Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Equity in all things: Relationship backfire

I talk a lot about the importance of relationships. Something that happened the week before last week is still bugging me. No names given obviously but I need to think out the situation and clear my head a bit more to fully think about how to resolve it further.

Y10s had just had PE and had come in all ramped up. As usual I could tell. I did a couple listening activities to refocus them - a simple TK cue of my hand up signalling focus and when that didn't work the trusty 321. Even that didn't get any attention - asked them to all stand up and do a couple of star jumps and then sit down again. Told them that I knew they'd just had PE and they needed to settle down and focus now.

They did. Marvellously. The learning was humming. We were doing collaborative work on our NZRA novel - final analysis really - using Class Dojo for recognition of behaviour, learning and leadership. Using CD in their groups added even more competition - with CD on my phone and the banner and sound popping up on my laptop and projector. Most of the kids were humming. It was at the transition time between that and the next task when rubber bands started flying with bits of paper scattered everywhere. I told them all off... and went to collect them all. This is an extension class by the way - this kind of behaviour is just unheard of for them.

Told them all off once again. Those that didn't give their rubber bands put them into their pockets and didn't touch them again.

The whole class were made to stand up and tidy the class up. They did. We carried on the work. Issue sorted.

And then... one of the most mature, focussed and potential leadership material girls threw something - just a copied behaviour. Moments too late. I snapped. I told her she'd be cleaning the class by herself. I was furious. She got up and picked up the ones she'd thrown and grumbled while she did it but then sat down. It was at this moment I made my first real mistake. Other than yelling and snapping... I thought the issue was now resolved also. I was very very much wrong.

What frustrated me the most was that I'd specifically told them all off at once. We'd tidied up. It was all over with. Then she'd sent one flying. Right after I'd told them all not to do any more.

What made things worse was the grumblings continued. Her peers at her table said I was being unfair singling her out. Yes they were right. But I still tried to explain my perspective. Which just wasn't the go. I tried to apologise to her in front of the whole class. At this stage there was still ten maybe five minutes left of the lesson. Super awkward.

Kids start packing up and getting ready in anticipation for the bell. As the bell goes I call her over to try talk after everyone goes like I do with all the students who don't listen or need some support in some way. She wouldn't have a bar of it and said no and walked off. I was so taken aback. I actually was in shock I think. I don't think that that has ever happened.

I've had angry girls before in class or angry boys who take off because they're pissed and don't want to hit something. But usually they come back and apologise or talk it out.

This girl didn't come back. I stayed in my room all interval waiting too. Just in absolute shock and kind of hoping she'd come back. I heard students outside who I thought were about to wag... I asked if everything was okay. One of the girls asked me if I was Miss Le Long. I said yes. She said, "Oh... I just heard about what happened in your class with ************ and the rubber bands. That wasn't fair miss. She's really upset." I was shocked that some student I hadn't ever met already knew what had happened and that I was getting told off by her too. I asked her to pass on the message that I was waiting in class to still talk to her...

After this I felt the urge to contact all the teachers of this student. Partly because this kind of behaviour both the immature act of the rubber band and paper and the storming off was absolutely out of character for her and also because I was wondering whether she was being picked on in other classes due to information her friend had given to me outside class.

No response back yet from that but at lunch I got asked by the Head of House for that student about what happened and for me to realise how upset I'd made her. Luckily at that moment one of her other teachers came up at that time and reinforced the issues I was talking about and the HOH believed the situation a bit more in depth. I said I tried to talk with her but she stormed off and said I'd try talk to her on Monday when we had class next to sort it.

There I was all Friday, all weekend thinking about this.

Last Monday - she positively refused to talk to me. I tried the hard approach where I would pull the HOH in if I had to... then gave her a bit of space. When she sat down, I sat beside her and tried talking to her. I talked through the situation. Tried all my ways of getting answers from students in a restorative chat... and yet nothing. She wasn't budging. I apologised profusely for making her feel singled out or uncomfortable and made the point that I really didn't want the rest of the year to be that awkward or strained because I thought prior to this one incident we'd had quite a good relationship. Maybe we didn't. Maybe that's why it still hasn't repaired.

I left her to her work... trying to think it all through.

Since then her body language has told me so much more than ever. She is physically turning away from me whenever I'm in front of the class, circling and helping... she will continue talking to her peers long after I've gained the attention of everyone else. I wonder whether she's trying to get me to call her out on it. Or wants me to feel her frustrations.

When discussion became a bit heated this week it was the first time she'd actually spoken in a discussion since the rubber band incident and I made sure that everyone was being respectful, no matter whether they agreed with what she was saying or not.

She didn't speak to me directly but she did talk to the class. That's a change.

Today though... she walked away as I sat at her table group to help one of her peers and wouldn't sit back down til I'd left.

I am at a loss of what to do. Some girls I can crack easy as. Others create massive friction and have big grudges for days and days. I just wonder what else there is I can do to try and fix things. Maybe there isn't anything I can do.

I absolutely miss the days when she'd come in early and say Good morning and when she'd say thankyou on her way out. She didn't always seem that interested in what we were doing but she was respectful. I lost her respect that day. And I don't know to get it back.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Happy 5 Year Anniversary to me :)

Today was the day five years ago when I started teaching :)

Very very cool.

