Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Change is the opportunity to do something amazing ... #IMMOOC Week 1.

It has taken me a bit to get my head around - this IMMOOC set up by George Couros that enables amazing conversations around innovative education on a global scale. It is somewhat daunting and soo connected that I am a little overwhelmed. However after spending time lurking and enjoying the conversations I have decided that my entry level will be to catch up with the blogging, face book and twitter conversations. Through my reading on week one of the IMMOOC I have discovered the wonderful 'inoreader', an organisational tool that has the potential to change my life! My bookmarks folders need not be overloaded any longer!

In my school context, change is here and now and we have the opportunity to do something amazing. We are a new school as of February 2016. Our school has come out of the closure of two schools post Christchurch 2011 Earthquake. We have beautiful new innovative learning spaces and a school culture to build from scratch. We are very excited by the opportunity that change can bring us. The biggest challenge right now is leading change in a way that enables our school community to come along with us without feeling overwhelmed by the change. We want our children and teachers to feel more connected to their learning. We want our students to have a voice, be creative, be inquisitive, be collaborative and be critical thinkers while developing citizenship and good character. We know that the world that our students are engaging with now and even more so will be experiencing as they leave school, requires a very different approach to learning than the one that we have traditionally had. When we introduce 1:1 computers next year, we want to be sure that our students are ready to be innovative and creative with the technology in ways that they could not be without it. We are at the crossroads now where we can choose to take the opportunity to do something amazing.


Thursday, 7 July 2016

Mind Lab Week 32. Changes in my Practice.



My decision to embark on the post grad Mind Lab journey came out of my desire to increase my knowledge and experience around digital technology and its place in today's education. I was concerned that coming out of a class would make me too far removed from the e -learning and connectivity that I knew my students and colleagues would be a part of. I was concerned that I didn’t know enough to contribute fully to a senior leadership team.

At Mind Lab I found that collaborative practice was being modelled by the teachers in the room during the first 16 weeks of face to face lectures and hands on activities. Luckily there was always enough knowledge in the group and people willing to learn, work together and produce to a deadline. I found the lectures interesting and thought provoking and the hands on activities challenging and at times frustrating. I gained in confidence over my thinking around technology and I increased my confidence when trying new technologies. During this time I have also gained in confidence over the use of blogging and twitter as a way to be connected globally.

One of the highlights for me was the opportunity to work with my colleague on the group tasks. As of the beginning of this year we have been working at the same school. This brought our group assignments sharply into focus as we were able to make every assignment and piece of research relevant to our school context. (Newly established school as a result of a merger). We discussed, debated, analysed and clarified our thinking on a variety of subjects that we were always able to view through the lens of our particular context. It didn’t start out that way last November, but what a bonus!

Screenshot 2016-07-05 23.02.10.png

Two key changes in my own research informed practice in relation to the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning:
Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.
One of the benefits of this course is the dialogue that has come out of looking at research. As a new school, everything that we do, we are are looking critically at and deciding how it will look for us. It is the perfect time to reassess or press the reset button. We have looked hard at how we want to show leadership to our teams. We are consciously modelling collaborative practice as a senior leadership team. We have a shared office and the staff know that we work collaboratively on tasks. We model professional attitudes of a growth mindset (The whole staff were given Carol Dweck's book Teaching a Growth Mindset at the beginning of the year). In the course of our Mind Lab work, my colleague and I have investigated  and created a plan for the introduction of project based learning as a natural progression in innovative practice from self regulated learning, student agency, and deep learning tasks. We are excited at the prospects this promotes for our future direction.  We are now using blogging as a means of professional dialogue. Blogs are used as a means of chronicling staff Teaching as Inquiry. We now link the activities that we blog about to our PTCs. (Practicing Teacher Criteria).  
Professional development processes share a common goal: improved practice.” (Osterman & Kottkamp. 1993)

Criteria 11: Analyse and appropriately use assessment and information, which has been gathered formally and informally.
One of the challenges that I am enjoying in this role is using data. I have used data as a means of initiating professional dialogue around raising student achievement in my teams for some years now. I have reported to BOT on student achievement in my team. Next level for me is using the school management system to collate, graph and analyse school wide data. This is in order to find trends and implications to report on progress to the BOT and to determine next steps in terms of resourcing, monitoring target children and identifying professional development needs.
We report on overall teacher judgement that we have triangulated with our teachers using formal summative assessment, anecdotal evidence and informal observations.


