Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Three Years Under My Belt

I cannot believe my third year of teaching is over, and my first year at Orewa College. I have been on a rollercoaster this year, learning so much about the school culture and curriculum. I felt a little lost throughout the year, but also had substantial support surrounding me with my million questions! I had an end of year appraisal meeting with Adam, my HOD, discussing my strengths and areas I need further development in, in relation to the practising teacher criteria (see full report here). This post identifies some of the key points from our discussion.

My strengths are my lifelong learning, my professional relationships (particularly with my students), my classroom culture and the learning opportunities I provide. To strengthen these PTCs even further, next year I would like to make connections and increase my relationships within the community, and increase my understanding and inclusion of the Ako Orewa learning process (as previously blogged about). From student feedback, such as these comments from my Level 2 class, I feel confident with my classroom environments and hope students continue to feel safe and comfortable in my lessons.

Moving forward, the two PTCs which need the most attention/growth are 1 (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and 5 (Design for learning). Next year I would love to learn more Te Reo Maori concepts, customs and terminology. I feel I naturally use some key phrases such as Morena, Haere Mai and Whakarongo Mai within my practice, but have a lot more to learn about cultural practices of Maori and other cultures within our community. One cultural practice we need to be aware of when teaching sexuality education for example, is that Tongan and Samoan students cannot be in the same lessons as their siblings as it is considered inappropriate. I feel though, I need to learn a substantial amount more about the history, culture and beliefs of our non New Zealand European students.

Therefore, my major 2019 goal is to become more confident in the use of Te Reo, read about tikanga Maori and have professional conversations with the Languages department at school. As a result, I would like to further develop the cultural responsiveness within my classes, to ensure I am inclusive of all students, with a specific focus on Maori. 

An additional goal is to analyse student achievement and student progress more regularly throughout the year, not only at the end of the year. After the Seniors left, I spent time breaking down student results, reflecting on the results, and examining where to go next, but feel I needed to have more discussions with students throughout the year to formatively assess their learning, not only summative assessment. I feel that can be achieved by shaping the structure within my classroom to allow for small group tutorials, as well as discussions with individuals. This structure will require a lot a trust within my classes, which will come back to how I create relationships with the students. I am grateful to be sharing a Level 3 PE class with Adam, and his strength is structuring his classes to have tutorials and check-ins with the kids, so I will learn plenty alongside him!

Now though, it is time to unwind and have a break, ready to tackle some new challenges next year!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Ako: To Teach and To Learn, How am I tracking?

Earlier in the year I blogged here about Ako Orewa, the vision for student learning at OC (to learn more about the concept of Ako, read here). I then visited the classrooms of two colleagues to complete an 'Ako observation' (see blog here), to chat with students about what they are learning and why (i.e. the learning process). Our department goal for this year was to emphasise the learning process in our classrooms (as we strive to have it embedded within teaching and learning).

In addition to trying out some exit strategies for my previous inquiry, I wanted to grasp and actively consider the learning process as part of my inquiry for Terms 3 and 4. I focused specifically on my Year 9s, as it tied in nicely with the performance improvement programme unit at the time. For 5-6 weeks the students chose a badminton skill to focus on and attempt to improve, using the performance improvement cycle. The purpose of the unit was for students to understand the cycle and how it can be applied to learning any new skill. This tied in well with the learning process, as I was regularly able to check in with students about where on the cycle they were, what they needed to do next and explain why. 

Students often ask, 'why are we learning about this', and I'm quick to admit that question came out of my mouth frequently at school too. Hence the importance of contextualising learning for the students and making their tasks authentic for the 'real world'. After this unit with my Year 9s, and coincidentally the performance improvement unit at the same time with my Year 10s, I felt much more comfortable with the learning process and feel the kids did too. As a result, I certainly heard less of the question we shouldn't really need to answer!

To determine how the school is tracking as we 'Ako-ise', student feedback surveys are completed to gain a snapshot of the learning process within their classes. My Year 9s completed one survey in Term 2 and again in Term 3. Results which came back to us as the teacher were a series of questions with a percentage alongside it (100% is 'full Ako'). Although there is clearly still a long way to go, this class has aligned more with an Ako vision of learning over the past few months, evident in these statistics. On average, all of the results doubled from the end of Term 2 to the end of Term 3! These three results stood out in particular though, as described in the infographic I have created.

Throughout the year I wrote the what, why, what next less and less up on the whiteboard as it started to become more natural to include within my teaching. However, upon reflection, and looking at the results, these components of learning were not clear for some students, so I should continue to have a visual I refer to. Additionally, I have reflected on some of the students academic results, and realised, ironically, many of the poor results were attributed to lack of hand ins of assessments. To reduce this, and hopefully increase results and engagement, I would like to have more checkpoints and opportunities for 1:1 discussions with students (explored further in this article, a short yet insightful read). 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Hanging With Healthies

This post is a very long time coming (even though it's pretty short!). Words cannot begin to describe how many times I have tried to sit down to write this post, but other matters have popped up during the end of year madness! Hoping to get back on the blogging roll over the next few weeks.

