Monday, August 31, 2015

The Struggle Is Real

Why has this year been so difficult? I have to say I started out firmly on my high horse... "Yes! I'm not a beginner teacher anymore... I am the real deal. I have had a fantastic year AND I've nearly finished my first year of a post graduate study... Just try and stop me!" - Well, there seems to be no end to what has stopped me. Big barriers with spikes sticking out of them... Or at least that's how it feels. 

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting an easy ride! I'm a sucker for punishment and making sure I push myself and my practice to the limit. However, I feel as though up until now, I had some control of things. Now it feels as though I'm a step behind. Some days several steps. Or perhaps I am just more critical of myself then I was before?

I constantly ask myself the question: Am I doing the best I can for my students? The answer is always yes. But I can't help feeling that it isn't enough anymore. 

I have been reading a few blogs and articles about the 'Third Year Blues' - This was mentioned to me recently by a good friend and colleague after I came down with a second burst of sickness for the term. I brushed it off - of course not! But perhaps I was wrong. My second year of teaching was an especially rewarding one. I began studying (something I never thought I would do again), I had a successful personal inquiry using ICT to boost literacy in the classroom, I started working with a supportive team in a fantastic school and of course I completed my provisional registration and gained my full.

This year is a little different - My personal inquiry has had elements of success, but it hasn't come easily and it is strewn with challenges, failures, roadblocks and reflections. I am still studying but it's taking a lot longer to get myself back in to the routine of doing daily readings than I had expected. My immune system has taken a beating with an unusual amount of sickness this year. I feel like I haven't been myself. Success simply isn't coming easily. 

I started this post to have a vent. I have, and in the process I've had that 'get over it!' moment - I know that this lack of success is a good thing. It doesn't feel very good... but it is what learning is all about! I just need to keep this in mind. I am well and truly in the pit.
That's me, right in the bottom there...
Picture Cred:

So - what is there to do but fight my way out of it? Like the quote we religiously tell our students:

"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work"
- Thomas Edison

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Discovery Friday - End of Term Reflection

This term has been an exciting time for the students in our team - Te Ako Kahikatea. A while ago I posted about a new idea my team had about using student voice to guide their learning on a set day that we named Discovery Friday. This was something we had thought about for a while and now that we are 10 weeks in, I can express how overjoyed I am at the success we have had.

The students are engaged, they want to be here, they are thriving on being able to direct their learning, they are producing full, insightful reflections and recognising their own steps independently. All of these things to me are incredible and I am so pleased that, on the surface at least, the programme has worked.

However! There is always a however... The purpose of our Discovery Friday workshops was to give our students the tools they needed to drive their own inquiries. We had been telling the students frequently that the time was fast approaching where they had to think of their own inquiry. We decided that week 11 would be a 'Discovery Week' where the students would come up with their big question (that hopefully they had been thinking about all term) and create a proposal for their inquiry to begin in term 3.

What. A. Headache!  I was sorely mistaken when I assumed the students would all be prepared to undertake their own inquiries. Asking a big question that can't be googled or answered by the teacher? Building a timeline of goals and milestones for their project? Figuring out what resources will be required? This is a really big ask! How could I not see that earlier?

So while we have around 20 students who are prepared to go through with their independent inquiries, we still have the majority who are not sure what direction to take there ideas... or even know where to start.

We reflected on what we could have done differently in the process and agreed that we could have had more 'formal check points' where we had the students note down what they had learned and thought about what topics grabbed their interest, rather than waiting until the end of the term and assuming they would have one ready to go. On several occasions it was bought up in discussion, but it was never recorded. Therefore, partially a result of a busy term, the outcomes of these discussions were forgotten or not fully actioned.

In response to this we decided to give the students their subject area, and came to the conclusion that we would stick to the concept focus we had planned for term 3 - Adaptation and Survival. As a group we brainstormed all of the different topics we have done during Discovery Friday, then what we thought Adaptation and Survival was. With our two brainstorms we started looking at how we could merge their ideas and workshop experiences together. For example: An instructional video about surviving in the wild, coding a game in Scratch where the player must adapt and change to suit different environments. One student took a different approach, deciding she would work on a project to help new students at school, specifically those who are ESOL students, adapt to their new environment.

Their ideas are now flowing, and they have direction. Even though I had to push them with a topic choice, they were able to take what they had the most interest in and work with it to produce an inquiry question and propose a desired outcome.

