Wednesday, 23 September 2015

ELearning at Heights - Update

Since I last did a proper update there hasn't been much visible progress however there has been a lot of work done in the background, working strategically to put systems and the right people in place, to ensure things move smoothly.

I'm still aware that I'm still doing a lot of work without any real recognition. This is part of the reason I do it though so that I'll hopefully gain the recognition and a possible role where I'm more able to help support and encourage LWDT in class.

I've mentioned before that my DP Donella supports me and has been happy and impressed with my work so far. I honestly would not have been able to do anything thus far without her ongoing support and I truly appreciate that she's in my corner, as much as I back her as well. I've learnt so much from her already particularly in her leadership style, the way that she is strategic, her organisation skills and how she prioritises every thing and spends adequate time on each when needed - all aspects that I admire and hope to grow in myself.

Am patiently waiting on the next email if there is one from MindLab and I truly can't wait to start the next step in my learning journey. I was congratulated by another DP yesterday who also mentioned again the quantity of work it will be. While he's completely correct, I've always learnt better when I'm interested and when I can directly apply my learning. So that's a work in progress at the moment.

Anyway - since I last wrote about elearning a few important things have happened. We've had a massive eLearning meeting with as many stakeholders as possible - whanau, students, teachers, IT staff, BOT reps, NPeW reps and of course our Senior Management Team members. It was an amazing opportunity to be in that room and hear so much passion. To know that there are others who understand and are keen was eye opening and I really look forward to seeing what they think may be the next steps.

From then til our next meeting we need to gather data to create a plan moving forward with NPeW and Excel Rotorua.

The day after the meeting I'd thought some things through and I'd gone to an exam supervision with ideas buzzing in my head. I managed to jot down a few ideas and then typed them up. Ideas for a strategic plan for elearning - at least the first six months really.

At present my mind and heart is only allowing me to think up til six months purely because we haven't yet been able to get past - what I have thought were the basics - but are essential if we are going to see any real learning or change in mindset taking place.

I shared it with Donella and with Anne Robertson from the Connected Learning Advisory (CLA) to get a few more ideas on the next steps.

I still need to add more sections in around the learning and particularly the change in mindset and practice.

I'd really like to see our school making that 10% shift on the dial and it's definitely possible - if we work together and if we allow our students to have their say on what works, doesn't work and needs altering or changing.

Today in preparation for some Google Drive lessons I am going to help take I created a Google Drive Cheat Sheet - probably too wordy but definitely easy enough to follow. Both purposeful and informative.

It's a bit frustrating that sometimes I can be incredibly focussed and get a task that I'm working on completed in an hour when sometimes I can't barely think clearly or process my ideas into words orally.

Next steps:
- Get feedback of ideas list for strategic plan
- Develop a collection of resources fof staff and students to use
- Research into the job descriptions of LWDT facilitators and think about what skills I need to develop to be better at the role.
- Get some sleep...

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Update on ELearning, blogging, exams and junior classes... it's a long one!

Kia ora ano,

As per usual I needed to be in the right frame of mind to get my thinking down on... screen? Haha. Some really cool things have been happening in my classes and personal professional development.


Overall am crazy happy with how my students did. The majority of them have used the TAKO, SEXIST and TAKO+IST structure for essays and it was awesome again going back through the Y11 and Y12 marking criteria to remind myself that I've been telling the truth with my students that if they want to move their essay marks to M and E they MUST talk about the author/directors intent or purpose in creating the text and the effect on the audience as well as making connections with society.

What I did notice while marking (have still to go over my own students essays and give them feedforward comments) was that a majority in Y11 Visual text (film) did not use film techniques in their analysis. They can barely get to A3 without techniques - partucularly if they don't mention the effect or explain how it is important to the audience's understanding. More frustrating was the sheer amount of students who just barely gave it a go. Perhaps it's the lack of a growth mindset or not enough preparation - I don't know but I'd like to see them developing more of a self-directed learning focus.

The Y12 written text (novel) essays were marginally better but quite a few didn't answer the second part of the question - which isn't there anymore for Y12s. They MUST discuss the intent of the author if they have any hope of progressing past A4 towards Merit. I'd like to sit and talk with each student that I marked essays for but because that's entirely unpossible - I made the effort to write extensive feedforward comments for each student.

