Saturday, 24 September 2016

High Tech High Chula Vista

Well as the saying goes all good things must come to an end and the Chula Vista Campus was our final school visit of our research trip. I am so glad that we decided to see another campus as this school is quite different to the High Tech High Schools in Point Loma.

On site at the Chula Vista Campus was a pre school, elementary and middle school. It was really an insight to see how the expectations of project based learning, self directed learning and developing a social conscience was scaffolded in the students right from the beginning of the schooling years. The students from an early age are taught to trust that they can make a difference and take control of their learning, that they have the ability and with support they can grow confidence in those abilities. The work that students were producing and discussing with us was phenomenal and I was left feeling that perhaps we at times are guilty of helping children too much with their learning - they can do it, we as educators sometimes need to trust that students are capable and they do not always need us as the adults to solve the problems for them. This does mean being reflective as a teacher and looking deeply at ones practice to let go a bit of the control and allow students to take chances with their learning. If a project is not successful, actually there is a lot to be learnt from that situation. The evaluation of what did not go well can sometimes be more valuable in the learning process than the things that went perfectly. Learning can also occur through failure!
Me, Karina, Carla, Sally and Megan.

Knowing the Learner:
There was a real sense throughout the school that the staff were very responsive to the learners in the school. The school is situated very close to the Mexican border and therefore the students in the school reflected a very Hispanic demographic. The Mexican culture was celebrated through learning both in the school and within the community. Students were encouraged to seek leaning opportunities to engage and celebrate in their community and to extend the learning outside of the school classrooms. The students talked about how they felt included in their learning and that their prior knowledge and world views were acknowledged but also stretched and challenged.

Values and Dispositions:
Compared to the other High Tech High Schools visited this school very much encompassed a values education in a more formal and visible way. The students talked about the values "habits of heart and mind" and outlined how these values were important to their learning process. The values were visible throughout the school and some teachers also used dispositions to review and evaluate the learning in classrooms.

Inclusive Education:

Inclusive education was integrated throughout the curriculum and classes, with students with learning needs working in a supported way in the classes. One of our student ambassadors, Karina, explained how she had had a very difficult partner in her class earlier this year. She explained that it was difficult because her learning partner really struggled with the learning and she became frustrated that they as a team were not making the necessary progress that she felt she would have normally made. She outlined to us how much she learnt from that situation, acknowledging that in life you can not always pick the situations that you are going to work in. Karina spoke of how her teachers and advisors supported her to look at the partnership in a different way. She spoke of developing her tolerance and understanding to support and guide her partner more and to work with the other person to ensure that the project was in fact a successful one. She was clear in outlining what was valuable about the situation for her "I had to learn to think of better ways of collaborating and getting to the solutions". It was not always about the end product, it was the learning that helped her to get there.

Careers and Pathways:
This school very much targeted pathways and internships. Everywhere I seemed to look there was a focus on Colleges and how to get there. Karina and Carla spoke very proudly of how 95% of students were accepted and went to College, the remaining 5% went in to family business or the military. The school actively encouraged students to apply to Colleges and to be critical engagers in their pathways. There were organised visits to colleges and internships to help students to decide what they reallywanted to do. Partnership business were created to support the internships. Over their time in high school students are able to try things out to ensure that they were in fact making informed decisions about what they wanted to do. Karina spoke about a College she had intended on going to but that after visiting it she decided it was not really the place for her. She changed her mind based on actually seeing and visiting the College.

I feel very affirmed with the decisions we have been making to include internships in our programme from year 11. The connections we make with our community is going to be critical to the success of this for our students.

Each flag here indicates a students and the college they have been accepted by and chosen to attend.

Extended curriculum opportunities:

Unlike the other High Tech High Campus, Chula Vista provides opportunities and encourages students to belong to clubs. These include a range of sports and activities that would not normally be on offer in the regular school day. I suppose I thought of this like the Rototuna Junior High School  Flight time and sports programme combined. These were provided after school from 4:30 until 6:30pm. The senior students ran and led the 'hubs' for the middle school in this time also. The senior programme was called CRASH and involved outside people as well as teachers coming in to lead the programmes.

In conclusion I have taken so much from this trip and the visits to these schools. More than anything I feel affirmed in the decisions we are making and the reasons why we are heading in the direction we are wanting to with our curriculum. This trip has been absolutely valuable for us for a number of reasons.
  • We can run integrated programmes in a deep and meaningful way to allow for students to be extended in their knowledge through contextualised learning.
  • We can provide rich experiences of learning in collaboration with our community.
  • We can ensure that students constantly receive feedback on their learning through multiple forms of assessment to make sure that they are progressing and being challenged to attain to high levels
  • We can offer opportunities for students to experience multiple career pathways, ensuring that students are aware of what they need to do to and attain so that they can successfully navigate their own pathways.
  • We can deliver a curriculum that provides and encourages both academic and personal success.
My job is to make sure that my team are skilled and prepared to make all of this happen. I believe that we can I trust that I have the right people to be able to provide the best for our students at Rototuna Senior High School.


  1. Hope your tour of Canadian schools inspires you, Natasha and Sally. I spent time there in '97 - bet the scene has moved far on from then. Looking forward to following you at RSHS.

  2. What a remarkable trip to have been on Natasha, Sally and Megan! I have enjoyed reading these posts. Inspiring.