In the October holidays, I attended the inaugural New Zealand Health Education Association (NZHEA) 3 day conference - #empoweringhealthed, which made me walk away feeling incredibly inspired. Prior to the conference I was feeling rather flat, like I had lost a bit of passion and excitement about teaching. I just needed a break and a few days learning with some awesome, like minded educators from around NZ. 

I am grateful for this opportunity, including being asked to share some of my 'go to' relationship activities (see presentation slides below - if you would like more information about the resources or activities, feel free to comment below or contact me through Twitter). I was considerably more nervous about 'presenting' this time compared to last year at PENZ, but had positive feedback from those who were present.

I attended a variety of workshops, but the three that left me thinking were; Health Scholarships, Senior Health Courses, and Integrated Learning. Next year I hope to be involved more with HPE Schols, as I have tried to learn more about them this year, and have a few students interested. Alongside this, I want to give our Level 2 Health programme a bit of a change, based off of student results and student feedback (post about this to come post exams). Attending a session about Senior courses was helpful to understand the Level 1 & 3 courses, as well as discuss with other teachers what they include in their programmes. Finally, Orewa is heading towards a huge shakeup in 2020 with integrated learning, which I am incredibly excited about, so thought getting the juices flowing now would be helpful in the long run. I now have several ideas to put into action over the next few months!

Two activities I enjoyed participating in, and want to share as they could be used in several Health settings were The Deal Of Life resource and a Character Strengths Test. They are both very engaging and enjoyable, with teachable moments. 

These three days were full on, but I left feeling full in my heart and my mind, and excited for next year's classes. I really enjoy teaching PE, but there is something quite special about teaching Health. This conference, the organisers and the attendees reminded me of this. Reminded me that there is always so much more to learn, to give, to create, to share, so I need to continue to challenge myself to be the best I can be for my students.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Supporting Student Teachers & Graduates

PENZ is an organisation which has definitely supported my growth as a beginning teacher over the last couple of years. I have attended graduate mentoring sessions, two conferences (2016, 2017) and been sent ongoing information about our profession and PDs. As a result, I decided to give back and volunteer for the Auckland branch.

I have been involved in two workshops for first and second year teachers, a graduate mentoring programme, which I found useful last year. I worked alongside teachers who also gave up their time, from an array of schools. Mallory Bish and I have just completed registration, so decided to work together on a couple of the components for the day. Please see below our presentations from our first session.

The second section had a major focus on the criteria needed for registration. We spent time breaking down each of the new standards and evidence which could be used for the standards. I feel this was incredibly useful not only for the newbies, but also for myself moving forward. Having discussions with the graduates alongside some experienced teachers, gave lots of ideas I hadn't thought of before, so will be great to utilise moving forward.

I enjoyed giving back to the community after receiving support myself, and found it useful to remind myself of some of the key things I need to be doing myself (even though I am registered now). There was lots of great feedback and feedforward from the beginning teachers, to support the programme again next year. Unfortunately there weren't as many attendees as we had hoped (to either session), but, I think this is because we needed to promote the sessions more frequently and across more platforms (easily done next year).

Reflecting on these sessions I realised that some of the information may have been incredibly useful BEFORE starting to teach, particularly the legalities and expectations associated with being a first year. I then suggested having a team who presented to graduates of teaching degrees who are starting to apply for jobs now, because I would have loved to have a session as a student teachers. So I teamed up with two others to create the below presentation. We visited The University of Auckland Bachelor of PE cohort yesterday, and are planning to present to their Grad Dip, as well as the Grad Dip for Auckland University of Technology.

I found both of these experiences beneficial, because I increased in my confidence to present to others, and felt great about supporting others. I am looking forward to completing more presentations, as well as continuing to support PENZ next year (and attend conference!).

Monday, 6 August 2018

Silos Being Smashed, Shortly

This afternoon during our PLG, we started to discuss with greater depth where OC is heading in the next couple of years, as we are currently having a curriculum review. We began watching the below video created by our DP Richard Wells, which has been sent to the students' whānau for community feedback.

I am very excited by the opportunity to learn from, and with other teachers. Although I adore Health and PE, the reality is these silos aren't present outside of the school walls, so integrating with other teachers/subjects will be amazing. There are definitely many challenges we will face, and the change is not going to come easy, but I feel the end result will be great for our students.

