Saturday, February 28, 2015


Oh wow.  I am still on such an amazing high after today's Educamp Wellington.

In October last year at ULearn, a few interested educators from Wellington got together informally to discuss making a more formalised connection.  From this WellyEd was born.  In November we had our first meeting and decided to host an Educamp.  We discussed the essence of what an Educamp was (free flowing, knowledge in the room, people connecting, discussions) and built our ideas on that. We spent the next few months planning and promoting the event proving that not only is it great to have a big team of people helping out but collaborating together is special all in itself. Today all that hard work paid off.

To be honest it is always a bit nerve-wrecking when you are hosting an event. Especially one that has nothing planned!  The Smackdown was a great way to start firing up some ideas.

Then it was time for some effective use of post-it notes and a timetable was formed based on what people were interested in.
And then it was systems all go! The sessions that I attended were:

  • Solo Taxonomy (lead by the wonderful +Sonya Van Schaijik)
  • Minecraft (where +Steve Katene shared lots of his knowledge)
  • Genius Hour (where I lead the discussion)
  • Design Thinking (where I made +Matt Ives share all his knowledge)

Then we all shared some kai together thanks for Network 4 Learning (thanks +Tim Kong) and then hit the pub! The learning just never stops happening.  All those informal conversations you have with people are so valuable.

My takeaway things to go and implement from today are:
  • To start using Solo Taxonomy in my class (thanks +Sonya Van Schaijik)
  • To hunt down "Notebook How To" the book suggested by +Tara Taylor-Jorgensen about slowing down writing
  • To access the crowdsourced documents that +Anne Kenneally has collated and that @jackbillie35 shared.
  • Add a creative commons to my blog (thanks +Diana-Grace Morris)
  • Watching some stuff on Cell Storming (thanks +Matt Ives) and make myself some hexagons, laminated of course (thanks +Paula Hay)
  • Read all the links that people have shared with me.
  • Confirm a date for the WellyEd end of term drinks with my co-conspirator +Rebbecca Sweeney 
  • Organise a Maker Party for my class with Jess Weichler
  • Start planning a road trip to #educampHB to see +Juliet Revell 
Woah a big list I know but hey it's good to keep the energy and the connections going.

Thanks to everyone that attended today and shared their knowledge.  Still the best professional development that money can't buy (because it's free!)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Is writing a neglected art?

Stephanie may have lived in a Full House but she still made time for writing

I have just finished 2 evenings of 3 way learning conferences for school. There was a similar theme that occurred when I asked the following question:

"Do you do any writing at home?"

I suddenly started feeling really sorry for writing. Poor neglected writing. Completely overshadowed by basic facts and spelling, sports practice, jazz ballet, swimming lessons and reading. And then I began to think about my own experience of doing this 28 days of writing challenge.  It actually took me a few days to get into the flow of writing. Once I had flow it became easier. Then I ran out of ideas and got writers block. Then I found inspiration again and now I am back in flow.

Maybe my students who struggle with ideas and writing longer stories are actually struggling with finding flow? And maybe flow can only be found through actually writing regularly?

The way I engaged my struggling and reluctant writers last year was through free writing opportunities.  They loved free writing.  They wrote with buddies, created all types of written work and got really creative.  Already this year with a new bunch of students they are asking for more opportunities for free writing. I am worried however that they only see their creativity being in this time.

So my questions to think about is how do I encourage writing as much as I do reading (which is my passion)? How do I get my students excited about teacher directed writing tasks as much as they do their own self-driven writing? How do I encourage them to write at home?

I have a few ideas... I want to utilise the blog as a way to promote audience. I want writing to be published and shared often.  I want to utilise technology to provide other ways to create writing. I am also keen to introduce something similar to #28daysofwriting for my students to help them get into their flow.

I am always open to ideas so please feel to share some with me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You can bring a horse to water but you can't make it drink

For me Twitter is an amazing resource. I have been using it for several years now to connect with other teachers, connect with new ideas, collect resources and get my thoughts out there.  Sometimes I feel a bit sorry for people who are not on Twitter. They are missing out on so much. I've tried to introduce a colleague before but without much luck.

