Thursday, December 17, 2015

Breathe in, breathe out

This year I have been exploring "learner agency" in a Year 4, BYOD class. Like most classes all around the world, I have had a range of abilities from dependent to independent. I believe the teachers' role in an agentic community is not the gate keeper: 'the traditional, stand at the front and talk, I hold all of the knowledge and power and decision making' type gate keeper, no. An agentic learning community needs an expert lead learner. Someone who inspires growth and challenge from within each individual learner. So this is where I've developed this concept of "breathe in, breathe out".

It's probably not a new concept at all.  In fact, I was introduced to something similar at a Rudolf Steiner school in Napier a few years ago. I understood it as this: The day is a series of tides: and they had moments of high tides and low tides - the activities would change depending on which tide phase they were in.

So I approached this year, with new learners, new to 'learner agency' and agentic learning by 'breathing in': structure, goal setting, independent learning and reflection. And then 'breathing out': inquiry based, student decision making, goal doing (where you actually practise or work towards the goals you have set) and reflection.

All learners have flourished this year and I think it has benefited them by having the breathing space of breathing in to internalise their learning.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Looking ahead for 2016

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 3 years?

My children are at Russell Street for the next 3 - 5 years, therefore I will see me here!

As for my future aspirations, I am on a cross roads... Do I continue to lead change about ILE / Learner Agency / Collaborative Teaching & Learning from the classroom, as a classroom teacher?    Or do I facilitate change as a leader or as a facilitator working for Core or similar?  If I continue from the class, there are still so many ways in which I am innovating my craft; planning, teaching, instructions, systems, delivering, assessment, rubrics - I am still gaining mastery over these strategies.  If I was to lead this vision out of the classroom would I fall short of the necessary time needed to gain this mastery? If I lead change as a facilitator, would I miss out on working with children who I know need positive male role models in their lives?  There is my predicament.

What would help you achieve these goals?
- Being immersed with leadership conversations
- Having opportunities to talk about and share my vision about leaner agency
- Being able to develop my theory of action with others
- Having challenging conversations
- Mentoring others


Monday, November 2, 2015

Maths Pedagogy Evaluation, 2015

Maths Pedagogy Evaluation (Video)


Dinah advises, that prior to her next visit, it would be very useful for us to examine our own practice against the RSS maths pedagogy doc.  She wants us to use this doc (now and in the future) as a reflection tool. With this in mind, when she was last here, we agreed to the following:

  • Record an instructional lesson with a group of students, preferably your ‘target group’.

  • Reflect on the RSS Maths pedagogy document. To what degree were these elements present in my planning and teaching?

Crickey! There's nothing more cringing than watching yourself teach. But how powerful is it to witness the imperfections. I really wanted to set up this teaching experiment as 'real' as possible. Not only to analyse my teaching of maths but also to see how well am I using concepts of learner agency?  

So I chose real kids to teach (not just the best kids who would say the right thing), I didn't tell anyone and I didn't hide off in a quiet room somewhere. I had behaviour issues, people walking in, computer complications, management issues... I was definitely feeling the pressure.

The beginning is hard to watch because we are just settling in. But as the lesson gets underway, we all start to relax. This is a quite interesting as the children I take for maths all struggle to manage transitions. How can I help support these learners when doing this?

In terms of the lesson, I didn't have the right tool for the job - there was not enough equipment for the learners to create a picture in their head. I made some adjustments and taught the lesson again to a different group. This time we used place value blocks to show 7 groups of 5 + 4 groups of 3. The picture was there and the flow of the lesson was much better.

In terms of arranging for learning, I have also made some changes to the class set up. Reflecting on this term, working with these learners I have not set them up well enough. I have told them what they can and cannot do and I have not let them have a say in how and why and what (like I usually do). You will read reasons below in my previous reflections, but I need to support these learners more in terms of scaffolding them to plan their learning.

Use a scale of 1-5 to evaluate this.  (1 -very prominent, to a high degree .....5 not at all present).
  1. An ethic of care: 3
  2. Arranging for learning: 3
  3. Building on Students thinking: 3
  4. Worthwhile mathematical tasks: 3
  5. Making connections: 3
  6. Assessment for learning: 3
  7. Mathematical Communication: 3
  8. Mathematical language: 3
  9. Tools and representation: 3
  10. Teacher knowledge: 3

What did I explicitly carry out that reflected these elements? And random babblings...

