Monday, 23 February 2015

Building On Success/Kia Eke Panuku Observation

This morning, I was observed by Ali and Kahira and a member of the BOS/KEP team during my Year 12 English Alternative class. I had previously thought I had the Year 10 Social Studies class so I'd made up the resources that I had planned out during the weekend before staff briefing... needless to say I'm looking forward to that particular lesson later on today!! :)

This morning though with the Y12 students, I warned them about me getting observed and that in essence they were being observed too with their learning and with their understanding of the lessons and their interaction with me as their teacher.

It is always a bit nerve wracking having observers in your class but I actually enjoy it because it gives me reflection time and it also helps to remind me the point of why I'm a teacher and thinking about ways to improve my own teaching and development as a teacher.

My two areas that I have chosen to work on during the post-ob chat are co-construction and feed forward.

#EducampRotovegas - 21st Feb

We had a really awesome turnout for #EducampRotovegas this weekend. It was really cool starting the PLD year off with an unconference styled session in our beautiful city too. Probably the best part though was seeing old friends, becoming re-energised and making new connections with teachers throughout the country.

Look at all the different Tweachers that came!!

Before going I was beginning to feel the old 'meh' attitude and I forget that after Twitter chats and conferences I'm back on an awesome buzz again. Even just going through the introductions left me feeling home again. PLD like this truly does make a community. Teachers being learners and learning from each other creates a community of people who are willing to learn, re-learn and learn again. 

Developing that co-constructed and individualised learning is seriously the best part of an un-conference as you are able to choose what you want to learn more about. After the Smackdown, where everyone who wants to shares something via a shared Google Slide for a minute or so, we were given Post It notes to write down something that we were interested in learning more about. I wrote down MakerSpaces with @MissesArtech (Kimberly) and was incredibly stoked when a new colleague and friend tweeted that the only thing she wrote down on her Post It was that she wanted to talk to me about engaging secondary students. The conversation is below: 

It was incredibly humbling that my new friend, an assistant principal at a Junior High School, wanted to talk to me about engaging dis-engaged Maori girls. It was an incredibly cool feeling and more so because that's what she'd written on her Post It note. So so cool. 

We had an awesome chat straight after and it was again humbling when she asked if I could come work at her school and how great a team we would be in team teaching! I showed her my growth mindset blog post and videos as well as told her how I do the empowerment activity with my students to enable them to change their thinking about themselves and their ability in their subjects. 

Going late to the MakerSpaces talk was still good because I saw just how awesome the stuff Kim has been doing with her classes!! Honestly, I wish we could do that kind of stuff here at school or better yet were exposed to more of it when I was at school myself. I think it's possible too... just need to co-construct curriculum subjects in order to have cross-curricular assessment projects. 

Her soft circuit unit looks cool too!!!

It was seriously just a great day and I'm so stoked that the right people came. We always say that the people who come, come for the right reasons and are there because they really want to be there. It's the best opportunity and fabulous professional learning as a community and to individualise our own learning. 

Below is the Storify of our day - created by @1MvdS (Marnel):

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Social Studies - Society Experiment

After yesterday's reflective post about how I taught in the unit and those creative ways of learning - I was thinking about upping my game in Social Studies.

I'd planned on continuing the film Schindlers List but with the sheets for curtains and the wonderfully bright sun streaming through the curtains we actually do have on one side of the class - it's an absolute mission at the moment. Let alone the projector issues..

So the first five students began moving desks into groups of four and five. The rest of the class helped and then I had them all stand in a circle. The first five and a couple extra who I watched during the table moving and also the boy who had incorrectly assumed about the use of Whakarongo were made leaders of the tables. Once the students had been put into different groups (all separated from their mates - well mostly) I had the leaders come to me to grab two sheets of A3 paper and the rest needed to get coloured pencils etc. 

This is what they had to do:
1. Team Name
2. Society Rules - at least three
3. Draw 10 stick figure people
4. Choose jobs and careers for each one of those people
5. Draw a loaf of bread, a car and a house
6. Assign prices for each of those three things
7. Draw three faces of leaders in their societies, facial features included

Once the setup was ready - this is what happened - without the full conversation.