My next professional development dream is to help facilitate the mindshift that will be necessary to move our school further into innovative practices which includes the adoption of multidisciplinary project based learning. I want to be a part of the movement towards using e- learning as a means of accessing technology in order to do things that we could not: connect, collaborate, design ideate, synthesise, and produce without the technology.
As for my personal commitment to life - long learning, I’m not exactly what the next course will be, but I know that it will be one that is relevant to my leadership role.

References:
Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/RefPract/Osterman_Kottkamp_extract.pdf



Monday, 4 July 2016

Mind Lab Week 31 My Interdisciplinary Connection Map.




My interdisciplinary map shows my commitment to the value of making connections, in and outside of the workplace.
The interdisciplinary concept is multifaceted. On my professional level it incorporates all of the different networks in my life. Looking at my map I can see how much value I place personally on making connections that will enable me to grow professionally as well as to enable others to grow. I can see that what has gone on in my past is what has enabled me to grow professionally and past involvements are what has enabled me to make the connections that I so strongly value.

On another professional level, the multidisciplinary connections between subjects resonated strongly with me as I explore the possibilities of project based learning further. Crossing interdisciplinary boundaries is how project based learning will work. As was stated on the video  “The road to success academy model” (Week 31 Mindlab) the
pursuit of crossing interdisciplinary boundaries “ allows individuals to focus on the collaboration and participation in finding solutions to increasingly complex problems occurring in the world today.” (Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24).


As was stated on the video (Mind Lab Week 31), interdisciplinary crossover allows for a curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline, in order to exam a central theme  (Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24). My Goal for the future in my school context is to explore further the cross curriculum interdisciplinary connections within the project based learning approach. I can see how the benefits of this approach would make learning so much more authentic as students access the discipline that they need (and the teacher who has those skills) in a much more natural and timely way as they work together to solve real life problems viewed through a social / emotional lens. In this way students will become better equipped to develop the necessary competencies that will sit alongside their knowledge acquisition. These competences are tools such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and citizenship. This is project based learning.

David Wiley in his TEd Talk ( Mind Lab Week 31) talks about crossing interdisciplinary boundaries in the sense of “enabling educational opportunities for all” In this way he presents the opportunities that free online sharing of knowledge enables for the student. He raises an appealing analogy about educational innovation comparing it to a musical remix or mashup of ideas - not necessarily new thinking but putting ideas together in a different way. In his Ted Talk, Wiley quoted Eric Raymond as saying “to solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you”. My Goal for our school is to work with the senior leadership team (of which I am a part) and the staff to enable educational opportunities for our students. Just as I am able to access the opportunities that being globally connected affords me, so too do I want to be able to make that possible and safe for our students. There are tensions associated with being globally connected when you are are a young person and these need to be addressed in a timely and safe manner.


The interdisciplinary environment that our students will have access to will enable them to have the benefits of free online material. They will have access to information and be influenced by people that may help shape their thinking and actions. This same environment can also have challenges in terms of unfiltered knowledge and influence. As teachers we share the responsibility with whanau to educate our students in the ability to filter information in a way such that they can process the information safely and connect globally with people in a positive way.  


References:

Videos:
Ted Talks:
David Wiley talked on interdisciplinary thinking that leads to innovation.Source: TEDx Talks (2001, April 6). TEDxBYU - David Wiley - An Interdisciplinary Path to Innovation. [video file].Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ytjMDongp4 (via Mindlab Week 3)

Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA564RIlhM

(via Mindlab Week 31)










Thursday, 30 June 2016

Week 30. Activity 6: Using social online networks in teaching and/or professional development.


“ In New Zealand and internationally there is widespread interest in the use of technologies to enhance learning in schools and the debate has extended to include the way educators also use technologies to support their own professional learning. (Melhuish 2013)”

Some key features of social media that are beneficial for teaching and learning:
This week I attended the Christchurch Primary Principal’s Association conference. It  was on the theme of Design Thinking. I found it thought provoking; at times challenging and other times, affirming. Most of the keynote speakers and workshop facilitators spoke about the use of technology in schools. One such keynote speaker that had me thinking was Chris Betcher. (Director of Professional development for EDTech team in Sydney).  He asked us to consider and discuss how we  use social media and to what extent it in“ In New Zealand and internationally there is widespread interest in the use of technologies to enhance learning in schools and the debate has extended to include the way educators also use technologies to support their own professional learning. (Melhuish 2013)”
fluences our professional development He also had us discussing the use of social media in the class. Most of the people in the room indicated that they use twitter, facebook, and blogs as a means of gaining information on current educational thinking. Most people present also use social media personally to stay in touch with people (twitter and facebook) that they have made connections with in a face to face capacity. (Such as meeting at conferences, courses etc). Most people in the room now use social media in some way in their everyday lives. Almost everyone uses YouTube as as a professional development resource, (especially Ted Talks) and many teachers now use YouTube as an instructional video in the class.
Social Media, Blocks, Blogger, ...