So yes... things didn't go entirely to plan - but they're working. The students are absolutely loving Discovery Friday and having a say in their learning. We will keep on persevering with the questioning and thinking skills of those who require it, and give guidance and resources to those who are already there.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

GAFE Summit

This week I was lucky to attend the Google Apps for Education Summit at Albany High School. It started off with an inspiring keynote by John Bailey about Disruptive Innovation. Once this was finished, I went upstairs to find myself a quiet spot to go over my own presentation. This was the first time I have ever presented so to put it plainly, I was terrified. In fact, that may be a bit of an understatement. I was presenting my story of starting a digital classroom using Hapara and Google Drive, illustrating the challenges and successes I had along the way. Despite the typical technical difficulties that threw me off quite a bit in the beginning and incredible nerves, I was really happy with the great feedback I received from those who attended. It has definitely sparked something that I didn't realise I had in me - I'm already considering submitting an idea for the Ulearn Conference in October this year.

With the buzz of having my presentation behind me, I was free to explore the rest of what GAFE had to offer, starting with Wes Warner and his passionate demonstration of the uses of Google Earth and how diverse it is! I definitely can't wait for this to become available on Google Chromes so I can start using it in class.

Day two of the conference, Newmarket Primary School truly took over! With Natasha Walden and Belinda Hitchman picking up the two Chromebook prizes during the welcome, and Natasha, Waveney Bryant and Sonya Van Schaijik all presenting throughout the day. Holly Clark gave a killer presentation about disruptive innovation, continuing on from John Baileys keynote from day 1. This really hit me and straight away I was looking for more ways to help develop my practice and offer more innovative opportunities to my students.

Next up was Natasha on gearing up your staff to use Google Drive. I loved her simplistic, easy approach to making the huge change from paper to digital format. Then we had Waveney who showed us how she is monitoring her students achievement through digital badges - such a fantastic idea and I can't wait to get these going with my own students in day one next term! After lunch, Sonya showed us TeachMeetNZ in action. I was so proud to see my colleagues present at the summit. They are such a supportive and passionate bunch! I am so lucky to be able to work with them every day.

Overall, the summit was an all around winner. I am so happy that Sonya believed in me enough to encourage me to present, and that she supported all of us from Newmarket School to do something that was so challenging and out of our comfort zones, but so rewarding. Much like last year, the Summit was a great way to develop new connections with like minded educators and follow their journeys as well. I can't wait for #GAFEsummit 2016!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Discovery Friday
In Te Ako Kahikatea we believe students need to explore their own interests and curiosities. We want to give them a chance to try something new by introducing them to something they may have never tried before. We want them to develop a project based on their personal interests and reflect on the progress they are making. Students will timetable their own day, either selecting a workshop provided by a teacher or guest, or illustrating what is is they plan on doing with their time and having that approved and monitored by their teacher/mentor.

Students can work independently or collaboratively, while being offered a broad scope of opportunities.

Student voice. Student choice. Students collaborating. Students being self directed and in charge of their own learning. The chance to explore new and exciting tools. The chance to explore their own passions and interests. We hope to spark interests students didn't know they had and grow their passion for learning.

Screenshot 2015-04-15 at 12.08.19.png
Students will use this template to timetable their day each week. Teachers will ensure the students are aware of what workshops or other commitments, such as whole school assemblies, are taking place that day. They will be given 15 minutes to complete their planning and have it checked by a teacher before moving on to their first task.

Teachers will take a variety of workshops, as will guests where applicable (For example: Musician, engineer, builder), keeping aside one teacher who will be roaming and monitoring the independent tasks.

Reflections and record keeping
Students are responsible for showing evidence of their learning during discovery Friday. They can reflect in a range of ways such as vlogging their progress. It is expected that students will be able to address challenges they ran into throughout the day in their workshops or personal projects, but also recognise the progress they have made. A minimum of 1 reflection is required each day and will be stored on their Google drive for their own and teacher reference.

Students may also use the Edmodo system to keep in touch with others in their group and keep a record of the steps they are taking and any conversations they are having that relate.

What about those students who will just go with their friends or not know where to start?
Initially there will be students who don’t know what they’re interested in or will follow their friends even if their choice doesn't interest them. We will observe all students and place those who we think will need the extra support in something we believe will interest them, while holding regular student/teacher conferences to get their feedback. Feedback from students will be requested a couple of times a term so teachers can design the workshops on offer to cater to the students wants and needs.

