Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Culturally Responsive and Relational Pedagogy in practice

The research is out there; Māori learners are not performing as well as European / pākehā, leading to headlines like these, all relatively recent:

As a teacher in New Zealand, this hurts my heart. How has it got so bad? Why are these students falling by the wayside? How can we change things and make our classrooms more inclusive so this stops being a problem?

We have been discussing Culturally Responsive and Relational Pedagogy (CRRP) as a school for a few years in differing formats, and have constructed cross-curricular groups to carry out appraisal and internal PLD (the process has been given the title Kokiri). 

I am a Kokiri leader, responsible for checking in with my group of five colleagues and ensuring they are working on an inquiry, and that they are recording evidence for the Code and Standards for the teaching profession, as well as signing off their final annual appraisal. Part of the process is classroom observations. Having come from a #Manaiakalani school, I was happy to have happen (we used to get every visitor passed through our classrooms on a regular basis; it makes you a lot less nervous about casual drop-ins!). We have also been through the Rongohia te Hau observations, so are partially used to the process. 

I will put my hand up here, and state that I have felt somewhat confused (maybe nervous?) about carrying out observations and conversations with peers - what gives me the right to critique colleagues abilities to teach? How can I make judgments about whether they are meeting the standards as a practicing professional? 

In 2018, we have been working with Robbie Lamont from Poutama Pounamu, and have been trialing an observation tool that moves from making a judgment to being a mirror of practice for our colleagues. This has required a level of "unlearning" to happen - it has always felt like observations in the classroom are looking at how well the teacher works with the class, often with hours of (panicked...) preparation from the observed teacher to ensure the lesson runs smoothly and shows how brilliant at their craft they actually are. The refreshing difference here, is that we are actually acting as a mirror, being held up so the observed teacher gets a snapshot view of what was happening over a 20 minute slice of the lesson. This is difficult for the amateur observer, but provides the opportunity for the teacher to reflect upon what was happening in their class, and what they and their students were doing.

The tool (found here) has been gifted to the Kokiri leaders, and we have been trying it out on one another. It takes a bit of getting used to. It is done over 20 minutes, and is a hand-killer! As I mentioned previously, the intention is to move away from the observer / observee (is that even a word?) relationship towards a culture of reflective practice where we constantly evaluate whether we are doing the best for ALL of our learners, and think of ways to be more inclusive; where everyone is part of the learning process. I fully understand that by focusing on our Māori learners, no one is disadvantaged, and everyone benefits, and by going through this kind of observation, we can see the gaps that exist in our practice.

This process has already got me thinking about my classroom practice and my interactions with my ākonga. I have already moved towards more co-construction of the learning with my students, getting their voice as a valuable part of my planning and course development. Observing others has made me consider aspects of my own practices, and having others observe me in a non-judgmental way, just mirroring, has really got me thinking. Robbie told us that one of the hard parts was unlearning, and I feel I am trying to do this, but there is always room for improvement.

I welcome the idea of being observed; how can I be a better teacher if I don't reflect and revise? I look forward to continuing this journey, and feel I know where we are heading as a school and some of the confusion I alluded to earlier has started clearing. I feel that we ARE on a journey to make learning more inclusive for ALL of our learners, and that we are doing something positive (as are many other schools / kura around NZ) to lessen the cultural divide. 

Today was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me, so I sat and wrote this immediately as I was reflecting on what I have learned (and unlearned!). I hope to write additional posts on this process as we move forward on this journey.

Ka kite anō au i a koutou.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

I wanna rock!!