Tonight I was listening to an EduAllstars podcast with Pernille Ripp as the educator being interviewed.  Pernille responded to a question by the host about using social media like twitter. She said

"social media is a journey you have to take on your own"

Yes! Yes! Yes! We have these conversations as connected educators about getting more people connected but actually they kind of have to do it on their own.  They have to have the drive to make things happen for themselves.

My use of Twitter is the reason why I am the e-learning leader at my school. Nobody told me I had to go on twitter or that I had to find my own professional learning network.  I believe my life is richer for it. And certainly my connectedness with what is happening in education at the moment is on the pulse. I want to inspire others to be interested in e-learning and to make connections but I certainly can't force them.

I also feel this way about Educamps.  Can you actually make somebody attend non-compulsory professional development? Will they really want to be there? Will they be able to contribute if they don't want to be there in the first place?

Connectedness is about being open. Open to new ideas and new connections.  And to tell the truth I am ok about that circle of people I am connected to being small. Although when I say small I am technically connected to hundreds of educators. I am also ok about nobody from my school going to the educamp. Of course I'd love them to come and they would be so much richer for it but it has to come from their own drive.

You can lead a horse to the educamp information but you can't make them attend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Best Practice in Science

Slug on my garage wall - fascinating up close!

Tonight I took part in #scichatnz on Twitter. The discussion was around best practice in Science.  I always find these chats really worthwhile. They help me reaffirm my thoughts about the curriculum especially when I am unsure if I am looking at it from the right perspective.

I am a big lover of science.  Biology would be my area of most enjoyment. Plants, nature oh and birds!  I love native birds! I have a membership to Zealandia and I've also joined #birdclub to join up with some other ornithological minded people. I am always fascinated by my world around me.

My catchphrase in the classroom is "Science is everywhere". Because it is. It is growing, breathing, changing, developing and occurring around us constantly. It is not something that is hidden - it likes to show you all its magic tricks.

We can all be scientists because we can use our senses to observe. We can listen and look and feel and experience science happening. It doesn't matter if you are a researcher in a laboratory or a 7yr old in a classroom, the same principles apply.

One of my favourite places to get science information is on Twitter. @Runningwhio runs #SCIENTSSaturday and tweets about some amazingly interesting stuff.

I also enjoy RadioNZ podcasts "The World Around Us", The Moth Science podcasts, David Attenborough TV programmes and Masterchef.

Yes Masterchef!  Science at its best!  Cooking is great science.

I also learn a lot off my students who seem to be fact-finding machines at age 7 and 8. Today a student told me an interesting fact about the planet Titon in regards to us reading an article about glow in the dark ice-cream.  The kids always get books with facts in them out of the library. A book titled "Pestilence and Plague" is a favourite at the moment.

So best practice to me is about engaging students with the real world, with real people (can't wait for the chemistry lecturer parent who is coming in next term to make potions), and with real events. Let them lead with what knowledge they want to find out and most of all have hands on fun!  Learning is doing!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The purpose of planning

Finding the perfect planning template to me is like finding the Holy Grail. It just doesn't seem to exist. I have looked at so many different examples of people's planning and have tried lots of different ways but I am still not sure I am happy about what I am using. So I want to delve into the why part of planning. Why do it? Well there is the obvious things -
 1) So you know what you are going to teach that day/session and
 2) Evidence to justify what you have been doing with your class.

I am a big fan of the overview for planning. I think this is because I would consider myself a flexible teacher who prefers not to be too structured. An overview allows for all the ideas and does not fix them to a time or place. My writing overview from last year was so enjoyable to write. It included all the types of writing my class would do over the year. For me it was my philosophy of teaching writing all on 2 pages. So is having "Writing" written on my weekly plan enough??

Reading is also an interesting area to document. Does there have to be a focus in a guided reading session? Is it necessary to provide "time fillers" for after a book? I am really interested in self-directed learning and am going to try using Daily 5 in my classroom, first as rotations then into more student directed learning in Term 2. I really want the reading time I have with my students to be worthwhile but I wonder if it is totally necessary to prepare questions for comprehension before hand or note down decoding strategies for focus for those on the colour wheel?

NZMaths has wonderful numeracy planners that outline the key questions for each stage with links to resources. Is highlighting and scribbling notes enough or does there need to be a more structured day by day plan for each group?

