Sunday, 20 May 2018

Do I Have The Tools For Learning?

Fortnightly our PLGs meet. To further understand Ako Orewa and how to implement into my practice, I chose to be involved in the PLG which is breaking down the 'tools for learning'. We have discussed how these tools are discussion starters to have with students, and the aim is to increase learner agency. My plan is to get my head around the tools, begin to think about how I can use the tools in my lessons and then hit the ground running next year, possibly next year's inquiry.

I feel these tools are great stepping stones to decrease the teacher being in control and increase student ability to self manage their learning. In the future I would love to give students the ability to design their own courses and how they will assess their learning! I think a major affordance of using these tools within the classroom will mean that the students have greater 1:1 time with the teacher, and there will be much less time spent on managing behaviour.

Last week we focused on the orange tool. Our task was to design a swimming pool in small groups, but before doing so, we broke down the time required to complete the task and the resources we needed. Leanne and Bev (the facilitators of our PLG) then walked around the room and asked the groups key questions related to the tool such as "How are you going for time?" and "What resources do you think you could have used if you had more time?" As the student in the situation, I became more aware of how much I needed to do, and when I needed to do it by. I was held accountable for my task as others relied on me and the teacher asked lots of questions during the design process. We debriefed the activity by then thinking about what to do next and reflecting on how we used our time - which then started to link into the blue tool! 

I walked away from this session with greater understanding of how to include this tool within my classroom, and I am looking forward to experimenting with the others too. Below are the Slides Leanne created and talked us through last week, about how she has implemented the tools in her own practice so far.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Resilience - Easier Said Than Done

Being in a new school is tough. There are so many systems to learn, people to meet, kids to connect with, different units and assessments to understand. In addition to this change, I have had a lot going on at home. I have felt with all of the changes, I have lost a bit of passion and excitement in my teaching, and a considerable need to be resilient. 

Last term I found myself chatting with students from many of my classes about anxiety. Many times I walked away from conversations feeling emotionally exhausted supporting these students as they felt anxious, stressed and were struggling through a variety of things going on in their lives. I felt like an unqualified counsellor, a feeling I had often at Tamaki too. Twitter was timely and I came across a couple of articles to think about, as well this webinar/course about accidental counselling (which I will be completing on Sunday).

Relief washed over me when I stumbled across this reflection by Nycol Didcote about the difficulties of teaching and how to find a balance. It is well-known we work around the clock, and give and give and give, and as a result many teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. Didcote was real. She spoke about the behind the scenes struggles, and I felt relieved it wasn't just me! "So if you’ve lost your sense of purpose or feel as though your efforts aren’t worth it, know that you are not alone. But before you consider leaving the profession – really think of what you are leaving behind. You’re leaving your mark on those you serve everyday. You’re making a difference." This gave me the boost I needed, and was looking for to move forward.

I also found this article about how to confront anxiety, which discusses how feelings of worry can affect a child's ability to learn and function at school, and they cannot do the normal developmental tasks of someone that age, when the feelings are excessive. Anxiety needs to be recognised and supported, because if it is attempted to be eliminated, the more it increases. I know this myself! The article includes an interview with Lynn Lyons (social worker and psychotherapist), whom suggests we need to find ways to help our students to problem solve, to learn to take risks and to build resilience - we can't do it for them. Reading this really stuck with me, because I often try to help my students feel better and solve their problems, because I care for them and want them to be happy. However, upon reflection I feel I may have given some of my students a disservice, as I have not given them steps to support themselves to increase their resilience - something I will keep in the back of my mind moving forward.

Mrfallickpe wrote about the fear of getting something wrong, the fear of judgement, the fear of being in a toxic school environment. He reflects on the importance of the teachers believing in their students, not giving up on them, even though sometimes they make mistakes. I read this after the least enjoyable day I had last term, when I'd struggled to motivate some of my Year 11 students for a few weeks, and then clashed with them. I found this article refreshing, and a great reminder to take each day as it comes, and consistently have high expectations of students to TRY, even if they make mistakes - as that is how we learn! The comment I took away most from his blogpost was

We may say a comment or a sentence that we feel is not important to us however for the student it may be the most important message they hear and might stick with them for life”.