A. The leaders have decided that they will be the only ones to create any rules. So cross all of your rules out.
B. A supposed accident has killed one of the leaders. Choose one leader and cross them out.
C. The price of bread has increased by 200%. Calculate how much that now increases all three items. (Inflation)
D. As a result of inflation, four of your stick people die from starvation and or unemployment as cost of living rises. Houses and cars are sold for next to nothing. Cross four people out.
E. Now the two leaders are working towards the election. The people need someone who will lead them out of this mess. One leader is a fabulous speaker and promises them the world. The other leader is known to help and could help but is not as effective in the running for election. Cross out one leader. Now you have one leader who tells you all the rules and mandates everything that society does.
F. As a result of these new rules the leader has created, any person who will not bow down to the decrees of the new leader must also be crossed out. Most likely jobs to cross out are: teachers, historians, police and lawyers who will challenge the leader. If you have any person that looks like they may not follow orders, cross them out.
G. In the new society, only essential people are allowed to survive. Builders, soldiers, electricians, doctors. Cross everyone else out.
H. Ask students how many people they have left. Circle two people and draw a small circle above their heads. They are more casualties of the leaders new rules.

Once we got to this stage, silence was all that was left. They realised they had noone else to play the game with as some students had one stick figure person left, others had a couple.

While they were writing down ten things they learnt as a group during the experiment, I walked around with a tin of lollies for the leaders and others who had worked hard during the experiment. I couldn't bring myself to add that they were the leaders in the experiment and although I was rewarding their good work - in essence, it was like rewarding bad behaviour for theoretically killing their stick figure people.

I had gone into the whole process hoping to show them that leaders do what they want. The effect of what happened throughout the lesson was amazing. By the end I was a bit lost as to how to connect it all - when I realised that not one student said no to me. They just blindly continued doing what I told them to do. This in itself was what I told them. The fact that they did not say no. They did not disagree with me and instead did everything I said. At some point I could have told them to cut up their work and they probably would have. Because they believed in the authority and the fact that they believed me showed that they were willing to follow me and my instructions (orders).

The connection very quickly happened for them once they realised they hadn't stopped or hadn't once said no. While pointing out the fact that they did not even try to save any of their 10 stick figure people - they saw the correlation with the situation in NAZI Germany.

Students reflected on the experiment and noticed how they didn't resist my 'orders' for each task.

Their reflections are beginning to show an understanding and awareness of other peoples situations. I'm incredibly impressed by this class.

Am so stoked I was able to bring back a tiny bit of old me today. Felt so good. Such a good lesson.

Despite the Holocaust being such a horrendous topic to learn, I think that it has hooked this class into their learning and understanding of what social studies is.

Slowly those who extend themselves by themselves are showing me that extension is important but if you have the passion to find out information on your own then you're more likely to develop a deeper awareness of the overall issues.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Blast from the Past...

Just realised that I hadn't mentioned yet that an ex student of mine - one from my bi-lingual class at my last school has moved down to Heights. It was seriously the coolest feeling seeing her in my class.

I actually had a really weird moment of being unsure where I was because she was so familiar and yet she wasn't at our school. I actually nearly cried. Huge happy  smiles and hugs and laughs and catch ups.

She was in one of the very first classes I ever taught. I've said before how there's just something about the connections you make with those first classes. For me, that bi-lingual class changed my way of teaching and thinking about learning. They moulded me and transformed me into what they called a "Māori Freedom Writers teacher" like Ms Gruwell.

Back then we did so many cool projects and ideas to transform the learning and understanding of the texts we were covering. I don't know why but I've never done such creative stuff since. Perhaps it's because of the increased workload compared to back then in my first year teaching or just the mere difference there is in teaching a bi-lingual class within the unit compared to mainstream classes.

The first thing out of T's mouth was, "Whaea, do you remember all those things we used to do like that court session we did?" I'd thought they all would have forgotten by now! That lesson was easily one of my favourites.