**This post was originally made in Wordpress on March 13th 2018**

Back to the song titles for posts, with thanks to Twisted Sister for this one!
Now to explain the relevance of the post title. This year I have started an Earth and Space Course at Level 2 (Year 12). This is something of a passion that I have had the privilege to indulge this year. The course includes a geological study of the rocks of a locality in NZ, and we are spoiled for choice in Northland, an investigation into an aspect of ESS that most interests the students, a socio-scientific report, topic yet to be decided, the formation of stars and planets and an extreme Earth event in NZ, of which there are plenty to choose from. Throughout the year I hope to come back into this and leave some more reflections.
One of the learning experiences I have managed to organise for our students is a seismometer, which has been connected to the NZ Ru Network (after Rūaumoko - the Māori god of volcanoes, earthquakes and seasons) and is situated in the library at the school. The unit itself is a spring connected to magnets in a coil and a piece of copper piping (Lens' law for the physics fans out there!), fed through to an Arduino device which talks to a Raspberry Pi.
Within 24 hours of connecting, we picked up the rolling ground waves of a 6+ aftershock from the Papua New Guinea earthquake, which rolled on for nearly an hour. This was confirmed by other seismometers in the network, including the 'home' device in the University of Auckland. This picture shows the two traces one above the other. The top is ours, the lower is the UoA trace, and the highlighted yellow sections are the corresponding records of the shake.
Our first quake!.png
The live images from the network can all be seen on this website.
We have also taken a couple of field trips, one to the Kawiti Glow-worm caves and Waro reserve to see karst limestone formations (incidentally,  the limestone that makes up these formations is part of the Te Kuiti group and are a long way from where they were layed down as sediments (25-30 million years ago). This photo shows the entrance to the caves, sadly no pics inside as it is firstly tapū (sacred) and secondly because it upsets the glow-worm (Arachnocampa luminosa in case you were wondering).

The limestone has been eroded into these fantastic shapes by acidified water gradually eroding the rock.
We were also welcomed onto the marae (Māori meeting grounds) as one of our students was related to the kaitiaki (guardians) of the caves. This was a welcome break from the rain, and a wonderful cultural experience.
The Waro Reserve also has good examples of fluted limestone / karst formations, as well as being an ex-marble mine (now flooded) and aboe the coal seams that run through into Kamo (Waro is coal in te Reo). Some of the karst is horizontal with erosion caused by water dripping from the branches of trees over time.
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The second field trip was out along the Whangarei Heads Rd, and will be covered in the next post. This topic has certainly fired my imagination, and hopefully my students also have an appreciation of the forces at work to change these ancient landscapes that are so beautiful and striking. They certainly appreciate my passion for this fascinating topic!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Student blogging

**This is not a new post, but I have reposted it from my Wordpress account.**

This is a new thing for me; my year 13 Environmental Biology class are carrying out an action plan this year, around the local environment. As a change from keeping a paper logbook and submitting this at the end of the unit, they are recording their work in a blog.
We are using Blogger as the platform, mainly as we are now a Google school; it makes sense for the girls to use the single sign on afforded by having G Suite. I feel that this is an authentic way to collect information and also reflect upon what they are doing - all part of the action plan. They may even inspire me to update MY blog more regularly... Certainly as they are going to get an hour per week to update their work, I should maybe use the time for the same purpose.
Today we have set the blogs up, and now there are conversations around me about themes and plug-ins etc, so they are actually quite keen on getting started, and a letter has already been sent to the principal about one of the issues! Progress and authentic learning.
I need to find out a way of keeping an eye on each of the blogs, preferably without being too invasive, so I can ensure that there is work getting done. Currently, I am thinking of following each of the blogs so I get to read their updates. Any ideas from the rest of the world are greatly appreciated!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pond Life

I couldn't find a Pond song title, so have decided this is good enough.

This post is about the Pond, a New Zealand (N4L - Network 4 Learning) website that allows educators and providers to connect and share resources and findings from around the web. It also allows you to curate collections of resources in Buckets. This is the bit that has suddenly lit up the light bulb for me.

One (maybe two or three...) of my earlier posts was about the pain of bookmarking all of the cool stuff I find on the interwebs that will be of use with classes. I have tried various different things, including keeping all of my bookmarks on my Chrome browser, but I have about 1300 bookmarks as a result and there is no easy way to visualise them all to get a feel for the content. I tried Symbaloo but was put off by the pricing, and while it was nice to create collections of bookmarks, it was still not what I was looking for.

The next attempt was creating OneNote Notebooks to keep all of the information, and while it was visually appealing, it was still not what I wanted (I have had issues with OneNote, enough to make me wary as much as anything). Also, the links etc within the OneNote notes are inactive as the web-clipper effectively stores the images as PDF files on the page. They were also not as easy to share with colleagues and students from OneNote.