Resilence, and the ability to manage change, is coincidentally what the first Year 12 Health unit was. So I was teaching, implementing and discussing various strategies with the students about how to be resilience and manage change - right as I was doing it myself. Some strategies included having a nap, playing simple games and colouring in! I still have a lot to learn, but am feeling like the busiest and most difficult time has passed and I am excited to start Term 2 with a bang!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Inquiring into Closures, Debriefs & Exit Strategies

As previously blogged about, Ako Orewa is striving for students to be able to identify and explain why they are learning what they're learning. For students to become advocates for their own learning, rather than the teacher. Last year, some feedback on observations I got, was the lack of exit strategies within my lessons. My previous HOD suggested to think about some ways I could debrief the lesson, or small strategies to determine whether students can explain the lesson objectives, and whether they met the learning intentions. Therefore, I have decided to focus on exit strategies for my teaching inquiry

I am teaching Year 12 Health for the first time this year, learning and teaching lots of new ideas and concepts. By integrating exit strategies, or closure tasks, at the end of some lessons, this would be great feedback for me to determine how the lessons are going, and where I may need to make alterations for future. The strategies may also support the growth of learner agency, as students may be able to identify and explain the learning intentions of the lesson, the pathway the learning is heading, and possibly encourage students to identify what they still need to learn.

From an initial Google Search, I have already found a few ideas online (e.g. 22 Powerful Closures, Entry & Exit Cards, and 10 Smart Tools for Digital Exit Slips). But, if you have any to share, please let me know, as I'm willing to give anything a go to see what works for my students! At this stage I will spend this week researching some different tools and reading some academic literature, then possibly start implementing them next week.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Learner Agency Take 1

Image result for learning goals eduwellsAfter our callback days earlier in the year, we selected one of the sessions we attended to be our PLG for 2018. I decided to have greater understanding of the school's pedagogy and philosophy, I would attend the Ako Orewa sessions. Ako Orewa is an initiative starting to be developed, to promote greater learner agency, with an aim to 'put the horse before the cart'.

For our first PLG session today, I spent the time to try and get my head around the concept of Ako Orewa. The purpose of the developing pedagogy is to increase students' ability to identify how they are learning, what they are learning and where they are going next. Overall, Ako Orewa is encouraging the shift from teachers teaching, towards teachers facilitating, and students taking the lead. By increasing students' confidence to take ownership of their learning, will prepare the students better for the 'real world', where they rarely have someone as a fountain of knowledge to rely on. 

The department goal directly aligns with Ako Orewa too. Our aim is to increase students' understanding of the learning process. This is something I am definitely still trying to get my head around myself in all honesty. As I am learning so much, I am feeling a little overwhelmed with everything, but know this learning process is important for students. Some key questions for students about the learning process, which I am aiming towards over the next few weeks are;

Why am I doing this?
How am I progressing?
What do I need to do next?
Who can support me for my next steps?

Image result for ako orewa
Although these seem like simple questions, I sadly admit many of my students are probably unable to answer some of these questions, particularly the why. To increase learner agency as an initial step for me, is to actively describe the bigger picture. I often ask myself this question when planning lessons, but don't share my thinking with the students. I need to make it a habit of mine to explain the purpose of the activities completed or resources used, so the students have greater holistic understanding, rather than being able to regurgitate their task instructions, as I feel many would currently if asked what they are doing and why.

I am looking forward to another year of learning in a PLG, and sharing my reflections in future posts!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Waitangi Day - More Than A Day Off

Despite dozens of lessons about the Treaty of Waitangi throughout school, I woke up this morning feeling guilty I had forgotten so much about a historical moment of New Zealand's history. The Māori, and the British showing great mana. With some quick Googling and watching YouTube videos, I reminded myself of the key things that occurred on the 6th of February 1840, before Waitangi Day became a public holiday to commemorate the signing in 1960.
  • There were growing plans of British migrants to settle in New Zealand, acquiring land and setting up commercial operations
  • Violence and crime between the Māori and British became rife
  • Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson negotiated British sovereignty over New Zealand as a representative for the Queen, and set up a British colony
  • The Treaty was an agreement between the British Crown and Māori iwi (tribes) and hapu (subtribes), with a purpose to enable the British settlers and the Māori people to live together in New Zealand under a common set of laws or agreements
  • The Treaty was named after the location of signing, Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands 
    Image result for treaty of waitangi
Today's article in the New Zealand Herald What does Waitangi Day mean to you?, identified some scary statistics about inequity between Māori and non-Māori today, despite the Treaty. There continues to be differences in understanding, more than 2000 claims lodged by the tribunal and many settlements. This article really made me think about what Waitangi Day means to me, after reading others' thoughts. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed that many of the people in the article merely considered Waitangi as a day off in the sun, with no significance to our past. However, multiple expressed their frustrations about the ongoing discussions and debates about the Treaty.

Tonight I reflected and thought about where we are at now. We live in a multicultural community, and I wouldn't want it to be any different. Without this integral moment of history, it is unlikely we would have so much diversity in our country today. I feel sad for the Maori that their land became co-owned, but proud of the challenges and risks they took. We have a rich cultural background which should be celebrated, and a beautiful native language. Unfortunately though, the amount of people who can speak Te Reo is reducing rapidly, and I fear as a result, so is the Māori culture.