We were studying Katherine Mansfield and Witi Ihimaera's differing versions of the Pearl Button stories and were trying to figure out who exactly was responsible for any harm to Pearl. We had such a cool court session role play, completely conducted by the students and as a result they showed the range of differing perspectives within the story and the racial tensions that came through our reading and interpretations of both stories.

With that class that was the one thing I worked incredibly hard to dissolve - racial stereotypes and racism. At the beginning of the year the kids were unsure how to take me, white and fob as I am, and by the end of it had fully embraced me, understood ranges of perspectives and could appreciate different peoples point of view and upbringings. The haka they did for me when our class finished brought me to tears. I just hope one day I can find a copy of the recording!

Anyway.... every day I am just so stoked that T is now in my Y12 English class. To just have a little bit of the unit feeling makes me feel at home here finally. Was missing it so much and was missing it in my teaching. Hopefully having her here for the year will remind me about the amazing teacher I can be when extra stuff doesn't bog me down.

I miss teaching one on one or groups because you get a stronger whanaungatanga with the kids. You develop and retain those relationships.

Each year should have that passion of a new class and each student should feel valued and appreciated.

I'm just so incredibly stoked she's here and hope she can overcome that same old shyness to make friends at Heights and have an awesome last year of school too. :)

Nau mai, haere mai e taku tauira :) He mihi mahana ki a koe ano :) Ka kite koe ki te timata o te maunga teitei. Ka haere  atu koe ki oku haerenga i nga whetu... Dream big. Go hard and good luck :)

Re-Finding Pinterest

Over the summer, I read. A LOT. I also re-discovered Pinterest. I was looking at dresses and styles of clothes I'd like to learn how to sew when I remembered how good it was for teaching ideas and resources.

Lo and behold... I created new boards on writing, language techniques, class posters etc.

Check it out here:

Quizlet and the Holocaust

So I've been creating a new set of Quizlet flashcards for my year 10 students learning about the Holocaust.

I have a few terms written down so far but still need more. So as a strategy I used with a Year 9 class at my last school, I am going to use Quizlet to develop students' understandings of new words and concepts we learn.

My idea is that by the end of the year, each unit will have a set of flashcards that can then be used by students for revision of the exam and also as practice throughout the year.

Here is the link:

Let me know if you have any other terms that could go into this set :)

Respectful Conversations

The last two days I've been talked to/at with what could be termed as disrespectful conversations. In a way they could be deemed as attacks but I'd rather take the high road and discuss the reasons these conversations are inappropriate always - but certainly in an environment such as the teaching profession.

Now - right before my birthday things usually stir up a bit like this which reinforces my morals, my ideals and my thinking about what is appropriate in my life and more so what I try to remove from my life - mainly negativity and any notion of deficit theorizing.

As someone that grew up learning how to be passive-aggressive as a strategy to deal with everyday conversations at home - it's easy to let the person rage and then just take it, rather than calmly suggest ways to the other person how to deal with the situation, or even, confront the issue head on. For all intents and purposes I try not to create issues. Sometimes though - especially in high-stress, high-emotional areas such as the teaching profession, sometimes precision of language does not occur - and as such - your message can be misconstrued.

As a result of the conversation I was brought into yesterday, I feel undermined and undervalued. Yet am expected to continue doing what I was already doing anyway. As a secondary result - I do not feel like continuing with that particular aspect of extra-curricular activity within the school. Personally I do not like being talked to/at like a child. Yes I am mere weeks from my 27th birthday, and no, I have not been teaching for ten, or 20+ years. But that does not in any way, shape or form mean that I do not have my students' best interests at heart. Nor does it mean that I am unaware of the issues our students face daily. Also, I am pretty quick on the uptake so don't need things reinforced four or five times so I get it. When you whakahē someone, you undermine their understanding, you make them feel worthless and moreover, you make them feel belittled and unimportant as if their feelings and ideas do not matter.