Now I've had another look and play with the Pond. I have uploaded resources to it before, but it really is a great place to store all of those videos and articles I find online to use with classes. Added to that, there are resources and lesson ideas from other educators, as well as the connections with other educators around NZ (and some further afield). I'll be digging in and using this more and more, maybe I will come back to another post, or update this one sometime in the future once I've had more time to dig into all of the uses. I have created a Bucket called Human Evolution, and the posts shown above are all in that Bucket, so I know where to head to when I want to look at one of the sites. Buckets are shareable and can be added to someone else's Bucket as well. I find regular useful articles from +Tony Cairns which end up in my Buckets too!

The only downside at present is that it is only available to teachers and administrators, students will get access eventually, and I suspect it is limited to NZ as one needs an NZ school domain to create an account (this may have changed, happy to be corrected if anyone knows better).

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Land of confusion

Whether you are a young whippersnapper and thought instantly of the Disturbed song, or are a little longer in the tooth and remember the original (with Spitting Image created video) from Genesis, it is basically describing a whole load of things about the way I am thinking currently.

Image result for wordpress vs blogger'The first is that after a hiatus and brief dalliance with Wordpress, I am coming back to this blog. I am keeping Wordpress for my genealogy stuff now, having found that it does not play as nicely with other Google toys as Blogger does! So yes, I will now be posting my educational / technology ramblings here again. Having said that, my average of 3 - 4 posts a year is testament to the fact that it doesn't matter what platform I use...

Secondly, the school I work at chose a few years ago to embrace Microsoft tools for educational purposes, which is fine by me. We have been promoting OneDrive, OneNote, Class Notebooks and latterly Microsoft Classroom. For whatever reason, we have experienced sync issues, fragmentation of OneNote notebooks (especially with Chrome extensions running - the IT guy told me to use Internet Explorer... seriously!) At the start of the 2017 school year we gave staff PD on using Microsoft Classroom. It looked like it was a little late to the party (it was a rehash of a product they used to call Teacher Dashboard, no relation to the Hapara tool), but it was working after a fashion. But then we noticed that posting a message in the stream was a seamless experience for teachers, but involved going to another app for the students. One or two other small woes appeared. Then Microsoft allowed Class Notebooks to be shared with parents and guardians - excellent job. Unless you created the Notebook via Classroom. What did this mean?
In a nutshell, Classroom was dropped  with about one month's notice at the end of June. It was to be replaced by Teams, which was launched to much cheering from the community. But, and there always seems to be a but, it was launched before it was ready and several of the features teachers want are not available yet. In the fullness of time, it will be a good product.

Our feeder schools are all Google, and with all of the issues we have been having, we have started to make the move towards going Google too. We plan to still give the staff and students access to the Microsoft tools, and yes, I will be revisiting them at some stage, but for the mean time, confusion reigns!

Monday, 24 October 2016

This is the end, my only friend, the end...

Well, I haven't used a song title for a blog post for ages, so good to get back on form... A gentle nod to The Doors in case you were wondering.

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It has now been nearly 32 weeks since I signed up for the MindLab Post Grad Certificate, and in all honesty, I have really not enjoyed it. The assessments have been a bit like being caught in a huge wave, you just about get back on your feet and then the next one hits you and knocks you over again. Despite this, I have learned, grown as an educator and constantly challenged my practice while doing the course. I'm still looking forward to hitting submit for the last time, though, to know that I can get something of my life back. Friends are beginning to wonder where I have got to (my wife has once or twice said, "who are you?" when I emerge from the study...)

One thing is certain, I have been very reflective in this course, and have learned to challenge my assumptions once again. I have also looked at fresh new ideas to change the way I teach and learn, and this has tied in with actions that I have been involved in within the school as well. My goal, which ties in with the PTC (Ministry of Education, n.d.) has been to look at ways of changing assessment practice within Level 1 Science this year, and some of the tools and strategies I have learned over the past 32 weeks have helped to inform and drive some of the changes.
I have learned from the ideas of Lean Management; these techniques helping me with my managerial style. I have discovered, and in some cases, rediscovered some very cool tools that exist to make the classroom workload a bit easier to manage. Additionally, I have questioned and reflected more on my practice, something the MoE describe as important in the 21st Century educator. My reflection has raised as many questions as it has answered and this feeds back into my inquiry, allowing me to come up with ideas for the next phase of inquiry; something that was identified in research by Osterman and Kottkamp (1993), where they described how an inquiring learner can move between different phases of action research as a part of the whole process.