I guess I am grappling with the need to be flexible with my teaching but also requirements that force me to be structured. My school uses Split Screens for planning.  This is from Guy Claxton and is about integrating dispositions for learning. I wasn't sure of the purpose at first because it wasn't explained very clearly to me. Then I had a go myself and I got it and it suited my style of teaching perfectly (that is going to need a whole other post). I'm still not sure if Split Screens are ok just by themselves?  Then we just got introduced to Concept based planning for our term long inquiry. This also sits very well with me.

What I am wondering now is with the move towards team teaching how teams plan together. What planning is necessary and how long should planning take? How many plans does one actually need and which is the most effective?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Educamp Rotovegas

Virtual connectedness never ceases to amaze me. Today I was in Wellington taking part in professional development that was happening in Rotorua. Not only did I experience it via Twitter but I also was able to listen and watch via a Google Hangout. I've also compiled the majority of tweets that accompanied the Smackdown part of this educamp so that I can revisit the session. I can access links and remember who said what.
I was also interested because next Saturday I am helping run an educamp here in Wellington. I do hope that some of the people who attended the Rotorua one are able to join us virtually too. Distance is no barrier.

Starting the VLPD

Yesterday I met my Mentor for the VPLD (Virtual Professional Learning and Development) programme on a Skype call.  It is always a bit nerve-wrecking when you are set up with a mentor. Is there going to be a connection? Are they going to understand where you are coming from? What support will they provide?

It is safe to say that my mentor Lorraine ticks all the boxes and after an hour of talking I felt motivated and inspired to start setting my goals for this year. My next problem is how to narrow down those goals to only a few.  I need a goal around my leadership in e-learning and within that there are two goals: the technology implementation and the pedagogical implementation. And yes I see them as being two things. Organising the technology itself is huge. Enabling others to use it also huge. Then there is me. I have so many ideas about what I want to implement in my classroom in my own practice. So perhaps I will need 3 goals?

The template for goal setting for this programme and the example given are very useful but I do think I will be requiring the guidance of a critical friend to help me make them manageable and measurable (looking at you +Rebbecca Sweeney). My mentor should then be able to also give me some guidance. I am still feeling the need for the critical friend part as my relationship with my mentor is new and I don't really know them yet. Sometimes you just need someone who knows you to give you a gentle push/shove/squash/reality check.

My mentor did give some good advice on linking my goals to my appraisal goals at my school. This means that there is no doubling of work.  I was a bit unhappy about my appraisal goal at the end of last year. My syndicate leader sort of made it for me (as opposed to it coming from me). We had just undertaken a new appraisal system (Triples) and to be honest I wasn't really sure about what was supposed to happen.  I am hoping I get to change my goal with my new syndicate leader and to have more ownership over the process too.

#28days of writing

I've fallen off the bandwagon at the end of a rather busy and tiresome week (full of late night) but I did awake this morning to this tweet from +Bridget ComptonMoen which I could totally sympathise with!

Oh good. Somebody else was feeling like I was. But as soon as Bridget put the tweet out the help came...

So I thought I would like to reflect on how I've found this challenge so far.

To be honest I was a bit hesitant to join up initially because I knew that February is a crazy time in the teaching profession. You meet your new class, you set up new routines, you do lots and lots of planning, meet the teacher evening, 3 way learning conferences, new school initiatives etc etc. However I am really glad that I did. The first couple of posts I found excruciatingly hard. I was thinking too hard about what what to write and how to phrase it. I was also aware of my audience and also about the numerous seasoned bloggers whose posts I always enjoy. I actually had put a block on my writing.

What I needed to do (and this eventually happened) was to stop thinking about my wider audience and think about writing for myself. Now this concept is interesting because I teach my students to always be aware of their audience. I expand their concept of audience of themselves and me (as the person they think they are writing for) to the possibility that others may want to read it. And here I was bringing my audience back to me.

But maybe that is what I needed to do to get into the flow of writing. Yes I admit I have started posts then pressed delete because I have thought that nobody would have wanted to read that. However I have gotten better at just writing. It is raw but it is authentic and to be honest I'm not worried if anybody reads it or not.

