Wednesday, 3 December 2014

End of Year Pre-Reflections

Am pretty impressed with myself that I'm back on here.

I stopped writing a little while ago mainly because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to repay all of you for getting me to ULearn. I still haven't figured that out. I'm still so appreciative and I loved that you all believed in me to get me there. Such an amazing opportunity.

In the meantime I've been trying to keep up with admin and students' reassessments and junior classes and everything else that keeps being piled on.

I'm slowly seeing the light.

And the end of the year.

I have had such an awesome year. Seriously.

Doing this end of the year review and analysing the data for our senior students has been really interesting because I finally get how to track and analyse data. I've looked at the Kamar data and entered it into the sheets and have thought about the data.

And while this data is all well and good - all I keep thinking about is the presentation I did at CLESOL from earlier this year on 'Maori as Achievers' and why data shouldn't be the be all and end all of seeing whether the students have achieved. Because they have all achieved in some way - big or small.

So - until the end of the week - I have this report to write and also Tabloids tomorrow and then one more day of teaching. Hopefully I have taught my students enough this year that they will be ready for next year.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

NaNoWriMo2014: Character Building

I'm nothing if not a procrastinator. Having only just found out about this project a couple of hours ago due to Jaime's (@inkblotsandquills) status on Facebook and later on Twitter... I figure... why not?

So here I am...

Character Building Time.

Name: Sandy Jenkins * this will probably change...
Age: 24
Height: 5'2
Eye color: Hazel
Physical appearance: Short and Stocky. Short legs, short arms and finds it difficult to reach things on the top shelf.
Strange or unique physical attributes: Has a affinity with the creepy crawlies, particularly - ants, snails and worms.
Favorite clothing style/outfit: Orange. Tied died shirts. Pigtail hair. On a work day - blue jean overalls. Tries not to be too mainstream but wants to just be herself.
Where does he or she live? What is it like there? She lives in a grotty little apartment. Rats in the walls and floor in the kitchen is beginning to give way.
Defining gestures/movements (i.e., curling his or her lip when he or she speaks, always keeping his or her eyes on the ground, etc.): puts her hands on her hips and smiles widely. Has a tooth that she licks when she is getting overly agitated and annoyed.
Things about his or her appearance he or she would most like to change: the way her nose flares when she is getting excited about something new.
Speaking style (fast, talkative, monotone, etc.): talks fast. People have to listen faster.
Pet peeves: people who squish her mates. Namely her creepy crawlies.
Fondest memory: sitting at the park with her little sister sharing a loaf of bread, chicken chips and a bag of lollies.
Hobbies/interests: saving the world. She hasn't upgraged to having a cape just yet.
Special skills/abilities: cartwheels incessently. But can't do a backflip on the tramp yet. Knows how to talk a kid off the edge.
Insecurities: doesn't get her message across clearly enough. Wishes she were smarter.
Quirks/eccentricities: completely at ease with her looks. Likes watching films with her head on the side or upside down to see the character's faces and imagine their chins as their foreheads. Aliens.
Temperament (easygoing, easily angered, etc.): easy going. Quickly frustrated.
Negative traits: Helps others before herself.
Things that upset him or her: being told she can't do something
Things that embarrass him or her: being told she is capable...
This character is highly opinionated about: the lifecycle of bees and why they're important. Also that waterways shouldn't be polluted.
Any phobias? Snakes.
Things that make him or her happy: A swing. And a few haybales to make a fort.
Family (describe):
Strong family connections but now living away from home.
Mum and dad separated.

Deepest, darkest secret: can't tell anyone.
Reason he or she kept this secret for so long: dangerous.
Other people’s opinions of this character (What do people like about this character? What do they dislike about this character?): they think Sandy is a pushover. She needs to stand up for herself.
Favorite bands/songs/type of music: Pink, Foo Fighters, Stan Walker
Favorite movies: The Notebook
Favorite TV shows: The Big Bang Theory
Favorite books: One Flew in the Cuckoo's nest
Favorite foods: Mashed potatoes. Garlic bread and butter chicken. Sushi.
Favorite sports/sports teams: not a fan of organised sport. Would much rather watch a snail race.
Political views: strong views but knows there isn't a point to them..
Religion/philosophy of life: be happy. Live life.
Physical health: mostly healthy.
Dream vacation: Undecided.
Description of his or her house: grotty as.
Description of his or her bedroom: bright blue. Sails on her bed. She has drawn a sun clock on the walls.
Any pets? Just the birds outside.
Best thing that has ever happened to this character: moving away from home.
Worst thing that has ever happened to this character: being stuck in this grotty house.
Superstitions: more of a belief that she is being watched and not sure by who.
Three words to describe this character: complex, at times overwhelming.
If a song played every time this character walked into the room, what song would it be? Undecided.

