Monday, August 31, 2015

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. An Edu-Hero or Two

Ive had a few occasions to reflect over my past years in education lately. Writing reflective essays on leadership styles and managing change initiatives. Reading things written by previous staff members. Meeting up with people at conferences and meetings.
So I thought I’d write a few short reflective pieces this week on some of the people who have influenced me over the years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini  
My success is not my own, but from many others

In 2006 I ventured into senior leadership in the role of Assistant Principal at a primary school in the Bay of Islands. I was pretty young and naive but it was a great grounding for future principalship, especially because it was there I got to meet two amazing teachers who contributed greatly to my development as a teacher not only during that year but for many years since.

One of these was the Deputy Principal of the school- Debbie. We connected straight away and we did some amazing things together that year. My Year 7-8 class and Debbie’s New Entrant class did some fantastic collaborative learning inspired by the new technology curriculum. We made all kinds of foodie things with our classes together. (Kit Kat challenges were awesome!)  And we built boats together. We learnt all about sailing and boats and the collaboration between these two classes that traditionally had very little to do with each other in the primary setting was amazing. 
Debbie and I had many similar views of teaching and learning and many a long conversation and/or discussion was had. And she introduced me to the wonders of an apple computer!! 
Ive often thought of Debbie with fondness and occasionally bumped into her over the years- especially through Future Problem Solving.  Thanks Debs, for the contribution you made to me becoming the teacher and leader I am today.

Debbie was very much like a big sister for the year I was in Paihia. Which was awesome because alongside Debbie I got to meet her big sister- the infamous Robyn Boswell. 
I got to go to many a training day facilitated by Robyn, which was an awesome opportunity in itself. But I also got to know her outside of facilitation days. I got to stay with her and talk endlessly with her about learning and education and how things needed to change. I got to pick her brains, and benefit from her experiences time after time during that year. 

I got to be part of the “Boswell/Green family” for the year, and I just learnt so much. Robyn, her experiences, and her views were, and are, inspirational. I had been exploring much in the way of student centred learning and choices in learning programmes, but it was real experimentation. Conversations with Robyn, and Debbie, allowed me to move from experimentation to a real philosophy for learning and started giving me the theory to back it up.

Robyn’s views on teaching then, would probably still be seen ahead of the time now nearly 20 years later. She was inspirational. My only regret is that I never actually got to teach alongside her- that would have been truly exciting. I think she was probably my first edu-celebrity- hero! 

I'd met up with Robyn a few times over the years- again mostly through Future Problem Solving, but had really lost contact in the last 8-10 years. However again, the value of social media comes to the fore and we started following each other on twitter last year.  

And it was in a twitter chat/conversation a few months ago that we were both involved in, that made me realise the use of the contemporary edu-hero really did apply to Robyn. In 1996  I looked up to her, I followed everything she said, and I she was absolutely my hero in every education sense of the word.  And from the conversations I see on twitter she is still very much a strong part of the education fabric of the North. And has been many other peoples heroes, past, present and likely to be in the future.

Robyn said recently in a twitter conversation that she was nearing looking at retirement. That will be a sad and poorer day for NZ education.

So, thanks Robyn, for the provocations, for the pushing, for the thinking you make everyone who works with you do. 

Thank you for being an educator who was not prepared to accept the status quo. I'm sure you've influenced many a young teacher in the way you influenced me. Working with and knowing you, even if only for a year, certainly helped me develop into a thoughtful and questioning educator prepared to do the best for young kids, not just do what's always been done.

Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia o tatou mahi.

Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mā te tuakana te teina e tōtika. Mā te teina te tuakana e tōtika.

Mā te tuakana te teina e tōtika. Mā te teina te tuakana e tōtika. 
The older will lead the younger and the younger will lead the older.

Ive had a few occasions to reflect over my past years in education lately. Writing reflective essays on leadership styles and managing change initiatives. Reading things written by previous staff members. Meeting up with people at conferences and meetings.

So I thought I’d write a couple of short reflective pieces this week on some of the people who have influenced me over the years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini  
My success is not my own, but from many others

One of the things I love seeing in our multi level classes at school is the way tuakana teina operates and that the learning is not always from the older to the younger but is just as much the other way around. There’s something a little bit magic about walking through a classroom and seeing a 10 year old working alongside a 17 year old and seeing them work together and help each other.

I think its also one of the special things about the teaching profession. You end up working alongside people of such a range of ages and you end up with friends and mentors of all different ages too. 

