Current issues in my professional context
We are a provincial, urban, Decile 5 school of 360 students. Our school community is quite diverse, with ex-State Housing running along one boundary of school, and coveted 'Westside' properties lining the other. The recent property boom has seen many rentals sold, and has put some of our families under a lot of pressure to keep a roof over their heads...some of whom have been forced to leave our school as they could no longer afford/find accomodation. This has seen an increase in behaviour issues, and as a result we are having to be more pro-active, even starting a before-school pastoral duty to engage with the students prior to the learning day.
Our school has 5 core values, based on the word PRIDE...Peaceful, Respect, Independence, Dare to Dream and Excellence. These 5 values originally started as part of our behaviour management, but have since become much greater. Last year after work with the community the values not only encompass how children act (behaviour), they look at how children learn, their culture, and how they act for the environment. they manifest themselves in our new DPS Kid, a description of a learner at our school. Interestingly the description values learning as a part of creating awesome citizens, and academic success is juts one part of being a successful DPS Kid. This is a new initiative, and we need to keep the focus on it for awhile so that we don't shift back to 'normal' ways of working.
As a staff over the last 3 years we have been shifting toward a more modern way of working, with increasing collaboration between teachers. As a whole our staff give a lot to the children, creating many ways for them to be successful. Like many schools, the struggle to find 'time' can lead to friction. This can often mean that as a school we are slow to change and adapt. Professional learning is a good example, often seen as something being 'done to' rather than as a learning opportunity. We have started to provide a range of options for PLD...giving extra release for personal PLD time, running workshops within PLD to offer different things to different people, and this year I have started optional PLD...taking the great practice in our classrooms, and having teachers run optional afterschool sessions.
Stoll and Fink use these 10 descriptors when looking at improving schools:
Norms of Improving Schools
1. Shared goals—“we know where we’re going”
2. Responsibility for success—“we must succeed”
3. Collegiality—“we’re working on this together”
4. Continuous improvement—“we can get better”
5. Lifelong learning—“learning is for everyone”
6. Risk taking—“we learn by trying something new”
7. Support—“there’s always someone there to help”
8. Mutual respect—“everyone has something to offer”
9. Openness—“we can discuss our differences”
10. Celebration and humour—“we feel good about ourselves”
Stoll and Fink (1996)
I found these interesting to read...so much common-sense and yet so much challenge wrapped up in a few words. Taking a step back I think that often in our learning environment we get some, if not most of the 10 running well...but not all. Is it an awareness thing? Should we be more mindful of the decisions we make, using these 10 descriptors as a filter...will our decision move towards more/all of these criteria being fulfilled?
Collectively we have a supportive, but not always engaged parent community. Our kids are great, our PRIDE values shine through them and our staff work hard to improve outcomes for their learners.
Stoll, L., & Fink, D. (1996). Changing our schools: Linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Buckingham: Open University Press.