NaNoWriMo2014 and Reflective Teacher - Gratitude Month

Totally just signed myself up for two writing and reflective challenges this month. Why oh why did I do that?

ReflectiveTeacher Challenge with TeachThought and Justine Hughes (@Cossie29).


Below is a really cool starting points
for me....

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Connected Rotorua - Cross-Curricular Collaboration

This Friday we are embarking on a massive collaborative approach in terms of creating a discussion around cross-curricular collaboration.

For those of you who already come to Connected Rotorua - this type of collaboration is old hat. For the new teachers and those we have been working on bringing to join our roopu - collaboration can sometimes be a scary thing.

The idea for Connected Rotorua this time around - to have a Twitter chat - run by me in where we copy our number one It Girl's Face2Face Twitter chat model from the #edchatnz conference.

I don't think I sold it very well at school - but I'm hoping a few people will come along.

My questions so far:

1) Name, school, reason for coming to Connected Rotorua this arvo.
2) What does collaboration look like?
3) How can we create collaboration throughout a school setting - often when we are in our own small areas?
4) What would cross-curricular collaboration look like?
5) How have you collaborated with someone or a different department / age group in the school?
6) How does cross curricular collaboration benefit our students?
7) What other ways could you see cross-curricular collaboration working throughout the school?
8) What do we need to do to ensure we are making constructive progress with collaborating with our colleagues in our schools, nationally and globally?
Final Question: How have you taken part in Connected Educator Month?

In the primary and intermediate school sectors - there is a tonne of cross-curricular collaboration - however the  same issues around sharing resources and being connected seem to permeate - as it does in the high school sector.

It's unfortunate that there are a tonne of kids falling through the system because the dramatic change in teaching style and schooling style changes as they grow up. Perhaps having a more inter-related and cross-curricular perspective when it comes to their studies and their new learning could help aide this growing issue.

For teachers - being collaborative should come second nature - however we are time poor. We don't have the time to create amazing resources or be up to date with best practice all the time. But what we do need to invest time in - is collaborating with others to enable closer connections, positive sharing and giving and taking, building trust and friendship, hopefully further ensuring a wider knowledge base from which to teach our students.

For students - collaboration is what they do best. They love working in groups. They share and feel comfortable pushing out their ideas with those closest to them.

Why do we as adults move away from that? We become scared of being told our ideas are stupid or that they would take too much effort. We feel as if there just isn't enough time, yet try and invent the wheel again anyway. Those of us more seasoned teachers feel that we know a substantial amount of knowledge already and know that what works for us - is already working.

The problem is - our world is changing dramatically - and we need to create learners who love learning, who strive to solve problems, who work in teams to pursue an issue and challenge each other to find the best possible outcome in a difficult situation. We need learners who will not be scared of creating change and learners that will fight for their ideas to succeed because they have overwhelming growth mindsets and believe anything is possible if they just keep trying.

It may sound silly - but I think collaboration is the way to do it. Cross-curricularly as well. Let's break down those silos, those walls to our classrooms. Let's make use of the tuakana/teina relationships we have in our classroom, school, staffroom. Let's share the power - give and take ideas and all be listened to.

Want to come to Connected Rotorua now? This Friday night from 4.30 at Western Heights High School. Nibbles and drinks provided :) Just bring your thoughts and enthusiasm :)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Nau Mai, Haere Mai ki Aotearoa...

After my trip to Brisbane, I am increasingly proud and also saddened. Proud of how far our Māori people have come and also saddened at how far the Aboriginal people still have to go.

