Posted in 04. Learning-focused culture, Applied Practice in Context, Mindlab, Uncategorized

Climate, culture and context

SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS OF COMMUNITY

According to Elizabeth Warner  the culture of a school is different to the climate. The climate indicates how a school feels, while culture indicates how the school does things, its values and traditions. Orewa College is set in the relaxed beachside town of Orewa, 30 minutes north of Auckland. We are a stone’s throw from the most beautiful scenery: beaches, bays, islands, countryside and forests. This is reflected in our school climate which is largely warm, friendly and laid-back, although we have had to guard against the overly laidback attitude.

We are made up of approximately 2000 students, including international students. We provide additional opportunities through HarbourNet Virtual Learning.   ERO 2016 Report felt that we “provide a broad and balanced selection of learning opportunities that cater very well to students’ varied interests and strengths.” To that end, our vision is to be the pride of the district, promoting high student achievement and high participation.

ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE

School culture runs deeper and should be created with intent. As Ed Dunkelblau said, schools are a “centre for instruction.” But it is also where you interact with people not like you and your family, where you learn what’s important to you. And, what others value. To help students to figure all this out, we have three programmes which form the foundation upon which the culture of the school rests:

  1. Ako Orewa entails learning strategies. We have recently modified this 10 years old programme to focus more carefully on  learner agency as well as effective pedagogy. This has involved shifting the focus of attention from the teacher to the student, giving students more freedom and responsibility to drive their own learning pathways.

picture1

  1. Manaaki Orewa underpins all that we do. It translates to respect: Respect for oneself – be the best you can be. Respect for others – manners matter. Respect for the environment – keep it clean. I feel that Manaaki Orewa has resonated with our students to a far greater degree than Ako Orewa, because it is so simple yet such a powerful ethos to live by. The word manaaki has made its way firmly into the lingo used by our students, be it as an admonishing verb: “Be more manaaki!” Or a praising adjective: “Very manaaki of you.” Or even as a commanding imperative: “Manaaki people!”
  1. The House System was created to provide a sense of belonging for all students to participate, compete and celebrate in diverse house activities within the college environment. The aims of the house system are to increasingly develop and promote:
  • Growth of school and student spirit and identity
  • Positive, supportive, social and emotional environments for all students
  • Interaction and positive role models between year levels
  • Leadership opportunities for senior students and aspiring middle school students

Students identify with the house system and its very healthy competition. Tabloid sports is perhaps the highlight because, rather than testing sporting prowess, full participation is the objective. Activities are designed for fun, like the gumboot biff. International students always marvel at these activities because many of them have only ever experienced academic programmes at their schools.

PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT

The most invasive change we have embraced is the bring your own device (BYOD) policy. This has forced us to have ongoing and regular professional development (PD). We are challenged to look at emerging research and adaptive practice. PD is carried out in departments on a fortnightly basis, as well as in cross curricular groups. It is no coincidence that there is such a great number of staff doing the Mindlab course.

I think that our biggest challenge is to break down the silo-mentality of both the teachers and the students. Links across subjects is one we have overlooked for far too long. Ako Orewa, in conjunction with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, is just one approach that will start to challenge this tunnel-vision approach. In addition, we are in the process of getting our Community of Learning (CoL) established. I think that these conversations across not only subjects but also year levels and schools in the district, will start to remove the cloak of secrecy which seems to hang over individual subject areas.

REFERENCES:

CORE Education: Learner Agency. Retrieved from: http://www.core-ed.org/legacy/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2014/learning-agency?url=/thought-leadership/ten-trends/ten-trends-2014/learning-agency

Dweck, C. Teaching a growth mindset. Retrieved from: http://mindsetonline.com/abouttheauthor/

What is school culture and climate? Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-_NvhlcusQ

ERO Report (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.orewa.school.nz/about/education-review-office-report/

Thank you to Richard Wells  @EduWells for designing the Ako Orewa poster.

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4 thoughts on “Climate, culture and context

  1. Wow, what an awesome school and community! You are so lucky to be a part of Orewa College. I love that the focus of the school is on developing the Key Competencies! Having this as the driving initiative behind the schools culture and context is certainly the first step in getting rid of any silos with the school! Go OC, what a great place!

  2. It is an awesome place and this journey into what OC is today owes much to the vision and determination its leadership. Leaders without titles such as yourself, have had a definitive effect on the transformation of the school from a traditional environment to one which is future-focused and in some ways, ground breaking. The infrastructure for the transition to student agency is in place. Ako Orewa, the House System and on-going professional development will definitely reap just rewards.

  3. So right! We need the systems, and the systems need to be future-focused. What I find exciting is that giving students more agency empowers them and creates such a neat atmosphere for students to thrive in.

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