Feedforward comments are imperative for students to not only know what they need to work on but so that they actually know their efforts have been noticed. I and my students were incredibly upset and frustrated by the lack of positive and feedforward comments on their essays. I've brought the issue up with my HOD and discussed it with my students and our teacher aides. I've told my students that I will go through their essays and make a quick comment about what they've missed. I think more importantly though - if I print out copies of the marking criteria - with the breakdown of the scale - they'll be more likely to understand the reasoning behind their marks - especially if they don't have a comment on their essays.

EdBlogNZ and ULearn:

I've mentioned previously about how cool it is that I've been given the opportunity to help out with EdBlogNZ and building the blog roll on the RSS feeder. I'm super excited about the upcoming Blogging for Beginners session with Nathaniel at ULearn and hope that we can encourage every single member in our workshop (which is now currently full!) to create their own blogs.

I'm looking forward to seeing my Twitter whanau again and connecting with new kaiako too. It's such an awesome space and think when it's back in Rotorua we need to get as many kaiako there as possible from Heights.

Looking forward also to sharing Class Dojo and seeing how many teachers are using it now! :) Really loved learning from Julian Reid at EducampWHK about how they use CD at Tarawera High School. Am hopefully going to organise a time to go and observe their classes.

Commenting challenge:

I've given weros out to people before about pushing themselves and realised that I haven't been taking my own advice. So I've got back on one of my many bandwagons and started commenting on blog posts again. It's so important to help develop a constructively supportive blogging community and one way of doing this is not only to read posts but also to comment on them. If you've gotten this far on this post, comment below something you've been interested in this post, something I could think of doing differently, a feedforward comment or something you'd like to say - and if you do comment - you'll find something chocolatey in your pigeonhole! ;) I'd love to see Heights commenting more on each others posts and discuss their personal inquiries in more depth too :)


Mary has already mentioned our awesome elearning meeting with the folks from Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru and Excel Rotorua but it deserves another mention. How seriously cool was it to be sitting in a room with 30+ people discussing the positive role that elearning can have in our school. I was absolutely buzzing after that meeting. So much so that I went ahead and started drafting ideas for our elearning strategic plan. Having had read quite a few from the research that Donella and our elearning team have been doing - it wasn't too difficult to create something.

If you're interested in having a look through some of my ideas for the next six months - check this out:

When I shared the pencil version with Donella she was impressed and even more so when I'd completed the typed version. I love our working relationship! I get so much inspiration and perspective from her. It's so easy to bounce ideas around with her too. :)

I'm incredibly stoked to have been given the opportunity to get involved with the NPeW's MindLab PostGrad Cert in Applied Practices (Digital Collaboration) which will start in November. I've already applied through Unitec and am just waiting on the next email and meeting at RGHS. Feels crazy weird to be a 'uni student' again but really looking forward to the new learning. Hopefully pushes me forward further.

Should also mention the awesome educamp last weekend at Whakatane at Apanui school. Was really cool to get back to grassroots learning and sharing with the first EducampWHK. Loved it so much my passion must have shown through because I won a ChromeCast for inspiring the audience. Was awesome to go with AnneMarie Hyde from Mokoia Intermediate because she always supports and inspires me to be better, more focussed and believes in building leaders to be positive and forward thinking. She truly is inspiring which is probably why we were both up for the same prize in the same category but am glad she won her own ChromeCast too in the Twitter draw. We can learn how to use it in class together! :)

Student inquiries:

As for my students - while the seniors were away it was awesome because we got quite a lot of work done. Worked on essay structure with my English class and continued learning about Migration and began the Suitcase assessment too with my Social Studies class. Love how they are so open to sharing their thoughts and ideas in our class and loved our debate after some students staged that silly protest on Makeup because it was really interesting to hear their views and also use it as a teachable moment to discuss the issue around personal attacks, perspectives and relating to others - a key competency. I particularly liked that Nikki stayed to listen after she'd come looking for a student. She had some great perspectives to share while on the No side of the debate. I really think that these kinds of issues should be heard but perhaps in a more appropriate forum - like a student council - not out in the school grounds causing inappropriate distrubances. Sad that some students used the forum to negatively affect other students and I've had quite a few discussions around the issue with them because they need to realise that they're beautiful, handsome, courageous, strong and independant without needing to put a mask on. Even if that mask is hair wax, hairless legs, makeup, branded sportsbags, the latest smartphone.... confidence is a beautiful thing but it comes from inside. Maybe we need to look into this in our health curriculum and put it across the school with positive images about what real confidence is.