I was in Brisbane for the Australian Educator's Union's 'New Educators Network Conference as part of the delegates for the PPTA Network of Establishing Teachers. We had an amazing time. I met some fantastic teachers and was blown away by how intense and powerful their campaigning was. They have such a strong positive image as a Teacher's union in the community and as such are well respected (well I assume so because that passion was awesome!). Unfortunately their government still has a lot to learn (as does ours) in terms of not messing with education.

This post though is because my thoughts continue to swirl about the lack of Aborignal culture, lack of a significant wairua (spirit) and that I couldn't make a connection with the whenua (land) when I was there. I made connections with new friends - but - it's easy to explain to Kiwi's - but hard to explain without sounding offensive to Australians.

I understand why the beginning statement from the AEU sounded token now - because the fact that we were, to say it in Gail's words from 'The Sapphires' - "standing on black fella country.." was obvious to me.  I was pre-warned about the statement - that they acknowledged that the land would always be the land of the Aboriginals and that they honoured them by being able to use it. (Obviously paraphrased).

Brisbane is a stunning place - but sad too because where were the paintings, the visual culture, the historical sites and the people... I saw two paintings in the Queensland Teachers Union building - beautiful ones too but my phone was always flat when trying to take a picture - though wasn't sure whether that was tapu anyway.. coz I'd never take a pic of Goldie's works either.. I heard about one girl and her story - and it breaks my heart.

What's the more twisting part in my belly and my heart is that I get why there has been such slow movement to where Australia is now in reclaiming their identity. The Stolen Generations, the White Australia policies, the mission schools and the need to associate with the quotient of blood you had rather than what you felt in your heart and who you were and what made you - you. It saddens me that there was no visible sign of the Aboriginal culture while I was in Brisbane. Maybe I just didn't know what to look for.

Maybe my expectations are too high - where we have Māori place names and road signs that most people try to say properly... where we learn te reo Māori from a young age and where it's becoming normal to hear te reo Māori on tv - even if just on Māori tv - the fact we even have an entire television station dedicated to promote te reo Māori and kaupapa Māori. A plethora of radio stations and strong kiwi artists singing in te reo Māori. Using Māori greetings as the norm and having culturally appropriate welcomes onto the Marae. We have strong whakapapa (ancestry and genealogy) and we give our mihi and pepeha to connect with others while on the paepae at the marae. We have visible culture here - like the carvings in concrete on the highways in Auckland or the pou at Waikato University or the many carvings ... everywhere.

Maybe my view isn't the normal view of an average New Zealander. I keep hearing from my more (seemingly ignorant) friends that Kiwi's don't think like I do. Sure there is still a hell of a lot of entrenched and institutionalised racism... but we are moving from that right?

The thought - I am who I am - continues to permeate my being. Yet - I can be proud of who I am and acknowledge my many backgrounds and that I am hearty Māori and yet my fair Aborignal sisters and brothers cannot be proud or accepting of themselves? The stigma is still too difficult to navigate. And that's just talking about the ma Aboriginals... let alone the Aboriginals who continue to be picked out for their colour and brutalised by police and continue to search for themselves and who don't have the ability to break the cycle... yet.

The fact that Lois Peeler (one of the original Sapphires) brought some of her girls from her school to NZ to show them our Māori culture is absolutely wonderful. I'm proud of where we are. But to hear that girl say how cool it is to hear little kids speaking te reo Māori... makes me think I take what we have here for granted. The fact that she said her language is dying out makes me incredibly sad. Watch the interview here on Te Karere (our Māori news show).

The Australian Educator's Union Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos spoke at the beginning of the conference about Tony Spurr and this article - Not only is this article absolutely abhorrent but to see Angelo be so incredibly disgusted by it and that the Australian Educator's I spoke with were as disgusted as Angelo was - gives me hope. That the Australian govt believes that they can do and say these things... far out.

Is it not time for an Aboriginal Renaissance? I think so. They've been through enough.

A new friend, when asked about the opening statement, explained that something like that isn't token at all for them because it wouldn't have happened five years ago.

For him, I write this post.

Here are some beautiful and saddening links to histories of NZ. I hope this helps in your endeavour to help our Māori kids in Sydney, e hoa ma (my friend).

My blog post on Maori as Achievers -

And irregardless of this entire post - I have never lived that history or reality of the Aboriginal peoples - what I do know is how our situation in NZ is different - certainly not as bad - but we all have our own way of connecting and trying to understand. This is mine.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inquiry: Critical Mass

We currently have about 14 staff members on Twitter.