When exploring collaborative teaching, I have been working with the learners who struggle in mathematics from both Room 6 and 7. This has really challenged me because of the levels of independence the learners display. I have been faced with learners not having the dispositions and grit to stick to a task. It's been really hard.  

I have been exploring working with small groups and having them rotate around games, worksheet activities and devices. There has been some elements that have worked and some that hasn't. There are some habits shown by Room 7 children which I haven't been able to shape. As a result, I feel as though progress has not been as steady.  

Another factor that has contributed to this is only having maths Monday - Wednesday. Hopefully, when athletics has finished we will have some more time up our sleeves. Also we have ukulele practice on Tuesday mornings so this is another interruption.

In all the "it's so hard to me" woe, I have had some break throughs! A group of stage 5 learners are nailing that stage so we have started some stage 6 workshops. My focus learners are full of confidence and skills! I need to keep on keepin' on... the mini gloss... the maintenance... the knowledge... the strategy... the rich tasks. There's the picture, right there.

  • Identify an individual goal for your 2016 development.  

  1. I would like to work on Teacher Knowledge for stages 3-4 for 2016.  I feel confident with the transition from 5 to 6 and 6 to 7 but I am discovering I am not for 3-4 and 4-5.
  2. Another goal that would assist this is working on Tools and Representation because I will need to select the right tool for the right job.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Amazing Creativity!

Amazing Creativity !more -
Posted by Tavi Castro on Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Modern learning environment at Russell Street School

Nic Mason shares the experience of exploring a modern learning environment at Russell Street School in Palmerston North, with four teachers, four classrooms and 120 students. Nic believes that it benefits both the teachers and the learners, and allows teachers to cater for the students' learning better now that there are more people involved in their learning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Teaching strategies in Innovative Learning Environments

How would you define an Innovative Learning Environment (ILE, formally known as a Modern Learning Environment)?
Where teachers and learners plan, teach, learn and assess together in an open, flexible learning space.  Within this space learning habits (learner agency) are at the fore, learning attitudes (growth mindset, the learning pit, being stuck on the escalator) are explicitly taught and modelled, learning systems (ability groups) are negotiated, learning areas are created and learning conversations (feedback and feedforward) flourish.  The pace in which individuals learn can be accelerated or magnified depending on their needs. The number of children an individual teacher are responsible for can be adjusted so that less learners with high needs are catered for.  An Innovative Learning Environment puts learner voice before choice.

Think of the impact quality teaching of one teacher can cave on their learners.  Now imagine how much impact 2 or 3 quality teachers can have on a cohort of learners!  Boom.

List 1-3 strategies that you have found to be most effective in the ILE. For the purpose of this survey, a teaching strategy can be defined as the method used to engage students in learning.
For each strategy, please briefly describe why you believe it is effective
Learner Agency: it is central to 21st Century learning. The ability to act and to act strategically, then we have the ability to solve problems, achieve our goals or change the world.  The world doesn't care about what we know anymore... it cares about what we can do with what we know.

Collaborative: Teachers being exposed to best practice.

Personalised: Learners are able to choose when, where and how they learn best.

Are there any strategies that you no longer use in the ILE? List 1-3
Chalk and talk!  One size fits all.  One class assignment.  One answer.  90 examples of the same piece of art... 90 fairy tails...

For each strategy, please briefly describe why you believe it is no longer useful
Most of the above comes from the belief that the teacher holds all of the knowledge and therefore the control.  This is not the case anymore and it is key to true engagement that learners are in the drivers seat of their own learning.

Have your relationships and/or interactions with students changed since you have worked in an ILE?
If you answered yes, please explain how you believe your relationships and interactions with students has changed:
I am now talking alongside students and listening to their ideas and goals.  I am no longer talking at them.

Have your relationships and/or interactions with other teachers changed since you have worked in an ILE?
If yes, please explain how your relationships and interactions with other teachers has changed:
We became a lot closer!  You learn a lot from someone when you spend an incredible amount of time with them.  People show their true colours - I was lucky that they were good colours to see :).

What was the most helpful form of support that you received in your transition into an ILE?
All of it was helpful because we needed many drips before we gained any momentum as a trickle of water.  

