Saturday, 26 January 2019

First week at Ōpōtiki College - 2019

It's Saturday morning. 5.43am. What better time to feel like not going back to sleep because there are just too many thoughts running through my brain. So, here we are, writing them out.

All holidays I'd been wanting to get into school. I was literally tearing at the bit to get started. I wanted keys and a laptop and that was my focus. For ages. I'd still like a laptop to be fair but am making do for now with the PCs in the Dept and in class.

But not having those two things all holidays actually forced me to relax. And boy, did I. Walks on the beach with my two very happy dogs. Walks on the beach with my sister's very lonely and sad dog, turned ferociously loyal and stoked he was allowed out to explore the world. Visits with friends and exploring new spaces in Ōpōtiki I'd never been to: Hikutaia Domain and Tauwhare Pa. Reading books. (Plural!!!) Gardening and planning my new vegie garden out. Mowing my new humongous lawn. Playing with the dogs. Exploring Snell's beach and the Sand Trail on Motu Trail. Hanging out with my sisters and making new friends in Ōpōtiki. Spending LOADS of time with my nieces and nephews and getting hungry for my own time again hahaha but they loved their holiday with me and I truly loved every moment - even when me and Blaise were getting hōha with each other bahahaha. Unpacking and more unpacking. Chucking boxes and settling in. Lane swimming each morning in the college pool with my new principal and new colleagues from Ōpōtiki.

Being taken to Waioweka awa for a swim by my niece Blaise (8) who was very proud and excited to show me her very beautiful river. Driving past her new school and how she gets dropped off by the bus at the bottom of the hill and has to walk all the way up to Kura. She sounded proud, rooted in who she is, her whakapapa and sense of self - no question. Loved that.

Sewing (or at least sorting out the pattern to begin sewing). My sister calling my pattern for new pants, "paper pants" and this phrase now being stuck in my head when I think about sewing. Because she actually didn't understand that's how you make clothes. She's 21... 😂 It actually concerned me enough to visibly be sewing and fixing things sometimes when my nieces and nephews came over, because I want them to know some basics like that. Though I bet there are a bunch of 'basics' they and the rest of the Ōpōtiki rangatahi know that I don't. So - we'll get there together.

And finally, this Monday I was ready. Relaxed. I loaded my car with the boxes of my school stuff. Rearranged the now emptier spare bedroom and waited for Blaise to arrive. We had a delicious kai and then off to kura. A three minute drive from my gate to classroom door.

Much moaning from me, moaning from Blaise because she got bored. But that first day she was modelling teachers and she just kept yelling. She wanted the desks in rows (!!) and every time I popped up saying "our class" rather than her repeating things her kaiako have said "my classroom" she stopped, thought and carried on. It made me wonder very seriously about what education has looked like to Blaise. She has been in primarily Kura kaupapa and immersion units. Each time I ask her how Kura is going she tells me how she is being bullied or about the naughty kids. I try asking her about what she's learning but she doesn't often have much to say and this kid talks, a LOT, like me. I'm going to be a lot more visible and aware of her learning this year and can do so now that I'm here in Ōpōtiki. I want to figure out the right questions to talk to her about her learning too. And I want to korero Māori with her more too. I need that conversational Reo.

Anyway - at school Monday, unpacking and setting up. Saw Kathleen and we organised to meet up the next day to begin tackling the resource room. Me and Blaise went into the library and found a chess board. We took it up to the staffroom and I taught her how to play while waiting for the water container to fill (and then having to clean up when it overfilled).

10am Tuesday - Blaise and I arrive and take in the English Resource Room. I seriously wish right then I need had taken a before photo. Everything was higgeldy piggeldy. You couldn't find anything and you didn't know what was even in there. We began by sorting out the old resources and chucking old textbooks. Then we moved the novels to the side and began making headway when we found we'd made actual shelves for poetry, short stories and an entire series of shelves for Shakespeare. It was good working with Kathleen chucking things out. She kept saying how she'd wanted to do this for years and hadn't ever done it. Making connections and connecting via a shared interest in making our space tidy and happy to be in. By the end of the day we were completely knackered. We'd filled one big bin of text books and still had more to go.