- S, J, me, D, E,M, So, Eu, ChS, L, N, La, ChH, ...

I have decided that rather than my normal "Are you on Twitter yet?" question... I send out emails about once a week - not too often and not too focussed. Recently it's been on Connected Educator month.

The next email is on Heights hosting Connected Educator TeachMeetNZ -Twitter F2F chat :) Next Friday after school.

Am looking forward to seeing how many staff come - but because it's Labour Weekend - there might not be too many people.

I have been hearing a lot lately about 'Critical Mass' and how important it is. Particularly how effective it is in changing mindsets.

There are differing percentages - but 20-30 percent tends to be the average. In a staff of 200 - that's 10-15 people. That's achieveable. As seen above.

Now the key is to get those staff tweeting and seeing how useful it is.

#edchatnz is having it's 2nd bday tomorrow night. Am really looking forward to the chat. What's slightly frustrating - is that I will be at our Rotaract meeting even though it will be really exciting having our Mayor Stevie Chadwick present to us :) So will need to multi task somehow. And hope that dinner is done by 8.30...

Some research on critical mass so far:

Sunday, 12 October 2014

ULearn14 Reflections

I've needed a couple of days to fully process before I could write this. Partly because my brain was so full and also because I wanted to do this post justice. 

Because I owe you all so much. The fact that you all believed in me and wanted to help is amazing. I am absolutely in awe of your generosity and support. You've enabled me to believe in myself and that purely - in and of itself - is something I can never repay. 

While at ULearn14 I felt like the orphan of Twitter. In a good way. Because you'd all worked together to get me there. 

When I'd tell people that they were either confused - where I explained what I meant by the term - or - they said - "you're the girl that crowd sourced to get here!" or something along those lines. The art of asking truly is amazing. This won't be the last time I say thank you. But - thank you. Each and every one of you :)

This will be a long post... 


I got back from Wellington on time, during the day and Rotorua looked absolutely beautiful. I was lucky enough to meet a Deputy Principal from a school in Blenheim and talked to her about the power of Twitter - how I use it for networking and professional development. She seemed pretty impressed and had already created an account prior to coming to ULearn14 :) I have completely forgotten her name and would love to send her the Twitter Cheat sheet I made that I told her I'd share with her. 

I was also lucky to be able to catch up with @Tameey on the way into Rotorua :) I met Tameey for the first time F2F (face to face) at the English Conference last holidays. Every time I talk with her I feel incredibly focussed and gain the best advice and perspective on some of the things I've been dealing with this year. :)

My best friend Steven (@steven_de_bruin) and his colleague - my new friend Michelle (@misplon..) were both staying at the same hotel that Tameey was staying at too. I quickly persuaded them both to come check out the Showcase at the Events centre - which was awesome because they were both incredibly knackered after ULearn Mobile. I was so stoked to catch up with my Twitter buddies again - Danielle, Matty, Philippa, Rachel (@ibpossum), and a few new F2F meet ups - Dean (founder of @mathschatnz) and Philippa's friend (...) 

The showcases were really impressive and I was really wanting to go to two more workshops if I could have! @mageiron? And @tombarnett spoke incredibly well. 

(Put Tweets Here)

After showcase we met up at Brew for dinner where I caught up again with more of the Twitter whanau and met Craig Kemp @mrkempnz and Myles Webb @nzwaikato. I was trying to be cool about meeting Craig and not do a repeat of when I met Danielle earlier in the year. Back then I had jumped around and nearly cried - so I was determined only to be a little excited to meet another good mate. This twitter thing is pretty crazy. It's overwhelming and fabulous all at the same time, because you create such strong friendships through intellect and sharing thoughts and ideas that when you finally meet face to face (F2F/K2K) then it feels as if you already know them. It's okay to hug them straight away. As I did with Michaela Pinkerton @nzkaiako the following day :) - before I even said Hi. Because I knew her - weird but true. And because I'd missed out on seeing her last time. 