This morning's conversation, which wasn't so much a conversation as a loud reprimand in front of 20+ colleagues about something incredibly trivial as a need to bring a pen to briefing, was even more embarrassing as the discussion then continued as if the reason for the reprimand rested solely on my shoulders and not on all of us for the need to do paperwork - two different issues. It is inappropriate to say such things loudly - a pull-aside talk would have sufficed. However, in my defense - the reason I never bring a pen to briefings is because I write everything on my phone because then I'm not wasting paper as the notices are on Kamar and if I seriously need one - we borrow from each other at our table. Which is never a problem. In the room we were in, there were at least 15 pens I could have borrowed. I was merely waiting until someone had finished so that I could make my selections of the four student leaders I thought were going to lead our house to greatness. At the time of the loud and embarrassing reprimand, I was thinking about who I would choose. Seriously.

It frustrates me that I am now spending my non-contact debriefing myself and trying to deal with these conversations, rather than making the most of my time to do everything else I need to do. Like create new resources for a class I haven't ever taught before, plan lessons for the rest of the day and tomorrow and develop a strong plan on how to deal with certain students in some of my classes. Then, after then I can finally get onto the question marks on Kamar for students that were away on sports trips or that I need to follow up, and on the endless paper trail that could easily be done online.

In all conversations I have I try to be respectful. In conversations where I know it will quickly escalate, I tend to revert to a 14 year old kid trying not to get yelled at, so I sound like a kid. Maybe that's why they treat me that way when talking to me. Maybe I need to assert myself like others have said and tell those who do so to back off and be respectful. Apparently it worked for them.

If I want to proceed in a few career directions I really need to nail this now. Because if I continue to allow people to whakahē me then I will only ever be that weak little mousey kid that couldn't stand up to her bullies.

Respectful conversations require good listening skills and an ability to read others. If you can't do that, at least be nice and make sure you are saying what you are saying clearly and with respect to the other person. If there is something you don't like or need clarification around an issue, then ask. But with respect to the other person. For all you know, you may have heard something that was untrue and asking it in a way that is only going to escalate the situation is not what anyone wants.

Also - the importance of whakawhanaungatanga and the importance of restorative justice. If there is a relationship there - fabulous - use it to your benefit. If you don't know how that person will react to your question or phrasing - then say it in a way that will gauge their reaction - hopefully positively - and also try to de-escalate the situation, before it becomes escalated.

You never know what the person is going through and how certain things can trigger other things - causing a mass overhaul on Blogger because they're overly frustrated and annoyed because they can't fix it.

Monday, 16 February 2015

February Catch-Up

So... I really do suck at keeping up with the daily posts aye. Oh well. Started off well. Not.

The problem is... I'm more likely to write if there is no pressure to. If I want to write I will. Sometimes I just don't have anything to say.

This month though there has been plenty.

Like my amazing new social studies class. Always asking pondering questions as we begin our year looking and immersing ourselves within the context of the Holocaust and Human Rights. Or lack thereof in most cases we'll look at. How they consistently develop a empathetic and resounding awareness of the pain and torture these people went through. That they're critically thinking... already. I'm just completely blown away at how awesome they are.

My new classroom is beginning to take shape. It needs a hell of a lot more tlc but it's getting there. A new bracket for the projector to connect to the ceiling and some new curtains would be a fabulous start. The desks continue to move as students adjust the learning environment. Beanbags are used but they are beginning to lose their novelty which is great and instead are being opted for learning rather than because it's cool. Trying to create spaces for each individual student is hard. Harder when you're working in a class that used to be two tiny classes. The outside area is absolutely brilliant though. Students out on the grass in the sun and under the shade. Very very cool. And out of the way of the rest of the department too which is great.

Trying to figure out what to teach my English classes... am now thinking I have Y12L sorted - Paper Towns and Fault in our Stars by John Green for their novel. Still a huge class so it's important that there are enough novels. Cloud Atlas for the visual text.

11English... V for Vendetta - visual text. A dystopian collection for novel - The Giver, The Hunger Games and Divergent.
Having such a range will help coming to the 1.8 assessment too.

12EngA... is a bit harder. Still a big class but film needs to be just right. Also want to do some written text with them too. Maybe Kate and Witi's short stories again? Hmm...

10English is harder still. Mainly because I had them last year and also because I don't know all of the kids properly yet. Film: Freedom Writers or Remember the Titans? Novel: White Ute Dreaming? I need to have another look.