With learner agency and critical thinking at the forefront of the change, this suggests a massive shift from focusing on the back end of the curriculum to the front. We will have greater focus on values, principles and key competencies, rather than content understanding. I love that (hopefully) students will have more choice in what they learn, how they learn and what they take away from school, rather than a regimented timetable with a tonne of assessment. I hate how much we assess kids, and I hate that I have to actively think about how NOT to teach to the assessment but also ensure students have the skills and knowledge to achieve their assessments to the best of their ability. I wish we could be more creative and open with our learning opportunities, but the current silos and factorised structure, with extremely limited time, makes this difficult. 

As previously blogged about before, my PLG's focus is around the Ako Orewa tools for learning. Today we concluded our major roles in this review would be to attempt to create some common language and consistency across staff, and promoting/encouraging the use of the tools. This would help to ensure similar pictures across the board, and possibly reduce the current silos. Additionally, we need to keep creating the alongside model we have been developing this year, to break down an Ako Classroom. Watch this space...

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Quick Paced Whānau Meetings

Last Tuesday and Wednesday evenings we had our second round of parent-teacher meetings. I felt much more comfortable this time than I did during the first round in Term 1 as I knew the students and the school more. Although they were pretty intense and exhausting, I really enjoyed them!

I think it is a great opportunity to connect with students and their whānau outside of the classroom environment. I really enjoy having one on one conversations with students, but unfortunately within only 3 hours per week I don't manage to have deep conversations with each student. I have noticed this over the last couple of months, and after reflecting on my day observing my students. So this is a goal I have in the back of my mind - spend more time with students individually.

However, the meetings last week did give me the chance to connect with some students who I hadn't spent much time with, particularly the quieter students. Being able to describe where they are at in their learning and the next steps for the student came easily, which really showed me I have made good relationships with the kids. But I did find myself stuck a few times with some feedforward for the caregivers, especially the Excellence level students.

Therefore, in future I need to dedicate a period or two prior to the interviews to make brief notes about each student. Something they're doing well, something about them as a person and something to take away to continue to grow. This would then give me a structure to follow for the interviews, give an overall picture of them in my class and ensure I maximise the time - they are only 5 minutes! Looking forward to developing my relationships with the students' whānau further.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Exit Strategies, My Mini Inquiry

Earlier in the year I posted about a mini inquiry about exit strategies. My previous HOD gave feedback from classroom observations that I had strong links to previous lessons but the the class needed endings, so suggested I look into exit strategies. Put simply, these are tools/cards/activities used to determine whether the students met the learning intention, what they are possibly uncertain about and shapes where the next lesson needs to go. Initially I wanted to focus on including exit strategies into my Year 12 Health class, as I am new to the class this year, but changed to my Year 10 Health class. The Seniors were completing Health Promotion projects so there was little teaching, and my Juniors only have Health once per week so I thought trying to have greater flow between lessons may help with lesson flow and remembering what they had learnt the previous week or two.

Strategy 1: Snowball 
Students were given two pieces of paper, on one they wrote something they had learnt that period and then threw it to the front of the room. On the other, they wrote a question they still had, then throw the paper to the back of the room. As each student left the class, I then gave them one of the questions a student had asked and as a homework task challenged them to research the question and email me with the answer. I shared all of the questions and answers as an intro to the next lesson, and could feel the pride some students had with the answers they had found.

As this was quite early into our sexuality unit, I knew some students weren't quite comfortable asking questions or sharing their answers in front of others, so that is why I led the Q&A. I think this strategy was effective for me to see what the students had taken away, and where they still had gaps. To be more effective though, greater student voice /sharing would have been ideal, so the information came from them rather than me. Therefore, I think using this strategy with older students, or a different unit would be most effective as students may feel more comfortable to share in front of their peers. I really liked giving the students questions from their friends though, as it really showed everyone was in the same learning boat.

Strategy 2: Paper Slide
One piece of paper was given to students this time, and they needed to explain one thing they had learnt that day. I asked students to give a little more detail than when they completed the Snowball task. As the students were exiting the class, they slid their piece of paper under my phone as I was filming, following one after the other. I then spent a short period of time adding some additional pictures/info into the video, which I showed to the students at the start of the next period. 

I really enjoyed this strategy, as it was not time consuming, there were an array of comments and it was such a simple thing to start discussions in the following lesson. By adding some pictures and music, it made it more like a short film, using the notes from the kids. In all honesty, I was in a flurry completing this, as I was short on time. So, in future with some more time, the Paper Slide could be even better with additional voice overs for example, to add further information onto the students comments.

Strategy 3: Traffic Light
Three different pieces of paper: red, orange, and green. Red = something still really confused or unsure about. Orange = something you have a question about. Green = something you completely understand. I collated all of these and read through them, to determine where everyone was at with their understanding. 