I'm now back on the bandwagon. I'm going to take some of +Tom Barrett's other ideas and play catch-up.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bits of paper

I have been reflecting this week about bits of paper. I have a lot of bits of paper, unfiled on my desk, around my desk, behind my desk, in my desk drawers and in 2 different boxes and an in-tray.

I got given 2 pieces of paper in staff meeting this week that I had never seen before and then got told that I had also been given them this time last year. Useful information on them too! I told a colleague this and she agreed, so many pieces of paper and no time to read them.

So how do we manage this constant flow of paper so that we don't end up drowning in it? (or getting lots of paper cuts?).

I know of teachers that spend whole days in the holidays filing. Surely there must be another way to make sure you read the pieces that you need and can find other pieces when you need them? Are there any seasoned professionals out there willing to share their tips and tricks to keeping a tidy desk?

I might have to start a Pinterest board for this...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Goodbye Celia

Yesterday I was reading that Celia Lashlie had terminal cancer and today she is gone...

I don't usually get deep when people I don't actually know in real life die. I didn't cry and fuss with Princess Diana or wail about Whitney Houston but Celia, well she's got me feeling a little sad. I think this is because I really admired her straight up approach and her passion for what she believed in. She was so real and authentic and I really wanted her to pop round for a cup of tea and have a chin-wag.

I've mentioned Celia before in my posts. A lot of her ideas resonate with me. In particular the idea about boys needing physical affirmation rather than verbal. She is one of the reasons I have bruises on my shins after a lunchtime duty - I get right in there with the boys and play football with them. Joining them in the usual push and shove to get the ball. Celia said that this physical interaction lets a boy know "he's alright". She was also well aware of the complications of this in our very safety preoccupied world where we as teachers need to be "careful" about physical touch with students. She was willing to debate it too. Especially when it came to male teachers being able to bond with male students. Such an important part of positive role-modelling that isn't "safe" to do.

I have always enjoyed sharing her thoughts about how boys watch the interactions between their parents and pick up so many undercurrents and misguiding information about gender roles. Like how Mum always finishes off the dishes because Dad never does a good enough job - what message does this send to their son?

Celia also saw the potential in each child. "Every child is born pure and filled with their own particular brand of magic". Her work was based on relationships. On people. Real people who weren't always perfect.

Radio NZ have put together this collection of her audio discussions. I know I will be revisiting these over the next few weeks and I hope you can find time to listen to them too. I hope that her work can continue as she wished. Rest in peace Celia. You will not be forgotten.

Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane
A totara has fallen in the forest of Tane  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Setting up a Makerspace culture

Today marked the launch of our syndicate Makerspace Mondays. Every Monday afternoon approx 80 students in our syndicate of Year 3 & 4 students will be making stuff. I was really keen to introduce this to my class this year and when I presented the idea to my syndicate they also embraced the idea. Man it feels good when others "get" what you are thinking. In the junior part of the school they run Discovery Time and the Makerspace idea really connects well with this. However we want to take it "Next Level" - ha get it? Level 2 of the curriculum of course!

I am really wanting the students to get into some real gritty projects but I appreciate that this new found freedom of creativity needs a few boundaries to begin with (perhaps think of them more as margins) so that students are aware of the many different ways that they might "make" and to perhaps spark ideas.  When I was introducing the activities and the drive behind this activity one of my students summed it up:

"Sometimes when you are building stuff and it doesn't work then you try something different and end up building something even better" - R. age 7

I showed the whole group of students some pictures of people working in a Makerspace environment and then also showed them what coding was because only around an eighth of students knew what it was. My had split the 3 classrooms into 3 "spaces" for today and they will change each week as we extend ideas. 

1) a building space (think lego and blocks)
2) art and construction (think hot glue guns and cardboard boxes)
3) coding (using ipads and chromebooks)

Interestingly enough the kids with free choice split almost evenly across the 3 activity spaces! I took the coding session.  It was a big day for me as this was the first time that the school iPads (that I have been working tirelessly to get up and running) have been used.  I handed them out and told the kids to check out the Scratch Jr app and Hopscotch.  I gave no other instructions other than they were to help each other out and that I was no expert. Wow. What happened next was awesome. I had 20 something kids busily engrossed in creating all sorts of animations. It was also really quiet. That noise level that you desire in your class but don't always get. They were communicating with each other on this whole other level through dialogue but also visual/kinaesthetic actions.