Dinner was great because it was the first time both Steven and Michelle had been involved in Twitter and having the chat continue in person would have been a new experience for them. Last time it felt weird talking to these (seemingly strangers) friends of mine about the issues and problems I'm dealing with at school - mostly because I hadn't even told Steven - even though he's my best mate - because there is just so much to say and it's hard to explain. But he must have been confused last time but would have had a better awareness this time and even got a few words in edgewise. Our Twitter whanau.. we talk a lot.. :) 


Felt like the Orphan of ULearn. So incredibly blessed to have been fortunate enough to go to ULearn and it was really cool just booking my breakouts - let alone being there - with everyone! Just being in the events centre with Pharrell's 'Happy' playing - was amazing. Seeing two of our Heights students was awesome too! 



and this - is seriously cool.
And here are my Storified Tweets again :)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

ULearn14 - Thoughts and Reflections - Storify Style

Since ULearn14 finished, I have had one massive nap and an even more massive sleep. I think I'm nearly ready to write about it.

Firstly though - here are a heap of amazing Storify's which collated the even more amazing time we had at Ulearn14:

Here is the link for mine too:

And below - a quick look through the amazingness... :)

ULearn14 - Engagement, the Key to Success with Mike Scadden

Mike Scaddan - Engagement - the Key to Success
Reticular Activating System - What is this?

You Control the target and focus – forget WALT’s – he brought them to schools in 1998. A WALT to him is ‘We are going to have fun in English’Don’t spend time doing WALTs all the time.

Where attention is your energy goes.

You never know what is around the corner.

Question for the room: What do you want to be your focus today?

  • How effectively do you reflect?
  • How well do you adapt?
  • How effective are you at taking action?

Who takes marking home?
Do it in class. Students MUST be part of the process. Says if ERO asks why – tell them Mike said. Be fresh. Have students be part of that learning.
The educational world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those… E=MC2
So What?
Increased pedagogical knowledge.

More than 15 engagement strategies to come throughout the presentation
I fear the day when literacy and numeracy will become more important than children understanding themselves, how they learn and what their talents are. Schools must provide this opportunity…

Learning about learning and learning about what it means to be a contributing human, should be a powerful exploration for everyone in your school community.

Why would we ever talk to a kid about something that they don’t have any awareness of?

Remember – the brain that does the work, does the learning.

We do the work. Way too much of the work.

It takes a lot of time for us to get confident about answering a question – let alone thinking about what the answer could be.

"I’m not going to say anything until you ask me a question." - Love this. Making us think of questions so that we can learn how to learn more effectively - and as a result -how to be better teachers.

Quick Facts:
Your brain is ready for algebra at the age of 18.
Kids are able to tell the time from 10-12.
A whole lot of kids who can get the right answer – but can’t apply it to real life.

If we keep giving things for nothing they become nothing of worth.
We need depth in it. It’s our job to arrange the scene.
Our achievers are not achieving.

Knots poem – 
There is something I don’t know
That I'm supposed to know
I don’t know what it is that I don’t know
And yet I’m supposed to know
And I look stupid
If I seem both not to know it
And not to know it.....
Rd. Liang
Three reasons to ask questions:
  1. Make sense of it - what you're learning
  2. 60% will have the same question
  3. Help yourself

Talking about questioning and those who didn’t have the courage to ask the question – then you feel stink.

Questioning Technique - He said – who’s got a question? And he sat down.
It seemed a long time. But it was merely ten seconds for the first person. And a minute or so for me to formulate one. Then another two minutes to get the courage to say mine. No result there either - Why? He doesn't know.

Question from the audience - If this is true about questioning – how do we change the culture of that?
Need to have a different way of questioning

Learning situation – rather than telling them what they need to know.

Ice Cream lids – as whiteboards – BRILLIANT.

“I’m going to show a short video. There’s something about learning in it."
Foo Fighters – 'Learn to Fly'

Our Group's Suggestions: 
  • Same person can take on different roles in the classroom.
  • Lots of different people in the classroom setting.

Mike's take on the Foo Fighter's video:
  • Have to recognise that learning will happen – have a focus. Not a WALT.
  • Need passion!
  • Learners come in all shapes and sizes.  Have the same size furniture.
  • People like to sit with themselves.
  • We all have our own baggage.
  • Need visuals in our classroom.
  • All turned on by different things.
  • Need to company our learning with kinaesthetic gestures
  • Need Take Off

Two issues facing 21st Century Schools
Outcome: Positive focused students.
(Image - Rugby posts of issues– ball w pos focussed students)
Because many students have poor engagement skills and low self-belief, teachers have to spend a lot of time trying to motivate their students.