I was really happy to read many of the students had a good understanding of consent and contraception, which were two key topics in our unit. An observation I made from the reds (and a few oranges), was that several of the students struggled to identify what they didn't understand or wanted to know more information about. This made me think about how to encourage students to take note of things they are confused about, but also made me realise you don't know, what you don't know. 

This exit strategy was a little more time consuming than the others, and I feel that I didn't allow enough time for it. With maybe an additional 5 minutes, students may have been able to identify more gaps in their knowledge or ask questions for the reds and oranges. I also think this would have been easier to complete as a digital strategy, as well as saving a lot of paper! Gave me lots of things to think about though, and informed future lesson plans.

Strategy 4: Plickers
Unfortunately I ended up being unwell for the lessons I had planned to try Plickers with my class. I have used it before though, my blogpost is here.

Strategy 5: Whiteboard Quiz
Students were in small groups of 3-4, and each group was given a whiteboard. I asked a series of questions, each question worth a different amount of points. After I asked a question, the groups wrote their answer onto their whiteboard which they held up for me (and the rest of the class) to see. Points were given for correct answers, and the group with the most amount of points at the end won. 

Rather than using this as an exit strategy for one lesson, this quiz was an exit strategy for the whole unit. I loved this activity, as the students were super engaged (due to the competition), but there were also multiple teaching opportunities for me. Between each question I would explain the answer, and if more than one group were incorrect or confused, I would spend more time revising that topic. There were also lots of opportunities for students to respond, shifting the focus away from me (see a previous post here about several digital tools for opportunities to respond). Even though this strategy couldn't be used for solo lessons (possibly for a double period), it was fantastic for an end of topic strategy.

Overall I really enjoyed my inquiry into exit strategies last term. I was surprised how different they all were, and how they informed my teaching. The feedback from the different strategies effected the way future lessons went, and gave great flow between lessons. Some of them were time consuming to prepare and follow up with, but if students had completed it before, the strategy may not take as long. Moving forward I am unsure what my next mini inquiry will be - I would like to have an observation to get some feedback about where to go next, watch this space!

Friday, 29 June 2018

In The Students' Shoes For A Day

Over the past few months I have struggled to build relationships with some of my Year 11 PE students. There are 7 students who are close friends and sit in the back corner together, and often I find myself spending time managing their behaviour. ALL of these students have been identified as priority learners, and they are Maori students too.

Last year I went and visited one of my priority learners in another subject (see blogpost here), and found the experience incredibly rewarding. I took away some strategies to use within my class to support this student. My biggest concern with my current 7 students, is the time I spend trying to get/keep them on task, is sucking away time with students who really want and need my help - it really isn't fair. So, I requested, and was granted, a whole day today to observe these students in some of their other subjects. I really enjoyed seeing the kids in different lights, but also felt a sigh of relief when other teachers expressed their concerns and difficulties with the same students as me.

My key thoughts and reflections throughout the day;
  • Following around the students really made me appreciate how difficult it must be for the students to move between different classroom environments, different rules and expectations, different peers and completely different topics. I found it difficult to switch my thinking between periods and determine what was accepted in one class (which may not be accepted in the next). So I think I need to be a little more empathetic sometimes if they forget some of my rules!
  • Physical placement within the room seemed to make a considerable difference to many of their concentration levels, motivation to complete tasks and engagement in their learning. In addition, the classroom layout itself effected how they behaved and came across in the class. This wasn't too surprising though!
  • When the tasks were hands-on, or not using their devices, the students were generally more engaged, and were completing more of their tasks.

After this day, some strategies I think may help moving forward in my 11PE class are;
  • Change up the layout of the classroom, so the students are not all segregated in the corner. This may encourage the students to connect with other students, may reduce the behaviour management time, and may increase student engagement. In some of their other subjects, these students were seated closer to the teacher and they were less disruptive than in my class.
  • Have more one on one discussions with the students about their learning. I spent an entire period with my Year 10 students, individually discussing what they had learnt throughout the previous unit and what they still didn't understand (away from the other students in the class). This was so effective to gain an understanding of where they were at in PE, as well as enabled me to have conversations with some of the quieter students, building a closer relationship with them. Having the individual chats with my Year 11s, including the priority learners, may be as effective to increase relationships, will increase time spent with other students in the class, and the conversations may give me further strategies to support each student.
  • Include more activities/tasks that are not on devices. Gaming, social media and YouTube have been some of the main things I have had to manage when these students are in class, and today's observations demonstrated to me that removing the devices increased student engagement.
Overall, today was a great experience, which I am grateful for. I took a lot away from being immersed in other subjects, not only from the students, but also the teachers. I would definitely recommend observing priority learners who may be more difficult to connect with, in other subjects.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Why are you learning this?