If I had to choose... Visiting Amsbury School in Wellington was one of the final "drips" we were exposed to.  This was the most helpful because they connected the why and the how for me. It was the final drip to really gain some momentum.

What recommendations would you make for other teachers as they start out in ILEs?
Inquire into the why and the how of ILE's.  The what can look like or sound like or feel like however you make it!  That magic comes when  everyone there knows and believes the why and the how.

What aspects of teaching in an ILE do you enjoy most?
Team work
Playing to our strengths
Being witness to best practice

What aspects of teaching in an ILE do you enjoy least?
Timetable not being flexible
Time to talk and unpack
Parent resistance?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Interview With A Leader

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.33.05 pm.png
For some reason, I compare the scene in “Interview With A Vampire” when Brad Pitt’s character, Louis, turns into a vampire with becoming a leader.  Am I a kid raised by TV or what?

After the deed is done, Tom Cruise’s character states the classic line: “Now look, with your vampire eyes”. For the very first time, Louis begins to see the world around him.  

Flashing back to the interview, Slater asks: “What did you see?”  And Pitt replies, “No words can describe it.... The statue seemed to move but didn’t. The world had changed, yet stayed the same. I was a newborn vampire weeping in the beauty of the night.”

This is very much how I have felt this year.

I see the same things but it's different. I am responsible in "facilitating change" but what does this look like or sound like? Do my, previously forthright, opinions count anymore? Am I having impact?

"Now look, with your leader eyes."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Carol Leadership Session 4

Great session this afternoon!  I am always very energised afterwards.  Carol always seems to open my mind about possibilities and connections.  The connections I make come from all of my life experience: kids, marriage, work experience, music experience.  And now I turn my focus on facilitating change within my work place.  Gosh, it's new and exciting.

We started our session off with this quote:

The most important space in an #mle is between the teachers ears. #learneragency #edchatnz

I've since tweeted this and it is starting to make the rounds of retweets.  It's such an important quote to have in the fore, as we delve into this time of change.  We discussed that innovative, modern or agentic pedagogy is so crucial because educators will slip back into old school, traditional, or easy habits.

The next discussion was around collaboration.  Some of the interesting points we picked out here were that true collaboration requires educators to be inextricably linked; one cannot function without the other. 

Teachers have to go through a phase of "connecting" in the same way as children need to go through the phase of parallel play. It is a critical stage of development before true collaboration can occur.

Giving feedback as coaching. Being open to feedback. "You are doing some wicked things for maths in terms of agency... You could try these same concepts in writing or reading..."

Drip theory: how many drips does one need to gain momentum into a trickle. 

It doesn't matter whether receivers of feedback take on a practical aspect of this or not because it could be a drip that will later on collect together to become a trickle.

Awareness - facial expression (leaky face), tone (leaky voice), email. 

The Power of Feedback: An anecdote of when my principal, David, came to visit the team in Poutama last year.  He was there to observe and provide feedback in how our collaborative learning space was going.  The feedforward he provided to me specifically was hard to hear... (I could make excuses) but the fact of the matter was, that piece of advice was what I needed to hear at that time. The power of feedback. 

To do: more feedback and feedforward between students.

Here is a video I created to show the above levels of collaboration.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The inquiring classroom: keys to success - Kath Murdoch.

The inquiring classroom: keys to success - Kath Murdoch.

Switching ourselves on as learners today.

Images: how are you feeling right now?  I’m like the panda asleep because Luca woke me up early and I had a bad dream; I was at a party with mob members then I over heard them talking about how they were going to murder us, then I managed to get away but they kidnapped Mia and I was trying to get her back, navigating around a city I’d never been to before.  I had left my cell phone in my jacket and was very cold. 8 images  How would you like to be?  Content and happy.

Characteristics of an effective learner within pd workshops
  • knowing yourself as a learner
  1. Seeks connections between ideas presented and own context
  2. Maintains an open mind - willing to review/change thinking
  3. Willing to participate
  4. Make clear notes for future reference
  5. Ask questions for clarification
  6. Avoids distraction and stay focused 
  7. Offers ideas and suggestions to group
  8. Makes a plan for immediate and future use of new learning
  9. Seeks feedback and suggestions for growth/improvement.

Goal setting: fish bone: head is goal, how you know when you get there are stems on top, stems on bottom are what will get in the way?, what you will look like when you get there is the tail.  