Two changes to my Teaching Practice that can be reflected in the PTCs.
I'm not sure I can really credit the MindLab course for these changes, as I suspect these would have occurred anyway, due to the changes in practice already being implemented at school. Nonetheless, Criterion 4, "Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice" has definitely happened. 32 weeks is definitely a commitment, for the issues it has caused along the way...
Secondly, Criterion 11 "Analyse and appropriately use assessment and information, which has been gathered formally and informally" has been covered more than I might ordinarily do. I have sought student voice about assessment practice, and looked long and hard at what we consider acceptable assessment. I have made some smaller changes as a response to the gathered information, and more changes are coming.
Along the way, I think I have dipped into the majority of the criteria, but it has been a mission to log this information and to make sure the recording has been done. There has not been the time, because of commitments at work, and because of my commitment to this course (wavering at times...). Well, now THIS commitment is over. Now I might have time to backtrack and find all the evidence of my meeting the PTCs - at least we are not expected to cover all of them in one year.


Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files.

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Interdisciplinary teaching and learning - fabulous or fantasy?

This is going to be the blog post that causes me the most difficulty, in terms of trying to find a positive, when really I want to throw my hands up and run away. I love the idea of interdisciplinary teaching, and the benefits that accompany this pedagogy, BUT I am also a realist. In senior Science subjects, it is uncommon even for collaboration between Biology, Physics and Chemistry on assessments, so crossing departmental boundaries presents even more of a problem. It seems we are a cliquey bunch...

This map shows connections I can see potentially happening. I've kept it limited to the other departments within the school; there are plenty of places connections can be made outside of the school, and as I described in a previous post, I have connections with all sorts of teachers, all over the world.

One area for potential development that I can see is with Social Sciences. In Science and especially Biology, there are several Socio-Scientific issues that are tackled. (EfS also falls under Science and has lots of crossover potential as well). Mathison and Freeman (1997) describe the Science, Technology, Society model of collaboration as a prime example of what can be achieved. Issues such as Global Warming and energy use could fall across several subjects - it is not uncommon to hear "we learned that in Social Science" in class. There are also several topics that are Science but also have ethical implications. Animal testing, cloning, stem cells, GE food, Xenotransplantation and even some of the Medical Science ideas cross over easily into Social Sciences.

Clearly, this is not going to be a quick and easy "we'll do this, you do that" kind of collaboration. In fact, while the advantages to cross - collaboration are many, there are equally many roadblocks that will prevent a project taking off. In fact, as Macleod - Mulligan and Kubon (2015) state "it can be difficult to begin or sustain such a partnership". An additional issue they note (and one which will really put paid to interdisciplinary learning) is the connection that the collaborating departments have to work through - time. They describe having one-hour meetings every week to discuss and track the collaboration, which would have teachers running for the hills. Who has an hour to spare each week? Squabbles about budgeting could shut this idea down quickly as well... Jones (2009) identifies time and curriculum integration as problematic as well. It seems this is going to take some thinking through.

The Junior Science scheme lends itself best to being used to set up some sort of collaborative venture, using something like Problem - Based Learning (PBL). It would have to be carefully planned and carried out, though, to ensure one department was not dominating proceedings, and so that equal importance was placed on each section of the learning. Budget holders will need to be placated to ensure equality of costings for materials used. The biggest issue of inter - disciplinary collaboration is the students themselves. Our students are in core classes in Year 9 making collaboration easier, but after that, not all students are taking the same subjects, or at the same time, meaning this will need a great deal of careful planning.


Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach - Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from http://dc.cod.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=essai

Mathison, S., & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. In Journal of Development Studies. Chicago. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220387408421516

MacLeod-Mulligan, L., & Kuban, A. . (2015, May). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. http://acrlog.org/2015/05/14/a-conceptual-model-for-interdisciplinary-collaboration./

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

All of a Twitter - the impact of social media in my PLD

Image result for no man is an island quoteJohn Donne once wrote, "no man is an island, entire of itself" (from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, published in 1624) and this is true now as then, especially in the world of the 21st Century educator. In the current climate of budget cuts, teachers have to look beyond their own schools for their PLD needs and are turning more and more to social media to extend their learning.

There are three main platforms I use, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Each has its relative merits and issues, and each allows me to connect with different online communities, although there is always an amount of crossover.