As previously blogged about here, underpinning our teaching and learning is Ako Orewa. This is the school vision, which aims to empower students, and promote learner agency. Within the department, we have been focussing this year on the learning process;

What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Where to next?

I have been attempting to include these key questions into my lessons, especially with my Juniors, to make greater meaning of the learning related to the wider world, as well as encouraging students to take ownership of their learning. I definitely feel this is something I am improving, but need to actively include in more lessons, to shift the locus of control and continue to question why we are learning, what we are learning. 

I am finding myself this year teaching new units, and as a result needing to get my head around new assessment tasks too. I have struggled not to teach to the assessment, being completely honest. So over the past few weeks I have tried to often ask myself why I have planned particular lessons, and if the answer is 'because they need to know it', I try to reshape the lesson to be more about what the students want to know (based off student voice collected both formally and informally). Then, the 'why' shifts slightly.

To assist with the implementation of Ako Orewa (a five year plan, which includes a huge curriculum shift over the next couple years), teachers are encouraged to complete 'Ako Orewa observations'. Instead of visiting classes to observe a teacher (even though teacher observations are great learning experiences), we are to visit classes and discuss some of the key questions alongside, with the students.

I completed two Ako Orewa observations in Term 1 - one in an 11PE class, and one in a 12PE class. I found the conversations with the students incredibly insightful, as they were really able to explain the importance of self management and being in responsible of your own learning. I was surprised how the students were able to articulate how their achievement is determined by what they put into their learning. However, many were also able to (guiltily) describe the lack of understanding they had related to their learning tasks (which they identified was due to what they had not put in). I was not surprised either, that some students were unable to explain why they were learning about what they were learning, as we were only at the beginning of this shift in mindset. 

A term later though, I visited the two classes again, and spoke to different students. Many more were now able to identify why they were learning about particular topics and relate them to their lives. Some students were also now able to explain how they use exemplars and marking criterias to determine their level of learning, and where to go next. Therefore, starting to shift the focus onto the learning process in our classes is supporting the Ako Orewa vision/pedagogy.

I really enjoyed completing these observations, and I am looking forward to someone popping into my class so I can gauge where I need to further question or ignite discussions. Having discussions with the students really made me reflect on the learning process in my own classrooms, and actively think about the three key questions. Next year my challenge will be to relate the learning process to the Ako Tools.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

High Expectations - Do You Have Them?

Last Tuesday evening I attended a session facilitated by The Education Hub about how to become a high expectation teacher. I was interested to attend this, as I know deep down I expect all of my students to achieve to the best of their ability and to challenge themselves, but I was unsure how to structure my lessons and classroom to demonstrate high expectations. After listening to the presentations/research (Christine Rubie-Davis - see her slides here) and reading this paper created by The Education Hub, I have taken away many points to reflect on about high expectation teaching.

  • Studies have shown that by having high expectations of students determines student attitudes towards learning and overall achievement. When teachers have low expectations of their students, students' self perception and self belief drops, and evidently their success. 

  • Establishing routines early in the year is important, so students know what is expected of them and when. By creating a classroom culture where students are held accountable for their own learning, and are empowered by their tasks, but are also able to ask for support when needed, will help maintain high expectations throughout the year (rather than trying to set routines or expectations of the students partway through the year).

  • Ask high level questions of ALL students, expect ALL students to achieve the same goals and tasks/activities irrespective of their ability level. Differentiating tasks among the class based on ability is likely to reduce student motivation and achievement, as students who are identified as the lower level learners will perceive their teacher has lower expectations of them to be successful (and their success is significantly determined by the expectations their teacher has), and that the teacher values the high achievers more. Rather than asking different questions, if the student doesn't initially understand a question, then rephrase the question, or scaffold further (so the important thing the student takes away from this experience is that the teacher has the same expectation for all initially, but breaks down the question further if needed). Alternatively, provide several tasks, which the students can select from.

  • Low expectation teachers communicate tasks that need to be complete, whereas high expectation teachers communicate learning intentions and success criteria, and whether these have been met. Therefore, the emphasis is on the learning process, rather than the end product (which is paramount at Orewa currently). This is an area I definitely need to improve, as I feel I focus more on task completion, rather than the learning intentions. As previously blogged about, the WHY is important, rather than simply the WHAT. Moving forward, I would like to encourage my students to read through the success criteria of their tasks, and be able to identify whether they think they have met this (and if not, where do they need to head next in their learning - relates back to the learning tools).

