My HPSS Journey - reflecting on an awesome five and a half years
2013 - De-schooling and re-schooling
2013 was a year that many educators do not get to experience. It was a year of "de-schooling" and "re-schooling". Maurie, Lea, Di and myself were given the most phenomenal gift of time and space to plan and prepare for the opening of Hobsonville Point Secondary School. In those first six months we spent time fleshing out our school vision, developing a set of guiding principles and establishing (with our community) what was to become our Hobsonville Habits. In that time we visited a wide range of schools here (Ormiston Senior, Albany Senior, Unlimited and Hagley) and several schools in Canada and the USA on our grand Edu-tour. Our first stop was Providence, Rhode Island to visit the founding Big Picture School, Dennis Littky's Met School. The second group of schools we visited was all part of the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Schools, including Westmount, Mary Ward (Toronto), Bishop Carroll School (Calgary) and Thomas Haney (Vancouver). Maurie and I then went on a second trip with Cyclone to check out an array of "Apple schools" with Nueva School being the particular standout. You can read reflections from those travels here.
The second half of the year was all about building a fabulous foundation team and getting ready to open a school! One of the real highlights for me was the process we went though in appointing our middle leadership team. Knowing that right disposition was going key, we made all of our applicants come in and work with one another, watching them closely as they had to work on collaborative task that got them to explore ways they could integrate learning areas. This process, whilst possible painful for the applicants was incredibly insightful in terms of seeing who could "walk the talk" and were prepared to be put out of their comfort zone. Another highlight was getting to work with Julia Aitken who worked with us to explore turning our values and beliefs into principles and practice. It's well worth checking out her paper on the topic here.
2014 - First year of students at HPSS and expanding my horizons
2014 was where we really did get to turn values and beliefs into principles and practice. It was also the year we we got the immense privilege of meeting our foundation students. Plus it was the year of our most simple timetable ever! You will see as the slide deck progresses so too does the complexity of the HPSS timetable!! You can read my intro to HPSS I wrote in February that year here. Our curriculum design for the most part has held true to that first outing, with students doing integrated modules, single subjects (SPINs), big projects and learning hubs. The one thing we did try and then aborted was the idea of a "big module" which integrated three subjects with three teachers working alongside one another. Unfortunately this resulted in one subject/teacher often feeling like a spare wheel and we discovered genuinely authentic connection across three learning areas wasn't as easy or effective as two. Hence we cut our curriculum losses and refocused on a combo of Modules (two subjects co-taught by two specialist teachers) and SPINs (single subjects with one teacher).
On a personal level 2014 marked a period of pivotal personal professional growth, starting the year with a keynote at The Festival of Education, getting selected to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney and later that year having the immense honour of being elected as the secondary representative on the NZ Teachers Council. In hindsight each of these events provided something of a catalyst for many of the opportunities (and challenges) that were to follow.
2015 - The Foundation Years at HPSS and travelling and talking
2015 felt like a year of relative luxury spending time refining our beautifully simple timetable, especially as we decided to teacher our Year 9s and 10s together in a combined programme referred to as the Foundation Years, cycling through a two year programme designed to develop the knowledge, concepts and skills needed to excel in their senior years. It also gave students time and space to move through a singular two year programme rather than cycling through the same same for two years running. This was also the year that we were really thinking deeply about NCEA and what that might look like at HPSS. Early musings can be read here.
For me this was also a year of continued professional growth. I accepted my nomination and was appointed to the Education Council of Aotearoa NZ, although this did also result in personal challenge and having to ultimately step down from PPTA. A tough choice at the time but ultimately it has felt like the right one, the experience of being a founding council member has been an awesome one - I'm not sure I can even measure the amount of learning I have experienced in this role. I encourage any educator passionate about education to stand for the new council when the opportunity arises. It was also a cool year of travelling and speaking, being invited to speak at EduTECH Brisbane and Learning 2 in Manila.
2016 - Future Schools and not doing Level One NCEA
2016 was the beginning of more complex timetabling, with a second line appearing in the timetable to allow for a seperate Q1 (Level One) programme. It was the year we made the choice to not do Level One NCEA (as a seperate qualification) and was the first outing of the Q1 programme which saw Year 11s doing two (rather than three) integrated modules and two SPINs. This gave students to do less better and only doing 20+ Level One credits meant the focus remained on learning rather than assessment.