MindLab: Applied Practice - Week 32 - Changes in Practice (Activity 8)

This post is the last for my Mindlab journey. And has it been a journey!!

At first I was so incredibly ecstatic to be involved with the Mindlab. The course looked great. Exciting and so much potential to teach me new things that I hadn't already taught myself. The digital and collaborative paper, the research and community paper, the leadership paper!! And this last applied practice paper. So much learning.

I loved that I was able to share my learning during classes when we learnt about Twitter or blogging or something else I was extremely passionate about. Being able to share the power in the room by enabling each other to share our strengths and learn from each other was awesome. I appreciated the opportunity so much as this is something I want to be able to facilitate at Heights.

I blogged a lot in those first few weeks... about augmented reality which I fell in love with!! And more in depth about gamification and the impact that understanding learning has on a learner. That process of knowing the next steps and how this is absolutely critical.

As time went on and I began to get bogged down by the assessments and the reading, my natural passion and ability to reflect and blog about my learning dissipated. I found this concerning. I struggled a lot because I couldn't for the life of me understand why the two things I love the most in the world - learning and reflecting on my learning - were at such loggerheads. At first I thought my blogging mojo had been stopped because I was just learning so much, reading so much, busy too much to try keep up with school stuff and assessments and students etc, or the stresses of normal life... but I've since come to realise it's definitely part of all this but also... the fact that usually I learn what I want to learn.

I struggled for weeks in figuring out how to say what I needed to say in this post. Because this isn't just for Mindlab. This is for my overall learning and reflection. This blog has been going since I first started teaching five years ago and it needs to still be tuturu and more importantly relevant to my own perspective and whakaaro - both the negatives and postives.

The majority of feedback I got from assessments was great. The first couple of assessments I got back bit into my own confidence levels but as a growth mindset person, I bounced back and realised that was just because I need to be more clear and concise and develop my own thoughts more deeply. I need to be able to try new things and craft my own skills in videoing more effectively and I need to sort out my time-management. All things I already knew and know but were reinforced by an outside marker. Which was a good thing because I am naturally a cocky person when it comes to my own ability and I needed to remember that even though I have a lot of ideas, I definitely don't have the practice.

I absolutely enjoyed learning collaboratively with the colleagues from around the country but also in Rotorua. It was so cool to meet people, other teachers from Rotorua who were as keen as I was. I missed our group the most once we stopped doing the F2F korero sessions. It felt like I'd moved away from home and was missing the whanau.

The wide range of people was very realistic to how it is at Heights too which must have been tricky to navigate as there was such a wide range of knowledge on the room. A lot of these teachers had never been to a Connected Rotorua meeting too and so didn't come with the foundation of knowledge some of us already had. Hopefully they will come to more of our hui and share their ongoing learning now that Mindlab is over. :)

What I've struggled with the programme is how it has been so incredibly structured. For those that know me well they would understand easily what I mean... I'm all about the organised chaos. I am a learning sponge. I soak up what is relevant and what is needed when I need it and release the knowedge when it is no longer needed.

I easily could have gone through the whole course and learnt at my own pace but I felt restricted to stick week by week according to the course structure, assessments etc. And I think that that is more of a traditional model rather than one that I would like to have seen in Mindlab where the 21st century learner is at the centre and is able to completely focus their entire learning and interests around certain areas.

The majority of my learning for the past four or so years has been focussed on identifying HOW to enable my colleagues to build confidence in using elearning and every single one of my assessments reflect this passion. What I needed more of was guidance through more targeted feedback to help me figure out what I actually needed to do next in order to be better, understand more clearly and enable myself to be a better leader.

Even with the Mindlab certificate, I know the reality will still be real for me. Even with certification that I know how to work collaboratively, digitally, with the ability to reflect and research to ensure my knowledge is founded in hard facts and solid previous research and studies - I know that it still won't make a difference overall to my ability to help my colleagues. I am still at the same place as I was back in November - scared to open a dialogue with my principal about going for a Management Unit in order to be able to target staff by having an allocation of time to help support them where needed.

My colleagues still trust me. They still find me approachable. Which is awesome. But since starting the Mindlab, perhaps I've become even more intimidating.

I've learnt the kupu for the things that I do. I understand the why and the how and the what more clearly... but still don't have the access to effectively practice my ideas. I thought that by this time this year things might have changed in that regard... and while they are changing... it's not fast enough for me to be able to implement my learning from the Mindlab effectively.

I implore everyone I ever meet in teaching to do this Mindlab course. I just feel that it needed to be more differentiated, to allow those of us who knew a fair bit already, who still had serious gaps in other areas, to be able to clearly create a programme that would be beneficial for our own learning and possible pathways in life.

With all that being said... I have learnt a lot. I've made new friends. I've collaborated and shared my learning. I've forced myself to get back into blogging and after 300 or so posts I was stupid to stop back there for a while. Because it's important to be a reflective practitioner. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and need to identify areas that are of most importance to us.


Two key changes in my own research informed practice in relation to the PTC's in elearning:

* Collaborative programme of learning
This essentially builds onto all of the learning I've been doing but still need to build more confidence in myself in order to continue trying to encourage a collaborative programme of learning for staff and students at Heights.

