I knew, from the start, there must be some different ways to approach secondary learning. I had had the privilege and fortune to be involved in some truly innovative practice in the primary system for a number of years and I was determined to find an Associate Principal with secondary experience who passionately believed that things could and should change in the secondary system.
I was fortunate to find such a person inScott.
This is part of our story, through his eyes- both of the thins we have done that have been different, and what we need to keep doing.
As I said in my first posting, I feel truly privileged to be creating learning opportunities and environments with such committed and passionate educators.
Our Journey at Te Karaka Area School over the past three years, for me, has really been about doing things differently in the secondary school. I really wanted to change things to make the focus on the learner and learning. Sitting back and thinking about how far we have come three years down the track, I find myself wondering how successful have we been at doing this?
We are certainly far different to traditional systems. We promote personalised learning programs and have been successful in implementing integrated learning across curriculum areas in NCEA. We don’t really have school bells, subjects, detentions or five period days. We are going further down the track of learning anywhere at anytime. There are heaps of other things we do differently and we have always struck true to justifying our practices by being clear with the “why” we are doing these things. A lot of the answers to why we do these things can be found in Sir Ken Robinsons animate presentation on YouTube;
A number of things have happened lately that have got me thinking about how far we can go with this and indeed to what degree is secondary education going to change in the future?
One of these things was a comment from my son the other day who is in year 7. After talking about what he has been up to at school he said, “ I just wish I could design and make a BMX bike”. This got me thinking; I really wish schools were places for “passions”. I spent most of my own secondary schooling fighting the system. I chose subjects I was told would offer better career opportunities, though I had no interest in them, then I got sucked into thinking I was doing well if I passed the exam or alternatively I was dumb if I failed it.
Most of the things I was passionate about then weren’t even subjects at school, let alone the right ones. To this day no one has really, adequately explained why I had to study Shakespeare.
What are schools for anyway? What is the point of secondary education anyway? It seems to be about weeding out the haves and have-nots. A massive administrative system to work out who gets to go to university and then when we get to Twenty we say oh well anyone can go any way, as long as you pay. We even have pre course courses now where people can pay to prepare to get into specialist, high demand courses. Who is the school qualification for? Employers or learners, because teenagers are not interested in anything that’s not about themselves and it seems to be that qualifications are based around what employers want and have nothing to do with what learners are passionate about.
School should be a place for passions to be discovered and explored! This doesn’t mean throwing out the curriculum, it just means flipping it, so that students are writing their own curriculum. In this curriculum the focus isn’t on coverage and subjects but learning to learn and developing understandings through passions. It means drastically different roles for teachers and learners and significant changes in how we use time and space for learning. This is a total rethink about the purpose of secondary education and the institutions that we know as secondary schools.