Monday, 4 July 2016

The Way Of The Future?

Today I had the opportunity to visit Albany Senior High School in action. ASHS is based in North Auckland and is a co-ed school with students Years 11-13 only, no juniors. I wanted to visit ASHS because of the modern learning environments of the school, to see how classes are organised and run.

There are multiple levels in one building, each level referred to as a learning community (more commonly known as houses). Each level does not comprise of classrooms, but large open plans with desks, chairs, whiteboards, projectors and computers all over the place. The levels are organised into learning spaces, where up to eight different lessons take place. The major difference between a mainstream school and ASHS was there were no walls between learning, which changed the atmosphere completely.

Four classes all taught side by side

Upon talking with teachers and students, I quickly learnt how appreciative and privileged they feel to be a part of something different. The students discussed the need for preparation for the future not only with reference to content knowledge and skills, but also skills which can be utilised in a workplace environment. Consider a stereotypical business workplace; lots of little offices, phones ringing, photocopiers copying, kettle boiling and conversations all over the place. ASHS aims to teach students how to focus their attention on one thing at a time and block out any background noise and distractions, which I saw in action.

Students have other classes right beside them who may be completing an experiment, may be watching movies or may be sitting an assessment, and they need to concentrate on what is happening in their class. I sat in the learner's shoes for a lesson and I could hear three teachers teaching, and none of these teachers were the teacher of my class. I was amazed by how much background noise and movement there was, but the students weren't phased. Many did not even hear those teachers teaching, because they have learnt how to block them out. 

Attempting to demonstrate how close the students work, there are three different classes here!

My biggest takeaway from the day was a reflection of whether we really need four walls - what does this achieve? I think the reason why many schools aren't teaching and learning in this type of environment is attributed to fear. Fear learning will not occur, fear the students will misbehave and the teacher will lose control; however, at ASHS learning was happening, and the students were well behaved across the board. The teachers discussed the behaviour is easily managed because the students appear to rethink about their actions before following through, as there are 100+ students and 8 teachers in the same space they are, not only their class and single teacher.

I hope in the future I have the opportunity to teach in a modern learning environment, or an innovative learning environment, as I was blown away with what I saw. I also now feel as if I have more of an understanding of what my MDTA cohort talk about when they make reference to their large learning spaces with multiple teachers, even though ASHS is a little different. I am very thankful for this opportunity and am excited for more school observations next term.

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