My students easily see the why and how when I explain to them how we could be doing things in class a lot better. But that confidence I have being able to be myself with my students hasn't transferred really into confidence with my colleagues at Heights. I'm always feeling like the rug is about to be swept out from under my feet when I bring up a new suggestion or idea. Mind you I have found people I can collaborate with on this journey which has been good. Colleagues who have been thinking about doing the Mindlab course have been asking me about the course and I've been sharing my learning. Surely this is a start to a possible collaboration in future.

* Knowledge about how akonga learn
The research I've done through the Mindlab has definitely reinforced my own thoughts around how students learn and this research has come in handy plenty of times over the past 32 weeks. I've been in conversations with my up-line or others in more authoritive positions and been able to make quick and easy connections to multiple pieces of research to show I connect what I'm doing with how students learn and the why along with the how. Although knowing this research has helped me, perhaps it has isolated me also as now I know 'stuff'. And for some, knowledge is definitely seen as all powerful. I just want to collaborate.. so I'm in an ugly catch 22.

My students though have benefitted so much from my new learning. We've been trying heaps of different things in class, been practicing some really cool styles of learning and teaching. We've been thinking more deeply about next steps. I've pulled away from practices that I was doing previously around understanding knowledge acquisition in learners particularly around SOLO Taxonomy and Class Dojo which is strange as previously they were my go to tools. I suppose now that I'm trying out so many different things, I may have lost sight of what actually works for me and my students. So I need to rethink and practice more to ensure what I'm doing truly benefits student learning.

Over the last few months I've definitely seen a change in my overall teaching method, but I don't know whether it's a better one. I'm a lot more tired, have less patience and although I'm still differentiating my student's learning, I don't know whether I'm teaching the best as I can right now. I've definitely improved my own time-management skills with the focus on timed assessments and due dates (and those beautiful extensions) and my procrastination has become a lot more focussed and timed too which has been great and is a lot easier to manage.

I've been more aware of deadlines at school and teaching students how to keep up with deadlines too.

I wonder though whether knowing and keeping to deadlines will be as important as it was in the 19th century as it might need to be in the 21st century.

Goals for future PLD:

I definitely want to investigate more Google Hangout styled events where students and I discuss learning and can get help from each other and how this might play a part in developing more collaborative learning.

I want to figure out how to be a better leader, to inspire and to create moments where learning is at it's highest peak. That comes down to practice and self-confidence... I need to figure out how to transfer my skills as a passionate speaker with my students and colleagues outside of Heights to my colleagues inside Heights.

I want to keep identifying areas of learning that is relevant to my own personal situation.

But most of all I want to figure out how to maintain my passion for teaching and learning... without constantly being in fear of burnout.

Overall, I'd just like to say a massive thanks to Lynley and Tino who made my learning journey in the Mindlab awesome. They were constantly willing to listen to my concerns and help me when needed. You two are absolutely fabulous. Thankyou. Nga mihi nui ki a korua.

I'd also like to say a massive thanks to Mary Hamill who has been my partner in learning and development for all of this Mindlab journey.

Also... massive thanks to everyone in the Mindlab intake of November. You guys were very very cool. :)

Last but not least... to the markers who ignored my constant overwordyness and word counts that bulged every single time well over the limit. Thank you for your guidance and your focus and your willingness to help us be better teachers. Nga mihi nunui ki a koutou katoa.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Mindlab: Applied Practice - Assessment One - Links and Reflection

Yay! Finally. It feels so nice to have handed in this particular assessment two hours before it was due - no dramas and no issues. I am a massive procrastinator however - I learn more, engage better and focus more in depth when I've had a bit of time pressure. It sounds stupid - but it's the honest truth.

Here are the posts I've written:

Applied Practice in Context

Professional Communities of Practice

Trends and Issues in Education

Indigenous Knowledge and Responsive Pedagogy in Practice

Legal and Ethical Dilemmas in Practice

Still two more posts to write. I wrote the social media one sooooo quickly and so in depth. It's my passion though and as a writer it's important to be clear... just need to work on that concise thing now.. :)

Very close to the end now... I've been reflecting a lot about my practice but have yet to fully reflect and analyse my experience within the Mindlab. It certainly has stretched me. It's made me think a little bit differently. I think the majority of what I've gotten out of it all so far is the ability to put names to the things that I do and be more assertive in that I do actually know what I'm doing in certain areas. It's built up my confidence and shattered it too in some ways. I definitely need to work on my videoing skills, improve my ability to be concise with my words and get to the point more clearly. I also need to be more careful around what I say in regards to newbie elearners - because I forget just how far I've come in my journey and that we all have our own journey to go towards in everything that we do.

Really appreciate the learning I've had over the last 31 weeks... last week this week. Two more posts to write. One more assessment to complete for Applied Practice. Then we're done.

The journey continues to be one like the weather today - turbulent, sunny, windy, torrential rain, soft breezes, window shaking winds but overall - a safe haven from the storm inside my own classroom. Today without students excepting the seniors who are popping in with their whanau for their goal setting interviews.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

MindLab: Applied Practice - Week 31 - Interdisciplinary Connections Map (Activity 7)

I've been thinking a lot about what 'interdisciplinary' actually means and after reading a few articles, watching a couple videos... I kind of get what it means now.

I love in this Ted Talk that David Wiley brings up Creative Commons. It was the main thing that helped me to understand the need for more interdisciplinary learning and teaching approaches. The need to Mix, Reuse, Share. 

