Wednesday, December 10, 2014

End of Year Appraisal 2014

I am smashing this album at the moment! (Pun intended). It's definitely a blast from the past. Thank you Billy for guiding me through my reflection tonight. :) 

Part 1:

Criteria 4: How do I continue to advance my professional learning as a teacher?

Working collaboratively this year has really advanced my knowledge and understanding of teaching. We are constantly talking and discussing best practice, quality teaching and best ways of organising things etc.

Twitter has also been a fantastic way to consolidate, confirm or challenge my thinking and my ideas. Similarly, I am immersed with best practice.

I am really keen on the idea of changing the title of my job: "teacher" has such a "sit down and shut up and listen" connotation. I've never been that type of teacher.  I believe that learning is something that you have to do; be involved in; getting your hands dirty. It's not something that is done to you.

I therefore like to think of myself as a "lead learner". In my classroom, I am not a teacher but an 'expert learner'.  I will strive to model how expert learners learn, behave and think (attitudes/values).


Criteria 12: How do I advance the learning of ākonga through critical inquiry within my professional learning?

I now have an excellent understanding of assessment data - reading, writing and maths assessments - and I am able to analyse these to design a learning pathway for individuals.

For example, in reading I can use the data from a low word recognition score and create specific goals with a learner around decoding accurately.

Being aware of what learners' needs are at the core of my professional role as a teacher (or lead learner). It is essential that goals are shared with individuals because this is at the heart of being a successful learner.

Part 2: Coherence –Teacher Self-Check

Maths review attached here.

Part 3: Inquiry/On-line Reflections

Bring up your staff blog. Share in detail a professional learning opportunity you were part of that linked directly with action in your class. What did you do?  What was the impact on students?  How did this influence any future in-class actions?  Share the on-line journal entry.

Part 4: Consideration for personal/professional goals in 2015 and beyond 

What elements of your professional practice are your established or emerging strengths?
I feel I have stepped up in terms of developing my leadership this year. My safe-zone person (Jacqui) left at the end of last year and, though I was looking forward to learning more from her when working collaboratively, doing it on my own has been an excellent experience. I hope I have done this with integrity, equity and with mana.  Working with others and 'influencing change' has helped me believe in myself that I can actually do this.

I thought my next stepping stone would be out of RSS, I never imagined that I would win a Team Leader job at Russell Street School. Wow.

I can't wait to move forward with Learner Agency with Joy and with Year 4s in 2015.

What elements of your professional practice require strengthening?
Because of winning a Team Leader position, I am hyper-focused in learning as much as I can and challenging my self to be the most effective leader / lead learner I can be.

What would be most useful for you (with a focus on maths and agency in 2015)?
Everything and anything! Bring it on! Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Breakouts and Keynotes #ulearn14

Confirming Ideas

#Ulearn13 (as seen here in my last year reflections), was an absolute game changer for me and it completely revolutionised my practice.  My journey during the past year has been epic.  Developing Learner Agency in my single-cell class, then trying to make that work over 4 classes with 5 teachers and 120 kids has been one-hell-of-a-journey.

Over the next three days during #ulearn14, I consolidated and confirmed a lot of my ideas and beliefs about teaching and learning in the 21C.  I attempted to connect with some of the twitter peeps I follow, I even printed out my @fuse711 handle so that people might recognise me.  I guess it was pretty hard to figure me out based on my mammoth beard... Lol, actually it wasn't until I changed my profile picture that some people tweeted me "Oh that's who you were!" (@mrs_hyde) made me think I should have changed it before I went... 


Of the people I did meet, @heymilly, @Juliet_Revell, @hull_karla, @CaroBush, Ollie and Jenny from @StonefieldsSch, @mrehu, @CatrionaPene, @steve_katene, @kyliegorrie, to name a few, I really enjoyed our chats about learning, pedagogy, passions, 'this is how we do' and good old fashion fun and enjoyment.  Keep up the good work team. Let's keep up this conversation.

Where to now?

Minecraft, minecraft!  What a cool tool 4 school!

Keep on, keepin' on! I believe, whole-heartedly, that MLE, MLP or whatever you want to call it, IS the way forward.  It makes so much sense and the benefits for the learner by far outweigh the negatives. And that's what we're all here for.

Breakout Two: Chrissie Butler @chrissiebutler

Keynote 2: Adam Lefstein @ALefstein

I switch off here... sorry :)

Keynote 3: Dr Katie Novak @KatieNovakUDL

Breakout Three: Ollie Baker & Jenny Pearson @StonefieldsSch

...And was too busy playing games here...