Class shared goals: put your name on the goal that you are going to work on that day/week.  Eg I want to finish what I start.

Goals laminated with starters in a place around the room, so the learner can redo their goals.  Hmm, I do this with their eportfolios weekly reflections.  How real is this for my kids?  How valuable and accessible are these goals to my students once they’ve written them?  Is it just something they have to do?  OR should they be visible and easily changeable so when kids do achieve them, they can make the changes necessary?

KNOW WHO! - quote  how do you learn best? 

“Get on with your learning.”  “Wait time” Ask wait, hear response... wait...

Think Pair Share
See Think Wonder
CSI - colour, symbol, image - inquiry
red for racy, full-on, learning
photo taking action, making a difference

However, do you do this at an end of an inquiry?  WHere is the social action?

3, 2, 1.  Three words to explain the inquiry classroom:
connected, collaborative, social action. - then get with a buddy and come up with only 2 between 2 of you.

CEC - Connect, Extend, Challenge: grow the quality of your practice.  Haha penguin jumping over the rock.  Love the music...  
Connect: DIfferent inquiries (something I connect with)
Extend: use the different inquiries like a rotation throughout the year so that children can experience a range of inquiry styles
Challenge: child independent/ interests 
ECG - emotion, cognition and growth
  • emotion: really big/where to start
  • cognition (knowing): I used to think there was just questions and tasks but now I know that if you can put it into statements which you want kids to know, it becomes much more powerful.  Similar to the statements (big ideas) in science books. 
  • Growth: What do you still need to know? Revisit my teacher inquiry to turn ideas into statements.  This will make my questioning techniques better and I can better extend my questioning techniques.
Inquiry vs an inquiring classroom: 
  • project led or project inquiry:  this is what we are doing but now we need to inquire, what will we need to learn about and do to ....  w hat are we going have to ask and learn about?

  • problem or issue based: what are we going to have to learn about and do to to solve this problem?

  • single subject: what makes a great game?  what makes a great game player?  what makes a great poem?

  • integrated inquiry: how art is used to persuade?  why did we say sorry? - australian government saying sorry to the indigenous people.

  • play-based, student initiated: how do you bath a baby?

  • shared, collaborative

  • individual, interest based inquiries

  • sustained, long term 

  • short term

After brunch:  video clip - schmu bucks?? what not to do.  rewards content, what’s the task? daniel pink TED website motivation: what motivates children?
  1. purpose - know why they are doing something
  2. autonomy - design our classrooms so that students can make decisions about their learning, where, their learning etc.
  3. mastery - seeing and feeling real success.  skills and importance of feedback

Modified goal: I am focused.  The ideas given above are good because it assures me that I am on the right track.  I can almost see the photo of the clear path through the forest towards the light.

Key elements of effective inquiring classroom:
  1. Thinking skills and strategies: building the language of thinking e.g. synthesizing little bit of thinking then bigger thinking then more and more. then putting old thinking and new thinking together.  ask kids where do you do the best thinking?  what is similar and different about tthinking there and at school?  what do we need to change?
  • what a good wondering, but I bet you can do some thinking around that to solve your problem - the what if game:  What do you think?
  • Structure of the task justify, explain, 
  • what kind of thinking do I need to do here?  
  • what do we need to analyse? /synthesis, justify.  Ron Richheart Intellectual Character WHat it is and how to get it?
  • More 1 - 1 and small group rather than whole class:
  1. deliberate focus on process and (with) content - split screen guy claxton 
  • 2-fold: what processes/skills/ are we are learning to be effective inquirers?  and what we are learning about?
  • based on key comps
  • school-wide continuum of inquiry skills.
  • skills for life-long learners: think, communicate, research/investigate, cooperate, manage self.
  1. Curiosity - responding with wonderment and awe
  • worms discovering worms playing: “Bringing the world into your classroom”
  • just do stuff that happens: my butterfly inquiry what are the similarities and differences between moths and butterflies?
  • What gets you passionate?  What makes people passionate?  WHat am I passionate about?
  • tippi - to provoke questions child from africa who was raised by animals.
  • questions build curiosity

Afternoon Session:
bbc: ‘Walk on the wild side’ youtube 

  1. Building students’ repertoire of tools used by researchers in ‘real world’ disciplines.
  • info lit skills
  • researchers; scientists, mytholodysts, paelentologists all have different research skills
  • “once I learn how to use google, isn’t that all the education I really need?”
  • Hawaii story, coming up with questions to ask a person rather than a search engine; understanding of this way was deeper than reading...
  • Kath’s Inquiry Model:
  • Learning to investigate

How can I create an effective and relevant music video about war?  Skills through using skype; how can we conduct a good interview to get information?  Wars: how and why have they changed over time?  What would it be like to live somewhere else?