At first I thought it was just cross-curricular learning, planning with other teachers collaboratively to create a programme that was more integrated.

It's more than that...

It's not just integrated learning either.

It's the kind of learning where the student is at the focus, completely inquiry based where students are essentially asking questions to develop a rich source of learning where it is not only relevant but real life learning too. It's the kind of learning where those boundaries of learning areas and specialist subjects are crossed. Where students are using their knowledge across the differing learning areas to create a meaningful learning experience.

This sounds incredibly beautiful. I want to learn how to do this. I arrogantly feel that I do some of this already... but know that everything I do can be done significantly better. Also, that kind of learning is organic. It comes from real teachable moments. It comes from students asking questions related to their own learning.

In secondary school and particularly employed as an English teacher, many of the questions my students ask are focussed on the assessment at hand, rather than their learning - eg "What do I need to do to get a Merit?" or "I don't feel that this assessment will allow me to get an Excellence so there's no point doing it as I want to get endorsed with Excellence"....

Or the "I can't be bothered doing any more with it Miss, I just want an Achieved."

This credit farming business seriously ruins my love for teaching and learning. Students know the system. They know how to work the system. Jeez, my year were the second group through NCEA and we knew how to work the system too.

The assessments if done well, can be cross-curricular, they can be interdisciplinary - but more often than not they aren't. This is a major problem for me. I would love to see real world learning happening for every student in my class. At the moment - over all five classes - I'd have to say it's only happening in my social studies class, some in Y10 English and maybe three or four students across Y11 and the Y12 classes.

The reason being is that 1) My continuous moan that there is just not enough time and 2) real-world learning and teachable moments happen every so often because we're so driven by the assessment and the marking and moderation and uploading to KAMAR that we forget or don't pay as much attention to the teaching moments and opportunities throughout the assessment.

Yesterday I missed two opportunities to discuss real-world learning from questions from my students. I don't know why I didn't just stop what we were doing and discuss it. It's real world learning and I love those types of discussions which allow my students to put their hearts on the line and declare their passion and thoughts whichever way it turns. It was in Social Studies too.. a class where I want them to be more aware of what is happening in the world today and they asked me a question about Moko.... and I responded about how awful and how sad it was... and then kept thinking just to stay on task and carry on with what we were doing.

The point I guess I'm making is that those moments can be rare and if they're not seized and taken advantage of, then we miss truly wonderful moments where students take hold of their own learning and participate and contribute in a way that allows all students the chance to discover and share their own thoughts.

Two areas of focus for future goals in teaching and learning:

Creating more relevant ways to assess student learning
As I discussed briefly above, the need to assess students is part of my job, however there has to be a way to ensure that assessments are more relevant and making the most of student's engagement and interest into their learning. At present our assessments in English have the potential to be more interdisciplinary. The main issue is the assumed expectation of what is accepted as assessment quality. I have so many ideas. So many ideas around creating more relevant ways to assess. The issue remains around the expectation of my colleagues in my department as to what constitutes work that could be assessed. In the past few months there has finally been a decision agreed by all members of the department that work done in other learning areas can be used towards the Level Two Writing Portfolio as long as it is worked up to a Level Two English standard for writing. This is increasingly exciting. I'm no longer nervous about telling students it's okay to do this.

I'd also like to investigate alternatives for the academic purposes assessment - at present it is relevant for many students as it focuses on two hunting articles around safety while hunting. A major issue in our area. As a result of this, it could be seen as being relevant. In the past I've had a range of different students - some of which it was relevant and relateable - and others who it didn't connect with at all. This year I had even more students who didn't connect with it. I think it is super important to have relevant assessment opportunities... and to ensure there is equitable access in terms of engagement for all students.... I just wonder where there are possible alternatives to the hunting one... even though I personally connect with it easily as a kid who grew up hunting... but I digress...

Making the most of teachable moments to ensure more relevant and real-world learning
With whatever we do in class - working towards the goal of having more relevant ways of assessing - there is a need to be consistently planning programmes of learning that take into account student's interests, inquiries and more importantly focused questions around the learning. By doing this, there may be even more teachable moments available which may create more relevant and real-world learning opportunities.

There are teachable moments that get missed out on due to the need to complete the coursework. I hate that I did this the other day. It makes me incredibly sad that I didn't create that environment to discuss those issues. If students were given more opportunities to identify areas that they were interested in there would be a higher chance of more engagement and more focused learning for all involved.

I'm not sure this is really a focus for interdisciplinary teaching and learning... or whether it's just good teaching and learning... I just think that these two issues are goal-worthy for now for me as they're issues that I'm always thinking about and trying to be better with. It all comes down to making the learning more effective and worthy of the student's time. I suppose too it means a lot as a teacher to ensure more relevant modes of teaching too as with everything I've learnt in the MindLab ... I need to make sure that my students are at the centre so that they can redefine their learning and what it means to be a learner in the 21st century.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Collaboration in English - Thematic Y11 Programme