The people I've learnt the most from in my journey as a teacher and as a leader are all teachers who at some stage or other were maybe in a position where I was their direct or indirect leader. I might have been “in charge” of leading them but in reality I have learnt more from them than I ever thought possible.

Some of the people Ive learnt the most from are the people Ive collaboratively taught with. Collaborative teaching, at its best, gets rid of the boss culture. You are in it together and the normal lines of power and control don’t work if you are going to make the collaborative teaching arrangement really work for kids. You pick up on each others strengths and help each other develop areas that aren’t strengths. You challenge your co-teachers, and are challenged by them, in a way teachers just cant do when they are working in single cells. It is no accident that I have learnt the most from those that I have significantly co-taught and co-lead with.

When I think about it I have two or three close mentors and they are all younger than me, and in some cases significantly less experienced. But something about their knowledge and understanding works for me and they are who I mostly turn to for advice and challenge. 
Mā te tuakana te teina e tōtika. Mā te teina te tuakana e tōtika.

Tuakana teina is not about age or even about experience. Its about knowing who is going to challenge you in a constructive way and help you continue to learn regardless of your position or theirs.

So to those mentors who I turn to often, not just for an ear when things go wrong, but who I turn to because I know they will challenge me and not just accept it is what I say because it is me that says it, Thank you. 

You know who you are. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Honoring the Past.

Ive had a few occasions to reflect over my past years in education lately. Writing reflective essays on leadership styles and managing change initiatives. Reading things written by previous staff members. Meeting up with people at conferences and meetings.

So I thought I’d write a couple of short reflective pieces this week on some of the people who have influenced me over the years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini  
My success is not my own, but from many others

As a leader you work with many young teachers, helping them develop their skills and then move onto other things. In the past you often didn't know what had become of them.
But  developments in social media has given us a window into people lives that might have been lost to those who have come before us.

Eleven years ago as a Deputy Principal in an urban school I watched a young teacher develop. She was a pretty typical young teacher. Flashes of brilliance in classroom tempered with her quest to define herself as a teacher and to evolve her own philosophy of young people and how they learn. She was, as young people are in their 20’s also on quest to find her place in the world- as an individual and as a partner. 
A typical young person, I had several occasions to ask her to think about what she said and how she said it.  She was often hilarious- leading us all in many laughs. However learning the appropriateness of language and when and when not to share was the topic of a number of conversations.

I only worked alongside her for a couple of years. And in the past that might have been the only time our paths crossed. Especially as she left our school to live and work in another country.
But social media has allowed me to follow her, as a person, as a teacher and then as a parent over the years.

And how impressed I am.

Kate has got such a passion for helping young people and as I read this post she had written yesterday it again reminded me that for the longest time Ive been meaning to write to her and tell her how very very motivated and impressed I am by what she has done.

She has dedicated her life and created a business around helping young people achieve. She realised there were other ways to supplement what schools do in the very best of ways, and she has been able to create what looks like a hugely successful business that really helps young people. It’s not a business run to make money like some of the franchise tutoring schemes around, but one based on individual students needs. To get feedback like the feedback she talks about in that post illustrates how successful she is. She's been able to take that brilliance she exhibited as a young teacher and use it in her own inimitable way to make a real difference for young people.

And then there’s Kate as  parent. She, along with her partner, have shared such personal but important thinking along the journey of parenthood. The deliberate decisions they have made and the conviction with which they explain their reasons why are incredibly inspiring to read. We talk about deliberate acts of teaching, but Kate and Dave have embraced some very deliberate acts of parenting that a lot of people sometimes leave to chance. They are proactive rather than reactive.
I have shared the stuff Kate has written with other young families so many times, but never quite got around to letting her know that. 

I wish someone had been around writing that kind of stuff when I was a young parent. Not so I could copy all their decisions, but so that I was inspired into such deliberate understanding of what I wanted to achieve as a parent and then making deliberate decisions to go with those convictions.

So Kate, this is a long overdue post to say how much I admire what you have shared with us over the years. 
How much I have learnt from you- just from following you on Facebook and reading your blogs. 
And how important people like you are to the development and evolution of society as a whole. 

I am only sorry its take me so long to get around to writing this!

With my greatest respect and admiration.  Karyn

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. The Value of a Good Associate Teacher

Ive had a few occasions to reflect over my past years in education lately. Writing reflective essays on leadership styles and managing change initiatives. Reading things written by previous staff members. Meeting up with people at conferences and meetings.

