Going old school at a new school…


This quote by John Dewey applicable to education today, even though it arises from many moons ago, the relevance for today is still clear. In a world that is ever changing, where knowledge is fluid, adapting and shifting as fast as it can be learned, we must shift the way education is being played out locally, nationally and globally. Luckily for me I am a part of an awesome team of educators that are looking to do just this at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. We are looking to shift education in a future focussed way, hoping that we can make a difference in the life of our students by taking all the best research, evidence and practices we can find and integrating and applying these in a way that has never been tried before. We are wanting to ensure that learning at Hobsonville Point includes strong relationships, rigour and relevance to the learners and involves student and whanau voice.

For these shifts in education to occur, we need a cohesive team with a “bias towards action”. We definitely have this in abundance, with the inclusion of 9 new staff members last week, we are well on the way to seeing the vision applied not only in theory but in practice. It is amazing to be around this full team of educators who all have the same strong desires to make a difference and shift education to ensure that it is truly personalised for our learners. We are all ongoing learners and you can feel the buzz as members of the team or “tribe” (@GeoMouldey) all thrive and feed off each other. In an environment that has high relational trust, the conversations are stimulating, challenging but never predictable.


Action indeed, you can feel the tension as members of the team are chomping at the bit to get into it, the difficulties in de-schooling is that inner monologue telling you… “I need to do this now, what no students yet? Ok I will do this now, but I will wait for the rest of it”.
As I previously posted it is that letting go that is a tension. However, we are all on the same boat with the fact that to be truly responsive we need to wait. We need the voice of the students, their whanau, if we are to practice what we preach. With our dispositional curriculum we are looking at the dispositions that learners need in this world where knowledge is ever changing. As Guy Claxton would put it, so that students can “learn to flounder intelligently at anything that life throws at them”. This alone is a huge shift, we are attempting to ensure that excellence at HPSS is both “personal” and “academic”. It is these dispositions “personal excellence” that will allow learners to adapt and thrive in this world of ever changing knowledge and allow them to take action and make a difference in the world around them.


Here at HPSS, we would see the later to empower and transform and I feel confident that we are well on the way to seeing this occur. With less than a term to go we are busy ensuring that the structures and systems are set up and ready to roll. While having the structures and systems in place, we are also mindful of flexibility and adapting to ensure our vision in practice. This explains why the flexible and responsive timetable is also ever changing and I feel lucky to be in a school where the senior leadership is responsive to the voice of the staff and have not come in with their own structures to dictate. I get excited every time I see a new iteration of this and how different this is to anywhere I have ever worked before.


In an environment with so many outstanding educators it could be easy to become an echo chamber. Especially as the mindset is also similar across the board. However, this collaborative and challenging environment does allow for a strong sense of collegiality, while still allowing people to bring their different views, experiences and backgrounds to the table and as seen in the picture, any conflict that arises is due to different perspectives. This is important in allowing innovation to occur and I see this occurring at a faster rate than I have ever experienced in the past. I also see it as us developing the start of a whole school culture that allows for this to occur once the learners and their whanau are here. The school that does education “with” the learner not “to” them.


Finally in the words of Friere above, you can see the similarities with the concept of “ako”, some times the learner, sometimes the teacher, sometimes the leader, sometimes the follower. Currently there are no students at school. However, I find myself in an ongoing manner, being predominantly in the position of learner. Learning from the leadership team, fellow leaders of learning and the new team, as we all are open to being lead, there is leadership and followship in abundance. While all the time we build on this environment of trust and challenge.

Why did I go old school on it you may ask? For me I find the words of Friere, Chomsky and Dewey inspiring. To know that these words are still pertinent now is even more exciting. The cherry on the top however, is that I am working at a school that is not only listening to this type of educational philosophy, but also putting into action the conditions, structures and practices to transform education and start with the learner at the centre. We hope to share with fellow educators on the purpose and process in a way that empowers others to do the same….Only then can we move education to ensure that learners are placed at the centre to be themselves and not be dictated to by the system. To be creative, critical leaners who are themselves. Where the system works for them and with them… To stop education from doing this….



5 thoughts on “Going old school at a new school…

  1. Sounds like you are enjoying ‘nutting’ this all out Sal. I’m really interested to hear that ‘disposition’ has become a central theme for you & your team. After spending the last few weeks analysing data, I have recently found that this has also emerged as a key theme in my citizenship education study. I would be really interested to hear how you & your team define disposition?

    Opens an exciting kettle of fish when we start to add things like personality, habits, temperaments, inclinations, attitudes and sensitivities to the process of curriculum development;) All of which, I imagine, will call for a strategic and considered approach in the fusing of influences from inside and outside of the school. And……if that wasn’t enough I am also pondering how much of a persons ‘disposition’ might be – dare I even say it – innate?

    Anyway enough geek talk for tonight – we are well overdue a coffee chat so let’s make a plan.

    1. Nice questions Kylie, that is a definite conversation over coffee! Then I can show you our “Hobsonville Habbits”, quadrants and learner profile! May shed some more light. Like the nature/nurture point, could be a good debate, speak soon 🙂

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