I really only use Facebook to communicate with New Zealand Science teachers in one group and NZ Biology teachers in another, although I do also use the NZQA forum, specifically for updates and moderator's comments. Facebook tends to usually be my more private social medium. These are really useful, closed communities which allow discussion topics and issues, sharing ideas (and assessment tasks) and posting interesting articles.

Google+ has been a steady place for growing my networks for several years now. Mostly, I connect with communities about Google products and education, but it has never caught on as quickly as some of the other platforms. There are a lot of Google product forums, as well as the MindLab communities, which I do use relatively frequently (OK, I use the MindLab one mostly, currently, and I have neglected some of my other communities while doing this Post Grad).

For speedy, bite-sized chunks of information, Twitter has all manner of useful conversations, often with their own hashtag making them easy to follow if one is using a social media management tool (I use Hootsuite) as the hashtag can be saved as a separate stream, thus filtering out the waffle (there are no, or very few posts on Trump in the education streams...)

What Twitter lacks in amount of characters available (140 characters) it makes up for in the types of connections that a busy teacher can make, allowing access to educators around the globe who share  my interests. It is a great place to get an answer to a question or to find something new that someone else is trying, to connect with like-minded people discussing an educational topic, or even to follow what is happening at a conference such as uLearn when you don't attend in person, as discussed by Melhuish (2013).

Where else can you get all of this (free) PD? Yes, it takes some practice to find and interact with the right people, but it is time well spent. There are hashtag conversations on #edchatnz and #scichatnz, places where the conversations are people you run into face to face at conferences and summits (although in some cases it almost amounts to meeting a 'hero' when you meet them for real, I have heard "I follow you on Twitter" more than once!)

The really big deal for me is the generosity and collaborative nature of the networks I have joined. I can get advice from secondary and primary teachers, scientists, people who can help me transform my practice, despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information out there.

In modern education, we should make sure we are not working alone. The days of clusters where only three people attend, and two of them are there for whatever resources you can provide them with, are nearing an end. I actually can't remember the last time I even went to one of these clusters. Now, when I want to know how to do something neat or learn how to use a tool like OneNote Class Notebook, I turn to my Tweeting colleagues for advice (with thanks to @ibpossum for this last one!)

No teacher should be working alone anymore, even if your colleagues are in a different country and teach a different subject to you, get out and get social.

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 05 May, 2015 from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Post 5 - Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice

I started at my current school just over a year ago. Upon arrival in one of my classes, I was told by the teacher temporarily looking after what was to be my classes until my arrival that my students had already checked me out on social media, and had a basic idea who I was. My first thought was "where and how did they find me?" quickly followed by "what did they find?" In answer to the first question, anything from Twitter (the actual culprit), Google+, Blogger, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook? I knew that personal stuff was all locked down in Facebook (nothing more than a few rants and a couple of swear words in all honesty...) and that my digital footprint was relatively clean. So they found out I have a campervan, am a Science teacher, a Google geek, cat mad and a vegan. Nothing I don't tell my classes in that getting to know you phase at the start of the year. Phew.
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It could have been so different. Had I been a party animal (I'm not!) or done some things that were a tad dubious, posting them online could have been quite problematic. 

