and be able to articulate in the best way possible to anyone that asks, 'What are you doing this morning?' a response that knocks their feet off.
To end I want to give praise to two Year 7 teachers that finished up PBL projects today. They didn't just sit on the fact they all shared a common building and time structure and do nothing with it. They acted on it and in the most 'primary school' of sense worked collaboratively together to create something that the kids will remember for a long time. The students had time to digest, plan, re digest, plan, discuss, think, go over - they had time. They learnt the process of learning - to start and finish a project with respect to the process.
Without a love for learning your stuffed. Period.
Will these year 7 students see this learning experience as the best thing they ever do in high school? I hope not (that's our challenge) - because I hope they get to do bigger, more astonishing work that will make those two Year 7 teachers see the foundation of work they've put into these students be used to the fullest.
Thank you for reading...I'm excited about 2012 and look forward to sharing some exciting news as we continue to transform into something truly amazing as a school and importantly community.