I had the privilege of being in the audience for some staff presentations at Albanvale PS last week. These four PLCs have made commitments to challenge their practice through the work of our Real Schools Partnership in a variety of different ways in the first year of our collaboration.
The Prep PLC looked at the use of Affective Language. They took the formal focus of teaching a new feelings word to the students regularly and to informally changing their own language around the kids.
What did they find? Their students are demonstrating significantly higher emotional intelligence and vocabulary, associated with a marked increase in their ability to individually solve social conflict independently. The students are creative in these solutions and this creativity is even becoming evident in their writing where they are able to describe the experiences of characters and the impact of events with more flair.
The Year 1/2 PLC looked at Learning Circles. They simply began providing instruction more regularly in circles, where power is evenly distributed, rather than with the teacher in a powerful position at the front of the room.
What did they find? Collectively, their students engaged with the content more thoroughly and were able to complete activities post-instruction more effectively. On an individual level, a video of a young girl who had previously been a selective mute, speaking and contributing to the class discussion took my breath away.
The Year 3/4 class looked at the restorative problem solving methodology of Past > Present > Future rather than past and blame based punitive models for resolving conflict.
What did they find? This is my favourite outcome. It didn’t work! The kids are yet to respond efficiently and meaningfully to this approach. Are the teachers discouraged? Not one bit! They wrote furiously as I spoke to them about restricting the time spent on the past (as a deliberate signal to the students about importance) and then to helping them creatively establish ways to be “shorry” by showing they are sorry rather than defaulting to fake apologies. I’m excited about what’s ahead of them.
The Year 5/6 PLC focused on deep questioning. Simply, they looked to the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy rather than the bottom to impact the way they questioned their students.
What did they find? The student videos played unpacking how much they enjoyed the higher level of challenge were genuinely powerful. What blew me away was the story of an excursion to an art gallery. A member of the public approached the Art Teacher and complimented her on how well she had obviously prepared the students to discuss the artworks they’d be seeing. Here’s the kicker – the students had never seen the art on display. They were just better equipped than most to interpret, to critique, to rank and to analyse … because they’d been asked to previously.
It’s worth pointing out that each PLC had a specialist teacher attached to it so that this teacher could contribute to the team goal and also to experiment with their hypothesis in the specialist setting. I was so proud of the contribution these specialists are making to their school, rather than absolving responsibility under the glib banner of “Well, that’s fine but you can’t do it when you’ve only got them for 50 minutes a week”.
I’m so proud of everyone at Albanvale PS … as I bet that Principal Sue Vermezovic and APs Michael Uzunovski and Esma Bala would be.
They have no more time, no less tricky case studies and no contextual advantage to your school. They are a shining light on both what’s possible and also on the invalidity of some of our well worn excuses.
They’ve simply accepted a challenge to change.