How can I create an effective and relevant music video about how NZ changes.  SKills using camera to take a photo everyday.  Stop motion video.   

  1. keep it conceptual
  • bigger picture stuff: social responsibility, environmental sustainability, hauora, physical world. 
  • Make things that you want kids to understand turn them into statememnts e.g. the position of planet earth in relation to the sun is the reason why earth is inhabitible, the

  1. Revise, reflect, review, return...
  • this needs to be regular time 
Levels of understanding:
Never heard of it.  Heard of it but don’t get it.  Yes I understand it.  Yes I can teach someone else about it. 

Success for Schools?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mid-Term Appraisal Chat 2015

2015 MID
End of Year Appraisal Chat/Focus
Part 1: Please prepare for this, making written notes, comments or paragraphs.  You will need all records to appear, as evidence of reflection, self-evaluation and discussion on your professional blog.
(A) Discuss Criteria 4 of Professional Relationships and Professional Values (from Registered Teacher Criteria)
  1. Reflective Question: How do I continue to advance my professional learning as a teacher/leader?
I think because I missed out on so much learning time during high school, I am trying to catch up! I find learning very rewarding. Deep down, I am a huge geek. I love the process of identifying something I need to get better at, setting myself a goal and then working hard to achieve it.  I love the feeling of success once I have mastered a new skill.  I am a social learner, so I find JK and collaborative teaching very rewarding. I continue to learn form my colleagues around me. 

Over the past 2 years, I have grown my PLN (personal learning network) via Twitter (check me out! on @fuse711). I can't believe just how much I appreciate connecting with like-minded educators from around the world; connecting with movers and shakers! There are iPad, techie tips, minecraft, inquiry, learner agency, growth-mindset, numeracy, literacy ideas galore! It's pretty open to challenge each others' ideas and have a conversation about learning. More recently, I have joined the NZ Teachers Facebook page. I am not quite sure what to think about this yet. I haven't agreed with everything that has been shared or said but I'm not sure if it's the same forum or setting to challenge ideas. However, there are still some peals in there if you sift through the clams.  

In sum, teaching and learning is fast growing to online, global connections. We have to get amongst it.

This year, my goals are around being an effective leader. I now see my teaching colleagues in a new light.  It's hard being a leader at times - there are some tricky conversations to have with people so I am "in the learning pit" knowing how to approach different situations.  I watch David like a hawk: how he listens, or jumps in, or parks something and moves on; how he challenges people. I like how he is always very good at explaining how and why something relates back to a policy or law. James also mentors me once a week.  I talk with him and we unpack the what and the why. This is very helpful as I try to make sense of everything :).

 (B) Discuss Criteria 6 of Professional Knowledge in Practice (from Registered Teacher Criteria)


6. Reflective Question: What do I take into account when planning programmes of work for groups and individuals?

Planning for individuals, I think is one of the hardest aspects of teaching (or maybe it's just the hardest for me?).  I believe that the best learning takes place when the teacher has developed a positive relationship with the learner.  Teachers need to take an interest in their learners and really find out what makes each tick.  What are their habits? What is their personality? What mindset do they possess? Are they introverted?  Are they extroverted?  What drives their learning?  What are they passionate about?  

It takes time to discover this for 30 students. 

So once a teacher has established this relationship, individualised and personalised learning can flourish. Initially, I believe the role of the teacher is to provide inspiration, controversy, challenge and support. Then carefully, purposefully and strategically coach, guide and provide timely feedback and feedforward for learners.  