In the other classes the students were also given little instruction.  The art construction area blew me away. Some of the stuff that they were making was phenomenal.  My colleague reflected with me at the time about how into it they were. She was a little surprised about how hands on they wanted to be. My reflection was that perhaps they didn't have opportunities to do this stuff at home as much any more? And that perhaps we beat the creativity out of kids because we don't give them enough opportunities to make things?

Across all 3 spaces students worked collaboratively with others and engaged in dialogue about their creations. There was learning happening everywhere. 


I used the two R words when I introduced the afternoon to the students and used McGyver and Bear Grylls to help paint the scene.  I definitely started seeing these learning dispositions start to develop in this very short time. I am so incredibly excited for next Monday afternoon. Who knows what will be created??

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Image credit: KateAnnexTerrasochi

Last year I took part in one of the most powerful learning experiences of my teaching career so far. A colleague (and friend) asked me if I would come and talk to her class as part of their Puberty discussions. She wanted to dispel the myth in the classroom that gay people ride around on unicorns that fart rainbows. A previous discussion with the class had established that the students knew somebody's aunties cousins neighbours letterbox was gay. They had no reality of which to base their understandings of how people of the same sex have relationships.

Another colleague and I came into the class to be "real" people. To be honest I was a little hesitant at first. At what risk was I putting myself at? Then a stronger power overrode those fears "wow, I could make a significant difference to those students lives and the way that they view themselves and each other". So myself and another colleague were able to talk to and with a class of Year 5 & 6 students about relationships and sexuality in a safe and supportive environment. All the questions were valid and the reflections were amazing. Like the kid who doesn't usually say much who wanted to tell us how awesome we both were and the kid who said that if he decided that he was gay when he was older would be ok with it. Oh and the blooper that happened when a student was feeding back about what he knew about same-sex weddings and said something about them wearing no pants (and meaning something else) and us all having a good ole laugh together about it.

One of the key ideas that we got across that day was the notion of Heteroassumption - that people always assume that you are have a partner of the opposite gender. We focused on how it would feel if you said "So have you got a new boyfriend?" or "Which boy do you fancy?"  to a girl that was gay. They all thought it would be pretty stink. We looked at how to reframe these questions so that they were gender neutral. I was also quite big on the fact that there is no such thing as a gay lunch or gay car parks so why call it a gay wedding? The students were able to reflect on their use of language and also the language and norms that are presented to them.  We live in a very heteroassumptive world!

We were very lucky that the class we spoke with had a supportive and open culture already and the kids respected us and didn't turn the event into gossip. I'm not sure how it would have gone with other classes. This is an area of the curriculum (Health and Wellbeing/Hauora/Sexuality/Relationships) that I am not sure gets done any justice. I worry about those children growing up in a heteroassumptive world where the messages they get from the media, their parents and peers give them a hetereonormative viewpoint. There are many discussions that could lead on from this blog post but my 28mins is up...


Are you listening?

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Listening comprehension is an area that usually gets a mention once a year after a PAT test but then goes back in to hiding in the shadows of it's older sibling, reading comprehension. My theory is that listening skills need as much training as reading skills. Yet we sometimes neglect to teach or encourage this important skill.

Traditionally, listening posts have been the mainstay of listening "tools" in the classroom. The problem is that technology is moving fast and tapes have been replaced by CD's, CD's have been replaced by MP3's and each time the resources are costing money to replace. So now what?

Podcasts and audiobooks are now so readily available on a digital platform. You don't even have to step into a public library now to access an audiobook. You can download it via an app like Overdrive and have access it for a few weeks. Podcasts are turning up at an alarming rate on iTunes and students are even beginning to make their own podcasts. And best of all they are free?