  • Spend equal time with all students, rather than spend additional time with the lower ability students and leave the higher ability learners to work independently. This demonstrates the teacher has the same expectations for all, and can challenge all students as individuals, rather than within ability groups. I do feel I currently spend more time with the students who need more support, and as a result I am not challenging my self directed high achievers. Reflecting after this session, I fear this may suggest to these students I do not have time for them, as I am focused on getting other students 'over the line'. Therefore, I need to consciously attempt to spend an equal amount of time with all students.

  • Spend less time contacting home about things that have 'gone wrong' in the classroom, and more time calling whanau about successes and when students are exceeding your expectations. This is another thing I am aware I need to do more of - positive phone calls. Right before I attended this session, I called one students mother to say he'd had an incredible change of attitude towards learning over the past few weeks and I was really proud at how much effort he was putting into his learning. Surprisingly, she said that was the first positive phone call she could recall she'd had about her son!

  • Finally, Christine suggested videoing myself when I am teaching, to see how I am coming across to my students and whether there were other things I could have said/done during the lesson. A couple of years ago, I filmed and reflected on a lesson, see here, and found the process incredibly useful for reflection of my pedagogy, behaviour management and expectations of my students. I would like to video myself at some point again.
A question to reflect on if you're an educator is;

"What do your practices reflect about your beliefs about your students and their ability to learn?"

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Do I Have The Tools For Learning?

Fortnightly our PLGs meet. To further understand Ako Orewa and how to implement into my practice, I chose to be involved in the PLG which is breaking down the 'tools for learning'. We have discussed how these tools are discussion starters to have with students, and the aim is to increase learner agency. My plan is to get my head around the tools, begin to think about how I can use the tools in my lessons and then hit the ground running next year, possibly next year's inquiry.

I feel these tools are great stepping stones to decrease the teacher being in control and increase student ability to self manage their learning. In the future I would love to give students the ability to design their own courses and how they will assess their learning! I think a major affordance of using these tools within the classroom will mean that the students have greater 1:1 time with the teacher, and there will be much less time spent on managing behaviour.

Last week we focused on the orange tool. Our task was to design a swimming pool in small groups, but before doing so, we broke down the time required to complete the task and the resources we needed. Leanne and Bev (the facilitators of our PLG) then walked around the room and asked the groups key questions related to the tool such as "How are you going for time?" and "What resources do you think you could have used if you had more time?" As the student in the situation, I became more aware of how much I needed to do, and when I needed to do it by. I was held accountable for my task as others relied on me and the teacher asked lots of questions during the design process. We debriefed the activity by then thinking about what to do next and reflecting on how we used our time - which then started to link into the blue tool! 

I walked away from this session with greater understanding of how to include this tool within my classroom, and I am looking forward to experimenting with the others too. Below are the Slides Leanne created and talked us through last week, about how she has implemented the tools in her own practice so far.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Resilience - Easier Said Than Done

Being in a new school is tough. There are so many systems to learn, people to meet, kids to connect with, different units and assessments to understand. In addition to this change, I have had a lot going on at home. I have felt with all of the changes, I have lost a bit of passion and excitement in my teaching, and a considerable need to be resilient. 

Last term I found myself chatting with students from many of my classes about anxiety. Many times I walked away from conversations feeling emotionally exhausted supporting these students as they felt anxious, stressed and were struggling through a variety of things going on in their lives. I felt like an unqualified counsellor, a feeling I had often at Tamaki too. Twitter was timely and I came across a couple of articles to think about, as well this webinar/course about accidental counselling (which I will be completing on Sunday).

Relief washed over me when I stumbled across this reflection by Nycol Didcote about the difficulties of teaching and how to find a balance. It is well-known we work around the clock, and give and give and give, and as a result many teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. Didcote was real. She spoke about the behind the scenes struggles, and I felt relieved it wasn't just me! "So if you’ve lost your sense of purpose or feel as though your efforts aren’t worth it, know that you are not alone. But before you consider leaving the profession – really think of what you are leaving behind. You’re leaving your mark on those you serve everyday. You’re making a difference." This gave me the boost I needed, and was looking for to move forward.

I also found this article about how to confront anxiety, which discusses how feelings of worry can affect a child's ability to learn and function at school, and they cannot do the normal developmental tasks of someone that age, when the feelings are excessive. Anxiety needs to be recognised and supported, because if it is attempted to be eliminated, the more it increases. I know this myself! The article includes an interview with Lynn Lyons (social worker and psychotherapist), whom suggests we need to find ways to help our students to problem solve, to learn to take risks and to build resilience - we can't do it for them. Reading this really stuck with me, because I often try to help my students feel better and solve their problems, because I care for them and want them to be happy. However, upon reflection I feel I may have given some of my students a disservice, as I have not given them steps to support themselves to increase their resilience - something I will keep in the back of my mind moving forward.

