Updated: Oct 10
by Steve Saville and Rebecca Thomas
For some months now I have had a growing sense of frustration, an increasing feeling of confusion and, from conversations with numerous colleagues and school leaders, I am aware that I am not alone in my bemused world.
Even Becca, who is normally able to give me clarity, failed - so this was getting serious!
This frustration was caused by the inability, on my part, to see the connections between Te Mātaiaho and the Common Practice Model, I was failing to even see the cohesion between them, and then Russell Bishop’s latest book, “Leading to the North- East” was dropped into the mix via the Ministry and the picture muddied further.
I assumed it was the fact that I only have a very small brain and so I set aside an afternoon and armed myself with a large pot of coffee. I sat down and proceeded to read all I could about these important initiatives, convinced that with time and caffeine clarity would surely come.
Still - my stubborn mind failed to clear. I just couldn’t join the dots. I still couldn’t see the actual model that the Common Practice Model was.
The coffee grew cold, and I mean this metaphorically as well as literally.
Then as if by miracle a colleague found this diagram on the Ministry website. I can only assume it was a recent arrival on the scene, but I didn’t care because there it was, a visual that showed the connections. A visual that showed the coherence. A visual I could get my head around.
This diagram makes clear the WHY (Te Mātaiaho) and the WHAT (Common Practice Model) and the way they are both interconnected and interdependent.
The coffee started to warm up again.
So what next? We have a diagram with many words (some repeated), and the promise of details to follow…soon - so what should schools be doing?
We could choose to do nothing (that is a choice), to wait for more information, to wait for instructions, to wait until we are told what to do, and when and how, and in doing so once again we run the risk of giving up our power, our agency, our localised identity.
If the ultimate purpose of a school is to create agentic empowered students, we aren't going to get there unless we have agentic and empowered teachers, leaders…schools. So, I don’t know whether sitting back and waiting is really an option.
We, at ELV, acknowledge that there has to be fidelity of implementation. This is vital and clearly explained in Bishop’s book, but that does not mean that we surrender all power and initiative, it does not mean that we lose all control and merely robotically implement what we are directed to - that is never going to end well.
There is a second choice and one that I think the Ministry prefers.
We use this time wisely to engage, demystify, unpack, absorb and familiarise.
Before we help you do this so you can see what these three giant inputs: Te Mātaiaho, The Common Practice Model and Leading to the North-East have to offer schools and leaders, we ask you to do something first. Picture your school as an ecosystem. The image of portraying a school as a living ecosystem is taken largely from Chapter 6 of Ken Robinson’s posthumus book, “Imagine if…” This will be unpacked further in a future post, for now we ask you to see your school as an ecosystem: complex, fragile, interconnected, interdependent and, most of all, living.
Secondly, remind yourself that these three initiatives are a koha (in a previous blog we made reference to Bishop’s description of koha in his latest book).
What sits below is a diagram, Te Kākano, that unpacks and connects these three giants via metaphor. It shows how, when they are interconnected and interdependent and, when implemented with fidelity they have the power to create a thriving and healthy ecosystem.
Te Kākano is a familiar term used throughout te ao Māori, in this sense it stands for a metaphor that represents growth, a growth that helps others to grow.
We see this diagram as the beginning of the HOW stage that follows on from the WHY and the WHAT. It outlines what schools can do now to embrace the koha they have been offered.
Remember that the koha is laid down before you and you decide to pick it up or not, but once you do pick it up you have a responsibility to it, to protect and respect it, to use it with fidelity.
#1 The koha
The koha has been offered: Te Mātaiaho, the Common Practice Model, and “Leading to the North- East'', see them as a gift.
