Activity 2: Current issues in my professional context

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Step 1: Identify the socioeconomic status of the community, organisational culture and professional environments. 

Is there any statistical data that indicates the socioeconomic status of your school’s community? What does it tell you about the characteristics of the community?

The school is a decile 10, which indicates that we have a very low percentage of children from low socio economic backgrounds. The 2013 census found the following for the WM community:

WM is predominantly a Pakeha / European community:screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-5-10-36-pm

English is the main language spoken in the community:

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A high percentage of the community have a formal qualification:

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The community has a very low unemployment rate:

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The median income is higher than the National median ($28500)

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Most children in the community come from two parent households:

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Most children live with their immediate family rather than in an extended family situation:

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Most children have access to the internet:

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Most of the community own their own home:

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So what does all this tell us about the characteristics of our community? What does the community value? What does the research say?

WM is an affluent community with parents who care about their children’s education. Most of the parent community has a formal qualification themselves and so it is likely that they would have future education goals for their children. They have the means to support their children should they need it. They have the ability and time to converse with their children to develop all important early language skills essential for successful future eduction. Child have ready access to technology and the internet at home, they are at the top of the digital divide. All this points to a high potential for successful learning outcomes for the learners at WM school.

  • Families from higher socio economic communities are more likely to have the financial resources and time available to provide children with academic support should they need it.
  • Children with higher SES backgrounds were more likely to be proficient on tasks of addition, subtraction, ordinal sequencing and math word problems than children with lower SES backgrounds” (Coley, 2002).
  • According to the American Psychological Association behaviour problems should be less than a school in a lower socio economic area

 

What is the culture that the school is striving for? How is it manifested?

Stoll (1998) defines school culture along three dimensions, the relationship among its members; the organisational structure including the physical environment and management system; and the learning nature. Some internal and external factors that shape a school’s culture include the school’s history, the students’ socio-economic background, external contexts such as national educational policies, and societal changes (Stoll, 1998).

WM school is currently undertaking a major redevelopment. This includes the physical environment as well as a total shift in the pedagogical understandings that underpin the very fabric of the school culture. As a new comer to the school this year it has been an interesting process to learn the ‘WM Way’ of doing things, especially when the school is in such a state of change. There is strong leadership from our Principal and the early adopters are definitely on board with the newly developed vision and values. At the core of these changes in culture are the three key ideas mentioned in the required video this week: learning, caring and success. This is made evident for all members of the WM school community, teachers and learners. There is a strong belief that positive relationships between community members (teachers and students) benefit learning. Children and staff need to feel safe, supported and valued to enable successful outcomes for all. As we move towards the new build and new collaborative partnerships next year is has been evident that our Principal and the BOT have a clear understanding and vision for where they see the school heading. This is exemplified in our newly released Learning Landscape:

learning-landscape

How would you describe the professional environment in your school?

The professional environment at our school is exactly that – a PROFESSIONAL environment. People are treated with respect and their opinions are valued and sought by management. Areas of expertise are developed to ensure the success of the team and school as a whole. This year a lot of work has been focussed on developing our new Learning Landscape. We have dedicated whole staff meetings each week where often the focus is on what this actually means. What will it look like? What will it sound like? How will it feel? How will it impact on the learning for our akonga? How will this be manifested in the new build and new teaching / learning relationships that will form in the future?

 

Step 2: Analyse the issues around the socioeconomic status of the community, the organisational culture and professional environments. Use these following questions to guide your thoughts:

What issues arose from the socio-economic status of your school’s community? How is it similar or different from those of similar socio-economic status? How have the issues been addressed?

The main issue that arose from looking at the socio-economic status of our school was that we have an invested parent community. This can be a double edged sword. Parents value education and are able to support their children, they often have high expectations for their children and sometimes these expectations can be unrealistic. This in turn can put additional pressure on teachers and the wider school community as children and teachers try to live up to these unrealistic expectations. So how has WM school addressed this issue?

  • The school has a communication policy to support teachers in their home – school communications;
  • Each learning community within the larger school has a web presence where parents can see what’s going on in the classroom – a window into the learning environment for working parents;
  • Some learning communities have adopted the use of the See Saw Learning Journal app where children can blog their learning via images and movies and parents can again get a window into the learning – although this one is more interactive as parents can give their children immediate feedback which is very rewarding;
  • Reporting to parents has been streamlined so that it is easier for teachers and more easily understood by parents;
  • Each term there is at least one opportunity for parents to come in after hours to meet the teachers;
  • Parent workshops have been offered so that parents can gain a better understanding of the school’s curriculum, vision and values;
  • I have personally been involved in the re-development of the school website. Parents were consulted as part of this re-development and now have a better sense of ownership in the school community.