We began our books for kids programme with my English class and I floated the idea of the programme my friend Donna Howells-Skoludek is running in Huntly to build literacy in the town with her 50,000 pages read project. We decided we'd have a go at reading 10,000 pages as a class. Perhaps we should start smaller but a big goal hopefully will entice them to read more.

I'd love to see all of my students with growth mindsets but there are some thst retain those fixed ones and it genuinely upsets me because I know how much they could be doing if they only believed in themselves.


Longest post I've written exclusively on Interlead. Have reposted this onto my own blog. Really hope they make Interlead an app so it's easier to type and follow each others posts.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Ubiquitous Learning: Example

Just thinking about a moment today while helping one student with his assessment on GDocs.... he kept telling my other student to jump on the computer too to type her work up but she was happy writing het draft in her book first.

Another student who I don't teach but have talked with and inquired on her learning during exam time, came over to watch what me and my student were typing and marking and fixing on his work. She said, "That looks so cool. Can I have a go?" Or something to that extent. She did - I got her to share a doc with me and she began typing her work up.

Soon enough - I was marking both of their work and we began talking as we were working. She wondered why all teachers don't do this and we talked about the big elearning meeting we were about to have and how it's important to understand where some of the teachers are at the moment with tech stuff and how doing this could help us all.

Had just finished telling them both how proud I was (and am) of them looking at just the sheer amount of work and effort both of them put into their work. So stoked. The fact that my student had done more work in 20 minutes on GDocs compared to the majority of the term was astounding and he was impressed with himself too.

I was commenting on bits and pieces between both docs and then she said, "Miss, we need to have more teachers like you." Told her that her comment made my heart sing.

Beautiful. And with that... I'm off to sleep again. Awesome elearning meeting btw... update to come on that soon.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Equity and Equality

Earlier today on Facebook I posted somewhat of a rant as I felt that I was bottling stuff up that had to do with my choices in life and my aspirations within my career.

I won't repost it here but the general gist was that I felt like I was being made to feel guilty for not spending enough time or effort making a life outside of school. I've felt this a lot myself over the last few years here in Rotorua and perhaps that's why it hurt a little when I rethought it again this morning before writing. Because... at the end of it - it comes down to perception.

The perception I have of this issue is that I'm proud of where I've come so far. I've overcome a lot of issues, both emotional, psychological and physical as well as spiritual issues too. I've become a stronger and more confident person. I finally feel like the person I was when I was 16. With dreams and aspirations and a beautiful positive attitude that is trying hard not to be weighed down by the pressures of society.

The problem I suppose and the reason I'm now writing this post is because for some strange reason - I feel guilt for not having a life. A life where I have a lot of friends and a husband or partner and children. I feel guilt because I'm the oldest child and because I'm a woman and because even at 27 there is still this thing in the back of my mind that's telling me I have no worth unless I'm hitched and hapu. Which I know is pathetic and wrong.
However - as a result of this stupid unfounded guilt - I felt like I need to explain myself further this morning and say that I'm actually really proud of who I am and what I've done. I'm excited about my dreams and aspirations and believe that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it.

The actual problem though is the fact that I know I wouldn't feel this guilt - or actually be made to feel like this - had I been born a man. My grandfather was congratulated by his friends on hearing that he finally had a grandson when they read in the paper of the birth of Alex Le Long. He grunted and said it was another girl. I've talked at length the impact this awesome man had on my life but it's this issue that continues to make me feel like I'm not good enough.

My post is quickly turning sad..

Anyway. The point of this post is this:
Just because a woman has dreams and aspirations does not mean that she should be overlooked because of her gender. She should be clearly pitted against her peers for the job and the best candidate wins. However - more often than not - men get the opportunities because they're seen as being more influential or inspiring or albeit interesting?