Mrfallickpe wrote about the fear of getting something wrong, the fear of judgement, the fear of being in a toxic school environment. He reflects on the importance of the teachers believing in their students, not giving up on them, even though sometimes they make mistakes. I read this after the least enjoyable day I had last term, when I'd struggled to motivate some of my Year 11 students for a few weeks, and then clashed with them. I found this article refreshing, and a great reminder to take each day as it comes, and consistently have high expectations of students to TRY, even if they make mistakes - as that is how we learn! The comment I took away most from his blogpost was

We may say a comment or a sentence that we feel is not important to us however for the student it may be the most important message they hear and might stick with them for life”.

Resilence, and the ability to manage change, is coincidentally what the first Year 12 Health unit was. So I was teaching, implementing and discussing various strategies with the students about how to be resilience and manage change - right as I was doing it myself. Some strategies included having a nap, playing simple games and colouring in! I still have a lot to learn, but am feeling like the busiest and most difficult time has passed and I am excited to start Term 2 with a bang!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Inquiring into Closures, Debriefs & Exit Strategies

As previously blogged about, Ako Orewa is striving for students to be able to identify and explain why they are learning what they're learning. For students to become advocates for their own learning, rather than the teacher. Last year, some feedback on observations I got, was the lack of exit strategies within my lessons. My previous HOD suggested to think about some ways I could debrief the lesson, or small strategies to determine whether students can explain the lesson objectives, and whether they met the learning intentions. Therefore, I have decided to focus on exit strategies for my teaching inquiry

I am teaching Year 12 Health for the first time this year, learning and teaching lots of new ideas and concepts. By integrating exit strategies, or closure tasks, at the end of some lessons, this would be great feedback for me to determine how the lessons are going, and where I may need to make alterations for future. The strategies may also support the growth of learner agency, as students may be able to identify and explain the learning intentions of the lesson, the pathway the learning is heading, and possibly encourage students to identify what they still need to learn.

From an initial Google Search, I have already found a few ideas online (e.g. 22 Powerful Closures, Entry & Exit Cards, and 10 Smart Tools for Digital Exit Slips). But, if you have any to share, please let me know, as I'm willing to give anything a go to see what works for my students! At this stage I will spend this week researching some different tools and reading some academic literature, then possibly start implementing them next week.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Learner Agency Take 1

Image result for learning goals eduwellsAfter our callback days earlier in the year, we selected one of the sessions we attended to be our PLG for 2018. I decided to have greater understanding of the school's pedagogy and philosophy, I would attend the Ako Orewa sessions. Ako Orewa is an initiative starting to be developed, to promote greater learner agency, with an aim to 'put the horse before the cart'.

For our first PLG session today, I spent the time to try and get my head around the concept of Ako Orewa. The purpose of the developing pedagogy is to increase students' ability to identify how they are learning, what they are learning and where they are going next. Overall, Ako Orewa is encouraging the shift from teachers teaching, towards teachers facilitating, and students taking the lead. By increasing students' confidence to take ownership of their learning, will prepare the students better for the 'real world', where they rarely have someone as a fountain of knowledge to rely on. 

The department goal directly aligns with Ako Orewa too. Our aim is to increase students' understanding of the learning process. This is something I am definitely still trying to get my head around myself in all honesty. As I am learning so much, I am feeling a little overwhelmed with everything, but know this learning process is important for students. Some key questions for students about the learning process, which I am aiming towards over the next few weeks are;

Why am I doing this?
How am I progressing?
What do I need to do next?
Who can support me for my next steps?

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Although these seem like simple questions, I sadly admit many of my students are probably unable to answer some of these questions, particularly the why. To increase learner agency as an initial step for me, is to actively describe the bigger picture. I often ask myself this question when planning lessons, but don't share my thinking with the students. I need to make it a habit of mine to explain the purpose of the activities completed or resources used, so the students have greater holistic understanding, rather than being able to regurgitate their task instructions, as I feel many would currently if asked what they are doing and why.

I am looking forward to another year of learning in a PLG, and sharing my reflections in future posts!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Waitangi Day - More Than A Day Off

Despite dozens of lessons about the Treaty of Waitangi throughout school, I woke up this morning feeling guilty I had forgotten so much about a historical moment of New Zealand's history. The Māori, and the British showing great mana. With some quick Googling and watching YouTube videos, I reminded myself of the key things that occurred on the 6th of February 1840, before Waitangi Day became a public holiday to commemorate the signing in 1960.
  • There were growing plans of British migrants to settle in New Zealand, acquiring land and setting up commercial operations
  • Violence and crime between the Māori and British became rife
  • Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson negotiated British sovereignty over New Zealand as a representative for the Queen, and set up a British colony
  • The Treaty was an agreement between the British Crown and Māori iwi (tribes) and hapu (subtribes), with a purpose to enable the British settlers and the Māori people to live together in New Zealand under a common set of laws or agreements
  • The Treaty was named after the location of signing, Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands 
    Image result for treaty of waitangi
Today's article in the New Zealand Herald What does Waitangi Day mean to you?, identified some scary statistics about inequity between Māori and non-Māori today, despite the Treaty. There continues to be differences in understanding, more than 2000 claims lodged by the tribunal and many settlements. This article really made me think about what Waitangi Day means to me, after reading others' thoughts. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed that many of the people in the article merely considered Waitangi as a day off in the sun, with no significance to our past. However, multiple expressed their frustrations about the ongoing discussions and debates about the Treaty.

