Cluster Sharing Te Waihora Style

food.jpg The Te Waihora cluster have a sharing afternoon towards the end of every term. Each school takes a turn to host the afternoon. From the very first cluster sharing at Spreydon, our lead school, the scene was set. So what makes Te Waihora cluster sharing a success? Some may say food! There is of course a lot more to it than just the fabulous catered afternoon tea by Zest catering. The relaxed format of the afternoon, the people and high-quality presentations are also strong factors to why people come, enjoy the afternoon and look forward to coming again. When Andrea Hodges, the cluster director and D.P at Spreydon, and myself were discussing the format for the sharing afternoons, early in 2008, important elements we discuss were:

• we didn’t want it to be stressful for the host school (no, teachers of the host school were not to provide a plate, they are busy enough already, and the host school would not expected to provide all the presentations or all the equipment required).
• we wanted to find a great structure for the afternoon and stick with it.
• we wanted to develop leaders (the presenters) in a supportive and positive environment.
• we wanted each school to celebrate what they were achieving and be proud to be part of Te Waihora.
With all of these things in mind we came up with what we believe to be a great format for our cluster and the people in it.

The Te Waihora cluster sharing afternoons…

The cluster-sharing format is:
• 3.30-4.00pm – Zest afternoon tea (there is always a fight over the last piece of citrus slice!)
• 4.00-4.20pm – Session 1
• 4.25-4.45pm – Session 2
• Home

The host school is responsible for:
• providing a central place for the cluster to meet and have afternoon tea.
• welcoming the little black Zest van when it arrives, helping to bring in and set out the afternoon tea (usually a bit of a challenge to not sample too much!). The cluster pays for the afternoon tea. Valuing and supporting staff is very important to cluster management.
• providing disposable cups for juice (don’t do the whole tea and coffee thing and although Margarita’s are the official drink of the cluster they haven’t featured at cluster sharing, yet!)
• reminding all schools about the upcoming cluster sharing and ensuring each school emails the details of their session (Lead Teachers usually facilitate and organise this).
• providing a classroom space for each of the five presenters.
• displaying A3 Posters and A4 booklets of the session options (email blurbs from presenters) and a map of the school showing where each session is being held.

presenting4.jpg The presenters are responsible for:
• creating a 15-minute presentation with a focus on teaching and learning, an ICT integration idea, or a thinking tool idea that they have used in their classroom.
• emailing a ‘blurb’ about their session to the host school’s lead teacher a few days before the sharing.
• uploading their notes or presentation (pdf) to this wiki so people can download them rather than giving out notes (saving trees and money! Also means people that couldn’t make it to a particular session can still download the notes).
• bringing everything they need to present – laptop, cords, data projector, speakers etc…
• presenting their session twice (4.00-4.20pm and 4.25-4.45pm)

The cluster schools staff are responsible for:
• having one person (can present with a colleague) present at each cluster sharing.
• coming along to each sharing afternoon, having a catching up, eating some great food and supporting their colleagues.
• reading the blurbs (A3 displayed and available in a A4 booklet on afternoon tea tables) and deciding on a session 1 option and a session 2 option to attend. They are asked not to attend the presentation the person from their school is running. Ideally, this should have been done at a staff meeting or techie brekkie session.

In the Term 1 cluster sharing in 2009 I ran a session ‘Te Waihora Cluster Induction’ in option 1 for all new staff to the cluster. This gave new staff a brief overview of 2008, provided them with the 2008 practicum notes and pedagogy readings/links, an understanding of my role and the role of eTime, and an overview of 2009 and the future direction of Te Waihora. A strong feature of my session was also to represent the uniqueness and the commitment of the Te Waihora cluster, to let the new staff know that it is pretty special cluster to be part of and to encourage them to make the most of every opportunity provided to them by eTime, the cluster, their schools and colleagues.

Thanks to all of the teachers that have presented at our cluster sharing. We really appreciate your knowledge, enthusiasm and ‘give it a go’ attitude and know you will provide great support and encouragement to future presenters, in true Te Waihora style.

Note: During 2010 we will be moving to an Action Research model for our cluster sharing. All teachers will be involved in an Action Research project and below to a professional learning group. These groups will be organised across the cluster within teaching levels. Groups will be encouraged to have contact throughout the year other than cluster sharing i.e email, online forums etc.