I and other members of the Volcanics Cluster attended the round 3 EHSAS workshop in Rotorua last week. Our cluster schools were well presented at the meeting which was wonderful to see.
There were three presenters, Murray Gadd, Dr Judy Parr and Dr Brian Annan.
Murray spoke to us about "Working Together Effectively: A collaborative Approach to Achieving Higher Standards". This was interesting and relevant, but I assumed that at the time, a lot of this had been done during the proposal process. In Hind site, I think we need to revisit some of these issues.
Judy Parr spoke to us about goal setting. After listening to her and actually paying attention to her powerpoint, I realised that this would definitely be something we will need to revisit at our EHSAS cluster meeting on 1 December. It also became clear that perhaps we were too ambitious with our project outcomes, spreading ourselves too thin, and thereby not getting any depth. It seems that we will have to re-assess our project objectives and perhaps cull a few of them.
Finally, Brian Annan spoke to us about challenges within our cluster. We only looked at the challenges. At no stage did we discuss solutions. This was based on the thinking that, unless we truly know what the problem is, we will not be able to find an effective solution for it. The process was interesting, and challenging. The outcome for us at the end was that one of the priority problems facing the cluster is that the only real value cluster schools see in being part of the EHSAS project is access to extra funding. While I was disappointed by this, I realise that I also have to be a realist - schools want to do more than they are funded for. If they can access extra funding by being part of a cluster, then why not. Having given it more thought, and remembering what Richard Crawford commented on during our discussions, is that the problem is perhaps not as cynical as just doing the project for the money. If one considers the option of getting money and spending it where you can, in areas that will help your school, or the option of getting your staff to buy into truly changing their pedagogy, committing to change, working at the change, and then being acountable for it at the end of the day. Which option would you take? I'm no masochist, so the first option would be my choice. Therefore, I believe that the real problem facing our cluster is lack of true teacher buy in to the ideals of Extending High Standards across Schools. We know our teachers are under pressure, and some days we all work in survival mode. However, the idealist in me wants to believe that education is bigger than just money, that schools can work together collaboratively for the betterment of all their students, and that the improvement in student achievement at the end of the day, through a truly professional community of practice has got to be valuable. So our Challenge is how do we create a professional community of practice that exhibits true collaboration across cluster schools.