I think I'm about at that point now with most of my students.  There might be one or two that I haven't worked out, yet.  But I'm working on it.  Now that I have developed those important relationships, I can tailor my examples, questions, directions and better extend kids thinking. 
  1. Reflective Question: Outline what the drivers (principles) of your maths programme are. Explain your developing ‘theory of action’ for maths. (How you are teaching it and why) Refer back to your writing ‘theory of action’ …where are the similarities?
Wow! I can't believe how many similarities there are between a writing theory of action and a mathematics theory of action! Working with Dinah this year has been some of the best professional development that I have been a part of! Is this because maths for me is something I have to do, not something I love?  Because this year, for the first time ever, if I have some extra time in my day to do something - I'm doing maths!  Crazy eh?  Dear Ms Wall (my 3rd form maths teacher). I am so sorry for all the pain I caused.  Maths is actually really amazing. 

Let's look at some of the similarities:
  1. Fluency: you know when kids really know their basic facts when they are able to tackle more challenging problems and concepts.  Fluency is mathematics is very important!  However, we develop fluency by doing real maths NOT practising basic facts sum after sum, page after page...
  2. Purpose: exactly as I said above, the learners are motivated when they see a purpose to why they are doing it.  The focus needs to be on the teaching of strategy and fill the knowledge gaps where and when necessary (knowledge shouldn’t be holding them back in strategy - i.e. give them a times table chart if they don’t know these instantly);
  3. Hands-on: Learners need to be able to visualise concepts before they can use them mentally; The use of materials is key throughout all stages;
  4. Real life contexts are essential
  5. Parents need to be able to see strategy, knowledge and rich tasks as equally important (often the only maths they see is knowledge)
  6. The teacher is the coach (“The teacher is the conductor not the violin player.”);
  7. The learners need to be engaged in ‘hard’ work (who is doing the thinking?);
  8. Teachers need to know what knowledge learners need to solve each strategy;
  9. Deliberate acts of teaching are key.

Part 2: Coherence –Teacher Self-Check
See (survey monkey) survey. Use the scale shown.  When meeting with your Team Leader, table this and lead any discussion that may be important.

Part 3: Inquiry/On-line Reflections
Bring up your staff blog. Outline progress in your inquiry to date.  What change has there been in your focus group?  How do you know?  How has your practice changed? Where do you think this might go next?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dinah Harvey Reflection

We have just completed two days working with, and learning off Dinah Harvey as our Maths facilitator.  One of the key messages I have taken out of this (among many) is “Start giving challenges to rise to, not problems written on the board or worksheets”. Knowledge has to be connected to strategy. It’s the teacher’s job to find the gaps in knowledge when there are blockers in the strategies.  Dinah showed us the difference between students who are fluent in using strategies and those who are not.
So, digging deeper, I went looking for my focus groups reports from last year...

I found it interesting how two of the comments were focused on knowledge only.  This needs to be a pedagogical shift for some of our teachers and parents. We made the comment that because parents were taught so differently in maths, that it is easier for teachers not to send strategy work home for home learning. Instead, teachers send home knowledge however this only reinforces the knowledge-focused, archaic view on quality teaching of mathematics. One way to overcome this is alter the comment slightly by saying: “The knowledge that will help them with this is...” Also, send home Open-ended, rich tasks. It sends a different message about what mathematics is in every day life.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Developing Agency: Art

So as part of my developing agency journey, I tried an idea with art this week.

As part of my theory in action, learner agency or self-regulated learning is based on knowing what your goals are, putting yourself into the learning pit, fostering a growth mindset and failing forward by responding to feedforward(to name a few).

Because it is the 100 centenary of ANZAC we created art that was ANZAC inspired.  What would I normally do, as a single-cell, teacher directed, old-school approach to teaching art?  Find a lesson on Pinterest, get the resources ready, chunk the lesson - do this, then do this, model the technique then let the children have a go.

This sure sounded easier to organise and deliver.  The result?  28 of the exact same pieces of art - colours, shapes, techniques, media.

What I did instead?

I got black paper and white paper, red paper, crepe paper, paint, pastel, crayon, dye, indian ink, charcoal pencils, glue (I think that's it?).

I collected a few examples and spread them around the room.  Then we had a discussion about what artists do.  We came up with this:

- they react and respond through art
- they experiment
- they blend, shade, layer, mix
- they add detail and texture

The result?  Well see for yourself: 28 completely different pieces of art!

Leadership: Theory in action: MLE and Coaching Stances

We started off unpacking Karyn Gray's messages in her blog post: MLE - a returning fad?  Or the potential to transfer learning? And what a fantastic message Karyn brings up for schools who are implementing a Modern Learning Environment.  

