Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Term 2 Week 1

Love thy child

The museum 'kid curators' have been continuing to attract positive attention for their self directed and child led project. Their latest claim to fame is that they have been invited to present at the Museums Aotearoa conference in Palmerston North this month. They will also be speaking at the WRPPA conference in Wellington and I am speaking about them at the Mana's principal meeting very soon.

What makes these children and this project so special is that they seem to reflect all of the goodness that comes with student led learning. They are truly passionate and reflective about their learning. And when they are learning it is clear that they are in 'flow'. I learnt the term flow from one of my team teachers Matt Ives. When I talk about flow I mean the magical state that children (and adults) get into when they are really engaged in their learning - that state that we get into where time is lost. We often see this when children are learning through play. Unfortunately 'flow' does not really adhere to a timetable and sometimes there has to be a period of non-flow so that the flow can happen. This means that true learning is difficult to achieve in a traditionally structured school environment.

Why is this? This could be explained by Nathan Wallis' neuro-scientific research where he claims that we learn best when the thinking part of our brains are not having to compete with our survival, safety, and emotional brains. Therefore if we are happy and feeling safe we are much more likely to be able to perform cognitive tasks. He uses this example: If we are being chased around the house by an angry man with a knife we would be highly unlikely to be able to perform a cognitive task such as a simultaneous equation while we are being chased. Likewise when we hear tragic news about a loved one - our emotional brain kicks in and we are unable to think about anything else. Conversely, if our brains are relaxed, we are very able to perform cognitive thinking which could be why we get those great inspirations when we are in the shower, or drifting off to sleep.

These examples are why it is enormously important for our learning environments and learning relationships to be amazing if we are to expect our children to be able to undertake quality learning. A child who is constantly told that they are lazy, below national standard, and naughty is more likely to be concentrating on their emotions and safety as opposed to focus on the learning that they are supposed to be doing at a certain time. In a similar vein, if a child is coming to school feeling bullied or scared of their peers and/or their teachers, they too will not be able to function at a cognitive level. Similarly they will find it near impossible to learn if all they are thinking about is the hard time that they are having at home. Children will often display this by fighting, fidgeting, yelling out or showing off. All of these behaviours are not much fun for the teachers.

This is why it is extremely important at our school that we focus on Relationships. And not just at the beginning of the year, but all of the time and every time. Sometimes it can take up to 4 or 5 months to establish a decent learning relationship with a child. Sometime is can take 4-5 minutes. This is why we must stop doing 'relationship stuff' for the first two weeks of the year and then get into the 'real learning'. What we have found that the 'relationship stuff' is actually the 'real' stuff. We also need to stop shuffling children from teacher to teacher every year. We also have to stop making children be in classrooms where they have bad relationships and telling them that they just have to bear with it.

So back to the Museum children. They went through a huge period of non-flow. Possibly a whole term of it. Why? I think that it was because they were forming a relationship with the environment (the small dingy dusty book room). They were forming a working and learning relationship with each other (they were all in different classes owing to their differences in ages) and they were forming an understanding with the fact that they would not be told what to do and how to do it by their teachers. But after a term of non-flow - oh how they flowed.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Term 1 week 9

EnviroSchools Reflections

We are a green-gold enviroschool which means that we have obligations to reflect upon the green-gold enviro-school principles.

We are a school of do-ers and have achieved a great deal towards our Education for Sustainability projects. Recording and reflecting upon all of these are a hard task as we would rather be creating than recording!

However we put some time aside this week to reflect and record together, as well as ensuring that our reflections were consistent and covered all the things that they needed to. Once we were faced with all our work in a written format we were blown away by the many things that we have achieved over the year.

These include:
Skink garden
Secret Valley Mural
Butterfly garden
Paper brick making
Drains are for Rain
The Museum
The Medical Room
The Rest Home Visits
The Orchard
The pallet creations
The vegetable sales
The worm farm

A link to our reflection folder

Term 1 week 8

Cultural Landscapes

This week we have been exploring Cultural Landscapes and how we can find out and research the cultural landscape of Pukerua Bay.

