Monday, 8 December 2014

Visit to Russell Street School

At the end of 2014 we had our Senior Syndicate Planning Days. As part of these two days we visited Russell Street School. Prior to our visit, we met with Elly Warnock (Leader of Poutama at Russell Street School) to provide her with some background information and share our plans at this stage. Elly shared a presentation with our teachers about the journey of Poutama and she explained how they had developed the children’s understanding and application of agency. Following this our teachers visited this space and were able to talk with the children and teachers in Poutama.

After our visit we completed the thinking routine ‘See-Think-Wonder’. Below is a summary:

During our visit we observed students learning individually, in pairs and in small groups in a large flexible environment. Within the building, there was a range of different spaces for the children to learn. We noticed that the teachers were not immediately visible. The children were self aware, they understood which peers and spaces best suited their learning. The children were engaged in learning conversations with their peers and teachers. The children could share their learning with others, including visiting adults. Children shared the way they documented their learning journey on a blog. Teachers were passionate about what they were doing and were happy to share with us.  We were particularly interested in the children explaining their co-constructed wall display that showed the how they worked towards agency.

Some of our wonderings:

  • How long did it take to develop this level of student agency? 
  • Could our children manage themselves in a space like this? 
  • Will it be easier as two classes instead of four? 
  • What does teacher planning look like? 
  • How would children with learning issues cope in that environment? 
  • Are they having any issues tracking children? 
  • Should we start in whanau classes? 
  • Can working in whanau classes first help with transitioning kids to managing self? 
  • How are children accountable throughout the day? 
  • What will this look like in a single cell classroom? 
Elly was honest about their journey and our teachers understood that these changes didn't happen overnight! She said we needed a ‘license not to be perfect’. Most importantly, our teachers understood that what they saw and learnt was about pedagogy not the environment.

Our visit to Russell Street School was an inspiring start to our day and provided a valuable starting point for many rich conversations to come. Click the image below to check out Poutama's blog.

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