What issues arose from the professional environments in your school? How these issues impact on your practice? How have the issues been addressed?

The main issue around the professional environment at my school is that I am new to it. Having come from a school where I taught for 9 years this has had it’s own challenges. Firstly getting my head around a whole new school culture, including vision and values. Secondly finding my own place and sense of belonging within a new community. As the year has progressed I have come to feel a strong connection with the values which underpin our school culture. This has been made easier by strong leadership and clear professional development focussed on the school’s Learning Landscape.

What role does your school’s culture play in addressing the discussed issues?screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-6-35-18-pm(Stoll, 1998)

Reflecting after reading Stoll’s article this week I realise that the school’s culture has a huge part to play in addressing the issues. Often this year I have looked at issues using the culture of my previous school – an easy trap to fall into when you are working in a new culture. What I needed to do was use the WM School culture as a lense to step back and take a second look.

Q: What are our shared goals?

A: Our learning landscape

Q: Who is responsible for success?

A: All of us

Q: Are we collegial in our practice?

A: We are stating to be and have clear goals for the future

Q: Are we showing continuous improvement?

A: Yes! Everyone is keen to learn and keen to share their areas of expertise!

Q: Are we life long learners?

A: Of course, isn’t this why we are teachers?

Q: Are we taking risks?

A: We are learning to take more each day

Q: Are we supported?

A: In our collaborative team there is always someone there and the leadership team always makes time to listen

Q: Is there mutual respect?

A: I think so, everyone is respected for their individual strengths and encouraged to share / develop them in themselves and others

Q: Is there openness?

A: Team meetings are a free forum for frank discussions

Q: Do we celebrate? Have we got a sense of humour?

A: Hell yeah!!

What an awesome foundation to continue to build on!

References:

APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education.aspx

Coley, R. J. (2002). An uneven start: Indicators of inequality in school readiness. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Gargiulo, S. (2014). Principal sabbatical report. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Leadership-development/Professional-information/Principals-sabbatical-reports/Report-archives-for-2007-2014/Secondary-award-recipients-2014/Gargiulo-Salvatore

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Understanding-school-cultures/School-Culture

2013 Census QuickStats about a place: West Melton. Retrieved from: http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-a-place.aspx?request_value=14895&tabname=Populationanddwellings&p=y&printall=true

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Activity 2: Current issues in my professional context

  1. It looks like the school have implemented some proactive strategies for communicating with parents. Have you found these strategies helpful?

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    1. Hi Jo,
      Yes they have been helpful although sometimes quite demanding and time consuming. As we look to teaching in a power of four next year we will need to ensure we have consistent systems in place to ensure we aren’t doubling up on workload. One of our ideas for this is to have the students in four ‘home base’ groups. One teacher will be the point of contact for the students in each home base. We are hoping that this will streamline things as parents have mentioned that sometimes it can be confusing who to get in touch with regarding their child when they are taught by more than one teacher.

      Thanks again for your comment 🙂

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  2. It is interesting to read about a learning environment that is very different to my own. You mentioned collaborative partnerships in the blog – do you know how these are going to look/work? Sounds very interesting. Also, you talked a lot about the parent community – are they on board with the changes?

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    1. Hi Katy, Thanks for your questions. Currently as a team of four we are working collaboratively in two powers of two, which has been pretty successful. We used a non contact day last term to meet as a power of four to discuss what it will look like and didn’t get very far. We all think that it’s important to have a shared understanding of our core beliefs about teaching and learning so we are looking at developing these first. Secondly we are looking to visit some other schools this term where teachers are already working in powers of four to see what it looks like and sounds like in practice. I would like to have some clear routines in place soon so that our roles are really clear and we can be an effective team.

      On the whole our parent community are on board with the school’s future plans. Of course there is a little apprehension about change which is natural. The one issue that has been raised is the concern about having possible 120 Year 5/6 students all working in one collaborative space. This is obviously very different to the education system that parents are familiar with so there are some reservations. To be honest I am slightly nervous about it as well! I would love to be pointed in the direction of some research that looks at the benefits to learning in such an environments so that I had better answers for parents. I will be asking my Principal for guidance on this as the school did PD focussed on this last year prior to me commencing work there.

      It’s been a big year getting used to a new school culture and systems, however I’m really looking forward to the challenge of 2017.

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