To be honest I don't even know where to start! What a mindblowing experience to be able to actually see first hand what it really looks like to 'walk the talk' in terms of educational philosophy for rich, contextualised learning. There were moments when I was so moved by what the students were talking about in regards to their learning that I was left speechless (yes for those that know me this is massive). There were also times when I can honestly say I had tears in my eyes listening to the learners discuss their perspectives of their projects which were contextually relevant and responsive to real world issues and challenges. Alvaro and Ezra (our student guides with us to the left in the picture) conversed with us in such a mature manner and they were both highly proud of their school and their learning journeys. I believe that being responsive to the world we live in is highly important and that we as educators need to prepare our learners not just for the world that they live in now, but also for the world ahead of us.
The emphasis of the school was to learn in a life responsive manner where students become agentic in dealing with social justice issues as well as through what Rose Hipkins termed 'wicked problems' (the real life issues that are occurring in our world that can not be solved easily from a single perspective and approach). I got a real sense of "I can make a difference, I can start with myself" attitude throughout all of the schools.
This model of schooling has definitely demonstrated how academic rigor can be maintained (and heightened) as well as provide a deeply rich dispositional and equitable education for young people to be critical discerners of the world both in the here and now and in the future. The statistics of school leavers consistently sit in the 75 to 80% range for students going on to complete 4 year college courses/degrees.
Artwork is created by students around the school as a part of the projects. This is not just through Art and Technology as subjects but also through Physics, Maths and English etc. Classroom hacks and mini projects are also used to simulate and engage students in deep way. The students designed and made the bridge, above right, using physics and math to create an art piece that was underpinned by engineering principles - must be structurally sound it held me up.
Project based learning is used for all learning structures. Two learning areas work together in a rich partnership to deliver curriculum content in an authentic way. This does not mean that two teachers teach together at all. At times teachers will teach students separately from each other because the demands of developing skills in a single subject may require that.
They definitely demonstrated how integration does not always have to mean together occupying the same space. It is about teachers working closely together to plan and prepare and sing from the same song sheet, to then ensure that the project comes alive. William Herd Kilpatrick's definition was identified as a key way of looking at projects which are seen as "whole hearted purposeful activities in a social and authentic context".
Theses guys really are rock stars of education. They are passionate, engaging and influential change makers who know their craft. The teachers here have complete autonomy to deliver what they believe is important for the students. They are happy and love their subjects but they are also very interested in ensuring that students are developing a range of 'soft skills' which will assist their learners to be "well adjusted people, well prepared to go to work". This is a charter school, so teachers are on a year by year contract, but there is also little turnover of staff as no one wants to leave this school.
Professional learning is undertaken throughout the school day, in the mornings and in collaborative sessions throughout the day when non contacts are available together. When I asked a teacher about the professional learning they receive and value he answered that three things influenced his ongoing desire to continue to develop as a teacher.
- He gained inspiration from other teachers. Being in an open space seeing what others do was by far one of the best pieces of PL for the teacher.
- Competition - he did not want to be outshone by someone else and was always striving to be just as good as those he sees around him ( I did giggle here as a highly competitive person this is something that I must admit always did help me to want to be a better teacher).
- Having less students that you got to know really well. "When you have small numbers of kids you become so invested in them...I wake up in the morning wanting to be a better teacher because I know my students in such a connected way that I owe it to them to be the best teacher for them".
A legacy wall of tiles (right) from all graduating students from the High Tech High... getting cool ideas for our space under Tunawhakapeke!
Bring on our Chula Vista Campus tour tomorrow!