I know that this is not just an issue I face. It's something that's happening the world over. Because gender discrimination continues to happen. Despite the massive steps we've made.

Up until this point I've made a decision to put my career first. I've been lucky to have been able to do this. I haven't been burdened by distractions. I've been able to focus on me and what I want. Right now as I type I'm thinking that this sounds selfish. But would a man think this in the back of his mind? Would he feel overwhelming guilt for not having had children or having found a suitable wife by now? Some perhaps. But the majority are able to fly through and be bachelors like George Clooney (until recently) and get rewarded and celebrated for their focus on their career.

It frustrates me that it's not the same for women.

What I'd like to feel is rewarded and celebrated and valued for putting so much effort into my mahi and for putting it and my students first.

What I'd like to think about myself is that I am admired because I push myself to achieve my goals and work hard to do so. That I am valued because I continue to dream big and never stop learning.

I'd like to know that the world is ready for women to take a stand and be who we want to be without having to fit inside a particular box.

I'd like to know that despite whether I choose to have children or not that I won't be disregarded based on who I am. I'm totally fine if they don't think I have the qualifications or the ability to achieve their aims for that opportunity. But don't disregard me based on my gender nor my aspirations in life.


Just found this post.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Student Successes in English

Loads of successes recently in English - but one in particular I found out about today.

One of my Y11 students went on a writing retreat and showed her creative writing piece to one of the tutors there. He told her that he's never read something with such a deep emotional intelligence from someone so young before. She described it a hell of a lot better than I just did and plus her whole mood was infectious. So so proud of her. Suggested to her to set up a blog so that she can post her stories and we can share them out via the big wide web and get some commenting happening. Authentic audiences are key. Plus. Great motivation to keep writing when you know someone is reading. Also - it will be a great platform to get her self-published or picked up by a local editor.

Can't wait to see where she goes with her writing. So honoured to be able to say I taught her for two years but jeez... that girl. She's got natural talent.

Congrats V :)

Student Success in Social Studies

I'm nothing if not obvious about my love for alliteration and puns...

A couple of weeks ago you may have seen the focus on Amnesty and their #DoubleTheQuota. Without getting into too much detail - the idea for our students was to do some sort of campaign to tautoko (support) the idea.

Now... herein lies my first big issue. Let me set the scene. I have the most AMAZING social studies class. They will probably be my favourite social studies class for the rest of my days because they are just so incredibly on board with everything we've looked into this year - human trafficking, human rights violations, animal rights, the Holocaust, the ways in which we treat others... and yet... they just COULD NOT get their heads around the Double the Quota issue.

Xenophobia, racism and connections to social issues we are currently facing were the knee jerk reactions from my students. I encouraged them to take the idea home and discuss it further with their parents and yet my students still would not budge. We watched videos showing the refugee crisis from a Pakeha (British) perspective and while they could point out the juxtaposition of the nature of the video - where videos like this show a more consistent stereotypical ethnic perspective... they could not truly relate or see why we should double the quote from 750 to 1500 in NZ.

I felt like I was losing a pretty big battle and even two of my most amazing English students offered to help and got the support and permission from their social studies teacher, my fabulous colleague Ruth, and they came and presented to my class with the presentation that they'd created all on their own. The English teacher in me cringed when I saw a few mistakes in their spelling but I was just so overjoyed and proud of these boys for stepping up that I and the class ignored these.

Even their peers could not sway my students ideas around this.

So I gave up. I shouldn't have. But I'm glad I did in a way because we created a more individualised learning focus like we'd done previously in different units - where students had to be in a group to run their own campaing about a particular idea or something we'd focussed on already this year. And did they jump at the chance to do something other than the quota campaign.

And the majority of the students organised themselves incredibly well. It was obvious seeing the slackers in different groups and I'm glad that overall the assessment is an individual one not a group mark because it's just not fair when you put in more work thsn someone else.

Anyway - one particular student completely went above and beyond what I'd asked of them to do. She stayed behind after school one day with me and got pictures printed out, laminated them to make magnets for the fridge to sell and created a petition data entry form so that she could go to different classes to sign the petition online to stop the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. She was so busy with this I didn't realise she'd also enlisted her family to help as well and signed up a bunch of friends and family to speak out against the slaughter which was due to begin two days ago. When O.F began her quest she had 11 days left til the drive hunt started again and I am just so incredibly proud of her.

