Thursday, 8 October 2015

Activity 4 - Your Professional Community

According to Wenger (2012) communities of practice are "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (p.12).  

My professional community is Elm Park School.

Elm Park School Community

About EPS (EPS website) 
  • Decile 5 school (changed in 2015 from Decile 6)
  • Contributing - Years 1-6
  • A culturally, socially and economically diverse community 
  • Nearly 30 different ethnicities
            * 30% NZ European
            * 20% Pasifika
            * 15% NZ Māori
            * 13% Chinese
            * 10% Indian
            * 5% Other European
            * 7% Other   

Elm Park School Stakeholders

There are two groups of key stakeholders in our Elm Park School Community are:
  • Approx. 570 students
  • Principal, 3 Deputy Principals, 27 teachers, 14 support staff
In what ways do they influence your practice?

The cultural and social backgrounds of the students in my school community is a huge influence on my practice.  Because we have such a diverse range of cultures and social groups, it is important that I get to know my students, how they learn best, what they are interested in and any barriers to their learning.  This helps me ensure that I plan learning experiences and activities that will be relevant and of interest to them.

As Wenger (2012) points out, within a community of practice members develop though a "shared repotoire of resources" (p.2).  The experience and wealth of knowledge of the teaching staff at my school has enabled me to grow as a teacher through sharing knowledge, resources, skills and interests etc.  I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things as I know I have the support of my colleagues and students.       

What are the current issues in your community? How would you or your community address them?

One of the main issues in our community has been the lack of home/school partnership in working together to help our students become the best they can be. As stated previously, we are a Decile 5 school in a very diverse cultural and economic are.  Many of our parents and caregivers are both working to support their families and whanau.  Unfortunately this means that they often don't have the time to interact with school as much as we would like and parent/caregiver support at assemblies, fundraisers, school events can be quite low.  On the positive side however, Student Led Conferences (SLC's) which are held twice a year and often well attended.  Despite providing many opportunities such as information evenings, family evenings, PTA events, surveys etc, to engage our wider community/families/whanau attendance/responses have generally been poor.  

To address this issue, we have become involved in Mutukoroa (2015) which is "a home-school learning partnership that seeks to accelerate learning progress and achievement for students in years 1, 2 and 3" (p.1).  This initiative is aimed at engaging our wider community in the school community and their child's learning. We also have a Facebook page, phone app and electronic newsletter to provide alternative options to keep the wider community informed and up to date with what is happening in our school.    

Another current issue in our school is the never ending shift towards changing our practices towards 21st Century learning pedagogies and environments.  My colleague and I were the first teachers at school to make this shift into an Innovative Learning Environment (ILO) and now others are looking to follow this move.  Being in an old, traditional school means we have to develop these learning environment in the current prefab, traditional type classrooms but whilst the physical environment is one aspect of ILE's, probably the most important shift is in the pedagogy and mindsets of the community as a whole, students included.

What are the challenges that you face in your practice?


The challenges I face are:

  • I am the type of person who loves to take up challenges and am constantly looking to innovate and improve my teaching practice.  It seems that at times some of my colleagues can feel a bit threatened by this and it becomes a type of competition.  For me it is about the students and becoming a better teacher to help them become the best they can be! 
  • Time is always a challenge in the teaching profession.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done.  Having a community of practice helps to keep things in perspective and enables the sharing of ideas and resources which is essential in supporting each other and getting some sort of work/life balance.
  • Addressing the needs of low achieving students and students with behavioural issues is another issue.  Finding ways to motivate them to engage in their learning can be a challenge.  
There are always, and will be challenges in teaching and learning.  The important thing at the end of the day is encouraging our students to be curious, engage in learning, use the elarning productively and become life-long learners.

References

Elm Park School. (2015). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from Elm Park School: http://www.elmpark.school.nz/

Mutukaroa. (2015). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from http://mutukaroa.org.nz/

Wenger, E. (2012, January 6). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from WengerTrayner.com: http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf



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