I am trying to include more Te Reo words and phrases into my classroom this year, to normalise the language. I would like to teach myself more about customs and practices, so that I can embed these into my teaching and learning also. I believe if we all contribute where and when we can to hold onto the Māori culture, irrespective of our background, then Waitangi Day will have greater significance, and our history will not be forgotten.

Today I started by wearing my taonga (greenstone from my previous school) at my new local moana!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Inaugural Kahui Ako


Today was the first time Orewa College has collaborated with the local primary schools to learn about the COL leaders inquiries moving forward. Our day started with a Keynote presentation from Derek Wenmoth - Deep and Engaging Learning, followed by three self elected sessions.

What stuck with me was when Derek said "Unless we understand where we come from, it's difficult to determine where to go next". I feel I know very little about where education began, and how it has developed, even though I know it has considerably. Derek shed a little light on why some foundations that were created/theorised back in the day, which are still prevalent now, such as subjects. 

To deepen understanding, Derek suggested the 6 C's; Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Character, Citizenship, Collaboration. He suggested that teachers and kids are becoming bored, and we need to get more excited about learning by shifting away from testing, standardisation and repetition, and put these 6 C's are the forefront of our teaching and learning.

For my first session I attended, we focused on the Key Competencies and how to use them to enrich learning in the classroom. The KC's are an integral component of the New Zealand Curriculum, but I still felt I needed to learn more about how to keep at the front of my mind when planning and teaching. 


I had previously seen Richard Wells' 5 tools for learning poster, which breaks down the KCs, and today's session built upon how I could relate to these in the classroom. The presenters had packs of cards which had the KCs on one side, and then a suggestion of how the KC may be covered in a lesson. Our task was to choose one of our unit plans, and explain how each of the five KCs were being developed during the unit, using the card prompts. I broke down my Exploring Substances unit, and found this a great task to deepen the unit plan, and ensure the KCs are deepening.  


Session two was an introduction to some ways to use visual media within the classroom. Although I had exposure to a lot of media tools during MDTA, I attended the session to learn about the sorts of things which happen here. My inquiry this year will be focused on literacy strategies, so I was interested how media can support digital/visual literacy, and in turn increase verbal and written literacy. 

Some of the suggestions for how to include visual media and imagery, which I could see possibilities for my classes included;

- to tell a story
- creation of storyboards
- breaking down feelings and other things that relate to the picture being taken
- further justification of the pictures being taken, what represents the story that you're trying to depict and why
- creation of movies to explain key words, or ideas that need to take away
- use of still shots can be stitched together to create a short film
- creating memes or GIFs

We had ten minutes to create a photo collage, I created the one alongside, which I thought may be a poster to put up in my classroom. I have seen lots of my friends and students use the app Pic Collage, so this was a perfect opportunity. Another suggested app was Clips for Apple.

The final session of the day introduced the first full cross curricula course at OC; Maths, English and PE. They explained how cross-curricular teaching is about crossing the boundaries we have, breaking the silos and disciplines. There was a strong emphasis on the need to prepare the students for the ever-changing future, which is not like our traditional schooling. 

I am excited by the concept of knocking down the walls between subjects, and learning becoming more wholesome, rather than fragments. There appears to be many positives about cross-curricular learning, for both teachers and students (e.g. greater relevance, relationships developed, greater higher order thinking and transferable skills). However, lots of time and planning is required. For this reason, I am going to keep cross-curricular teaching on the backfoot until next year. I would like to get on board with the team next year, once I know my learners and the school more!

Overall, it was a great day, clearly with lots of learning taking place. I met lots of new people, and became very excited for the learning that will take place in the coming months, for myself and my students!

Friday, 26 January 2018

The Beginning of Chapter 2

After two incredible years at Tamaki College, this week I have started the second chapter of my teaching journey. I had so many successes throughout my time at TC, and learnt a huge amount about myself, my teaching and my subjects. I feel I progressed well throughout the year, meeting my 2017 goals, completing my dissertation and Honours degree, graduated from the MDTA, presented at PENZ conference, was awarded Outstanding New Professional Award, and moderated a Twitter chat... all of this on top of my teaching! Last year really was a full on, rewarding year. I was very sad to farewell the TC staff and students.

Orewa College holds new challenges, new learning and most excitedly a new experience for me. Over the past few days we've had introductions to PLGs, and the PD opportunities that we will be offered throughout the year. The staff seem like lovely, hardworking, and dedicated people, especially those in my department. 

Looking ahead, I am most excited to be teaching Level 2 Health for the first time, and to be teaching classes from Years 9 through to 13! I can already feel myself asking lots of questions, thinking about where I want to go with my teaching, and wondering how to best connect with my learners. I am really looking forward to meeting them, and know I will be writing a post week 1 reflection!

As I don't know my learners or the school yet, I am unsure what my 2018 goals will be yet. I am going to spend time getting to know the new role, before thinking about where to go next. Watch this space, and wish me luck!