Tonight I reflected and thought about where we are at now. We live in a multicultural community, and I wouldn't want it to be any different. Without this integral moment of history, it is unlikely we would have so much diversity in our country today. I feel sad for the Maori that their land became co-owned, but proud of the challenges and risks they took. We have a rich cultural background which should be celebrated, and a beautiful native language. Unfortunately though, the amount of people who can speak Te Reo is reducing rapidly, and I fear as a result, so is the Māori culture.

I am trying to include more Te Reo words and phrases into my classroom this year, to normalise the language. I would like to teach myself more about customs and practices, so that I can embed these into my teaching and learning also. I believe if we all contribute where and when we can to hold onto the Māori culture, irrespective of our background, then Waitangi Day will have greater significance, and our history will not be forgotten.

Today I started by wearing my taonga (greenstone from my previous school) at my new local moana!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Inaugural Kahui Ako

Today was the first time Orewa College has collaborated with the local primary schools to learn about the COL leaders inquiries moving forward. Our day started with a Keynote presentation from Derek Wenmoth - Deep and Engaging Learning, followed by three self elected sessions.

What stuck with me was when Derek said "Unless we understand where we come from, it's difficult to determine where to go next". I feel I know very little about where education began, and how it has developed, even though I know it has considerably. Derek shed a little light on why some foundations that were created/theorised back in the day, which are still prevalent now, such as subjects. 

To deepen understanding, Derek suggested the 6 C's; Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, Character, Citizenship, Collaboration. He suggested that teachers and kids are becoming bored, and we need to get more excited about learning by shifting away from testing, standardisation and repetition, and put these 6 C's are the forefront of our teaching and learning.

For my first session I attended, we focused on the Key Competencies and how to use them to enrich learning in the classroom. The KC's are an integral component of the New Zealand Curriculum, but I still felt I needed to learn more about how to keep at the front of my mind when planning and teaching. 

I had previously seen Richard Wells' 5 tools for learning poster, which breaks down the KCs, and today's session built upon how I could relate to these in the classroom. The presenters had packs of cards which had the KCs on one side, and then a suggestion of how the KC may be covered in a lesson. Our task was to choose one of our unit plans, and explain how each of the five KCs were being developed during the unit, using the card prompts. I broke down my Exploring Substances unit, and found this a great task to deepen the unit plan, and ensure the KCs are deepening.  

Session two was an introduction to some ways to use visual media within the classroom. Although I had exposure to a lot of media tools during MDTA, I attended the session to learn about the sorts of things which happen here. My inquiry this year will be focused on literacy strategies, so I was interested how media can support digital/visual literacy, and in turn increase verbal and written literacy. 

Some of the suggestions for how to include visual media and imagery, which I could see possibilities for my classes included;

- to tell a story
- creation of storyboards
- breaking down feelings and other things that relate to the picture being taken
- further justification of the pictures being taken, what represents the story that you're trying to depict and why
- creation of movies to explain key words, or ideas that need to take away
- use of still shots can be stitched together to create a short film
- creating memes or GIFs

We had ten minutes to create a photo collage, I created the one alongside, which I thought may be a poster to put up in my classroom. I have seen lots of my friends and students use the app Pic Collage, so this was a perfect opportunity. Another suggested app was Clips for Apple.

The final session of the day introduced the first full cross curricula course at OC; Maths, English and PE. They explained how cross-curricular teaching is about crossing the boundaries we have, breaking the silos and disciplines. There was a strong emphasis on the need to prepare the students for the ever-changing future, which is not like our traditional schooling. 

I am excited by the concept of knocking down the walls between subjects, and learning becoming more wholesome, rather than fragments. There appears to be many positives about cross-curricular learning, for both teachers and students (e.g. greater relevance, relationships developed, greater higher order thinking and transferable skills). However, lots of time and planning is required. For this reason, I am going to keep cross-curricular teaching on the backfoot until next year. I would like to get on board with the team next year, once I know my learners and the school more!

Overall, it was a great day, clearly with lots of learning taking place. I met lots of new people, and became very excited for the learning that will take place in the coming months, for myself and my students!