Where to next?
  • Discovery Friday is our first step in student choice, project based learning and independent timetabling. I hope that this will become something that is implemented across the curriculum spanning the whole week. Students will plan their own days, timetabling in the compulsory teacher conferences (Reading, writing, concept).
  • Use of Google Calendar to assist with planning and timetabling in events.
  • Students self directed in knowing ‘where to next’, implementation of progressions
  • More ‘teacher to student’ conferences to inform students of how to read their progressions
  • Teacher PD eg: ULearn, #EdchatNZ Conference, Google Certification
  • Observation of already set up classes and schools

Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrating our Indigenous Language

Excerpt from The impact of colonisation on te reo Māori: A critical review of the State education system by Rachael Ka'ai Mahuta (2011)
The Treaty of Waitangi is a document that was designed to uphold the rights, language and culture of Māori. Instead, the indigenous culture of Aotearoa was subject to the European policy of assimilation. This means that though the agreement in the treaty was that the indigenous culture would be respected and nurtured, the reality was that Māori would simply be absorbed by the Pākehā culture, leaving no room for their language or traditions to be recognised.

In 1847 Sir George Grey introduced the Education Ordinance, effectively ending the incorporation of indigenous cultural identity in schools, going as far as to remove Māori children from their families so they would be completely immersed in European culture. Naturally this was the beginning of the huge decline in indigenous cultural practice. The impact of this language loss on culture and identity within the school environment is vast. In the early 1900's around 90% of students starting school had Te Reo as their first spoken language. By the 1960's it had reduced to closer to 25% (Ka'ai Mahuta, R., 2011) Today that number may be as low as 5%.

In the early 1970's concern for Māori language was expressed, leading to a petition requesting Te Reo be taught in schools signed by 30,000 was delivered to Parliament and Maori Language week is introduced. In the 1980's the efforts increased and the first Te Reo radio stations were broadcast. In the 1990's the Education Amendment Act provides formal recognition for Kura Kaupapa Māori and wānanga, Māori broadcasting funding agency Te Māngai Pāho established to promote Māori language and culture, More than twenty iwi radio stations broadcast throughout the country and the Government announces funding for Māori television channel. Today, the New Zealand Government recognises the errors in how the indigenous culture was treated after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, offering apologies, compensation and rectification of indigenous rights. (Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori)

My schools commitment to celebrating indigenous language is apparent in many different ways and is frequently being reviewed in order to provide the best possible coverage of Aotearoa's founding language and culture. We run a strong Te Reo programme in our classroom, attempting to use the language for a multitude of reasons school wide. For example: greetings, instructions and Waiata. In 2015 a Kapa haka group was introduced to celebrate Māori traditional song and dance. The school leadership programme provides ample opportunity for all our students from a multitude of cultures to join together and create a club that sparks a particular interest while teaching the students strong leadership values. We are encouraged to consider the impact on and upholding Māori values when creating our professional inquiry focuses each year.

Coming from a school that has a heavy population of students who are English Language Learners, it is imperative that we respect all the cultures that make up our small inner city school. With this, it is of equal importance that we show the same respect to our indigenous culture by incorporating it in to our every day schooling. We encourage families to continue speaking their native tongue at home so the students stay strong in their first language, and maintain knowledge of their families culture, traditions and values. As we move forward, we will continue to be inclusive of our school community when considering our next steps. To support indigenous language revitalization and maintenance, teachers must upskill themselves enough to be able to do justice to the cause. I feel a logical step forward in my own practice would be to take further steps in learning Te Reo and about the culture that is native to Aotearoa.

Resources used:

Ka'ai Mahuta, Rachael. 2011: The impact of colonisation on te reo Māori: A critical review of the State education system. Retrieved from:

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori - 'Maori Language Issues: History'. Retrieved from

'Māori Language Week', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Aug-2014

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Indigenous positioning within professional contexts

The Treaty of Waitangi is considered to be New Zealand's founding document, but it is a founding document that was built on supposed miscommunication and misrepresentation of indigenous rights for both signing parties. Once signed, many aspects of the treaty were not upheld, meaning the language, traditions and values of the indigenous people dissipated. It hasn't been until recent years that this mistreatment has been tackled by the indigenous community but a result of this has been the crown recognising fault and compensating the effected parties. The inequality that has developed in the years since the treaty was signed is vast. Māori students were forbidden to speak in their native tongue while at school and their culture wasn't nurtured, which has lead to the decline in the awareness of their language and culture we are experiencing today.

