Posted on February 22, 2022 / From our Principal
This week we have a special lead introduction from our Vice Principal Jason McManus….
I hope the start to the 2022 school year has been a happy one for your family. The school has had a real buzz to it as the students fill the corridors, classrooms and fields, and the staff are back weaving their magic in their proper place – the classroom.
I am very excited to be back after my year of leave. Whilst completing my Master of Educational Leadership was enjoyable and stimulating, it is really great to be back amongst the Tintern Grammar community, on our beautiful grounds, working with our wonderful students and staff.
My role has changed a little from this year. In addition to overseeing our leaders of teaching and learning for students, I will now also manage our teacher professional learning programs across the school. Along with the appointment of Oriana Constable as Assistant Principal with a high-level focus on our wellbeing and pastoral programs, our new structure mirrors two key platforms of our forward strategy and cultural DNA as a school: Learning and Wellbeing.
Tintern Grammar is on the cusp of rolling out our new forward strategy and I am very much looking forward to enacting this over the coming years. Many aspects are evolutions of what we have already started doing in our teaching, learning and wellbeing programs however, the consultations with our community made it clear that we have a duty to educate our students for their future world, and that is what our strategy aims to do.
The changes to the world of work have certainly driven many changes to the global education agenda of the past few decades, with a broader set of skills, capabilities and dispositions required to succeed in this ever-changing landscape. General capabilities essential in our modern world and workplaces are things like collaborative capacity, critical thinking, creativity and innovation and conceptual intelligence.
Perhaps more importantly, is the impact these things have in supporting the wellbeing, belonging and fulfilment in the lives of our students as human beings. Tintern Grammar will be purposefully developing self-awareness, empathy, and emotional intelligence in our students. We will continue to emphasise the importance and significance of ethical decision making and action, as part of being an educated citizen of the modern world.
These actions play into the renewal of the Tintern Grammar teaching and learning vision…’the why we do, what we do’. We foster strong character in young women and men, enabling them to achieve personal excellence and aspire to create a better world in a connected and caring school community. We guide our students to develop the values, disposition and capabilities needed to achieve their potential and to experience a sense of belonging.
A central part of our vision for teaching and learning at Tintern in the future, will be the approach developed by Harvard University’s Project Zeo, Cultures of Thinking. Teams of our teachers have been trialling this approach over the past few years and this year we are moving to adopt it school-wide. The approach is founded on values and beliefs about teaching, learning, and the purpose of school which strongly align with ours.
It provides a framework to shape the culture that teachers and students exist in and contribute to on a daily basis, improving learning and collaboration by honing group and individual thinking processes. Ron Ritchhart, one of the founders of this approach contends that a ‘Culture of Thinking’ occurs in a ‘place in which a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted as part of the regular, day to day experience of all group members’ (http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/cultures-of-thinking).
The type of thinking that is developed in this approach is beyond memory and recall, to deeper thinking and understanding. Students then have opportunities to reason with evidence, make connections with existing knowledge, uncover complexity, capture the heart of an issue and draw conclusions, build explanations, describe what is there, wonder about the curious and consider different viewpoints. This deepens thinking skills for academic and life-long learning, as well as building a growth mindset and learning dispositions.
Furthermore, research shows that ‘Schools have to be cultures of thinking for teachers in order to be cultures of thinking for students’ (https://www.cultures-of-thinking.org/1-cot-for-teachers). If we support and empower our teachers to ‘continually grow, innovate, question, take risks, reflect, examine, inquire, and learn from and with one another, then they will create those same conditions for the students in their classrooms.’ Afterall it is ‘thinking that builds understanding and promotes deep learning.’ (https://www.cultures-of-thinking.org/1-cot-for-teachers).
The two key initiatives in my role portfolio are to foster our culture of thinking for students and to create a professional learning culture and practices for our teachers. To create this culture for teachers requires effective professional learning that is:
1. Aligned with a school vision of teaching and learning
2. Develops wholistic capabilities
3. Builds trust to take creative risks
4. Facilitates collaboration in context
5. Encourages distributed leadership across teaching staff
6. Builds a continuous learning culture
7. Encourages reflection
8. Creates professional learning communities
For the past 5 years our staff have been working together in Professional Growth Partnership (PGP) teams with the aide of a colleague coach, on an annual cycle or reflection, goal setting, inquiry process and data collection, which is perfectly suited to facilitate these actions and build this culture.
This year, the vast majority of our teachers from ELC to Year 12 will be conducting their PGP inquiry around aspects of Cultures of Thinking, reflecting on their learning individually and collectively. They will then apply this knowledge to their practice as they embark on this exciting learning journey together, towards a Tintern Grammar culture of thinking.
I hope that this work has an immediate impact on the engagement, intellectual rigour and broader development of your child.
Over the coming months and years, we look forward to including you further in our community work in this area.