Wednesday morning - Blaise and I arrived super early. She had been given the stern word from her mum the night before that she had to be focussed and respectful rather than moaning every time she wanted to do something herself. I get it - she was bored and this adult teacher stuff isn't very fun. She'd brought some toys from my place and I got her my headphones so she could at least listen to her LOL toy dolls unboxing videos in peace. What I didn't know is that when she asked me to sit down with her and play chess, that she was thinking of running away because I was ignoring her so much and she was getting so upset. Poor kid. Sorry Blaisey. She told me later when we went to the staffroom and she said, "Aunty, we need to talk." Love this kid. I forget in the moment just how similar we are and how she's feeling - because she's used to hanging out with her cousins and brother - whereas I had to play on my own a lot because there was no-one else around. We both would have been the best mate for each other at 8yrs old. Haha.

By the end of Wednesday, the resource room looked so good!! Novels to the far left. Student text books to the far right and teacher resources on the back wall. Simple. Easy. (It wasn't easy to make it look simple and easy to use!) Whaea Kathleen had gotten all the school journals sussed and we'd put them up on the top shelf and made space for the new ones on the red standing desk/shelf space. We had gone through two more big bins and I'd chucked out a bin worth of old stuff from my class and the office attached to my class too. Freeing.

Thursday - Teacher Only Day. Whakawhanaungatanga and I spoke waaaaaay too fast, filled with nerves. Gave them a small taste haha and people kept coming over to meet me and talk more so that's good haha. Everyone else were so relaxed and shared hilarious stories that had so much leadup and were super interesting.

I suppose the one thing I haven't mentioned yet is... I'm teaching at Ōpōtiki College this year with Dad. He got a job there just before Xmas. He'll be teaching construction and pre-trade courses.

Being back in Ōpōtiki, actually living here is bringing back so many unresolved feelings. The abandonment issues, the feelings of isolation and loneliness. The belief that no-one wants me etc. Those feelings are of a young person, me, when I was dealing with all of it. No-one helped me through it. I helped myself - the best I could. When I was younger I used to imagine an older Me hugging me and looking after me. A teenager me giving me advice. It's what kept me (sane?) functioning for a long time.

So now that I'm here, in Ōpōtiki, about to be working with Dad... There are just so many unresolved issues bubbling under the surface. Definitely need to talk with someone outside the whanau and challenge Dad more too. Like I did that morning on Thursday. When he reckoned it was only 13 years we weren't in touch. I said, "Well, 18 if we're counting," salty as possible. And us sharing our shared memory of when I'd told him at 18, that if he'd waited any longer then I wouldn't have been interested, because that was the right time then. Now - I don't know why he's come back to Ōpōtiki. He hasn't been here for years. It's weird. Maybe he's trying to fix things he's broken. Or maybe he just wants something new. Either way, when he did his korero and said how he was over all the red tape in the building industry, we all laughed. Because the red tape in the education sector is beyond compare. I'm interested to see how he goes actually. And wish him well.

Plus - he bought me a hot chocolate on our first day. So that's a win. Thanks Dad!

Thursday was spent with a lot of whakawhanaungatanga activities - in houses. Me and Dad are in Ngāta house. Because all the other Wilson kids were in that house. And plus, I have so many school house colour clothes that are yellow from being in Kowhai house at Heights for six years. So it made sense to be in the yellow Ngāta house too. It was just a big plus to be in the same house that all the kids had been in.

Our activities:
- Ngāta house waiata - we had to make a theme song with our motto of Equity and Social Justice, the school values and introducing ourselves, to the tune of 1814's 'Rastafari'  (I'll put our kupu in later)
- Two-legged race
- Three-a-side basketball
- Hop, Skip and Jump
- Juggling

Let's just say - the kaiako at Ōpōtiki College are fiercely competitive. It was hilarious.

Kai in the staffroom. More korero around the Triple A's and Triple C's. Acceleration, Acknowledgement, Accountability. Coherence, Consistency, Care. The theme of three was clear through the day and it helped to remember the acronyms too.

Friday - in A Block - PLD.

Results korero. I love how at Ōpōtiki College the results are broken down and talked about as a discussion. The numbers discussed in words - what we're the reasons for this and what can we do to make these numbers better. At Heights, the numbers were just talked about and shared as if everyone knew how to process numbers (not me!!) or how to analyse them (definitely not me!).

We talked more about the Triple A's and Triple C's. What these looked like for students. We had big discussions in our house groups about this and how to maximise these for students. What we needed to actively teach. Also liked the strategy of getting the kaumatua and the pōtiki to read out the results we'd identified as groups.