Really enjoying the meetings with K and N where we discuss social studies and how we're going. Collaborative discussions are awesome! Really enjoy working together that way and hope it begins to cross over into other areas. I feel like I'm being stretched to think differently and fully about the teaching and learning and assessment in my classroom. More importantly it's cool just sharing resources with K :)

I'm keen to flip but hard when I can't have devices in class and not everyone has them at home.

Still struggling with the fact that our students don't have email addresses. Maybe if our IT guy saw what we can do with them or if we had a solid digital citizenship programme and moved away from the cybersafety/control aspect perhaps we'd have more of a chance. Maybe if we looked into Hapara Teacher Dashboard too then maybe...

I'm looking forward to going to the Excel meeting at Boys High tomorrow too. Will be good to meet the Auckland researchers and meet some of the pedagogy team.

Was really good to see that D wanted me to go to it too. Made me feel appreciated and hopefully be a source of help when we finally start moving this massive ball towards BYOD. Eventually.

What I'm frustrated with mostly is that it's just an email. Yes there will be teething issues and bullying. But there already is. We need to think beyond those cybersafety/control issues and more about the potential just having school emails have for their learning. Google Classroom for instance. Accessing apps and Drive effectively. Being able to use Flubaroo and other eLearning tools. The fact that they blog and email at primary schools.... gah.

Ok. I feel better now.

I just need to keep looking forward. Tomorrow at Boys will be good. Need to stay positive because things will change. They have to. For the betterment of our kids.

Also... should probably do a session on using Google Apps for Education at school. Need to see when those Professional Learning Communities are going to start.

Friday, 13 February 2015

#ConnectedRotorua - RTC Ready - Mokoia Intermediate


RTC developed and shared on Google slides and then embedded -

Create class blogs on own Gmail acc and share it with your school acc so that you keep your information, evidence and so that if you leave schools then you won't loe it

Absolutely LOVE Leigh's templte on Google Sites!!!! Really would like to do this on my website a well.


Leigh's video to use google sites:

Blogging - every post can be linked with RTC's.

**Find out what shelfari is!!!!**

Need to get my digi badges sorted out too :D

Shaun uses is Wikispace as an e-portfolio.

NEW GOAL: Add RTC's as tags to blog posts!!! - Neil's professional journey blog.
Neil has used Tataiako in his blog as tags too.

Creative Commons - important to ensure you use video and photos appropriately :)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Day 1 of #28DaysofWriting: Playing catch up

Still feel a bit guilty for not blogging over the holidays but when it comes down to it... I posted a tonne of ...posts last year and am incredibly proud of a wide ranging bunch of them too. So... the #28Days of Writing challenge, originally posted by @tombarrett has given me a reason to get back on board.

For me writing is cathartic. Even more so when there's something niggling at the back of your mind, trying to make sense of a difficult or precarious situation.

This year as I've already said is about consistency for me. I want to continue doing what I did last year but make sure that I'm getting enough time to relax and focus too. As well I need to spend more time with my family and friends which I didn't do much of last year.

Just before Christmas I went back to Opotiki and got told off quite clearly by my little niece Blaise. She came over to me, not her running, jumping into my arms like usual self and said, "Aunty I haven't seen you in a loooong time." Jeez that seriously cut me aye. This kid is honestly the most amazing little girl on the planet. For her to say that to me the way she did, kind of looking at the ground and the wall at the same time just broke my heart. She's four, five in March and she is incredibly intelligent, beautiful and honest. Yes she can be a bit of a drama queen as her mum (my sister Danielle) says but I think that's just what makes her awesome. The fact that I got her into Pochantas and share a love for Disney musicals with her... was seriously the beginning of our awesome relationship. And so with Miss Blaise in mind I need to make sure I am being consistent. Because I don't want to miss any more of her growing up. Nor my three other neices and nephews time as they grow up too. It's just too special at this time of their lives.

With that thought in mind it's also difficult to think that I chose the PPTA Issues and Organsising conference over my Wilson family reunion. With all of the drama that I hold on my shoulders, where I think about having to constantly assert that I am my father's child, first child too even, it felt like I would be regretting not going to the conference. Particularly as I don't want to miss out on the possibility of being part of the ETC again for 2015.