A couple of days ago a colleague from the English department asked if I could give her some ideas for the Y11 film study. We talked about what I do and how it all connects to be able to teach 1.8 properly - by using a thematic study of texts. I teach around the themes of corruption and control and Y11 and it continues to be super effective. (Still need to nail the Y12 programme.... heoi ano..) 
In Y11 we start with creative writing and two short texts: 'Harrison Bergeron' by Kurt Vonnegut and 'Examination Day' by Henry Slesar. This year we looked at the films for these too - very short films - which seemed to capture their understanding in even more depth. By term two, we're doing the novel study - this year they had a few options: 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry, 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness and 'Divergent' by Veronica Roth. Last year I had given them 'The Hunger Games' and 'Noughts and Crosses' too - but having so many options was crazy chaotic - although useful in some ways... This year it has been way more manageable and students have been able to identify with different texts more effectively. Having their formal writing assessment (where they wrote an essay about their novel) due right before their first exam was useful as well as it helped them achieve so much more effectively than ever before. Majority of Merits, smaller number of Achieved's and only a handful of Not Achieved's and one Excellence. In preparation for term three, where they do the 1.8 Connections assessment, we will be beginning to study 'V for Vendetta' directed by James McTeigue. In the 1.8 assessment, they have to write a report analysing four texts - three studied in class and one they've chosen on their own. All four texts need to be connected in some way - usually a main theme that is overarching. 
After explaining the 1.8 assessment a little bit with my colleague, we discussed possible options for films going from the themes in the short story 'Ka Kite Bro' by Willie Davis that they had previously studied this year. The themes of racism, culture, acceptance and self-identity run through it. I grabbed a few options from the dvd cupboard in class, and gave her Boy, The Blindside and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. We then started talking about the themes in other forms of possible media, like poetry and articles she'd done in class. I told her about the unit I used to do with the bi-lingual kids at Massey High and how we incorporated spoken word poetry and traditional poetry as well as short stories to create a thematic unit around overcoming racism and breaking stereotypes. I gave her a few post its with the stories I'd used and emailed a few of the ones I could find on Google Drive while she was still there. We talked a bit more and decided on Whale Rider for her film study, which I had a copy of at home.
Yesterday I created a shared folder with ALL of the texts that could possibly help and also created a Google Slide deck with spoken word poetry, traditional poetry and also the blogpost where I talked more about it a couple years ago. This slide deck will be incredibly useful when I need to use it again - possibly with the Y10 English class in a couple weeks time. 
This morning she told me how effective one of the poems was - a spoken word poem by Joshua Iosefo called 'Brown Brother'. I only heard about it myself because one of the bi-lingual students had brought it up in class one day - and from then on I've been hooked. The poem discusses institutionalised racism and the inherent stereotypes faced by people of colour. Particularly from his perspective as a Samoan teenager looking towards his future prospects. 
This kind of teaching is what I love the most - working with people to solve problems, identify shared issues and try to overcome them through resiliency and problem solving.
And... now on to more marking :D

Culturally Responsive Practice - Reflections

I've been thinking heaps about how I interact with my students. 
Yesterday while on duty we were surveying the field and were watching one particular group of boys being haututu. When one of the boys (new arrival to WHHS) came up the hill to talk to the girls, I called him over. This was our interaction.
"Bub... hey bub! Can you come here for a bit?" I got his attention - not knowing his name. He walked over. 
"Kia ora," I said, hand outstretched to shake his. "I'm Miss Le Long. What's your name?"
"Eden ****," he said with a bit of a confused smile on his face. 
"Hi Eden. Hey, the stuff you guys were doing down there..." I gestured down to the field.
"What stuff?"
"The silly stuff. Trying to be all hard and getting other kids attention."
"Huh?" he said with a bit of defensive stance. 
"Oh, the," I repeated his actions of trying to step out some students and entice them over, "kind of stuff."
He looked up at me and said, "Oh yup."
"That's pretty dumb aye? We don't do that kind of silly behaviour here at Heights aye. Are you new to Heights?" I said, full well knowing he was new. 
"What school were you at?" I said with a smile on my face.
"Ah," I said. "Well Eden, we don't do that at Heights - it's not really appropriate aye." 
"Yep. Algood Miss," he said with a smile and he walked off to talk to the girls. 

My colleague that I do duty with mentioned that she liked how I handled that. I just said that I talked to him like he was one of my brothers. Told her how I tell my brother off when he does something stupid on Facebook and how it's not appropriate, and nearly always bring our Grandmother into the conversation by asking whether she'd think it was appropriate too or how she might feel if she saw what he was doing.
I suppose that's why it hurts when things don't go so well in class because I put so much work into building the relationships up that I have with my students. It hurts because it feels like one of the family is being awful. But next day, everything is back to normal and we move on. 
It's interesting though - because I've always been like that with students. Relating to them. Trying to connect and making shared discussions so that there is understanding on both sides. But I guess it's more about the way I was taught - both the good and the bad. How it wasn't really okay to be Maori when I was growing up. The institutionalised racism permeating everything in our small town. Growing up with my Pakeha French family showed me what I didn't want to be like and what I loved too. Some of my high school teachers were awesome and made me feel proud to be who I was... others... not so much. 
That kind of mark that we leave on our students is absolutely critical and I'm always trying to find a way to get all my students on side. 
We just had a REALLY cool lesson in Social Studies with my Year 9s. We're learning about Parihaka and did a bit of information analysis yesterday - highlighting historical sources and today we listed the most important information about what we learnt. There were students teaching each other, students choosing their own learning spaces and different parts of the classroom to learn in. There were students helping each other, students discussing the issues in the texts we were reading and highlighting. Students involving me in their discussions about the Peace Walk towards Parihaka in Taranaki at the moment and students who were doing their own work, quietly, focussed and energised by the real world learning. One student asked if I could get in touch with the Taranaki mayor to discuss the issues more so we could hear about it from someone directly affected by the racism down there at the moment. He was super interested too because he's Ngati Ruanui, from Taranaki - so it's even more so important. 
Our shared learning about Parihaka has been incredibly powerful. Students came up with the key questions for inquiry and I've been finding information to help them answer the questions. A bit more scaffolding and they'll be able to explain by themselves the answers to their questions. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

