Thursday, 14 March 2019

Leadership Material

This afternoon I talked with one of our DPs about how cool the PLD with Cathie Johnson from NZCER had been.

My DP commented that it was surprising that I hadn't gotten any leadership opportunities at my last school. I sighed and said that I'd tried. But got blocked in.

She said how at Ōpōtiki College it doesn't matter whether you have seniority or not - but if you're keen then you're given the chance to build on your skills and try something new.

Can I just say again - how much I love working at OC? I miss my Heights kids and my Heights colleagues - but I finally feel like I've found my fit.

Friday, 8 March 2019

OCLibrary: Progress Update

I'd say small changes, yet when people have been coming into the library they are impressed with the amount of space I've created so far. They comment on the vibe, the wairua in the library. People look around and actually come into the library now.

To be fair, I've caught out a few students trying to use the library as a thoroughfare and a circular roundabout to jump out at their friends walking down the corridor.

All these little things and yet, when students happen to walk in, I say hi and welcome them in. They are even more surprised when I ask them what their last book they read was. I'm getting quite a collection so far.

I have big plans for our library. I also have moments of true excitement where I can see the coherence and collaborative opportunities arise with the library as an information hub.

I want to create new posters and make our library a bright place to hang out in.

To do:
- make a reading log for the book challenge
- make or find new genre posters
- cut out the rest of the bookmarks for colouring in
- cut the edges of the laminated bookmarks
- make a wall display for 'What was the last book you read?'
- make a poster for the books to movies display?
- get the big library desk moved out and finish organising the new space in the corner
- bring a jug and milk to bookclub for Milos etc
- make a wall display for upcoming competitions and events

A Day in the Life

Last weekend we had an incredible Issues and Organising conference. It's always amazing. It always bolsters us. It also was, this time, quite triggering.

This conference brought back a lot of memories I thought I'd worked through. The korero around the Violence in Schools workshop and the korero in our Women's Network caucus meeting about the new government policy allowing people to have ten days leave to sort out issues due to Domestic Violence.

While I mentioned the struggles, I feel like this part of the korero is extremely important and overwhelmingly critical to share. Because we all have 'stuff' going on in our personal lives and we too are learning from these things, every day.

During conference I had the pleasure to meet with a reporter from the Daily Post. We discussed my thoughts on our PPTA president Jack Boyle's opening address and also my experiences as a teacher.

It's these experiences that are being shared all around the motu right now. I'm humbled that people share my experiences and that there has been much discussion generated from those comments thus far.

Teaching is and always has been for me, an emotionally charged, intense and sometimes problematic profession. Part of this I guess is how deeply connected I become with my students, colleagues and our community. At my leaving speech at Heights, my HOD talked about how compassionate I was and that sometimes, it was to my detriment because of how some of my students treat me - and yet I will consistently advocate for them, no matter what. Because that's why I became a teacher - so that if the need arose, I could be that lone voice in the corner of someone fighting to survive even just one more day at kura.

Being a teacher isn't just teaching. My much more experienced colleagues will say that that's what teaching used to be. Just teaching.

I've never experienced that. Not once.

I have experienced sharing food from my lunchbox, on multiple occasions. I have experienced de-escalating dramatic situations between friends and ex-friends. I have experienced moments of complete and utter disbelief, shock and awe. I have experienced times when I didn't know how I could carry on. But I did.

At times it got so bad I burnt myself out. Because I was trying to be everything and all to everyone else, lift them up and support as much as I could. Yet there was nothing left for me. I had to re-find myself and remember that if I can't save myself first, there is no way I can save or help anyone else.

Self care became a real thing. A necessary thing. A survival technique.

It's the strategies I now share with my students too. Mindfulness, breathing, avoiding coldsores by eating bananas and getting enough sleep.

Sometimes it's me sitting in my classroom, sewing a student's broken leather shoe so that it will last the rest of the week before they can get new ones. Other times it's me in class talking with a group of students who need extra support, tutoring or just some timeout.

Being a teacher is all this and more.

I chose to be a teacher. I choose to go to school every day. Because I love it.

But it's draining. And at times I honestly am drowning under the workload. I take on new roles and responsibilities to further develop my understanding. I have naps when I get home because I am so exhausted. But I do it. Again, and again. Because my students deserve the best of me. Because I know what it takes to be the best version of myself each day.