Once we were in depts, we had to do a LOT of different things. Moderation wasn't all handed in last year. Thankfully Robyn was going to take care of that. We also had to change our senior POLs (Programmes of Learning) and finish our junior UoWs (Units of Work) before Wednesday. Gah. So much. We delegated and so Whaea Kathleen did her two classes, Whaea Ann did her two classes and I'm doing my three senior classes too. I was so worried when Jen said we ALL needed to redo it all and when Vickee said that the curriculum advisors job isn't to do everything - that each kaiako had to help - that made me feel heaps better. Delegation and team work for the win.

When Tama came into the Dept I sat down with him and talked to him about the Y9 programme we'd organised at the end of last year and showed him what we'd done so far with the Y9 Bridging Programme. I'm actually really proud of how I did that - because it felt like that was the first time I was actually being a subject advisor. Because I was being a coherent, organised leader and helped him know what he was doing. We talked about the school journals and asked if he had any short stories he knew that we could add to the programme.

We were given a korero about Maurua and the significance of the whare Kura Ki Uta (we were given a digital tour prior to our Powhiri this coming Friday) and heard about the kupu hou - Maurua - and how this is a term for weaving here in Ōpōtiki / Whakatohea. It's the base seam in whaariki. They welcomed the new kaiako to the immersion unit and talked about how the haka roopu has the same name as the whare nui.

Spent more time in our houses figuring out who was taking which LA (Learning Advisory). I've got the Y12 and Y13 Ngāta kids, so I'll have my sister Tiana with me. She's a Y13 this year. I'm looking forward to getting to hang out with her more and getting to know her properly too.

I used to try hang out with Leah and Tiana heaps when they were little. But I didn't hang out with Tiana enough. I'll always feel guilty for neglecting my brothers and sisters. But it wasn't my fault I didn't grow up with them. That choice was made for me. All I can do now is make the most of this year and get to know her better. If she'll let me. I just hope I'm not too late. Her time period might be way different than mine was with Dad. I was willing to wait for a long time. Sad and upset. It's hard to crack my sister. She's just... Tiana. I can't wait to see how this year pans out and how being in Ōpōtiki helps or perhaps worsens (hopefully not) my relationships with all my whanau.

And now... Saturday morning... I'm completely awake, tired yes, but awake. It's 7.10am and I've been typing this entire time on my phone. Today I return to the Dept and we complete the POLs and junior UoW for Term 1.

Mauri Ora ❤

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Junior Prizegiving Day - Last Day at Heights with the Kids

Yep. Todays the day.

I've said my goodbyes. Been given plenty of hugs. Cried a lot already this morning. Wondered whether I was ever going to cry actually and it wasn't until I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and the thought that I couldn't go back to sleep, that I realised why.

Six years. Hundreds of names. Awesome days. Awful days. Days in between.

It seems a drop in a bucket compared to other's experience but this six years is a LOT for me. Because I've only* been teaching eight years.

* yes I know it's not only

It's hard to reflect on something that hasn't happened yet... And now I wish I hadn't woken up so early because I could have had more sleep haha

Junior prizegivings, saying goodbye, red eyes in photos ❤️

Going to miss the kids so freaking much.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


Although early days, I see so much potential. I cannot wait.

On Monday this week at the Ōpōtiki College planning day, we were working on a new unit and term plan. Two units really - a literacy bridging course and research project.


- loved that there was so much sharing and connecting with prior knowledge
- asking my new colleagues what they wanted to see in the dept and what they needed for resourcing
- connecting on issues with literacy with students
- the theme of identity for the y9s and the 'Coast by Nature' curriculum theme for the y10s and 9s maybe?
- we sat around the table in the dept and looked at the achievement objectives over all three areas 3-5 and I talked with them about how we'd identify which AO's to use once we'd fleshed out the content a bit more
- the collaboration and discussion of possible texts, organising the room
- listening and actioning their ideas, incorporating their experience with juniors and sharing my resources and experience too
- connecting with them all through the PLD with Julie Luxton and discussing the ways forward for our students with the PAT tests

Monday, 12 November 2018

Planning Day at Ōpōtiki College

Today was awesome.

I met a lot of passionate, excited and interested teachers today.

More to write.


Loads of PLD, planning and discussion on where to next.

Creation of literacy bridging course to ease transition to HS and also ensure the foundational skills are in place before carrying on with content and skills.

Stoked. I have some awesome kaiako in my department. Cannot wait to sink my teeth in more during the next planning day.

Ngā mihi koutou!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Last Senior Prizegiving at Heights

This Friday, we had our senior prizegiving ceremonies. They're always usually quite emotional.

But the photos with my colleagues and goodbye hugs with my seniors - that got me.