#MatarikiX: Takiwai Maori Business Network Conference

Awesome event. Still processing the messages. The tweets are below:

Applied Practice - Week 30 - Using social online networks in teaching and/or professional development - (Activity 6)

Really interesting discussion tonight... and not only just because I began talking about how Tinder wasn't on the slides as a form of social media... or how I've used it bahahaha. Love it. Thanks Dave for asking about how I've used it and the issues I've found around the digital citizenship for the people in my age group who are absolutely inappropriate.

Really loving this discussion tonight around the use of social media for professional development and how we could use it for teaching in class.

I've been thinking about how I use social media and the purpose. The WHY is absolutely critical. We need to think about HOW we use it and WHY we'd use social media too.

Some key features of social media that are beneficial for teaching and learning:
  • connect with people outside of your immediate colleagues at school
  • connect with people who are like-minded and are interested in collaborating
  • develop more indepth perspectives around issues that you're interested in
  • make connections throughout the world 

Potential challenges that teachers need to be aware of when integrating social networking platforms into teaching activities:
  • digital citizenship issues
  • issues around effective use and the WHY 
  • being more inclusive about the way we connect 
The main issue I suppose is how we use social media to more effectively teach digital citizenship skills, actively and in participation and collaboration with our students and the world around us. Using social media tools to share learning and perspectives is incredibly important as students need to learn from someone they trust and can approach with questions about using social media. If students don't learn digital citizenship skills at school, and don't get help from whanau at home, then where do they learn to be appropriate while online? 

More importantly, students need to identify more effective ways to resolve issues other than believing the negative things people say while using social media. They often get in too deep with cyber bullying and get so inundated with messages and lost in their online worlds. 

The best thing though about being able to use social media in class is teaching students what is acceptable and what could be done about creating more safer online environments, and how they have a place in creating those environments. 

What social media platform best supports engagement with your professional development?

How do I use social media to enhance my professional development?

I feel as if I've explained this plenty plenty plenty of times previously at different workshops, conferences, discussions on PLD etc BUT.... I'll discuss the main reasons again here:

I use social media, specifically Twitter, to enhance my PLD so that I don't feel lonely anymore. That sounds really stupid - but when I first started using it I was a first year teacher and didn't feel like I could ask those 'stupid' questions from those in my department. At the time I felt alone and isolated, partly because I was too scared to speak up and ask the more experienced teachers and also because I had such a massive thirst for learning and I wasn't getting enough from the PLD run at school around the areas that I was most interested in. 

Now as a fifth year teacher, I still use Twitter to get ideas, inspiration, advice and perspectives from teachers around the country and around the world. I love that you get instantaneous feedback and that there is no hierarchy when using Twitter - it is a flat landscape in terms of connecting to people around the world by sending a simple tweet. I love that you can send a tweet to someone you have admired for years, like Sarah Kay or even Sir Ken Robinson and maybe you don't get a response back or maybe you do - the point is that you can connect with someone directly. And that is the beauty of Twitter. 

I've connected with English teachers across the country, teachers using Class Dojo around the world, teachers I admire and teachers I've had debates with. I've used Twitter to ask questions on the behalf of my students to world leaders. This in itself builds openness, collaboration, understanding and the ability to relate to others. All important aspects within education and future focussed learning. 

Using Social Media in the Classroom

Really interesting video - I liked how she used it to show her student's learning progressions - how she got students to write their blog posts - even though they couldn't write well, she wrote what they meant in brackets and they could get some pictures of videos to show their learning too. 

Benefits: students connect with outside world! 

Challenges: issues around student use of photos - policies might be used in her school - surely needed a disclaimer or something??

The PPTA have some INCREDIBLY good guidelines around the use of social media - found here and here.

NZCER likewise - found here and here and here.

Interested in using Twitter as a teacher and professional? Check out my Twitter cheat sheet here.

The workshop slides and notes that Nathaniel Louwrens and I created from our workshop at ULearn last year.

The #EdBlogNZ list of NZ teachers' blogs - found here.

Class Notes

Resources to look into:

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from
Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Retrieved from,0
Silius, K., Miilumäki, T., Huhtamäki, J., Tebest, T., Meriläinen, J. & Pohjolainen, S.(2010). Students’ motivations for social media enhanced studying and learning. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 2(1), 54-67. Retrieved from

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Exams and Essay Writing

This week is senior exam week. Students have been busy working on assessments, studying for exams and trying their best to come up with strong points for their essays.

From what I've read so far - my Y12 class have done okay. Some have forgotten to add the author's intent but they are alluding to it in their paragraphs.

I've talked before about the structure I get my students to use. It's super effective for teaching clear structure, to stop plot summaries from the outset and more importantly to make sure when students are making their closing statements for each paragraph, that they truly connect with the text and what the author/director intended.