Cultural Landscape
Possible Horopaki Ako
What topics for learning draw on natural features within the local environment eg sea, river, bush, mountains, bird
Localised Stories
Identify significant hapū or iwi stories that have shaped the destiny of the haukainga
Identify key geographical features significant to hapū/iwi

Identify sites of significance
Who are the leaders, change agents, revolutionaries past and present that have led, guided or modelled the hapū or iwi?
Iwi/hapū events
Identify significant events that impact on hapū/iwi celebrations both past and present

List waiata tangi/moteatea whakangahau pao haka significant to hapū/iwi
Marae,Hapū, Iwi
Identify the marae, pā, significant hapū and iwi from the area
Distinguished “reo” that depicts people through metaphors kīwaha whakataukī whakatauākī dialectual variations and geographical features.  
Ako me aromatawai
-Ways of learning or assessing that are preferable to our whānau, ākonga
Ngā Tapuwae a ngā tūpuna- trails ā waka, ā waeawae

After looking at the above grid we started to share stories that we currently know about Pukerua Bay. For example, the story of Wairaka rock.  We spoke about the variations within the stories and how we could create and document them ensuring that all voices were represented.
We felt that there was a real need to hear stories from Tangata Whenua and that this is likely to be more inspiring for our children.

Cat is working closely with our Whanau group around this. The Whanau group have suggested that a house system could work where the children from each house learn deeply one of each of the aspects in the cultural landscape. This could tie in well with PB4L that we will be exploring next term via RTLB. We are currently developing and deepening our understanding of Waiata through our Kapa haka programme and there is great potential in discovering our Horopaki Ako through our enviroschools programme. Over the past year we have made some progress towards our Reo thanks to our BoT funding a Te Reo teacher for our staff.

This is a large piece of work that cannot be rushed and it is our main priority to develop some authentic connections with iwi. We want to foster a two-way partnership so that it is not us 'taking' but also giving to our iwi. As a part of our community of learning we have the opportunity to make connections with Aotea college's whanau group who have made good connections with their Ngati Toa.

Term 1 week 7

Being spontaneous - Making connections - Celebrate

I happened to be in the admin area when an older woman came in to purchase a Pukerua Bay School Tea-Towel. She started a conversation with me about how proud she was of her friend's son who grew up in Pukerua Bay. John Gilbert had just won an Oscar for editing Hacksaw Ridge.
I am a big believer in celebrating achievement and this includes our children, our staff, and our also our community. I remember some big accomplishments that I have made as a teacher and often these have not been celebrated - where was my parade?

So in the spirit of 'if you don't ask you don't know' I reached out to John Gilbert on FaceBook:

I thought not more of it, but then true to his word he did get back in touch when he came to NZ and he did come and visit our school. He was a great inspiration to many of our students and they got a great deal from his visit.

Term 1 week 6


One of my goals is to re-vamp our appraisal system. Traditionally our Appraisals have been top down and I am interested in exploring an appraisal system that enables the teachers to observe and reflect-on each other.

The reason for this is that last year, when I appraised our teachers, I found that I learned so much about teaching and learning. By observing and reflecting upon the practice of our teachers I felt that I got more out of the experience than the teachers did who were actually being appraised. I also recalled that at our last ERO report that a comment was made about having a system that promoted growth over compliance.

We also wanted to ensure that we 'measure' the right stuff. For example, we once measured a teacher's maths teaching ability through the quality of the children's maths books. This meant ,of course, that teachers concentrated on the presentation of the maths books and getting the correct answers as opposed to problem solving, taking risks, and finding patterns.

Now, with the use of SeeSaw we have a different way of measuring maths teaching through the use of talk moves, problem solving and talking about patterns.

We have developed some 'buddy' observation tasks in order to measure the right stuff. Initially this is around the use of the new school curriculum and the gathering of learning evidence on SeeSaw. It also requires evidence of learning relating to McFarlane's educultural wheel, specifically the tone, and pulse (Pumanawatanga) in the room. As well as the compliance stuff (RTCs and Teaching as Inquiry).

Term 1 Week 5

Matt H and I attended ALiM 2 this week. This was a good opportunity to refresh our skills in relation to acceleration, effective mathematics teaching as well as the 7 principles of learning.

Matt and I struggled at the beginning in terms of our school having  classes running a more integrated learning programme and how it seemed strange to be talking about double dosing. How do you double dose authenticity? Further, how does ALiM work in the play-based learning environment?

We completed ALiM 1 last year, and we have done a lot of work and learning around the 'ethic of care' we are trying to get our students to see maths as more than just 'getting the right answer' we want our children to develop a love for the magic of patterns as well as seeing maths as a practical and authentic way of doing things as opposed to memorisation and sums.