Breakout Four: Amanda Hyde @mrs_hyde @CaroBush @kasseylee11 @BeLchick1

Breakout Six: Jessica Videl & Amelia Sale @jessiccakatex  @ameliasale 

Keynote 4: Quinn Norton @quinnnorton

  1. hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art; can meet, socialize and collaborate.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Modern Learning Environments: where learning takes place

Breakout One: Mark Osborne @mosborne01

Mark Osborne is hands-down one of the best presenters I had seen at #ulearn14.  His delivery hits the spot every time.  Has he been a Keynote speaker before?  Because he should.  Excellent breakout!
So he took us on a small journey through Education's 1.0 and 2.0 eras.  If you went to ulearn, or you visit them frequently, you are probably well aware of this journey.  However, it's a journey that still baffles me.  I remember going on my OE when I was 20 (12 years ago... you do the math) and 'hotmail' had only just come out.  Nobody had the internet in Mandurah, WA so we had to drive to the local internet shop and pay $6 for 15minutes of internet time.  It seems crazy how far we've come.

Here's a link to a timeline of ICT events that occurred between 1999 and 2005, based on a reflection on a Dorothy Burt (@dorothyjburt) presentation from 2010.  And look at how far things have come since then! It's truly mind-boggling. 

The point is that nobody actually knows what Education 3.0 will actually look like until probably it's over and we're trying to figure out what 4.0 is.  So Mark led us through this idea:
It was both exciting and frightening trying to imagine the possibilities... So how do teachers facilitate learning for jobs that are swiftly becoming obsolete by automation or that already have?  It was beginning to sound like a quote from The Terminator.  Was I going to be replaced by an automation or Google? Mark brought us back to the quote:

Phew!  I think I'm safe.  Because the world isn't concerned about knowledge anymore.  It's not about what you know; it's about what you can do, or improve, or modify, or change, or simplify with what you know.  
"Education 3.0 needs to be involved with complex communication and 
expert thinking and it's there in the ." @mosborne01 @mrs_hyde

Where to now? 

I am on the right journey!  
- More inquiry; real-authentic-learning of maths, writing and reading through inquiry
- Keep challenging my team and coaching my parents and the wider whanau about futurist pedagogy - Keep focussing on split screen thinking when designing learning tasks or challenges.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Prof. Yoram Harpaz: Keynote 1 Reflection

Driving to #ulearn14, I was filled with the feeling of excitement and dread.  Excitement; because I was going to ULEARN14, I would be connecting face-to-face with some amazing educators I have met via Twitter and admire considerably, and because I would be presenting for the very first time.  Dread; because I knew I would feel exhausted by the end of it. Tired, beyond words.

The first Keynote speaker, Prof. Yoram Harpaz, challenged me in thinking what my role is as a teacher or an educator with the sector.  Does my idealogy beliefs about teaching and learning suit the learners I am responsible for?  Or am I just part of a bigger, hidden agenda; to create an ideal student? Does this equip the learner for real life skills to survive in the real world?  Or set them up for failure? 
The challenging idea Prof. Yoram Harpez put forward, was that using a combination of the above "pedagogical sentiment" does not work.  You must choose one and stick with it otherwise the learner will become confused.  I guess I see some sense in this but I intent to trial it before I make an informed choice.  That's how I roll.

A brief reflection, but I enjoyed Yoram's accent, sense of humour and his message.  A collaborative document to contribute to and/or follow during Prof. Yoram Harpaz's keynote speech can be accessed HERE. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

#ulearn14 Challenges

I have just updated the #ulearn14 challenge for our team this year.  @CJsymon dominated last year and won! I wonder who will take it out this year...?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Agency Kickers

Attitudes and values: How can we explicitly develop these? 

Amesbury School's 'Insider Learning Model' explaining learner habits.

Learner Habits at Amesbury School:

"I accept that interruptions can occur and flexibly get back on track again. I can share my time with others if needed, but still get all I need to do done."

"I am inspiring for others and seek to help others along their learning journey."

"I know that failure brings success.  I learn from my mistakes and know that I can overcome them."

"I can take a range of roles in a group depending on what needs to be done." (Ooo, I like this one!)

"I actively seek challenges because I know they will push me to 'raise the bar.'"

"I reflect deeply on my learning and goals, and make changes based on those reflections."

"I can put myself in the problem space purposefully because I know that is where good learning comes from.  I have strategies to then work through the messiness into clarity."

Related Links

Amesbury School. - School Website
Learner Habits - Russell Street School

Leading me through my thinking in this blog post is this epic album! I received a facebook notification the other day saying that The Chili's released this cracker album on that day in 1991! Wow!  

