Chisnallwood Intermediate School – Strategic planning through a culturally responsive lens
In the foyer of Chisnallwood Intermediate School hangs a carving created by late artist and teacher Gavin Britt and a group of Chisnallwood students. The carving depicts the school’s vision - Tākina ngā moka o te pae, ka korara o parirau (Challenge the margins of time and explore what is beyond).
A recent review of the school’s strategic plan indicated that while the plan gave effect to the school's vision, it contained too much content for the true essence of Chisnallwood to be immediately apparent. The senior leadership team wanted a succinct plan that could be understood and articulated by both staff and students.
Knowing our learner
The process of narrowing down the strategic plan resulted in four different areas of focus:
- teaching and learning
- cultural consciousness
The first three areas were recognised as necessary precursors of engagement.
“We went through them [the elements of the existing plan] and tried to narrow it down because there were quite a few. We tried to narrow it down from the wideness that we had and reach what we really thought was the essence for our school, and what we needed to make sure that we do well as a school.”
Todd Baker, Deputy Principal
Four members of Chisnallwood’s senior leadership team are involved in the Grow Waitaha Leadership Community of Practice (COP). At the first COP workshop, the group workshopped their big question, eventually settling on a conceptual inquiry around 'knowing our learner'.
The group assumed that knowing their learner would ensure the learners’ wellbeing, which integrates well with their four focus areas, particularly wellbeing and cultural consciousness. These areas have since been workshopped and further unpacked with staff, students, and whānau.
In order to keep these areas at the forefront of teaching practice, they have been incorporated into the school’s inquiry framework and into teacher appraisal.
“Part of the continuation school-wide is also the individual responsibility of teachers, we tie that into part of our teaching inquiry and part of the appraisal. The appraisal goals and the inquiry have to have lenses of wellbeing, cultural consciousness, and the teacher and learning as part of evidence.”
Iva Hamilton, Deputy Principal
The school deliberately chose to use the term 'cultural consciousness' rather than 'culturally responsive', drawing on the following quote shared by Ruta McKenzie and Helen Singleton (2009): “The culture of a learner cannot enter the culture of a classroom unless it has become conscious in the teacher’s mind.”
In being culturally conscious, teachers are better able to be conscious of the culture of individuals rather than cultural groups, allowing them to better know their learners. Likewise, cultural consciousness extends to teachers themselves, in recognising their own cultural frameworks.
“For us, being conscious of your own culture, being conscious of your learners’ culture so you embrace them as an individual. Knowing your learners ensures they are comfortable and that they feel valued as part of the class, the school community, and the wider community. That is why we liked the word consciousness.”
Iva Hamilton, Deputy Principal
Mātauraka Mahaanui framework
At the first Grow Waitaha leadership hui, Chisnalwood leaders were introduced to the Mātauraka Mahaanui indicators by mana whenua facilitator Janina Konia (Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi).
The document uses indicators of progression and success to support schools to consider how cultural capability can be demonstrated. Chisnallwood has made the framework a living document, with their actions and progress marked up in the text.
School and teacher goals are both rich and simple, with each of the three dimensions of the framework assigned a single goal for each school year. For example, the school’s current te reo Māori goal is ‘students and teachers are learners of Te Reo Māori’.
These concrete goals encourage action plans to be both operational and concrete. They have also encouraged the school to think widely and be innovative about the strategies they may use to pursue these goals. For example, the development of a daily whole school language learning programme broadcast on the school’s radio station, Chizzy Sounds.
“It’s that consciousness thing, teachers are more aware than they were a couple of years ago, that they need to be making a journey around their culturally responsive practice. It’s way more alive and alert.”
Kathy Baker, leader of cultural responsiveness
Leaders from Chisnallwood Intermediate share their advice on strategic planning through a culturally responsive lens:
Use areas of focus as a test – Having clarified their areas of focus, the school is now able to use these as a lens to test potential decisions or courses of action.
Make goals functional – It is important that goals are both purposeful and functional, so that they can be clearly understood and so that teachers and students can develop their own ideas of how they could pursue those goals.
Keep the paperwork out of the bottom drawer – Written material, such as the school’s strategic plan and Mātauraka Mahaanui goals, are treated as living documents and are constantly revisited and revised. This does not need to be a labour intensive process, but can be as simple as a collaborative Google document which is highlighted and commented upon. This allows progress to be captured and made visible over time.
Take the time to get buy-in – The senior leadership team has worked closely with teachers to ensure understanding and to build buy-in.
“That’s the exciting part, we’re not making them do it, they actually want to do this. They have taken on the responsibility to do that and we’ve done things that have pushed us a little bit to the edge.”
Iva Hamilton, Deputy Principal
Leadership of change resources
This selection of resources supports you through the change management process.
Grow Waitaha videos – Vision
This selection of Grow Waitaha videos supports schools in developing and sustaining a future focused vision for their learners.
Culturally responsive practice – videos
These EdTalks videos feature educators talking about culturally responsive practice, pedagogy, and learning environments.