About 5 years ago I created a programme called Real Messy Maths in an attempt to show that there is more to maths than just calculation. The questions are deliberately ambiguous (for more info see Dan Meyer). They focus on Maths as opposed to calculation (for more info see Conrad Wolfram) and deliberately entice problem finding as opposed to solving (for more info see Ewan McIntosh's divergent thinking).

The learning and research of Jo Boaler echoes this philosophy of maths. As does the research around Talk Moves. Matt H's and my mission is to get the children doing the talking when we have structured Math lessons. Matt and I will be working with 3 of our teachers over the next term. We will be using Timperley's Spiral of Inquiry to surface our hunches and assumptions.

Effective Pedagogy in Maths
This text (Link to document included) details effective practice for teaching Maths

Setting up Norms in a Maths Class by Jo Boaler shares research based guidelines for suggested learning behaviour that will positively impact on learning. This document sets up clear examples of what an effective maths environment looks like.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Term 1 week 4

PE Health - Curriculum Review

This week the team revised the PE/Health curriculum using MacFarlane’s Educultural wheel.
The PE teaching and learning statement will be presented on the wheel using the four main headings:
WHANAUNGATANGA Building Relationships
MANAAKITANGA Ethic of Caring
RANGATIRATANGA Teacher Effectiveness
KOTAHITANGA Ethic of Bonding  

Vision: How do we bring the kids alive in PE and Health- How do we make them love it? And how will they love it for life?

We reflected on the statement: Health and PE is about enhancing the students’ sense of self-worth through learning to think critically about health-related and movement contexts. Students learn that well-being is a combination of the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of people’s lives.

Luke reported back on the PE and health survey that was put out last year:

  • 50% of parents stated that mental health was most important

  • Nutrition and Mental health stood out. Whanau found it difficult to choose just one area of importance

The survey showed that we do well in:
  • Sexuality education
  • Sports
  • Swimming

We discussed whether or not we talk about stress, depression and anxiety enough for our year 7-8s? We wondered if Kia Kaha and/or Keeping ourselves safe would be a good way to start this dialogue

Issues to address:
  • Organisation of cross country and athletics and opportunities for those who excel in sport

  • We lack in parent help - could we offer a coaching clinic?

  • Body image and Media studies is needed.

Term 1 week 3

Charter and Achievement Strategies

This week we worked together finalising our Charter and Strategic direction. We also finalised our new school vision: Our learning helps our community, our community helps us to learn. Our Values are:
Kindness, Unity, Responsibility and Achieve.

We discussed the importance of having every child being able to articulate our school vision and values by the end of this year. We also talked about ways in which we can promote and reward those who display our values.

Our completed charter can be found here

Cat (SENCO) introduced our Learning Radar. The Learner Radar enables us to keep track of our students who might be at risk academically, socially, or emotionally. Staff also identified students who were not ‘at risk’ but not reaching their full potential. We will be looking at ways in which we can stretch these students through authentic projects such as the Museum and other student led projects.

Term 1 Week 2 16 February

Making Connections

This week we held a 'meet the teacher evening'. This was an informal get-together so that Whanau could see the environment that the children learn in. We promoted the evening through the school newsletters and our FaceBook page. Despite this, some families didn't realise that the evening was on. To try and rectify this we will also provide families with a paper reminder. We are trying to reduce our paper use. It seems that there is not one channel that meets all families so a combination of media is essential.

We also have been making connections with our Maori community by establishing a whanau group. The group has some fantastic aspirations for our children including an deeper understanding of Kapa Haka, developing a school Kawa, developing a performance group, and holding a school Noho. The whanau group reflected on last year's leavers Hangi and we were pleased with the way that it brought our community together.

Term 1 Week 1 7 February

Real-Time Reporting to Whanau through the use of SeeSaw

Over the school holidays Matt and Emma became Seesaw ambassadors. They took the staff through the mechanics of See Saw which will be our ongoing Reporting system to parents in regard to their student achievement.

Staff agree that reporting should not be a one-off or an event. We are hoping that SeeSaw will provide us with a platform to provide Whanau with real time reporting information.

Matt and I have been working together with the SeeSaw for school package. This enables us to be able to use the PACT indicators as 'Skills'. We are hoping that this will enable the teachers, students and parents to up load evidence on an ongoing basis.


Is there something that I need to change? In our 2014 ERO report it was found that Pukerua Bay School was not reporting to the Nat...