An interesting point made separately by both Chris Betcher and Derek Wenmoth (CORE) in their presentations is that technology has been around a long time, however, it is our use of it that has had to undergo a transformation. It is our global connectedness that has enabled us to use technology in a more transformational way. This resonated with me. If technology is being used as an alternative to pen and paper and books, then it is not being used to enable and enhance learning. It is merely swapping out a text - book for an IPAD. No wonder that in schools where this is the case, studies are showing that technology is having little or no impact on student achievement. The connection between technology and pedagogy needs to be made and it needs to be reflected in our school vision. We need to be using technology for things that we couldn’t do any other way. Such as connecting with people and working collaboratively, globally. If we want our students to be developing the fundamental skills of collaboration, connectedness, creativity, critical thinking and communication then we need to be thinking about the use of technology and asking; “what is the learning? how does it connect with developing fundamental skills?.” (Derek Wenmoth, CPPA conference 2016). Technology needs to be the vehicle for causing learning, not the reason for the learning. As Chris Betcher said in his keynote, “ Using the technology can be easy, it’s the rest that requires wisdom … bringing students to excellence has little to do with the technology”. The example he gave was how easy it is to learn how to create an imovie. That takes five minutes. The skill is in the crafting of the script, the acting, the direction, the effects, the collaboration and cohesiveness of the participants. That is not about the technology. The technology removes the friction. It makes the end product easier to access and achieve. (Paraphrased from keynote presentation Chris Betcher CPPA conference 2016)

Using Social media to enhance my professional development:
In the past 18 months, I have increasingly used Twitter as a platform for my own professional development. I engaged in a facilitated Twitter challenge at the beginning of last year and this helped me to gain confidence with using twitter as a way to engage with other educators globally. I am now able to research educational topics on a grand and accessible scale. Participating in twitter chats makes me feel connected to educators around the world. Through Twitter I am able to access links to research and blogs and discussions that are shared by inspirational people. I am emerging out of the ‘lurker’ world and I am tentatively participating. It is an exciting place to be.


References:
Melhuish, K. (2013)  Online Social networking and its impact on NewZealand educator’s professional learning.

Quotes and paraphrases from presentation by Chris Betcher, CPPA conference Christchurch 2016.
Quotes and paraphrases from presentation by Derek Wenmoth, CPPA conference Christchurch 2106.





Sunday, 26 June 2016

Mind Lab Week 29. Activity 5: Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice. How much is too much?

Teachers in NewZealand are bound by the Code of Ethics for Certified teachers. Ethical understanding gives us boundaries, determined by society within which we are expected to operate our lives and interact with people. This code, or rules of conduct, exists because society dictates that teachers  “nurture the capacities of all learners to think and act with developing independence, and strive to encourage an informed appreciation of the fundamental values of a democratic society.” (Retrieved from The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers). This code of ethics means that we inherit a moral responsibility, as Hall (2001) states” largely because it is recognized that how teachers fulfil their public duties influences the lives of vulnerable young people. The Code of Ethics for Certified teachers is based on four main principles:
  • Autonomy to treat people with rights that are to be honoured and defended
  • Justice to share power and prevent the abuse of power
  • Responsible care to do good and minimise harm to others
  • Truth to be honest with others and self.  (Education Council Site)Screenshot 2016-06-22 20.39.45.png
These are guidelines by which teachers are expected to base their professional and by association, their private lives. What has changed over recent years is the understanding and interpretation of ‘private’.