The first we message we discussed was how 'courage' plays an important role in this shift in mindsets.  Teachers and leaders who are moving forward in this area show an incredible amount of courage despite resistance from parents, communities and colleagues!  (It's funny how students aren't a part of that list...).  

I think I need to stay strong and have courage to help teachers to develop their 'MLP toolkit'.  It is a highly effective approach to teaching and learning and has the potential to truly transform the sector.  

Discussing the notion of "play" during foundation years was our next point of topic.  We all agreed that play is an extremely important part of children's development.  It helps with the transition between early childhood education and school.

In the latter part of our session we focussed again on developing Leaders as Coaches.  Another quote opened the forum for reflection and dialogue: 

 "If you want it, coach it" - Guy Claxton

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shut up and listen: Leadership Reflection

Hi! Welcome to my brain spew space. To those who don't know me, I have recently won the job as 'senior team leader' at Russell Street School. And I couldn't be more happy! I feel very supported by my colleagues and fellow leadership members.

My first leadership meeting was exciting and I got swept away with this feeling so that when I was asked the question "well what do you think?", my blank expression must have given away that I didn't actually have a thought.  I have reflected on this and now I have ensured that I am active listening to the conversation, and I am constantly thinking of a response.  But on the other hand, I think that it is ok to not have a response sometimes because some things may require a shorter think time.

Leading up to my first team meeting, I was a nervous wreck!  Am I organised? What if I don't know an answer to something? What if something doesn't work? How will I solve a problem or issue if it arises? First thing on the agenda, maths text books: how effective are they? Do we still value them? 

Let's just bounce back 2 or 3 years when I was part of the senior team choosing these resources to support learning.  I was part of a trial group and we loved them! Children really took ownership over using them - parents could read and follow the excellent examples provided within the pages and learn how to solve maths problems with today's strategies.  

Back to the meeting, the feeling of the group was that these books were not a good use of our time and money; they are not made as a work book and not meant to be written in.  It went against what I believed and I was starting to feel quite hot under the collar.  All the while, in the back of my mind I could hear a little voice telling me that leaders do not tell, they inspire.

How can I bring this conversation back into my way of thinking?
Round the circle it goes.
"Leaders do not tell, they inspire."
I usually speak my mind during team meetings but now I'm not sure where I stand?
Round and round the circle it goes.
"Leaders do not tell, they inspire.... Leaders do not tell, they inspire."

Suddenly, the conversation yanks on the hand-brake and pulls a massive u-turn.  I start to relax.  My back slowly releases all its tension.  I feel myself breathing again deep into my stomach. We do still value the maths texts books!

What did I learn from leadership today? Shut up and listen.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to Talk So Teachers Listen

So this was my first "Coaching Leadership" session with Carol Lynch.  It was big.  It was bold.  It made my brain hurt.  I loved it!

Returning from swimming sports this day, I felt a bit jaded.  However, this coaching session really got my neurons fire!

We started with this quote:

I instantly related this quote to how we started #Poutama last year.  I had the advantage of working in an agentic learning community the year before. So when we kicked off with our planning, I was really pushing for us to relinquish control.  I think I caused a little bit of stress as a result.  Actually a lot of stress...  Sorry you guys!  

I really needed to step back a little bit so that we all could grow together.

A continuum of an expert learner:

The point of this activity was to unpack the practices of an expert learner.  If we are wanting to develop learner agency, then we need to get this right when we are designing learning. Self-agent learners are self-regulating. 

I'm looking forward to the next session!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#blennz reflection

Blind and Low Vision Network New Zealand

This was a very beneficial day as I have worked with learners with low vision before but I'd never worn glasses that simulated what it was like to have a vision impairment.  What I came to realise is how tough it is on the rest of your body (ie your neck and shoulders), how tough it is to complete set learning tasks (within a time frame), and how tough it is to participate and contribute in everyday life! I take my hat off to these learners.

In the afternoon, we took our glasses out into the playground and the #blennz people got us to play a game of soccer together.  It was incredibly hard to see the goals, the ball or who was on my team!  After only a few adjustments - (yellow and orange high visibility vests, bright ball and bright cones), could we play this team game with much more success.

I made numerous connections with #UDL whereby slightly adapting the the rules or the timeframe or the task students can still experience success.