Below is an embedded Google Doc of the Essay structure that I give my students.

I found the structure on a Hillcrest High School class site where they used it for poetry analysis a couple years ago. It has worked wonders in my classroom and is hugely more effective, in my experience, than a SEXY paragraph.

I naturally write essays this way but it's hard for students to grasp how when they've been given the SEXY structure and asked to make a response. The problem they come to is the Y section as it isn't scaffolded enough for them to fully encapsulate all of the areas around their response.

So the SEXIST structure works better. Am actually thinking of changing it to SEXISM.... not that that sounds any better... I'll explain.

Statement: What is the point that they're trying to make?
Example: What is an example of this?
Explanation: Why is this important?
Intent: What is the director/author trying to teach us?
Societal Connection: How can we relate to this?
Theme or Message: What do we learn overall from this example and point?

These markers in their paragraphs are only there as a guide. The students who can achieve Excellence often don't use any particular structure as their ideas are structured effectively as they write and they show flair in their style and focus.

I started using this structure with my juniors last year so that they can practice the style needed and also improve their ability to write their pghs in a short space of time in preparation for next year.
The Y12s this year that have had a couple years of this have found their essays flow much more easily and they are achieving better in other subjects needing structured paragraphs too.

It has been good to see students connecting with this as they understand what is expected from them.
When I connect the structure to SOLO Taxonomy, they can see the differing levels.

Statement, Example and Explanation: Multistructural (Achieved)

Statement, Example, Explanation and Intent or Societal: Relational (Merit)

Statement, Example, Explanation, Intent, Societal and Theme/Message the audience learns: Extended Abstract (Excellence)

If they can see what is needed they're more likely to be able to hit those targets as they can achieve more clearly based on what is actually required rather than seeing a question and giving a very base answer, with no evidence or personal connection.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Applied Practice - Week 29 - Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice - (Activity 5)

For this post I am identifying a particular ethical dilemma in my own practice that is linked to digital or online access and activity. 

There are a few dilemmas that I'm currently facing:

  1. BYOD Policy (or lack thereof)
  2. Agreement (or lack of consenting agreement) by students and whanau about photography being used of students in social media accounts, in the foyer of our school office, in the newspaper or school yearbook
  3. Equity of access to devices 
  4. Professionalism on social media

1. BYOD Policy or lack thereof
At present we don't have a solid BYOD policy. We have one that has been used by another school and we have changed it to suit our purposes as a school. At the moment there is a blurring of the lines between the two extremes - NO DEVICES AT SCHOOL to BYOD. For me this causes a lot of issues around acceptable use and lack of digital citizenship. Students and staff are breaking rules while we sort this policy out and ensure that it not only safeguards the students and the school, but the community too. 

We have had trial BYOD sessions throughout the school and these trial students have signed a trial BYOD policy agreement. This is good. But it lasts only for the duration of the trial. What we need to do next is a schoolwide signing - by each student and their whanau. We also need to be actively teaching digital citizenship. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. THE. DEVICES. ARE. USED. 

I've spoken a lot before about the work that Creative Commons NZ, Common Sense Media and Netsafe NZ have done in ensuring a safe and ethical environment for students, staff and schools in using BYOD. There are MULTIPLE tools available for schools to use on the Netsafe website and some really cool digital citizenship tools on the Common Sense Media site too. What needs to happen now - is a space where staff and students can go to to learn more about these skills. A portal. Something I've been working on for a while now - to ensure a quick and easy way to access information relative to digital citizenship and use of technology. 

2. Agreement (or lack of consenting agreement) by students and whanau about photography being used of students in social media accounts, in the foyer of our school office, in the newspaper or school yearbook
My issue with this is relatively obvious. At present we do not have anything in any of our school documentation around use of photography. I have looked many many times over the last few years to see if it is in there. Apparently it was a few years ago. It should not ever be an assumption that as a school we will take photos and share them. It is only with informed consent that this is able to occur. 

 A few weeks ago I was watching two young gentlemen create what would have been a beautiful timelapse of students walking to and from their classes. I purposefully walked into the shot and talked with them about the appropriateness of what they were doing. I felt incredibly awful about screwing up their work - however, I feel even more passionate about ensuring that students have their say about where their photos and faces or bodies are put in our world. Students - kaore - everyone has the right to know WHERE the photos are being stored, sent or uploaded to where. We should be teaching this just as we should be teaching the importance of a strong handshake. Because without clear guidelines around what is acceptable - the lines are too blurred and it becomes unsafe territory. 

I have suggested time and time again about the need to add in a photography clause in our enrolment form. I'm often listened to - but it still hasn't happened which is sad. It is for this one reason why I don't share any of the photos I take. I always ask students whether I can take a photo of them or their work. Often I get them to hold their work up in front of their face. It usually goes nowhere other than my Dropbox account, excepting when I purposefully ask a student or group of students if it can go on Twitter based on their interest in the topic we are doing and to gain more impact from the world around us. I give photos to the school yearbook, grudgingly, but always with the students in mind. But more importantly - I think this discussion is one that needs to happen more often within our role as teachers of teenagers who feel they can take photos or videos of anyone without their consent. 

