Our journey began late last year when we announced to the world that our destination was our collective aspiration to be that centre of creative excellence, and I take every opportunity I can to lay the same challenge at the feet of every person connected with our kura: what will you be doing that will move us closer to that destination, to that aspirational state?
I lay the challenge at the feet of staff, I lay that challenge at the feet of students, and I lay that challenge at the feet of whanau. At our Mihi Whakatau for our new students, I told them exactly what our vision is, and asked them to think about what creative excellence might look like for each and every one of them. That's a hard question to answer when you are a Year 7 student, maybe 11 years old. However it's a hard question to answer regardless of how old you are, for it's not a challenge that many of us have faced before, it's a question that pushes all of us a long way outside our comfort zones.
Staff began their year asking themselves exactly that question. I challenged them to try to imagine what creative excellence might look like across these five areas of our kura:
- the classroom
- day to day school organisation
- pastoral systems
- co-curricular activities, and
- community and whanau engagement
There was a lot of discussion, and many suggestions came from our brainstorming. Here are just a very few of the wide ranging suggestions that came from staff.
- Students have a say in what they learn how they are assessed and how they present it
- Students are not afraid to share ideas, trial, experiment and learn from mistakes or errors
- Creativity will be students learn concepts in their own way, presenting in their own way, and sharing on a medium of their choosing.
- Connected curriculum
- Creativity is based on 3 components , knowledge , critical thinking processes and most importantly motivation(intrinsic or extrinsic ). To establish a truly creative centre of excellence students would need to find their own individual drivers and their "why"
- Once a student gains interest there is nothing worse than saying - time's up - pack up and move on to your next class. Why not allow a student to spend 3-4 continuous hours on a project - which ideally will then include all aspects - maths, science, technology etc
- Classes are based around rewindable learning. Students are set problems/activities/tasks to achieve in an expected time and physical space with the teacher providing support and ideas to solve problems. Classes are designed to reflect this space.
- Vertical whanau groups. Opportunities for whanau, students and staff to gather informally to get a greater sense of belonging.
- Give option of whanau evenings at home or traditional 'at school' parent/teacher interviews
When we plan a journey, we also need to know how we will travel, we need a vehicle to take us there. That question has already been answered: our vehicle will be our pedagogy of 'Learn Create Share', the underlying pedagogy of the Manaiakalani programme. It is no coincidence that the middle word of the pedagogy is 'create'.
In an early walk around classes today I developed a sense of satisfaction at the calm settled nature of the students and their classes. I was encouraged when, on entering one class, the teacher asked the students 'what are we trying to develop in this class?' The answer came back reasonably quickly 'creative excellence sir'.
It will be a long journey, but as the Chinese philosopher Lao is supposed to have said 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'.
And as with any journey:
E huri to aroaro ki te ra,
tukuna to ataarangi
ki muri i a koe
Turn your face to the sun
and let your shadow fall behind you