So why make the art of listening a focus? Well I noticed the first time I put on the Serial podcast (the podcast that got me back into podcasts) I didn't actually listen to it properly. I missed really important chunks of information.  For anybody else that may have listened to this particular podcast then you will agree with me that the whole point of this podcast is to listen to all the facts and make your opinion. Hard to do when you've missed half of it!  I actually had to listen to it for a second time. I realised that I needed to train my brain to listen with concentration and not be distracted by other visual, auditory or tactual events that could be happening around me. I had to disconnect from my phone/computer/thinking about other things.  I have now become a master at listening to podcasts while driving (I do concentrate on that!!) and doing chores.  Any time that I can stop thinking in a deep way I try to listen to a podcast. Food for the brain!

Kids are exposed to so many visual stimuli these days that vision must be overriding the auditory system in some way. I am noticing myself that I am becoming overstimulated by visual information often.  There also seems to be a rise in students with auditory processing disorder. Interestingly enough, teaching listening skills is one of the recommendations. Apparently it improves with age but are we not teaching enough specific listening skills in the early years? It makes you think.

So for home learning this year I have suggested that one of the questions on the form that the students fill out online each week (yay for google forms!) that there is one about audiobooks and podcasts. I believe that they should have as much status as books. I am interested to see if the use of these increases as the year goes on and I give more recommendations and links to these on our planning site. I'm also hoping their general listening skills improve too!

Postscript: Apologies for mentioning Serial yet again in a blog post. I guess it really had an impact on me! If you haven't listened to it yet make sure you do!

Friday, February 13, 2015

I.T. support is not e-learning

I have spent the last week feeling rather frustrated at the set up of our school iPads. Last year I put in a budget and got the money to spend. I got an amazing storage system to put them in, the iPads arrived and since then they have been locked away ready to be set up.

Over the last few years I have seen the trials and tribulations of ipad set up and deployment via Twitter and the VLN. Teachers have been creative in setting up storage solutions and how they manage apps. I admire their resourcefulness. I made the executive decision that with the money set aside for this technology it was best to get everything set up by a company.

One of these reasons is because my e-learning role needed to be clarified with staff. I was not the person who "fixed" computer problems. Within the first month of my role being announced I received numerous requests for all sorts of major and minor technical faults. Some I could fix with pure common sense but I was angry that I got pinned into that role. I had to make it clear to people that the I.T. person that comes in every few weeks is still the expert in this area. The concept of e-learning is quite new to a lot of staff who are really unsure what that might look like. I already had a big job on my hands.

My dream was for a seamless roll out of iPads so that teachers did not need to worry about any technical aspect and could easily turn the iPad on and it would work. I thought this was a simple, straightforward idea. But it seems I was wrong.

I knew what apps I wanted and how I wanted each pod of iPads to be configured. I got us set up on the VPP (volume purchasing program) so that apps could be pushed out and synced remotely. However I have spent the last week entering passwords, making folders, adding restrictions and fiddling about. Today it took the whole lunchtime for myself and my D.P to get 5 iPads ready for some teachers to take to a course on Monday. It was good having her help as she got to see my frustration at how long it takes.

So I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste of time me doing all that stuff. My time is precious as it is. I wonder how many other teachers out there are having to cross over into being technical experts? Should I time leading in this area of learning be spent doing the hard work or should we be spending time with other staff empowering them to use the technology in our practice? Is this becoming common practice?

Perhaps we need (as there are in some high schools already) I.T people on site or visiting on a more regular basis. Or maybe they need to develop their services to meet the needs of the changing technological landscape of the primary school?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Key Competencies of Team Work

Isn't it interesting that when we talk about how students learn we mention words like "connected", "collaboration", "relationships" "interaction" and how the Key Competencies (KC's) are an important part of the curriculum yet when we don't always apply these to how we work together as teachers?

If we are to model to students how to work together to create meaningful learning then shouldn't we be following the KC's too?

An effective team of teachers, whether in a team-teaching environment or in a more traditional syndicate, need to work closely together to share ideas and discuss them regularly. One may not always agree on what somebody else has to say but disagreement or dissonance (love that word) is how we shape our ideas and reflect on our teaching philosophy. The aim is not to become cut-out teachers from the same mould for that would be boring and a little impractical.  Differences in teaching style are good. Interest in different areas of the curriculum are good. New ideas are fantastic! A team therefore needs to have some differences but also have cohesiveness. United but original.

How the KC's might look like in a teaching team:

Reflective practice. Sharing ideas. Talking regularly.

