— Wright Thurston (@10MillionMiler) August 6, 2014
At today’s Team Meeting we shared some our students and our own successes with each other. They included students speaking in sentences, taking ownership of their own learning, writing descriptively and being able to explain what they were doing to other students. The same theme had been echoed earlier in the day at our collaborative planning meeting where teachers reported that their students were self-editing and being able to take and apply advice given when conferencing with their peers. At Assembly there were a swag of awards given out for positive behaviour. Children overcame their nerves and spoke in front of an audience of fellow students and parents. The Kindergarten Dance Group carried umbrellas and performed in yellow raincoats and colourful gumboots to the delight of everyone … It has been a ‘warm and fuzzy’ day.
Our school has come a long way in the last year. We have moved from traditional ways of teaching into 21st Century ways of learning. “How so?” I hear you ask. Well, I guess that I had better start where most stories begin .. from the beginning.
For a long time most of us at Mount Pritchard East Public School (@MPEPS_NSW ) have been reflecting on why many students’ attitudes to learning change as they move from Kindergarten to Year Six. They metamorphose from enthusiastic five year olds, through to disinterested eight and nines and end up as very disengaged pre-teens.
Why? Was it the curriculum, teaching methods, teachers, lack of classroom ‘success’, home life, hormones, a combination of these things or something else altogether? Over the years we have been constantly ‘upskilled’ and had consultants in to help us to improve our teaching practices and to be ‘quality teachers’. Our teachers are hardworking and enthusiastic. If our students caught our passion we would have no problems … but all the diligence and effort on the part of the teachers has seemed to have no effect on those students who were falling between the cracks in Year 4.
The turning point came when our Executive Staff visited Merrylands East Public School(@merrylandseast ) Here they were introduced to exciting learning spaces and the concept of Project Based Learning. As well, at this time many of us were encouraged to embrace ‘Twitter’ and our professional learning has been skyrocketed to another level.
In the meantime, formative assessment methods were attempted and have been embedded into our school practice and we have opened up our classrooms so that the learning space is more flexible for working together in groups and using technology. We are constantly monitoring our students’ progress against the learning outcomes for Numeracy and Literacy and have a colour coded data wall with each students’ name on a coloured shape of paper to keep track of who is moving along the continuums and who is not. This helps us to target students and their specific needs. The students are also encouraged to talk about what they are able to do and to reflect on their learning so that they are able to understand the purpose of what they are doing and how to improve.
What is the best thing about these changes? It is working. Our students are more engaged with their learning and are enjoying being at school. As teachers we are seeing the change in attitudes and we are training the students to be thinking and working collaboratively independently of the teachers.
Our school leaders have worked extremely hard to help us catch their vision and it is paying off. Listening to the teachers reflect today was a positive experience. We still have a long way to go and we are constantly learning and revising our plans, working out what to keep and what to change. I feel so privileged to be working in a school that is putting the students’ well being and learning at the centre of what we do. It has definitely been a ‘warm and fuzzy’ day.