We are living in a digital, globally connected age. We no longer require “everything to be turned off” at meetings, because we assume that people are using their devices (phone, ipad, laptops) to take notes, or investigate something that has come up in the course of the meeting. Where once we would have considered these actions to be rude, we often now accept this hiding behind devices as the norm. We are constantly interrupting our face to face interactions with communication on devices and we are repeatedly distracted by something on our device. Our children are the same.
With this relaxed attitude towards access to technology comes a more relaxed attitude towards access to the teaching staff in a school. Teachers are suddenly finding that parents are making friend requests on facebook, being followed on twitter, receiving snapchats and being texted by the parent community. It doesn’t matter now whether or not parents have our phone number because there are so many other ways to “get hold of us.”
This access gives rise to a dilemma, which is perhaps obvious as “human beings are social beings engaged in social interactions” (Collste, 2012)
How much is too much? How much access to their own personal life should a teacher allow?  At our school, like many others, we have teachers who form strong relationships with their parent community. In some cases the teacher is also a parent with children at the school. It is desirable that our teachers form strong relationships with their parents, but in some cases, the line between professional and personal can be crossed. Social media makes this line so much easier to cross than in the past. When teachers allow parents to friend them on facebook, they open up their personal lives to public scrutiny and give out a non - professional persona. How does this fit in with the code of ethics? Tensions are created amongst the stakeholders to whom the teacher is accountable.
Screenshot 2016-06-22 22.40.03.png
(Retrieved from The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers).
This over familiarity that can emerge puts professional interactions at risk. At our school, we have advised that teachers have the conversation with their parents that friending them on facebook is not  within our school code of ethics (each teacher has a copy and copies are displayed throughout the school), as it is not in the best interests of the children. It can be difficult to discuss the needs of the learner when professional distance is not maintained and the ability of the parent to participate in learning conversations about the child could be compromised due to over familiarity.
Resolving the competing claims of different ethical principles and different interest groups is usually best achieved through reflective professional discussion where the interests of learners are regarded as being of prime concern. (Retrieved from The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers).
References:
The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers:  https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/ethical-decisions
Hall, A. (2001, April). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane.
KEMANUSIAAN Vol. 19, No. 1, (2012), 17–33 Applied and Professional Ethics GÖRAN COLLSTE Linköping University, Linköping,  Sweden Goran.collste@liu.se

Mind Lab Week 28. Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in my practice

Indigenous knowledge in education talks about the understanding and appreciation that the school has when valuing ethnic diversity. Culturally responsive pedagogy is described by Jacqueline Jordan Irvine in her video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTVjJuRaZ8) as having at its heart, ‘culture’. This  means that in essence it is about understanding a person’s beliefs, world views, values and languages.

Gay (2010) defines culturally responsive pedagogy as teaching ‘to and through [students’] personal and cultural strengths, their intellectual capabilities, and their prior accomplishments’ (p. 26) and as premised on ‘close interactions among ethnic identity, cultural background, and student achievement’ (p. 27). (as cited in Savage,et al 2011).
This means that teachers need to take students everyday cultural experiences and build their classroom programme in a way that acknowledges and respects the lens through which people of other cultures view life.

The findings of the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (Cowie et.al 2011) tells us that a culturally responsive pedagogy is a social justice and equity issue because if we continue to create educational opportunities for students that are based on a european, white, english speaking model, we are disadvantaging students from diverse backgrounds. The mind lab notes inform us that the make - up of our NewZealand schools is 67% European, 14.6% Maori and the remainder Pasifika and Asian. We have a commitment through the Treaty of Waitangi to be culturally inclusive of our Maori students. We have a moral obligation to be culturally inclusive of people from all ethnic origins.


What do we need to do to be culturally responsive?
Last year I attended the MAC (Maori Achievement Collaborative) Conference, Te Ara Hou at the Owae Marae Waitara. The focus was on Maori Potential: Maori achieving as Maori. One of the speakers there resonated with me. We know as educators that as with many ideas in education, what works with one group often can be transferred to all learners (Maori, Pasifica, ESOL, Dyslexia). I wondered what was different about Maori
learners. Dr Melinda Webber shared the outcome of ten years of research into Maori achieving as Maori, the Ka Awatea Project.  There were many relevant implications for teachers, whanau, Boards of Trustees and of course for students.

 




(taken from Dr. Melinda Webber presentation at Te Ara Hou Marae 2015).

