Thursday, 13 October 2016

Building a school

I thought it was about time that I shared a bit about the actual build process and my involvement in that. If anything this has been my steepest learning since being here at the Rototuna High Schools. I am confident with teaching and learning, this is an area that I have spent considerable time and energy in my career. I have worked in the area of leadership of curriculum since my third year of teaching, facilitated school wide development of the New Zealand Curriculum and delved deeper into different issues and key aspects of education to complete my Masters in Education. I have some experience in developing and creating spaces that enhance the teaching and learning for students, but on the scale of the Rototuna Senior High School build - this is something entirely new. Well I suppose one can not espouse a theory of lifelong learning without really being open to actually living this idea. However, the build aspect of my role has really taken this concept of lifelong learning to sitting in that space of uneasy and discomfort (this is by the way the space I often talk about with staff that is needed to really unlock the potential of oneself in teaching, that deep critical reflection space). Let me be honest here when it comes to the space of uneasy for me, I am talking here about the complete edge. What a challenge!

My everyday reading!

A brief timeline

I have come on board quite far down the track in terms of the design and scheduled plan for the build. The Board of Trustees have worked collaboratively with the Ministry and the design team to shape the school to what it is. The detail and depth of consideration in to the design still amazes me. The thought that has gone in to this site to ensure that it meets green star ratings and reflects our space in this land is quite phenomenal. The way the building faces, the colour schemes both inside and outside of the building  - right down to the carpet selection all have been thought through to ensure that we at Rototuna reflect the vision and values of our students to connect, inspire and soar. Fraser and I have really come on board to add the final touches - I suppose I liken it to putting the icing on the cake.

Rototuna Senior School-New Angle September 2016 from Chris Parker on Vimeo.

Negotiating the build team

I must admit it took me some time to figure out who the key players were, and who I needed to liaise with to ensure things were moving to schedule and had the schools voice was always considered in the build. The Ministry have hired Frequency (Dylan Workman and Graham Edward) who work on the schools behalf to ensure Arrow are building the school to the specifications and needs of the school. Arrow are our build team, Tony Kavanagh oversees the build with Mark Bennett and Daniel Wilkinson as his site Managers). Torque IP ( Manu Bhagwanji and Graeme Thomas) are also on board and have been contracted to complete all of the IT, technical sides of things such as WIFI and servers are all installed and up to scratch.

Whilst it is not a normal relationship in a school build to work directly with those on site, this is something that has worked for us for the Senior High build. I tend to work a lot with Mark Bennett. Mark has a talent for explaining things to me in a way that I get it and I have really appreciated the time he takes to make sure things are moving forward. Mark would absolutely make an amazing teacher and we have made sure that we have utilised his skills as he has come across and he has guest taught some 'dream space' sessions with our Year 10 students.  Arrow are the ones with the deadline so Mark's management keeps me informed, gets my input, but at the same time ensures Arrow can work to their deadlines. A very mutually effective and efficient relationship I say - well it is definitely one that is working for me. Dylan and Graham help me out by making sure that Arrow are delivering a quality product on behalf of the Ministry - they basically keep things honest and the communication clear and transparent.
Mark Bennett talking through the design process with the Year 10 students.

My new language and vocabulary

I liken the learning of all of the terminology with the build to NCEA. It is a complicated path to navigate but once you understand it you can confidently use it to your best interest. Things like firewalls, autex, procurement, fixed furnishings, trunking which were never in my vocabulary are now everyday used words. I still remember my very first meeting on school site. It was with Graeme and Manu from Torque IP. They were wanting to know what my AV needs were, and where I would like all of the ports for the spaces located as well as discuss the server and end user device needs. Thank goodness our Board chair Megan was there because I was really lost - those technology minded people can really get going with their terms, I am pleased to say that six months down the track I can now hold my own in these meetings.

What is a dream school?

This is something that I often ponder. Does a space influence the teaching? Can a space facilitate deep thinking and deep professional engagement and learning for teachers? My response here is YES! Do you have to have a brand new space to do this? NO. Whilst we are very fortunate to be building a school in 2016 based on the growth of our area and we are able to help create a space that enhances teaching and learning I do not think the building alone creates great education. I believe that the people that are within the space bring the learning to life.

For the next 10 weeks we are working with our staff to prepare and develop the curriculum that we are determined to deliver for our students at Rototuna Senior High School to gain both personal and academic success. No longer is the world we live in about just qualifications. More and more we have conversations with business and tertiary institutions about the 'soft skills' and this is why we are focussed very much on a dispositional curriculum and emphasise BOTH personal and academic success.

I have attached here some of the 'brain dumps', and big ideas that our staff have been coming up with when we have asked them what is a dream school. It is great to see that we are all moving in the same direction.

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