3. Equity of access to devices 
Lastly, and this is a big deal - equity of access. In our community, once we have BYOD and the photography clause amended in our enrolment forms, we will need to address the elephant in the room. Something I've been thinking about A LOT. Something that plagues me and my practice as a teacher because I really want to be an inspirational, innovative, interesting and fabulously techy teacher - but at the end of the day I can only work with what I have. I blend my lessons again and again to have a mixture of both 21st century learning and 'traditional' styles of learning with 21st century skills embedded throughout. 

The problem that I keep coming back to though is the simple fact that 1) we are still getting our infrastructure sorted throughout the school (nearly finished!!!!) and within Rotorua and 2) a vast majority of students either don't know how to learn with digital technologies as they are learning from scratch as they've never had devices at home or access to them at school OR if they do have devices they still don't know how to use them effectively to improve their learning. 

One of the ideas that is floating around in my head at the moment is creating an equity fund - produced by those old boys and old girls from Heights - who have finished school, have careers and are now in a position to give back. Someone once said to me that Heights doesn't have the same ability as RBHS to create a fund like that. Every school has success. Every school has a beautiful and sometimes awful history. Every school has people that think back to their days of glory at school and want to give back in some way. Why not create a funding network where current students and their whanau can apply for scholarships or grants? It seems the most obvious thing in the world to me. 

As well as this issue, is the need to have sets of SOMETHING in each class. Not per department. It needs to be across the school, ready when needed. Ubiquitous at all times. For all students, no matter their background. 

4. Professionalism on social media

I just finished watching this:
It is beyond awkward. Obviously created to make the discussion happen like any good piece of media, however it got me thinking about the kinds of reasons why I choose to use Twitter professionally. I don't talk about anything other than Twitter. One of my good friends and colleagues (not a teacher) uses Twitter as her space away from Facebook where her friends and family are. We talk on Twitter often - not in detail but sometimes referencing what's happened during the day. I'm nervous about those tweets - because while they're professional in a way - they're still not focussed on the kaupapa. 

Alternatively, my use of Facebook is for my friends and whanau. I don't accept students as 'friends' until they're finished high school - because by that time they're not interested in keeping in touch on social media anymore and almost certainly don't want their favourite teacher being disappointed in them when they post inappropriate stuff online. 

On Facebook I'm relatively political, I discuss big issues happening in the world today - my issues as a teacher in terms of having to deal with these things that come up - everyday poverty, learned helplessness, homelessness, racism, loss and grief. I hardly ever mention stuff that happens at school - preferring to keep that offloading korero to phone calls to whanau and friends who don't live in Rotorua. 

The issue I have is again related to use of students and their photos - I have long time friends and colleagues who share photos of their students online or tag them in pictures. I'm just way too scared to do that. Issues around child kidnapping, CYFs children, custody battles, etc etc etc all spring to mind. It worries me when I see my friends posting this kind of stuff. It's just not on. For me the difficult thing is always finding the right words to say something in a confrontation or disagreement because I revert to that little nervous, scared girl and I so strongly want to stand up in defence of those who have not chosen to put their pictures up in a shared space. 

Heoi ano - it also comes back to digital citizenship and knowing where the line is. For some teachers it's easy to see that line, for others it becomes blurred beyond belief. For some teachers who are a lot older than me, they seem to add students as friends, I tell my students that they'd hate being my friend on Facebook because I post too much. I try to make it into a joke. Likewise with my Twitter account. They ask if they can follow me - I say sure, but I can't follow you back. And anyway, I say, you will not want to follow me too long on Twitter, particularly when there's a conference on!

Finding the ethics and legality in everyday life is an interesting one. Even more so when it comes to being a teacher, a role model, a person that looks after and cares for young people. 

Further Reading:
Education Council. (nd). Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

#EngChatNZ and #LibChatNZ Collaboration: Building Up Readers

Awesome korero!! Massive thanks to the LibChatNZ whanau for getting involved with the EngChatNZ crew :) Nga mihi!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Taboo issue of Suicide

A couple weeks ago one of our ex students passed away. At his poroporoaki there were much tears and frustration. There was celebration of his life too, but ultimately the message from many of the rangatahi was to ask for help. To say something to someone. That you're not alone.

For too long the issue around suicide has been a taboo subject. We whisper about it, afraid to allow any copycat attempts and scared that if we bring it up - it might actually impact someone.
If we don't talk about it though - it becomes a festering sore. In New Zealand we have disgusting statistics for suicide - throughout the ages. Not just teens, not just adults, not just men or women. It's across the board.

We aren't talking about it.

There are lots more people willing to discuss mental health these days but even so - it seems it's still embarrassing to bring these issues up. We need to share these things. Be open to what is really going on in our lives and help each other through the bad times.

Farmers losing livestock, families at breaking points, teenagers who see no other way out of a bad situation.

It's so bad here in NZ that there is an International Indigenous Conference on the issue of suicide - or whakamorihi??

That conference is on today. More info here:

Every day I ask my students if they're okay. I've been doing this for as long as I can remember. It's so so critically important that they know we're there for them. That they know it's okay to ask for help.
Too often we hear these issues. Too often we are expected to pretend it didn't happen. Too often it is whispers around the motu.

If we don't speak up - and we don't talk about it - it's as if the inner turmoil that was going on in those people didn't happen. We can't just pretend.

We must do our utmost at all times to discuss these issues and check in and make sure the students and each other are okay.