Relating to Others
Establishing clear communication. Listening. Talking. Working together.

Understanding Languages, Symbols and Text
Having a common understanding of pedagogy that underpins our practice. Knowing about educational trends, ideas and language.

Managing Self
Effective communication. Being professional. Taking on roles and responsibilities to benefit the team.

Participating and Contributing
Being a member of a team. Bringing ideas to the team. Sharing at meetings. Sharing resources. Looking after each other, supporting each other.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I have always been one of those people who has always struggled to understand why there are so many courses and books specifically on how to engage boys in learning. I haven't had any difficulties in doing this so I haven't really understood why others have. But then I didn't actually realise that I am a "boys" teacher. My Principal kindly pointed this out to me last year. Not just boys specifically but that I am gender balanced in the way I treat my students. I can't believe I didn't notice this myself.

So I thought I might today unpack what it is that I do to create balance in my teaching. The first thing that springs to mind is me. Who I am. I play football, I watch sport, and when a student starts talking about Brendan McCullum I mention Nathan McCullum too. I join in all P.E and fitness. I also go to Zumba because I love to dance. I dance everyday in class with my students when we have GoNoodle brain breaks. I am really quite hands on.  I also have no bias towards one area of the curriculum.  Science, maths, writing, reading, P.E., art, technology, drama, music.

When students come to talk to me, I listen. I also believe that boys in particular need reassurance that it is ok to be them. Celia Lashlie put it best in an interview I listened to of her on National Radio - boys actually need a more physical way of relating. Playing tag games, a firm touch on the shoulder, me tackling them at lunchtime and stealing the football off them (always surprises them the first time!) are all ways that I make sure I spend time with the boys allowing them to be boys. I discuss sport, computers, minecraft, science and gross stuff on a regular basis.

With the girls they just want someone to talk to about their lives. Loom bands, brownies, ballet, jazz, cats, animals, books...


But that's the thing. I don't. I am always breaking down stereotypes in my class. Last year the girls got into coding, the boys wore pink shirts. The thing that is becoming clear is that the RELATIONSHIPS I have with my students are the most important thing in my teaching. I know my learners because I make time to get to know them. I understand them as a learner and perhaps have a good understanding of some of those differences in gender.

So that's me. But I respect that everybody is not me. What do you do in your classroom to ensure gender balance in your teaching? Are you aware if you are showing a bias towards one particular group?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Encouraging dissonance in students

School, or should I say the culture of school, encourages agreement. The teacher is always right! Right? What we learn is always right? Yes? If everyone else thinks that then it must be right? Right? You getting where I'm going here? Yes?

Dissonance, or the ability to think differently and challenge ones thoughts is a skill that needs to be taught because it doesn't come naturally - especially in a traditional school context.

Dissonance can be uncomfortable at first. It is rather risky and requires a high level of thinking. Usually it means going against the status quo and potentially being wrong. But is there such a thing as a wrong answer? (I say no!)

I really like to get my students involved with current affairs. Students do have an opinion. I have also found that these 7 and 8 year olds also have a good sense of social justice.

This morning's headline screamed for a class discussion:

It had gotten a few of us teachers riled up this morning on Twitter so I thought I might present the two opposing sides to my class and get them to debate them. I split them into "Team Pamela" and "Team John". Pamela being the linguist who is anti picture books and John being the reviewer who is pro picture books.

The first bit of dissonance I got was from a Year 3 student who was really miffed to be in Team Pamela "because I don't believe it!" I explained to him that the idea of the exercise was to see another point of view. He joined the group but I could clearly see he didn't agree with me! And he doesn't have to agree with me (that's the cool part!)

The groups met separately to discuss their given view point then they came back together to debate the idea. The debate itself wasn't overly strong. A lot of students chose not to be involved in a speaking role. I now know who isn't afraid to speak their mind! Interestedly enough the one student I have retained from last year had a prominent role. Last year she was rather shy. I'm guessing that because she had done this before with me that she had gained some confidence to voice her opinion.

To end the session I ask students to form a human continuum to see what their opinions are at the end. Pamela had a few fans. Quite outspoken ones actually. Maybe they admired her bolshy claims?

General consensus: Picture books are good for you!

Level of dissonance: beginning stages...