So how do teachers help to develop self-agency attitudes and values?

To me, the above statements (@AmesburySch) are some big kickers for learner agency. They're like, smack-in-the-face-I-am-a-self-agent-learner, or #smackinthefaceIamaselfagentlearner. Some students take to this style of learning like a duck to water.  However, others take a lot more coaching to get there.

So what makes the difference here with these types of learners?

When I first started teaching (coming up like 9 years ago), I had the mentality that I was supposed to know all the answers and ask all the questions. Well, I didn't. Therefore, I had to go through this "fake it 'til you make it" stage. Haha, you're laughing because it happened to you too!  3 years at Massey University College of Education and I was still scared s***less!  

My point is, is that even in that teacher-directed environment, the good kids were the ones who could sit still on the mat, listen, follow instructions, know what to do when they'd finished etc.  I would call them "amazing learners".  They would smile and carry on with their learning feeling happy...  In our MLE at Russell Street School, it is these same types of learners that are thriving at being self-agent learners.  They thrive because they are motivated by the teachers expectations.  Show them the bar and they rise to it every time. So is it the pedagogy?  Or the type of learner personality?

What about the other kids?  You know the ones! The unmotivated. The task-avoiders. The distracters. The can't-do-anything-independently kids. They require, extra coaching, extra explaining, extra support, an extra reminder, another extra reminder, an extra push in the right direction.  And that's what it's all about isn't it?

Going back to my initial question (sorry for rambling... there you go, I'm still doing it) one of the attitudes we chose to explore and explicitly teach is "The Learning Pit".  We first were introduced to the learning pit by @StonefieldsSch.  I thought it was awesome and I couldn't wait to get into it. We planned a series of different tasks for the children to complete. Each task had a choice; an easy task or a challenging task. The children had to make a choice of what to complete and stick with it before the timer started. Some of the tasks were to write the alphabet down forwards or backwards, write a sentence with your dominant hand or your non-dominant hand, catch a ball standing up or lying on your back etc.

Unpacking the results was fascinating.  Some only chose the easy tasks, some only the hard ones, some a blend of both. Check out Emma's explanation of her Learning Pit sample:


Self-reflection to help enlighten children is being introduced into classrooms worldwide

There are two jobs that have become a lot more difficult in recent years. One is being a teacher, which was never easy at the best of times. But in an age of virtually unlimited opportunities for distraction and shrinking attention spans, getting kids to focus on their schoolwork can be (with apologies to dentists) like pulling teeth.
I know: as a former school aide working with young children in inner-city schools, it was often all that I could manage just to break up fights and keep the decibel level below that of an international airport. Any learning that took place in such an environment was a small miracle.
The other job that has become harder nowadays, of course, is being a student. Believe me, I sympathise with their plight, too! Today’s kids are weaned on electronic devices to move between one website, text message, or video game and the next at lightning speed. Where does a child learn how to direct their attention to just one maths problem or reading assignment when there are so many distractions a click away?
Yet recently I watched a movie that gave me hope. Room to Breathe by director Russell Long was filmed in a public school in San Francisco. The Marina Middle School with 900 students is one of the largest in the bay area, and it has the dubious distinction of having the highest suspension rate in the city.
We see why in the opening shots – pencil-throwing kids, schoolyard squabbles and frenetic hallways. Children fail, we are told by guidance counsellor Ling Busche, not because they are stupid, but because they are unable to focus: ”There is this sense of nonstop entertainment and whatever is happening in the lesson often becomes secondary.”
So it is surprising, given this chaotic atmosphere, that Mr Ehnle’s home room has been chosen for an innovative new program in self-reflection called ”mindfulness”.
Actually mindfulness is not ”new” at all. It originated more than 2000 years ago in the monasteries of south Asia. This form of bare-bones meditation, in which attention is focused on bodily sensations, is now being introduced to classrooms from San Francisco to Sydney and scores of other cities worldwide, less as a path towards enlightenment than a practical method to help kids settle down and learn.
The idea, according to Megan Cowan, the instructor from the group Mindful Schools who worked with Ehnle’s class, is to give students ”tools and skills” to tame the disorder within their own minds.
A tall order, as Cowan herself discovers when her efforts to get the kids to sit still and focus on their breath are greeted with wisecracks and expressions of boredom. She wants to move these disruptive ones out of the classroom for the duration of the mindfulness exercises, but the assistant principal reminds her that in public education nobody is excluded.
So Cowan soldiers on with the full class and, surprisingly, by the end of the film some of her ”toughest cases” have come to value what these simple techniques offer them.
Where does a child learn how to direct their attention to just one maths problem or reading assignment when there are so many distractions a click away?
For example, Omar, whose older brother has been killed in gang violence, testifies that mindfulness has taught him to step back from potential fight situations without reacting. Jacqueline’s mother says on camera that her daughter has become more respectful of others and now gets better grades. And Gerardo, an aspiring artist, says that mindfulness helps him to concentrate better when he paints and draws.
These modest ”success stories” are backed up by a growing body of research.
In one of the largest studies to date, 2nd and 3rd graders attending an inner-city school experienced significant improvements in concentration, academic performance and social skills, which were sustained more than three months after the end of their mindfulness program.
Research has also shown that exercises such as listening to ambient sounds and focusing attention on breathing have a profound effect on human physiology, slowing respiration lowering blood pressure levels and reducing harmful levels of stress. The practice is not a panacea. Clearly lots of kids need more than a few quiet moments in their day to calm them down.
But for many who took part in the training at Marina Middle School it was a revelation. It showed the teens for the first time that they need not be puppets dangling on the strings of their own overactive minds. On the contrary, they can make choices about how to direct their thoughts and respond to their own emotions.
This is something that adults also need to learn. Mindfulness programs are increasingly being introduced into hospitals, drug treatment programs and even corporate boardrooms across the nation.
”Mindfulness does not make problems go away,” says Megan Cowan. ”But the way that you are meeting your experiences changes to allow more lightness and happiness.”
And kids who are calm and happy are disproportionately the ones who succeed at school.
Let’s hope that mindfulness training spreads to more of our nation’s embattled schools, where teachers and students alike can use all the help they can get.
This article appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald on October 12 2012 and was written by Richard Schiffman.
About Richard Schiffman