So with consistency and a strong focus on who I actually want to be in mind - I think 2015 will be another good year :)

Looking forward to the next few days of this challenge. Need to recreate the writing habit! Thanks Tom!!

First Day Teaching 2015

Had an absolutely awesome day today.

Had four out of five classes and they're all a bunch of really cool kids. I'm looking forward to our year this year.

I was going to skip the letter I usually do but seeing as we don't have access to use the Google Form I'd created in the holidays and I still needed to get to know them all during that time - it continues to be the quickest way. However this time I did focus more on learning style and strategies so I can figure out how to help the students more effectively from the get go.

I always forget how useful knowing te reo Māori is - especially at the beginning of the year. A few well placed words and phrases - often quickly interspersed with the English translation and I always hear hushed tones and impressed voices. It's great that using the reo helps build up my mana again within the class but it frustrates me that 1) I have to continuously assert my turangawaewae and who I am by needing to speak and 2) that the assertion of my awesomeness seems to come from my knowledge of te reo rather than my general awesomeness.
The majority of the kids in my classes are pretty awesome. Still movement to be had though so can't get too attached just yet! Haha. Quite a few students I've either had before or are in my form class which is awesome!

Cannot believe just how grown up Rai is now! She's now in my Y12 class and I keep remembering her as a Y10 student from my first year at Heights. Barely saw her last year and jeez. So cool to have her back in my class!

A few favourites somehow made their way back into my class this year. Five Y11s from last year in particularly one of my inquiry students which will be cool to see his ongoing progress. One student who spoke so passionately about the council and his urupā. And the girl I worked with heaps at the end of last year too. Re built up her self esteem again today after we talked about her exam marks and the fact that even coming out and going in she felt incredibly confident. She may not have done as well as she'd hoped but it's certainly a strong foundation.

Lots of sad faces though as I walked around school today. Kids who werent happy with option choices, who was in their classes or who was teaching them. Of course, plenty of happy kids too. Was awesome being on duty today too. Felt like a celebrity as I was walking around the school to get to my duty spot. Kids running up and saying hi and others yelling out for a wave. Maybe I'll have to bust out the Queen's wave again. It's always awesome hearing kids say, "Look there's my teacher!! She's awesome!"

Because they do. A lot. And I'm not being too ott... However I rue the day when those comments turn into nasty ones. At least then I'll know it's time to get out of teaching...

Sat down and talked with my Social Studies HOD today which was equal parts of awe inspiring and nerve wracking. Felt like I was a first year teacher again! Which for this subject I suppose I am now. I feel relatively confident with English now and I'm glad I have a new challenge for this year. Plus teaching social studies is my passion so now I just need to reawaken my social sciences brain.

He was incredibly supportive of my revised plan from what it had been last week - quite mumbled jumbled up actually. I took the best of the mind map and put it together and even broke it down into weekly plans for each unit. That I hadn't done in ages. I am so so stoked about this journey and being straight up with the Y10 social studies class today which I had straight after our talk solidified that need for our class to learn together.

What I now need tk figure out is what Im teaching my three senior classes for English and also the junior class. I'm lucky I have a fair amount of options now but maybe it's time to choose another novel especially for Y11. Maybe Divergent (novel) and V for Vendetta (film) because that movie never seems to get old!

For the two Y12 classes... I might go Jasper Jones with the 12L class and maybe Inception too? Think they'd get it... or better yet... Cloud Atlas...

12A is a tricky one because it needs to be an indepth but easy enough film to pick apart. I haven't taught Castaway or Shawshank Redemption in ages but even then there may be other new films to come out.

10English... and they're still a work in progress. Maybe A Handful of Blue, A White Ute? Film... Pretty sure I didn't teach Remember the Titans to any of them last year... though maybe there's another film they'd enjoy too... maybe Freedom Writers or even something I haven't even taught.

I feel that even with my goal of consistency I should still be challdnging myself to push my limits and work hard. I don't want to become listless.

Way too late. Bedtime.

Still gutted I missed the Excel Project Pedagogy meeting yesterday. Gah.