These sources of Mana have strong implications for policy makers in the school and for teachers and students. One of the enduring messages that I gained from the Dr.
Webber and from the other presenters was the high importance placed on the need for strong role - model relationships between a Maori student and a significant teacher in his / her life. That strong relationship does not even need to be with the current teacher or teachers but with one person at the school. This message had a profound effect on me as I considered the far reaching effects of positive relationships in the lives of our students. Innovative practices allow for greater flexibility when planning and assessing and these relationship considerations need to be engaged with at the planning level.


Communication

Kahikitia - Accelerating Success 2013 - 2107 is the Ministry document that also talks about the Maori Potential. This means that Maori and all relevant stakeholders must have high expectations around their ability to succeed.


For our new (Feb 2016) school, St. Francis of Assisi, this means that we will need to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that these expectations are high. We will need to have hui with local iwi, with interested Maori parties in our school and church whanau. We will need to make these stakeholders feel welcome in our school through open days, information evenings, cultural celebrations and invitations to share knowledge of culture with us.



(Taken from Dr. Melinda Webber presentation at Te Ara Hou Marae 2015).


References:
Cowie, B.,  Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., Kara, H., with Anderson, M., Doyle, J., Parkinson, A., Te Kiri, C. (2011)Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki
 Gay, G. Preparing for Culturally Responsive Teaching Journal of Teacher Education 2002; 53; 106 
Savage, C.,  Hindle, R., Meyer, L, H.,   Hynds, A., Penetito, W., Sleeter, C, E., indigenous student experiences across the curriculum
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTVjJuRaZ8 -culturally responsive pedagogy
Slides copied from presentation by Webber, M at the Te Ara Hou Maori Achievement Collaborative at the Owae Marae 2015.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Week 27. Mind Lab. Activity 3: Contemporary issues or trends in New Zealand or internationally.


Identify and evaluate two contemporary issues or trends that are influencing or shaping NZ or international education, which you find most relevant to your practice.

Globalisation is here. More and more people are becoming connected. This is not a phase but the way our world has evolved. Our technologies allow us to contribute to the worldwide research and conversations about the changing needs of our local and global societies. Global partnerships where people in the workplace, teachers and students can collaborate on projects with unknown people around the world are game changers for education.

The National Intelligence Council 2012 Report states "We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures. It is our contention that the future is not set in stone, but is malleable, the result of an interplay among mega trends, game-changers and, above all, human agency. Our effort is to encourage decision makers—whether in government or outside—to think and plan for the long term so that negative futures do not occur and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding." (NIC 2012)

CORE education and the Kahukura cluster in Christchurch are working on a 'New Pedagogies' project in collaboration with Michael Fullan, author of educational publications such as A Rich Seam (2014), Freedom to Change(2015) and many other publications on the theme of Change Leadership. An important component of this global partnership including 1000 schools in 100 countries, is a project to which student participants from all of the contributing countries contribute. As well as shared projects, individual schools share their school based projects with the global community. This partnership is a blueprint for changing paradigms.

Ken Robinson shares an excellent animated video that clearly paints a picture of how and why our  education paradigms need to change.

This is an exciting time for educators. As we prepare our children for an elusive shapeshifting future we see some common trends emerging in NewZealand and around the world. One of these trends is the increasing use of collaborative learning approaches. This is the answer to addressing the changing needs of our children. With the accessibility of information, our role is not so much about providing facts but ensuring that we teach the competencies which the students will need in order to transfer knowledge across the curriculum and to filter the facts into information that they can work with, rather than regurgitate. These competencies are becoming more and more accepted as the skills that children will need to use in order to be able to access their future most productively.  They pose challenges for traditional educational systems as these competencies are not so easily measured as traditional methods such as tests of content knowledge.  These competencies are presented slightly differently by different educationalists.  Fullan (2014) calls these competencies the six C's: Communication, Collaboration, Citizenship, Critical thinking, Creativity and Character.