Direct motivation is not our job.

Our job is to create an engaging state where students want to motivate themselves.

I like that he lets us talk and spend time thinking.

Five things we’ve liked about his teaching and learning style – creating motivation and engagement:
  • Non-threatening.
  • Expectations of us - Told us that we were going to be learning, that we would be learning about thinking
  • Personal - Told us info about himself
  • You First then Me - Making us come up with our own answers before he tells us what he thinks
  • Music - Had music playing when we came in
  • Humour!
  • Accepting Responses - When you’ve responded to us – he’s responding to our attitude and behaviours

My Thoughts: I'd like to think that I do those (above) but... I know I can do them better.

I want to create a culture where it’s good to take risks.

When we make a mis-take (Hollywood take sign) – we feel awful because we don’t want to be embarrassed and be the centre of attention.

Instead think of a mistake as:
  • What was missing?
  • What can we take with us?

Cool activity with little footsteps – ask Andrea.
Picture on the projector - covered by five different colours - helps to change our initial predictions and thoughts around what the picture could be. Our thoughts change with the collective too. Don't want to be wrong.

My prediction: Plane restaurant – not a plain restaurant. 
Answer: Plane House. 
LOVE his Punniness! --> I’m not going to have a plain house it’s going to be different.

We don’t want right answers in the world – we want different answers.

My thoughts: Making predictions this year – with Y10 and Y9 students has been awesome. They're making them naturally now without full on prompting. :)

Why put so much of the finished product on the walls? I want to see a journey.

Scale is always changing.

Want students to be passionate.

Students diarise what they’ve learnt. - love this idea!! :)

Bell Curves were designed for casinos.

Putting people in a box. Box gets smaller.

Don’t lower your sights with your students. Or with yourself.

Do we box our students with the National standards – being below or at – or capable of being above but scared?

Four different rooms in your head. 
Original “Brain Rooms” model John Joseph Med

  1. Global, goal setting, big picture
  2. Logical sequential
  3. Limbic area responsible for emotional response
  4. Amygdala

Limbic is homeground. This is where you are all the time. It dominates your life and brain.
This is why relationships are so important. They need to know what they’re getting out of it.
This “home base” is also the centre for motivation and emotional self talk.

Works on two main questions for Males: product oriented
  1.          Why are we doing this?
  2.          What is in it for me?

Works on two main questions for Females: Process oriented.
  1.          What will this do to my relationships?
  2.          What is in it for me? What will I get out of it?

Both of these questions are overly active in primary and secondary school students.
At 75 we’re actually speaking the same language.
Males: See, Do, Communicate
Females: See, Communicate, Do

So what happens to our self-belief when our methods of learning .... missed the last of this point..
Motivation and Engagement
Motivated all the time? 3-5 kids consistently motivated
De-motivated all the time? 3-5 consistently de motivated
Neither motivated or demotivated – majority of the class
Everyone is a priority learner.

Use the style of teaching that works – practical, action based, applicable.
The Young Brain in particular requires risk and opportunity to develop and mature.
At the same time – we need boundaries
Needs emotional links, repetition and personal sense and meaning to learn.
These needs can be catered for using choice and variety.
Respect your Hippocampus… Too much, too fast and it won’t last.
Talk less, talk for less time and make whatever you are saying important and relevant.

Stop having so many visuals in the room. Good art galleries provide SPACE around paintings - because SPACE helps define the art. 

Need space in an environment to find what they need.

Our classroom is there for a purpose – not to look pretty.

Interruption free zone is needed.
What is a teacher? A guide not a guard.
What is learning? A journey, not a destination.
What is discovery? Questioning the answers rather than answering the questions.
What is the process? Discovering ideas not covering content.
What is the goal? Open minds not closed issues.
What is the test? Being and becoming, not remembering and reviewing.
What is learning? Not just doing things differently but doing different things.
What is teaching? Not showing them what to learn but showing them how to learn
What is a school? Whatever we choose to make it.
Lee Crocket, Ian Jukes, Andrew Churces