Monday, September 29, 2014

Term 3 Reflection: Developing Self-Agency

Term 3 has been a hugely successful term for Poutama.  Teaching and learning has really stepped to the fore as we have settled down into a great routine.  I am so proud to be part of this team! 

Wow, it has been a very busy term; Ki-o-Rahi Tournament, Winter Tournament, School Visits, Trip to Amesbury, Jugyou Kenkyuu, Mathex Competition, Northern Cluster Arts Festival, DanceNZ Made, Cup Cake Day, Book Character Dress Up Day, Presentation about Twitter @ , Parent Evening, Inquiry Sharing... Wow!  Us teachers are crazy!! It's all good though, one of these learning opportunities could be the spark that ignites a passion with one of our learners.

We are still continuing to develop "Self-Agency" (see here for a description) in Poutama and one of the major developments we have introduced is the "Learn It, Practice It, Prove It" model. We wanted our kids to make decisions about their learning based on their needs.  We introduced this to trial for our maths program:

Firstly, we had a pre-test to find out what our learners knew about fractions.  Then they put their 'basketball' onto the goal that they needed to work on. From there, learners chose workshops based on their goal and their needs.   We set up practice activities for each goal. Then we created a planning sheet where students would jot down practice activities they completed or learn it workshops they attended.  Finally, children would book in to see a roving teacher and prove that they know their goal.  If successful, the adult would sign off their goal and you go back to the beginning for the next goal. The model was hugely successful!

Check out Aye's explanation of how it works:

Now it's the first day of the holidays and we were back at school finalising our #ulearn14 presentation and implementing a similar "Learn It, Practice It, Prove It" model with writing.  Oh the possibilities!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

JK reflections

I was really proud of our JK groups lesson today! It was supposed to be about writing but our Learner Disposition / learner agency came out 'on top' . It was refreshing to target something topical and current for us. Good call Elly.

So after visiting Amesbury School in Wellington we were amazed by their igroups: introducing, initiating, independent and insider. We had spent a good amount of time during Term 1 unpacking our version: guided, self-managing, self-directed and self- agency but had not revisited them much during the second term.  It was time to get back into it!

We decided to just focus on one aspect or goal: the learning pit. I had been inspired by a workshop I had seen at Amesbury School, blended with some Stonefields School philosophy. Learners who are within the self-directed and self-agency goals constantly put themselves in the pit because they know that that's where quality learning happens.

We were interested in seeing what task the students would choose if there was an easy option or a hard option: would children take the easy road? Or the hard road? Our observations were very interesting. Take a moment to think. How would your class go? Would you have children that you would expect to only choose the easy option? You betcha! But there were some surprises too!