In my school context, (Start up school this year, as a result of a merger of two schools), we have begun work on what we want our student profile to look like. We are developing, through our professional development sessions and classroom experiences,  shared understandings and language about what collaborative learning approaches look like. We have had professional development on models of collaboration and what they look like in our learning hubs. Three of our four teams have brand new flexible learning spaces. The fourth team is working out of single cell classes, that are awaiting refurbishment. We are looking at what engagement of our learners looks like in our staff PD as well.  All of this contributes to our emerging vision and values.
Technology is allowing teachers to plan collaboratively and share their planning on google docs and this in turn allows teachers to easily see how they can work together and provide opportunities for students to work together on tasks that promote new learning, deeper thinking and the competencies for successful interactions. The 2015 horizon report states that research is showing how collaboration "can be used to promote achievement in reading, writing, conceptual development in science, problem solving in mathematics,and higher level thinking and reasoning" (Horizon Report 2015). Our school is on the journey.
A longer term impact that we are working towards in our school and a current trend in education globally, is the shift to deeper learning approaches. The next level in collaborative learning for our school is to make this shift. In our school, the children have made huge gains this year in terms of working collaboratively in flexible learning spaces and learning the skills of self management. The first step towards deeper learning approaches is the introduction of deep learning tasks. This is currently happening in some areas of the school. These are sets of tasks that involve the children working in small groups to research a teacher directed topic that is contextualised to: their lives, the school, local community, or world events. The tasks cross the curriculum and the children need to gain new knowledge and use this knowledge to think more deeply about issues, which they present in their chosen way. This is the first step towards our goal of project based learning. The difference between deep learning tasks and PBL for us is that the children will be working on a provocation that is given to them and they will work together to solve a problem. This will involve multi curriculum areas and will be extended over time. Rather than a set of tasks, PBL will be one all encompassing project for a particular group. The students will seek the knowledge from the teacher or other sources that is required to complete the project or solve the problem.


References:

Fullan, M & Lanworthy, M. (2014). A Rich Seam How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf:
National Intelligence Council.(2012). Global trends: Alternative Worlds.National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved fromhttps://globaltrends2030.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/global-trends-2030-november2012.pdf:  
Robinson, K retrieved from Mindlab: The RSA.(2010, Oct 14). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

My Professional Community: My School Culture. Week 26. Mind Lab.

  1. What is the organisational culture (collective values/principles) that underpins your practice? How would you contribute to fostering a positive professional environment in your community of practice?
Stoll states that a school culture "defines reality for those within a social organisation, gives them support and identity and creates a framework for occupational learning. Each school has a different reality or mindset of school life, often captured in the simple phrase “the way we do things around here”. (Deal, & Kennedy, A. (1983)as cited in Stoll 1998). The context of my school is that it is a  new school that has been created out of the merger of two catholic schools, both of which have been in a state of uncertainty since the Christchurch earthquakes. For me, the establishment of a new culture has been the most important thing in the setting up process. 
Stoll also states that "School culture is one of the most complex and important concepts in education. In relation to school improvement, it has also been one of the most neglected. " This may be the case in a well established school, where as people join the staff, they are expected to adhere to the existing culture without any input themselves; they as quickly as possible learn the "way we do things around here" and work hard to join the sense of belonging that already exists. I have been in the position numerous times where I have had to learn the specific cultural language and ways of the school and adopt them as my own, letting go of, if necessary what I have brought with me. 
In my current situation "the way we do things around here" does not exist, we are in the exciting position as a whole staff of creating our own culture. This is the opportunity to challenge previous norms and expectations and create our own. 

We have as our underpinning value, our special character. This is our unifying essential element and it is through this lens that we will develop our vision and values for our school. We, as a staff who have been together for 15 weeks have, combined with our special character, our commitment to innovative learning practices and the best ways to foster and  deliver the best possible outcomes for our children. We have already worked on and continue to to work on our collective understandings around language, norms, respect for each other, shared responsibility for each other and our children and we recognise the need for humour in our lives.

2. What are the current issues in your community of practice? How would your community of practice address them?

The current issues that we face are inherent in the fact that we are a merger of two very different school cultures. Every thing that we do we look on as an opportunity to do it differently. In effect we are doing what  Stoll (1998) and Fullan (1996) term Reculturing, which is “the process of developing new values, beliefs and norms. For systematic reform it involves building new conceptions about instruction... and new forms of professionalism for teachers...” (Fullan as cited in Stoll 1998)
 This reculturing is important not only for the staff and children but also for the parent community, who seem to have  had more difficulty adapting to the change than those staff who came from both schools and the children from both schools. As a staff we have had to constantly reassure some parents that all will be well. One of the schools was much smaller than the other and the smaller school was moved to the site of the larger one. Added to the mix is the changing nature of the delivery of education that innovative practices bring and the very different face of the classrooms that have new flexible learning spaces. 
We have introduced Restorative Practices as a means of maintaining relationship balance in our school and this is helping to establish the kind of school culture that is important to us; one based on trust, honesty and mutual respect.  
This is an exciting time for our school.