My students ask me when I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was 12 years old. We'd just had a new foster child arrive at our house that year and I was fully and completely in love with her. She was nine days old when she arrived. We adopted her when she was three. She's now 18. For my sister's entire life, I've wanted to be a teacher. Because I taught her some of her first words. I helped her walk. I changed her nappies and fed her, bottled her despite her cleft palate.

I grew up knowing struggle. I grew up a kid who had to be resilient in the face of encroaching adversity. I knew that I had to be the best I could be, if only to get out of the small town that offered me no opportunities. I was the first to university. I have nearly paid off my student loan. I survived on $10 a week for food. And yet, I still wanted to be a teacher.

For all the commentary on teacher's wages - it's the workload and stress that make the job unmanageable. The pastoral care is part and parcel. The support and ever changing nature of our job, the need for new teachers and retention of current teachers is the reasoning behind the need for pay parity.

I thought to myself the other day, Not ever have I ever seen a lawyer go out and strike. Yet they do the same amount of study as we do. Why is that?

When we teach the next generation of doctors, nurses, lawyers, pharmacists, truck drivers, sparkies, builders, jockeys etc. We are also doing our best to inspire those students who could potentially become teachers to carry on our important mahi. But they need to see teaching as a viable career. Like I did when I was younger. And not just because they can change lives. But because teaching is and should be a valued career pathway.

With many thanks to all the incredible kaiako that taught me, to my two wonderful grandmothers who inspired me to be more than what I was expected to be, and to the people who broke me into pieces so that I could use my experiences to help others in their moments of pain and survival.

Ngā mihi,
Alex

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Literacy Strategy Planning at Ōpōtiki College

I was reminded yesterday by a new colleague librarian from Tokoroa High School how fortunate I am with my new roles here at Ōpōtiki College.

When I got my job, I applied for everything I could because I wanted to be here in Ōpōtiki with my whanau. Plus of course, I desperately wanted and needed a challenge. The English Curriculum Advisor role is a really special one. It helps me connect with the teachers in our team and lift them up where they want/need. I'm able to deliver PLD and share resources, create resources with them collaboratively and design relevant programmes of learning for our students. I think part of the reason I got the job was my vision for an integrated literacy programme throughout the school using the 'Coast by Nature' framework.

I've already mentioned in a previous post about my excitement for teaching English and being able to 'look after' the library. I keep forgetting that the library is a full-time job in and of itself. For now though, it is what I make of it. I have a great team of Book Club students and this Thursday will get ideas from our English Department on what we need to do in our space to make it useful, functional and relevant to our students and staff wants and needs. I want the library to be an information hub. A place where students can get the information they need for their assessments. Where students can ask for help and be pointed to the right direction. Where students can develop more confidence in their reading skills too.

Last week my new role was announced. I've been given the Kāhui Ako / Community of Learning role as the Pedagogical Leader of Literacy. This was a big decision as my first focus has to be on uplifting the English Dept and building literacy throughout the school comes hand in hand with that. The workload was a serious outlier and one that I'm still navigating.

With these two roles as my pou, I can see my overall goal of lifting literacy have more focus and drive. Using the library as our main space to celebrate and build these skills is absolutely awesome and necessary.

I'm absolutely looking forward to the PLD this week with Cathy Dewes from NZCER. I'm a bit gutted about missing my 9&10 Tihi class again this Friday though!!

More thoughts to be thought. New Assessment Resource Bank (ARBs) to be thought of in relation to our goal of an integrated literacy programme throughout OC. Need to catch up with our social scientists and English kaiako for help with identifying what needs they have of the non-fiction section for their student's assessments.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Swimming Sports

Swimming sports. Awesome. Photos? None. I was just completely present. In the moment. Such an awesome day. ❤ #OpotikiCollege #explore2019

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Whanau.

The best part about my move to Ōpōtiki? Hanging out with my whanau ❤

OC Library Vortex

Me - "I'll only be a couple hours, K? See you when I get home!"
Also me, "Wow... It's already been six hours organising and tidying in the library. Probably should go home..."
 #OCbookclub #OpotikiCollegeLibrary #explore2019