To introduce the concept of the pit, we included some emotive words that the students marked in some way to indicate how they felt during the activity. They quickly associated that feeling challenged, frustrated, angry even were feelings involved with 'being in the pit'.

So where does quality learning happen? I ask my @tribeoflearners.

In the pit was their response...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Developing Agency with a Dynamic Framework

Readings from our latest Call Back Day.  Thank you Rita!  Always a refreshing and insightful day working with you. I loved the creative challenge of turning our notes into a rap. Check out the video

Notes and quotes for my thinking can be found in my twitter feed.

Mid-Year Appraisal 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Teacher Only Day Notes

A teacher only day scheduled for Queen's Birthday weekend was a sweet touch! I spent the morning at College Street Normal School, with Ross and Corinne, discussing a range of topics. Some of which were Professional Development, high quality teaching, high quality delivery of the teaching of writing, teacher matrices etc. It was a really interesting discussion and it sparked a series of neurons within me.

We took a tour of the kura and what really stood out for me was the "shared common language" evident in every classroom. Teachers, students and wider staff were aware of the criteria (or what it took to be successful) within each stage or level. There is also the visual scaffolding for children so that they know what to do to get to the next stage or level. 

I feel this is missing from our set up this year (so far). But we are on the money now. Recently, I have completed maths assessments and my maths students fell into 3 categories: Late Stage 5, Early Stage 6 and Late Stage 6. I openly talked with my children about where they were and where they needed to be by the end of the year. Today I ran workshops by opt-in/opt-out where children decide what strategy they need to work on. It was very successful.

Lunch was awesome! And it felt so nice to be home (Russell Street School!)  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Modern Learning Environment: An Educator's Download

Right now I'm listening to David Bazan's Alone at the Microphone doco. trying to make a start on unpacking the mess in my head.  It's been two terms since I last wrote and sorted my thinking into words. A lot has happened.  I feel like this is confession!

Coming back from @ulearn13 I was completely inspired to create a 'learning focused', 'learner centered' curriculum in which children knew about their learning; their goals; where to next; how to get there. I quickly realised that this had been the missing link in my practice. Whether my students got this straight away or not, the end result was exciting - they had become self-managing, self-directed learners. I was ready to do more!

The next thing I know an email informed me that we were opening our own MLE for 2014. Yuss!! The holidays rolled around quickly and for the first time ever I couldn't begin any planning! (Because there were three others to consider!). Our MLE began in 'Poutama' with 4 amazing teachers. Colourful furniture filled the space, walls were removed and others were painted.

So where does one start?

120 students, 120 devices, 4.7 teachers, 1 teacher aide, 4 x music release times, 4 x PE times, 4 spaces, 4 breakout rooms, reading groups, maths groups, writing groups, workshops, timetables... Where DOES one start? I still can't believe that we got it going!

We take our Maths kids for PE lessons every Tuesday and every second Thursday 
But we did. To an outsider it might look like chaos but we have created a highly organised environment. Learning and spaces are organised around co-constructed learner dispositions:
directed, guided, self-managing, self-directed and self-agency. Self-directed learners have to prove that they are able to work independently in spaces outside of the classroom. Their quality of work is higher and more in-depth. They are expected to use strategies to solve problems or to be solution seekers.

Literacy Priorities and Specials are like 'must do' 'can do'
Whereas directed or guided learners have less choice over where they learn or what they learn. The quality or depth of a completed task is lower. However, the basics are still covered (correct spelling, punctuation, WALT, success criteria, reflection, peer assessment). They require more adult support in their learning.


We have organised our timetable so that there is always a "roving" teacher. We also have "conference" time where we can individually work with individuals or a small group for assessment purposes.

This is my timetable by fortnight (I'm colour coded blue).
The design of learning is completed by the educators using google docs and shared with all of the students. The students then upload all learning onto their blogs or ePortfolios (blogger) to show evidence of learning. Teachers have placed lots of emphasis and support on Peer tutoring. Teachers have shared tracking spreadsheets for reading, writing and maths so we are aware of what students are up to if you do not teach them for reading or maths...

There has been some resistance from the community; some parents are concerned for their children's well-being. We have been very open to parents coming and sitting during the day. If you can, have a teacher sit with them and "talk them through" what they are seeing - it's a lot different to how they were taught! We are slowly winning some families over but on the whole, everyone else can see the huge potential that MLE's have to offer!

Where to from here?
I would like there to be more time for student-initiated inquiry. This should be our level up - it takes the focus off the teacher and puts it on the learner and the learning.
Make learning fun and engaging and relevant.

Great! Now I can have a break!