I had a box of tissues with me the entire time. I barely used them. Others did. I feel like I'll cry at some random point when it truly truly gets me.

The Y13 leavers function co-organised by one of my all time favourite students left a mark, that's for sure.

Speaking to the cohort and then wishing each of them luck as they walked across the stage, one last time. So. Many. Hugs. So. Many. Handshakes. ❤️

The thing about Heights kids is you always know they've got your back. Even when they're pissed at you. They'll stand up against anyone who even dreams of hurting you. Our Heights whanau is real and once part of it, you don't really leave.

But now that I'm on the other side of the senior prizegiving, my focus now shifts to making this last part of the year incredible for my juniors and trying to get every single other student across the line to get their literacy and every credit they can to achieve and endorse. Oh... And achieve their best in their exams too. Because there will be LOADs of catchup and refugee students hanging out with me in the library - like every year.

I just truly hope - that each and every one of my students - past and present - looks after themselves and gets the help they need, and that they learn to speak up ❤️

He aroha nui ki a koutou!!!

Monday, 15 October 2018

Mahi Haerenga... Next steps...

And today... I handed in my resignation letter.

And gave my decision to my new principal, that I waa accepting the new position.


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Interview Prep

Over the past few years, I've felt out of sorts at school and at home. I've dealt with this in varying ways: pushing myself fully into my job, overcommitting myself with extra curricular and professional development, overexerting myself to learn as much as I can for the benefit of myself, staff and students. Ultimately this has meant that I burnt out.

I'm not exactly sure of the pinpointed moment when I burnt out - but I know that I came to a very boiling simmer with only dregs of water left in the bottom of the pan. Luckily, and not so luckily either - I dealt with a few horrendously awful things throughout 2017 which had dramatic impact on my overall hauora this year. As a result I had to reassess what was important to me.

I backed out of certain extracurricular activities that were causing unnecessary pain and hurt. I cut people out of my life that were spreading unkindness and making myself feel awful 24/7. I remembered that I have great relationships with my friends, family, colleagues and students. I reminded myself to stay focussed on achievable tasks each day and became committed to doing what I could in my own classroom.

Much of these things I did this year - including taking time out to travel overseas - came from pieces of advice spread over the past 6-10 years while I was processing everything. The problem of course - the burning out.

It took me a long time to recognise I needed to do more self-care and focus on what I can do / could do - to exact change and positivity in my own life and that of my students. Mainly because I wasn't in the space where I recognised I needed to look after myself. Sometimes, you just can't see the trees in the forest. You know?

And so - this past year has been a year of realisation and healing. What things have held me back have on the most part been let go and I have been able to move forward.

Part of this is the recognition that I'm not making any headway at school. I've tried every which way to help in the long run. But I get shot down. Maybe I'm too rebellious or I just think too deeply to create and find solutions to problems. Whatever it is, I've been boxed in with little pathway forward.

I love our Heights kids. Will do forever.
But my conversation with my niece last month truly put everything into perspective.
She wanted me to move to Ōpōtiki. Because it's closer. Because we are so damn similar and she needs someone who gets her. 

Because her mum (my sister) refuses to drive her to Rotorua (because she has anxiety while driving long distances).

A few weeks ago when I was told my house was going up on the market, I was a little distraught but also happy. New opportunity, new time, new door.

I pushed on the door - sent my application in. I knocked once more and said I'd like to apply for a few of the other positions.

The door opened, welcomed me in and set up an informal meetup with the deputy principal and current English Curriculum advisor.

That meetup went really well. Really well.

The door by this stage was cracked open - I could see a little bit inside and was intrigured.
I was told about my upcoming formal interview (tomorrow morning) and at the school ball, I told my principal.

So here I am... Laying on the double mattress in my sister's lounge, with her dog Halo at my feet.

I've written down the pros and the cons. I've thought about the positives and negatives about leaving Heights and working / living in Ōpōtiki. I've thought about the potential damage it could do to my relationship with my sisters and iramutu. But there is also significant positive outcomes too.

Tomorrow - I go into the interview, positive and overall, just myself. I have a few questions and a few concerns - namely housing and texts for the Coast by Nature programme. I've written a basic integrated plan for literacy with texts etc.
I'm looking forward to the interview anyway - it's been a while since the interview at RSHS. I've learnt a lot since then. In fact, it's probably a good idea to read the blog post after that interview and call.

Whatever happens, happens. The door is open - I guess now it's up to me to do my best, nail the interview and then figure out what I want to do from there.

Thanks for following me on this journey thus far. Much love ❤️