The assumptions in structures

Have you ever stopped to look at how much time is allocated to each domain at your school? Of course you have. There’s always that parochial fight over that extra hour of time – and each domain/subject has a valid reason for pursuing it. It’s the hotbed of any discussion about curriculum and especially pertinent during a curriculum review. In fact, it’s the item that most staff jump straight to – how much more time will I get to teach my classes?

But, in our review, we are resisting. In fact, it’ll be the last thing we discuss. This decision hasn’t made everyone happy. Apparently we all want to talk about why English has more periods than Science and how can we be expected to teach Humanities thoroughly in that many periods? But there’s a good reason for not going there; yet.

How can you have the discussion about structures without firstly having a discussion about the philosophy of learning and teaching at your school? Surely the structures are simply a tangible sign of what is valScreen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.01.16 AMued at the school and thus don’t we need to ensure that we have that sorted first? If we take a close look at the current structures of our school, in fact, any school, we would be able to make some assumptions about what that school values and we could probably even draw conclusions about the type of learning and teaching that occurs there. At GCC currently there is a clear hierarchy of subjects – but is this what we want to continue into the future? Is this the best structure for our students and is it what they will need into the future?

With the GCC curriculum review we are not going to put the cart before the horse, but rather make sure we all know: what type of school we want to be in the future, what learning we want to occur at our place and ensure our values are aligned and explicitly stated. Then, and only then, will we create structures that are the physical embodiment of our values and built on the foundations of a common understanding of learning and teaching at GCC.

What do the structures of your school say about your values? Are they aligned?

The assumptions in structures

Letting go…

I tend to go into situations thinking that I know how they will pan out – in fact, I try to plan for any number of possibilities just in case. Recently I experienced the benefits of letting go of this tendency and was pleasantly surprised.

Two weeks ago we began a full-school curriculum review. This process has been long in the planning: a number of meetings with the principal, leadership team and some external advice had assisted in putting together the terms of reference and the timeline for the process. A Reference Group was established – comprising members of the Curriculum Team (domain leaders etc.) and staff members without a formal position of leadership (POL).

The first meeting (last week) went well – initial familiarisation with the key documents, close exploration of the terms of reference and timeline and then we moved into a discussion on the identified focus areas: philosophy, documentation, structures. This meeting followed my expectations nothing out of the blue in this one.

The second meeting (this week) we moved onto the focus area of pedagogy. We wanted to answer the questions:

  • What do we want to know about pedagogy at GCC?
  • How will we find out?

We had asked these questions of philosophy, documentation and structures, but get a group of teachers talking about their craft and the ideas simply didn’t stop flowing. There was so much we wanted to know about learning and teaching at our school; there were so many questions.

Photo on 23-07-2015 at 4.11 pm #2

I had planned for this to be a brief conversation and then we would get onto the development of survey questions and interview questions, but instead we kept going. We challenged each other, we bounced off each other and we let the conversation and the ideas lead us rather than the other way around.

The end product may have been different from what I expected and we don’t have a survey yet. But, when we do have a survey and when we do have questions to ask focus groups of staff, students and parents, they will be much richer because we let go.

Shaun

Letting go…