Talk Talk

Raylene Franks Principal of Glen Oroua School talks with Gary Punler Ariki Programme Director.

Tell us about your school and the community it is in.

Glen Oroua is a decile 9 school in the heart of rural Manawatu. It is a well-established and well supported school with a growing roll. Presently we have three classroom teachers, a reading recovery teacher who also does principal release. The majority of families in our community are involved in farming – mainly dairying.

How long have you been principal at Glen Oroua?

This is my fourth year.

You were part of the original MoE funded trial during 2009/10 and decided to continue in 2011 in partnership with NZPF/NZEI. Can you tell us what factors led you to make that decision?

The changes in staff attitude and behaviour were the most obvious factors. Staff talk became more focussed on learning and professional practice. The questions that provoked deeper thinking about what the students were actually doing and the progress or lack of were immensely important. My staff knew the students well, we are a small country school, but talked about them in general terms. Ariki focussed their thinking on learning because they had to be prepared to justify what they were doing in the classroom. This change did not happen quickly. Ariki also focussed the staff, me included, on trialling different strategies/activities etc in the classroom. Why did it work,/ not work, how could we do it better, were questions that couldn’t be avoided in QLC’s so everyone needed to be prepared to answer.

What benefits have you seen in being part of Ariki as a principal, your staff and students?

One huge benefit was that as an appraisal system, it took away the ‘me’ and ‘them’ feeling – I wasn’t passing judgement from on high as the principal, everyone was on the same level and contributed to improving practice. There was a much more collaborative and cohesive feel to it because everything was about everyday classroom practice. This process is also an excellent fit with teacher inquiry in the classroom. This year we have designed an inquiry cycle that focuses on our school wide development (writing) Ariki is the vehicle for recording, sharing and reflecting on this inquiry.

As a principal, I found the leaders’ QLCs invaluable. We developed a high level of trust and support in our group and I could share successes and failures in a supportive but critically reflective atmosphere. I usually went away with a very constructive next step.

Ariki is for me, at the heart of my leadership – a process that continually calls for deep thinking – critical reflection across the school. I am able to keep my focus firmly on that which is important – learning and teaching. All staff has a clearer idea of what was going on in all classrooms.

What has been the feedback from staff and BoT about the school’s involvement in Ariki?

Initially, the majority of staff found the digital recording stressful and difficult – this eased with practice and support. I had to consistently drive the QLC process to embed the strategies. This is still an area for development. The staff is positive and supportive of the process now as they have seen the benefits for themselves. The BoT needed repeated explanations but once they understood what was happening they were, and continue to be very supportive.

What do you tell colleagues who may not be so knowledgeable about Ariki?

This process is an excellent way of focussing on teacher practice and student achievement / progress. It’s about teacher-student, teacher-teacher, principal-teacher, and principal-student relationships. It develops active critical reflection that is focussed and purposeful. It develops a high trust, collegially supportive culture focussed on best practice.

What personal / professional reflections have been noteworthy since your involvement?

Ariki has contributed to my development as a leader. It’s kept the focus on teaching and learning and I now enjoy the challenge!