It was another exciting year on a personal level, with the year being book ended by two great PD events - speaking at Future Schools in Sydney at the beginning of the year and attending the somewhat mind altering SingularityU at the end of the year. The latter leading to a most interesting foray into nearly opening a charter school. You can see what I got up to at those events here and here.
2017 - Q2, ISTP and nearly opening a charter school
2017 was something of a rollercoaster ride both professionally and personally. At HPSS it saw the arrival of an even more complex timetable with Foundation, Q1 and Q2 meaning three lines in the timetable. This allowed for Q2 (Year 12) students to continue their focus on doing less better and having more opportunity to fine tune their learn path. Q2 students do just one integrated module and three single subject SPINs, they also have a choice between Impact Projects and Pathway Projects - the latter allowing students to use project time to engage in gateway studies, work experience or even tertiary or scholarship studies.
On a personal level it was an interesting year. SingularityU had discombobulated me to the point where I decided (in partnership with Brett O'Riley) to apply to open a charter school - City Senior School. I genuinely saw this as a chance to establish what I saw as a prototype school of sorts. We applied, we got approved, but alas a change of government saw our contract being cancelled. Note - we have negotiated a trust that will live on, the focus of which will be providing a contestable fund for schools looking to develop innovative initiatives and curricular (watch this space). It was an exhilarating and exhausting journey - it was a huge amount of work and a massive amount of learning, much of which will be just as applicable to my new role as Principal at Albany Senior High School. Another highlight was being invited by the then Minster of Education Hekia Parata to accompany her to the International Summit of the Teaching Profession. Not only did I get to travel to Edinburgh I also had the glorious opportunity of rebutting UK Minister of Education Nick Gibbs who seemed to poo poo everything I (we) hold dear (i.e. skills, tech integration and learner agency).
2018 - Q3, Innovation Projects and the opportunity of a lifetime!
2018 has been a magic year so far - I can't believe we are only half way through. Firstly, this is the year HPSS sees it's foundation students heading toward graduation. The increasingly complex timetable has peaked and the choice to not to do Level One NCEA seems to have paid off with more relaxed students gaining more Merit and Excellence endorsements at Level Two. Our Q3 programme was born with Year 13 students doing five SPINs (single subjects). In reality the main reason we don't offer integrated modules at Level Three is simply a matter of giving our students as much choice and opportunities to personalise as possible, also ensuring that students can do do the very specific mix of subjects needed for tertiary pathways.
One of my professional highlights this year has definitely being a Project Guide for the first time. I have had the absolute joy of developing and delivering Independent Innovation Projects also known as The Hatchery. This project group was focused on providing opportunities for those students who had their own ideas that didn't fit with any of the other project groups on offer. It was also an opportunity to trial an approach to project learning that I had been designing in my planning for City Senior School. The main idea was that we would focus on innovation frameworks (such as design thinking and lean startup) and innovation tools and strategies (such as empathy mapping, gant charts, kan ban, agile methodology etc) and also introducing the students to innovation partners and pipelines, visiting Unleash Space at University of Auckland, Generator and GridAKL (aiming to write a more detailed dedicated post about this tomorrow).
HPSS has been such an incredibly journey. So much learning, so many opportunities to "walk the talk" and learn some more. And there is no doubt that many of the other professional opportunities I have had are a direct result of being from HPSS. At this point I want to acknowledge the amazing people that make Hobsonville Point Secondary School the magic place it is. The students, the teaching and support staff are incredible. We have often joked that to be at HPSS is to be exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. I believe HPSS is genuinely beginning to reimagine what secondary schooling needs to look like and I can tell you, having lived it for the last five and half year, it is the most exciting and most challenging job an educator can have. Experienced teachers feel like they have their training wheels permanently fitted, genuinely living out what it means to be an adaptive expert. It also takes incredible levels of courage at every level and on this note, once again, I want to aknowwledge and thank Maurie Abraham for showing me what courageous leadership looks like and also showing what it means to lead with a genuine moral purpose.
And it's having experienced leadership like this that makes me so excited for my next step - Principal at Albany Senior Secondary. In just five days I will experience my powhiri where HPSS will hand me over to ASHS and I have to admit - I am beyond excited! When I reflect on the last five and a half years I realise what an experience and what an education I have had. Thank you to everyone who has been part of the journey. Maurie, Di, Lea and Maliina you are a formidable team - I will miss you dearly. To my critical friends Steve, Jayne, Danielle and all (there are really too many to name) you know you will always be with me! Thank goodness I am only moving the North East Campus.
I look forward to seeing what adventures and learning the next five and a half years hold.