Part of her push to do this must have been what an activist talked about with us via Skype. No names. We are incredibly indebted to her though and thankful thst she was able to speak with us about her experiences.

As a result O.F has been inspired by this level of activism and has shown to herself and to us all that her big heart can truly lead her to awesome places.

I really hope that Ric Barry and his cove monitors stay safe and keep fighting. Because if we can even stave off the slaughter for a small while, if not for forever - that would be brilliant for our dolphin population but also for O.F's motivation and self-belief that she made an impact to create more awareness.

So proud.


Celebrating Success

A colleague mentioned at our S Club meeting that she celebrates every little achievement that the students achieve.

I loved this. Because I used to too.

We were discussing the need to create a new exam for the students especially in the S classes because having had such positive growth minded students last year who just pushed themselves so so hard and did the best they could possibly do in their end of year exam... and fail miserably was heartbreaking - for me and for them.

I don't like the idea of streaming but it's a necessary evil in some ways. The point I was trying to make then at the meeting as I am now is that we needed to ensure our students didn't feel like that again. Because as you know- it has a flow on effect to their motivation and self-belief year after year. And if we're making them think they already suck at Y9 and 10... then how is that supposed to encourage them? My main issue is that the exam seems more weighted towards the higher end of the streamed classes so that we as a department can skim the top level for the Cambridge classes in Y11.

I just don't think it's fair nor is it equitable for a small amount of kids to be actually succeeding and for a majority to feel like they're failing. When a 40% mark is the highest mark your students can get in your class... there must be something wrong.

Because my students knew their stuff. They busted their little bottoms off to get the knowledge they needed and push themselves. But it still wasn't enough.

I don't want to set my students up for failure again and have been doing everything I possibly can to ensure they won't feel like failures - that they'll know some answers and can explain in their own way their connection and response to text.

At that point in the meeting my colleague says that we shouldn't be just gearing them up for the exam - and while she's completely right - the systems we have in place within education ensure that that is our main focus.

And so she continued explaining how she celebrates every little success. And it was just what I needed to remind myself to continue doing what I once did. Why have I changed? I don't know. But I miss that super positive person who believed in every student and wasn't so jaded by reality and burnt out by trying to motivate those that just refuse to motivate themselves.

It's a bit sucky because my juniors miss out on my best teaching because I have three senior classes - a y11L, y12L and y12A.   The L classes are the 'normal' courses and the A is the 'alternative' course where they do one less external...

Because of the amount of motivation and continual pressure I put on my students to try and get them through internal after internal to keep hunting those credits - we often end up losing the true importance of education - actually learning.

And this is what I've been trying to do more of within my junior classes - learn. And they've actually been my saving grace to be honest. In the junior classes I can laugh and relax and be me and teach the way I love teaching - to the students in front of me and ensuring they all have a co-constructed input towards what we're doing.

In senior classes it just really is not that easy. I feel constantly at battle with lack of motivation, the need to always refocus and monitor my students work output, to ensure they are always handing me in their work or showing me how they're going nearly every day so I can keep pushing them along to the achievement line of external exams. This is draining and it makes my head hurt and my heart ache. Because I know it's not meant to be like this.

We've gone so far away from authentic learning that we have mere glimpses of teachable moments and constant credit tracking to reach the targets.

So..  I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I miss celebrating the small successes - because every single time my students learns something new and that lightbulb FINALLY goes off in their eyes - it makes me joyful - if only for a moment.

I will laugh more with my seniors. They hardly ever hear me laugh. I will be myself and allow the pressure and time limits to wash over me and teach what I must to ensure they're ready... but teach the skills first and foremost and the content too with a possible endgame of credits as a sweetner - but by no means the point of learning.

I will relax with my juniors because if I get them ready enough I won't have to worry about them next year.

I will try to be more onto it and focussed and take time for myself.

Lastly - I will remind myself to celebrate each and every success my students have - small or big - because to them and me - success is success and it should be celebrated.