Using Social Media with students raises even more ethicla issues. There has been extensive coverage in the New Zealand Herald recently about an inappropriate online and real - life relationship between a teacher and 13 year old female student that ended very badly. Much of this relationship was maintained on social media. This digital communication has been used extensively in court as evidence in this case, clearly breaching the Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers (n.d.) across all sections. 
We strive to make our students 21st Century leanrners, connected and collaborating, communicating globally, sharing their learning far and wide. This means the use of Social Media platforms, where potentially a teacher's personal and work lives can become entangled. However, these tools really lend themselves to moder education, and the advantages are often far outweighing any negative aspects.
Some of the issues that are caused through this use of Social Media include 'friending' students on Facebook etc. This means students then have access to everything the teacher does, and vice versa. As students really don't want teachers to know what they have been up to (particularly in the secondary level) it is not appropriate for students to know what teachers are up to either. Teachers (and students) should be very aware of locking down profiles that are personal to the nth degree. A good starting place for information on this would be the Education Council website 'Teachers and Social Media'. 
Hall (2001) discusses how to approach ethical issues to find an answer that is ethically acceptable, and also raises the issue of professionalism - "What would happen if everyone did that?" Does what a person is doing look bad to the students, whanāu, community or profession or cause doubt about the professional competency of the teacher? It is always best to stop and think about it a minute, before becoming yet another headline in the Herald about teacher misconduct. We need to ensure professional distance in our communications with students at all times. The boundaries are increasingly blurred with digital technologies, and it is prudent for a school to consider creating a policy document to guide staff in these matters (Henderson, Auld &Johnson, 2014; Ministry of Education, 2015). This is something we are in the process of considering as more teachers make sue of social media to communicate with students, gratifying that need for immediacy that is a feature of our learners' lives. 
It is good practice for teachers to think about what they share online, especially if it is accessible by students (believe me they WILL find it, if public), but also to ensure privacy settings are set as high as they can for personal accounts. Be aware your audience may include students, whanāu, the wider community, or yoour potential future employer! Remember the internet has a persistence that remains long after the hangover has worn off...
Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers | Education Council. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2016, from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. IIPE Conference for Ethics, Law, Justice and …. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/content/download/545/4465/Hall 2001.pdf
Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of teaching with social media. In Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved from http://acec2014.acce.edu.au/session/ethics-teaching-social-media
Ministry of Education. (2015). Digital technology - Safe and responsible use in schools. Retrieved from http://www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/School/Managing-and-supporting-students/DigitalTechnologySafeAndResponsibleUseInSchs.pdf

MindLab 4 - Indigenous knowedge and cultural responsiveness

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The school I work at has a large percentage of Māori students, although Europeans / Pākehā make up the majority of the students. (Stats taken from the ERO website, last inspection May 2016).
In a video about Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Professor Russell Bishop discusses 6 factors that agentic teachers, those who reject the deficit theory (defining Māori students by their weaknesses rather than their strengths) use regularly in their classrooms. For brevity, these are not going to be specifically discussed here, but are mentioned in the video. However, I can honestly say that these have pointed out areas for my personal improvement in my interactions with Māori students, especially around the co-construction of the learning and use of Māori concepts in teaching and learning. Sometimews we all get so bogged down in the stuff we have to teach (yes, even to the extent of making sure students pass the test...) that we forget to make the real connections that have the best outcomes. One thing I have learned personally, is that the relationship with the students is THE most important thing to achieve. I use humour, eye contact and am non-judgemental about ability based on race, but still could be doing more for my Māori ākonga. Something to focus on in 2017 more.
Vision, mission and core values
Our mission is about creating outstanding young women, who will leave the school well prepared for the next step of their lives as positive contributors to the NZ society. Our motto is "Whakamana ngā wāhine o apōpō - Empowering Tomorrow's Women".
We have vowed to embrace the unique position of our Māori culture, value NZ's cultural diversity, and focus on realising the potential of Māori and other priority learners.
Our values are put together in the Fideliter Code: Mahi tahi (working together), Kia kaha, kia toa (giving our best), Tika me te pono (having integrity) and Manaakitangata (showing respect).
From my perspective as a teacher who has only recently arrived at the school, we appear to be doing quite well at these aspects and this is echoed by the favourable ERO report in 2016. The school is on a path of becoming more culturally repsonsive, working with the Māori leaders to undersatand our biculturality better. Our learners asked us to do this, as they saw their peers leaving school early and dropping by the wayside. The shift towards inclusivity and a Cuturally Reflective Pedagogy has 'snowballed' this year, with initiatives being instigated to really connect with our Māori ākonga and encourage their development, so they feel included and valued.
One of our goals as a school is about changing outcomes for our Māori ākonga, including improving retention of Māori students across all levels, improving their achievement at all levels and making stronger relationships with whānau to support the achievement of individual students and identified groups.
As with all goals, this is a work in progress, but we are making progress. That said, there is never room for complacency, so this goal continues into next year and beyond. There is a move to strengthen the relationships between school and whānau, and support is growing for us in working with the ākonga. Personally, as mentioned above, I need to use more of the experiential learning that comes with each student and feel that this may be the case among some of my peers. Also, specifically within the Science department (I cannot speak for others) there is only latterly a move towards more cultural inclusion in the senior Science areas. The junior curriculum has some aspects of Māori culture (Mataraiki, for example), but this does not extend as well into the senior school. Clearly to help retain our Māori students, we need to be addressing the shortfall in this area. The school goals filter down to department level, and we acknowledge things could be better, but change is happening, and for the right reasons - Empowering Tomorrow's Women.