#2 Kia whakatō
Kia = action, the choice to plant the seed, but remember planting it is only the start.
whaka = to cause something to happen, the beginning, the continuous journey of the seed
tō = to plant
The taiao that surrounds the seed is the school and this element needs to be carefully prepared by leaders to ensure the kākano has the best chance of growing. This is where you, as leaders implement the Induction Phase (Russell refers to on page 119). This is where within a whānau-like context teachers have space to safely engage with the materials through discursive interactions, where information is exchanged and shared. In this phase try and avoid those transmissive approaches (e.g. watching videos, being talked at) while you are inducting them into the CPM and Te Mātaiaho kaupapa. Russell describes this Induction phase as one that uses pedagogical imagination, one where staff have opportunities to familiarise with the content and build on their cultural and topic knowledge. To do this successfully this learning partnership needs to have a relational focus to enable teachers to truly make sense of what is being given to them. One where the new learning can take place on their own terms. This is why it is important not to WAIT to be told what to do by the MOE, but to activate and maximise this time to focus on the intent.
#3 Kia Tupu - The nurturing of the seeds
When January comes and teachers begin Trialling the CPM there will be multiple exposures, opportunities for implementation where leaders can give appropriate feedback. It is only when teachers begin these trials will the information in the initial induction period be fully understood and realised. For a leader this means listening hard to the voices of their whole community and being responsive to feedback and feed forward from them. This listening must be done with empathy and any deficit thinking that may arise needs to be directed to finding solutions. This is the role and requirement of being a leader in the North-East, see potentialities not deficiencies even when the feedback may be negative. This is potentially a painful time when mistakes may be made, where meaning is discussed and debated. In our ecosystem though it is when we make sure that the weeds and pests are not allowed to gain control.
#4 Kia Puāwai - flourishing
This is where the planted seeds flourish and blossom, (yes even Year 10 boys) it is the Application phase Russell talks about (again still on page 119). Once these multiple exposures are underway teachers can build that confidence to apply their new learning and knowledge to the problems they are facing in their context with that particular cohort of learners. This is where North-East meetings and coaching will effectively take place. A North-East Leader will know that there will be a requirement here for staff to collaborate and problem solve together, therefore they would have planned in the infrastructure of school systems multiple opportunities for these meetings and conversations to take place. These conversations are a safe space where evidence of impact is reviewed and collective efficacy is realised while they co-construct the answers to their problems (agentic problem solving).
All of this is fundamentally centred around the culture you have created as a leader. The whānau-like relationships you have built and maintained through discursive interactions where communication and ideas are shared will allow for the whole group to reflect on how they are working collectively towards their goals. This culture of care enables them to confidently identify support they may need to continue to reject deficit explanations and find solutions to continued positive learning experiences for their students.
#5 Mana motuhake
When we think about efficacy we use Mana motuhake. Mana in power and authority (not self power but mana given by the people, a role that is entrusted to you) and motuhake as unique. Unique to each hapū, hāpori (community) and space.
The last phase in the initial season of change is for Reflection. A phase where the school community has harvested the fruits of the season and is ready to use more hands to plant more seeds. This is where self-management and self-regulation become normalised in a school both on an institutional level and in the educational experiences of every member of that school's community. In this community, built on trust, teachers can maintain ownership over these transformational changes, this will allow for fidelity of implementation of both the CPM and Te Mātaiaho. Within this environment you will find the support systems that will continue to ensure this fidelity, you will find NE meetings, NE leadership, NE infrastructures and teachers with agency to reflect and monitor their progress towards the goal of improved student outcomes.
The Ministry timelines indicate that this is at least a year long process. The season for change and implementation is not a short one, therefore careful planning and management of the process is vital. Leaders must ensure that they merge the fidelity of the initiatives with the tikanga of the school context and culture.
To help, ELV will be providing future blogs, the next will explain the school as an ecosystem in a little more detail, and resources like this one: Whakapapa weaving.
We are, however, also very aware that there has to be time for reflection and absorption, after all we are all still currently in the process of accepting the koha and in the induction stage.
To end with though we have chosen the well known quote from Alexander Den Haijer
When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows - not the flower!
If we see our schools as an ecosystem and our students as the flowers, then the only way we can ensure healthy plants is by ‘fixing’ the environment. Te Kākano can be seen as the process by which we start to address the needs of our environment /ecosystems and also ensure we understand which parts of the puzzle are linked, so that these seeds have the best chance to grow, and grow in the way they are supposed to - with tikanga and fidelity.