How this is addressed within the context of my practice is through various means. As mentioned in my previous blog post, the Newmarket School deputy principal, Eilleen, works hard to build strong, lasting relationships with our indigenous families. Through on-going discussions and feedback from families, she is now addressing concerns through her professional inquiry this year. Part of this is implementing more opportunities for our students to learn about Māori culture, history and traditions. For example: a traditional Kapa haka group. Eilleen ensures she is in constant contact with the school's Māori community, listening to what they want and administering their feedback within the school environment. The developments are shared with the staff and have been implemented in many other staff members inquiry's school wide. Another programme in place at my school is the Leadership Programme. This encourages students to explore a hobby and find like minded students within the school by creating clubs. These clubs are lead by the students with very little teacher intervention, allowing the students to develop their own leadership skills and demonstrate initiative. This is especially rewarding to those who are not achieving academically, as it gives them a chance to show others something they feel comfortable with and are truly good at. Boosting the child's confidence in one area will hopefully transfer in to others. All of the steps we are taking align with that recommended by the Education Review Office and the report they released in June 2010 entitled Promoting Success for Māori Students.

Māori achievement is a major focus of our school, as it is with many others throughout Aotearoa. In a 2013 summary on student achievement completed by Education Counts, the difference between Māori students achieving At or Above in National Standards verses that of European children is substantial. Though in their monitoring they did notice that the gap has lessened between Māori and European achievement, there is still much more that needs to be done to make considerable difference.

Within the context of my own practice, this gap in achievement is a reality as well. With the continued persistence in empowering our indigenous students through understanding and use of their values and traditions it is hoped the students will overcome the inequality that has emerged.

Resources used

Ministry of Education, 2013. Education Counts: National Standards Data and Summary for 2013. Retrieved from

The Education Review Office, 2010. Promoting Success for Māori Students - Schools' Progress. Retrieved from:

SMC History, February 2014. The Treaty of Waitangi Today - Legal Status. Retrieved from:

Mohsen al Attar, August 12th 2011. LAW121 - The Treaty of Waitangi. Retrieved from:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cultural Context

In this reflective post, I am going to address the following points in relation to the cultural context of my practice:
  • How does indigenous knowledge relate to social justice?

  • How does this relate to human rights?
  • How can I ensure the care and protection of indigenous knowledge within my teaching practice?
  • Why is this a responsibility within my context of practice?

Social Justice relates to the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a societyIndigenous knowledge encompasses the skills, experiences and insights of people, applied to maintain or improve their livelihood (Ellen and Harris, 1996) which are passed on through many generations. The relation between social justice and indigenous knowledge is simple. To have a society that is inclusive of all it's members, we must consider all aspects of that societies make-up. This in turn relates to human rights because every human within a society is of equal importance regardless of wealth, social standing or cultural background. We all deserve equal rights and access to the opportunities that go along with that.

I can ensure the protection of indigenous knowledge within my practice by frequently sharing history and stories that relate to the indigenous past of our country such as the Treaty of Waitangi. I can also contribute by showing my students how this knowledge relates to their lives now and why the knowledge of our countries indigenous culture, past and present, is critical to have. This is incorporated in to my practice through Te Reo in the classroom as well as the inclusion of the Māori and other cultures in the classroom. In our school, the deputy principal works hard to maintain strong relationships with indigenous families, frequently holding discussions and requesting feedback and forward for our school. She willingly shares her extensive knowledge with me and the rest of the staff, giving us a practical and active approach to applying it to our practice. Within the context of my practice, it is my responsibility that I ensure my students have ample opportunity to be involved in Māori enrichment but also the vast collection of other cultures that require recognition within the context of my school. I too must undertake professional development to ensure my indigenous knowledge is thorough and is being actively used in my practice.

Resources used:

Ellen and Harris, 1996. Concepts of indigenous environmental knowledge in scientific and development studies literature: A critical assessment. Retrieved from: 

Putt, J. 2013. Conducting Research with Indigenous People and Communities. Retrieved from 

The Love Alliance. 2010, June 13th. What is Social Justice?. Retrieved from