MindLab post 3

He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pā he taura waka e motu (Material bonds can be broken; but human bonds endure)

My next post is an issue facing everyone, not just education - sustainability, as identified by CORE as one of their ten trends for 2016. It was also identified in the NZ Curriculum document (MoE, 2007) as a value that we expect a typical New Zealand student to have once they complete their education.

Sustainability has been a keystone of my life, having been involved in many environmental projects. I was first introduced to environmentalist thinking and action by a lecturer at tertiary college who showed me what it means to be an activist for the planet, something I embraced and continue to embrace.
I am a Science educator, but I also have a strong interest in protecting the environment and encouraging students to consider the consequences of their actions on the planet. One of my (minor) actions was creating the Google+ community for NZ EfS teachers.  I believe sustainability to be an interest that crosses all curricular boundaries and can be incorporated into most areas of learning. Nonetheless, Education for Sustainability (EfS) is now a Science subject.

One of the main issues discussed in relation to sustainability is the effect of climate change on the planet (or more specifically anthropogenic climate change), particularly within the Pacific region where Kiribati and Tuvalu are approaching the point of disappearing under the waves due to rising sea levels (Morton, 2016).

Other issues that are also equally important are the uses of resources closer to home, such as depletion of fish stocks and pollution of our waterways by industry and agriculture. These are issues that can be discussed with classes of students. CORE recommend that students are also shown how to take action over issues; something I have long promoted and continue to promote, both in the classroom and outside of it. 

This diagram shows what the goals of EfS are, and show the inter - connectedness of society as well as education in sustainability. 
CORE have also identified that as a result of the access to technology that students now have, they are better able to connect with other students around the world or source information about issues. Part of the role of the teacher, therefore, could be to help students navigate this huge wealth of sometimes not too truthful information. The New Zealand government and various powerfully rich mining companies would have us believe that fracking is not likely to cause any issues around our shores. As Tui beer would say, Yeah, Right.
As educators, we can encourage students to become more active for the planet. More schools should be encouraging students to focus on the small stuff and  see how this feeds into the big stuff. 

Currently, EfS is not as prominent in the NZC as many educators would like, and is not even a compulsory strand, rather a recommendation (Eames, Cowie and Bolstad, 2008). There is a wealth of information available to all teachers, to assist in the implementation of sustainability education, especially in New Zealand where we have resources and guidelines available through TKI. The day will come when all educators play a part in educating students about the environment and sustainability, but for the moment I am happy to be part of the vanguard!


Eames, C., Cowie, B., & Bolstad, R. (2008). An evaluation of characteristics of environmental education practice in New Zealand schools. Environmental Education Research, 14(1), 

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium teaching and learning in years 1–13. Wellington: Learning Media.

Morton, J. (2016). Pacific nations desperate for climate action - Climate Change - NZ Herald News. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from http://www.nzherald.co.nz/climate-change/news/article.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=11591295

Thursday, 22 September 2016

2 of 5 Mindlab posts - A reflection on the socio-economic status of my school

The school I work at is a single-sex, decile 5  school (based on an outdated set of criteria defined by the Ministry of Education). We have students classed nationally as "in the middle". The reality is actually not quite so simple; we have students who come from socio-economic backgrounds that can only be described as bordering on poverty and students at the other end of the scale. The reason for the disparity (as well as the very middling decile rating) is coming from a small city with big agricultural catchment, there is a diverse range of students attending the school.

Māori students account for 35% of our roll, with the majority being Pākehā. We have been working to become more culturally responsive, with initiatives such as inclusive professional development and the creation by students of a new karakia - Te Timitanga. Stoll (1998) discusses how "pupils who attend the school flavour it in their own particular way, through their own pupil culture", and this is ably demonstrated by the drive from the students to be more culturally responsive.

Our school motto is "Whakamana ngā wāhine o apōpō - Empowering tomorrow's women" and this encompasses our philosophy, which is about "preparing girls to be outstanding young who leave us ready for the next step in their lives" (taken from the school mission statement).
We are working to raise Māori achievement across all levels of the school with a move towards more student - centred learning. There is already a better connection between students, teachers and whānau with more communication, encouraged through conferencing during the year. Students are all in vertical whānau classes, allowing older students to be 'big sisters' to the younger girls.

We are striving to incorporate more 21st Century learning, collaboration and the use of digital technologies across the school. Stoll also talks about the difficulties of trying to make changes in schools, and while our school is receptive to change, there is still a contingent of staff that might resist change. This will undoubtedly become apparent in 2017 when we bring in a BYOD policy. Some teachers still believe in a teacher - centred approach will and this kind of programme will shift the focus from a teacher - led to student - centred learning and teaching style.

Another issue arising with BYOD is that students who are at the lower end of our socio-economic scale may be disadvantaged as they are less likely to be able to afford devices, and there will also be a chance that they do not have access to the internet at home, thus widening the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. The school has some plans to assist with these issues, but we acknowledge that the issue exists. No implementation can ever go without "selling the idea to get people on board" (Thirkell and Ashman, 2014), something that probably needs to be done more with the staff than the students, but as someone once said, "I never once had a student tell me they couldn't use technology because she didn't receive PD for it".

Overall, the school wants to see all students cared for and learning in a modern and vibrant environment, and I love being part of the team that are trying to push things forward. The traditional top-down leadership approach has started changing so that staff who are on the 'bleeding edge' of changing to encompass 21st Century learning skills are being encouraged to take some of the leadership roles. The school is moving forward, and the students are an integral part of this; they are the reason we are there, after all.

Thirkell, E., & Ashman, I. (2014). Lean towards learning: connecting Lean Thinking and human resource management in UK higher education. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(21), 2957–2977. http://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2014.948901

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Reflections on (one of) my Communities of Practice

My personal learning journey sees me involved in a lot of CoPs; each one determined by the shared goals of that community. The community that I feel I interact with mostly, is the Science department I as a part of. We meet approximately fortnightly, with a shared interest in the promotion of scientific thinking within our students to encourage a level of Citizen Scientific Literacy, as described by Gluckman (2011).

A Community of Practice (CoP) has been defined by Wenger (2000) as "communities that share cultural practices reflecting their collective learning". He also points out that participation in these communities is essential to learning.

The focus of the Science department is to raise critical thinking within our students; making them question the world around them and hopefully, learn to understand information presented as scientific to them on a daily basis. We are attempting to focus more on the inclusion of the Science Capabilities as well as the Nature of Science strands of the NZ Curriculum, making the students' learning more about the act of 'doing Science' rather than just completing practicals and writing notes because it is necessary for an exam or test (Haigh, France and Forret, 2005).

Image result for science nzThe department has spent a lot of time in critical reflection so far this year, as it was realised we are too assessment-heavy across all sections of the Science department, and our students are not getting the benefits of the accumulated knowledge and experience that the teaching staff have to offer. Our reflections have led us to understand that to really move forward and encourage scientific thinking is to make some big changes to the way we assess. This has not been easy, as all Communities of Practice can get bogged down over time, and sometimes need a real boost to get them moving in the right direction once again. From a personal point of view, this has been something of a revelation, but I am conscious of the stress this causes colleagues as sometimes making big changes is not easy, but as Wenger points out, gaps in the learning must be recognised and addressed.

I am part of the leadership team for the department, and am helping to drive some of the new ideas, making sure my colleagues are feeling supported, and also letting them know that it is acceptable to make mistakes and that by streamlining our processes, we will be clawing back precious time and seeing less stress among each other and our students. We are all learners on the journey with our students, and if we are afraid to make mistakes how can we encourage them to learn through making their own mistakes?

It is all a work in progress. Clearly, practices that we want to change have been long ingrained, but things must change. Otherwise, we can't enjoy our teaching of science, and there is no way we can get our students to develop the love of learning in science either. Thankfully, as a community, we have identified the issues and are working to move forward together, for ourselves and primarily for our students.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step - Lao Tzu


Gluckman, P. (2011). Looking Ahead: Science Education for the Twenty-First Century A report from the Prime Minister ’ s Chief Science Advisor.

Haigh, M., France, B., & Forret, M. (2005). Is “doing science” in New Zealand classrooms an expression of scientific inquiry? International Journal of Science Education, 27(2), 215–226. http://doi.org/10.1080/0950069042000276730 

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225–246.