So I thought I’d write a couple of short reflective pieces this week on some of the people who have influenced me over the years. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini  
My success is not my own, but from many others

I went into training wanting to teach juniors. But I had an inspirational teaching practice in a Year 7-8 class early on in my training and never looked back, ending up teaching Year 7-8 for a significant part of my career. And it was inspirational because of the associate teacher. One of the best things was that I got to witness her in action from Teacher Only day through the first day with a new class at an Intermediate and through the first two weeks. And then two months later I got to go back for an 8 week teaching practice

I’m sure her practice is not what it was those 30 odd years ago and neither is mine. But she sure gave me a great start to this profession. The skills she taught me helped me survive those first couple of years in a way no training institution could. And she was a real person, not just an associate teacher. Even in those days, when teaching was quite different, she knew it was about relationships, and she modelled this to me inside and outside school. I kept in contact with her for the first couple of years of my teaching years but then life got in the way and we lost touch. Over the years I've seen her name in various things  and assumed it was the same person but it was great to finally meet up with her in person at a CORE breakfast in Wellington a couple of weeks ago. I didn't get to talk to her for very long, and had to head off to the meeting I was meant to be at at the end so couldn't make the time then. But I really want Olwyn to know what a difference and an influence she had on a young and impressionable teacher those 30-odd years ago. Ive thought of her often through the years and hoped she was still in teaching. 

Olwyn, you were such a model for those beginning years of my career.

And so to those of you out there in classrooms keep having trainee teachers, no matter the extra work, and the things you need to give over in your classrooms, the challenges when you ‘pick’ your class back up. It is so important for the future of our profession that those trainees have the highest and most inspirational associate teachers possible, so that they come out being prepared to be innovative themselves.

And to Olwyn Johnston, thank you for what you did all those years ago. Thank you in a deep way I could never have appreciated when I was that young trainee. 

You were important. So important. 

Tēnā rawa atu koe.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Area School Magic

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” 

Ive just spent three full days with one of my networks.
I’m all for networks, and Ive spent a lot of time building my personal learning network online over the last couple of years. 

But this was networking on a  different level.

Five years ago this week I took up my role as a Principal of an area school. 
And this week I spent three days at our national  conference with other Principals, DP’s/AP’s teachers and BOT members of area schools all over New Zealand. 

I don’t know if I can ever remember feeling as at home and as comfortable in a room of 100 people as I have felt over the last three days. Ive only seen most of these people once a year over the last four years. Some I was meeting for the first time. But there is just something different about this group of people.

I love connecting with different people online, and I certainly did a bit of promoting of various electronic forms of collaborating and connecting with these delegates. We all teach, and usually live, in isolated places and we need to ensure we continue to build those connections, so that our learners benefit from our connections with the wider world.

But three days together with people kanohi-te-kanohi who have such a commonality was just amazing.  These people all get how different teaching in an area school is. They get the special challenges, but more importantly get the special magic. 

We had a great range of keynotes and workshops. We had busy leaders in education such as Minister Parata, Louise Green (President NZEI), Angela Roberts (President PPTA) and Lorraine Kerr (President NZSTA) all take time to come and speak about both understanding the challenges, but also celebrating the rewards of, area schooling.

Student achievement awards delivered during the dinner demonstrated just what high quality the learners in these remote and isolated part of our country are. They are certainly not deprived “country bumpkins.”

I don’t know if its the shared commonality or the mixture of leaders, teachers and BOT members that make this conference one of the most enjoyable of all I attend. Probably its a bit of both.

The area schools network is certainly a real family. I heard this repeated over and over by so many different people. We are family. I can find a thread of commonality with a farmer from the deep South and then find that same thread with a lawyer from the North. And there is something really special about learning, teaching and leading in an area school. Again I think its that family thing. You become a real family within each area school and then your extended family is that connection of other area schools up and down the country.

So thank you to all those people Ive re-connected with over the last few days, and welcome to those new connections to my network. Ive got renewed energy, sustenance and strength from each of you.

Mauria mai te taki (Rising above the Challenges) was the theme of this years area schools conference.

Maybe next year it should be Celebrate the Magic.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stand Up and Lead

Knowing I was going to be away from school a fair bit in the next two weeks I wasn't going to go to *BOPPA/CNISPA 2 day conference in Taupo this year.
However the agenda arrived and the opportunity to hear David Hood and Bali Haque speak and then spend two days discussing the changes needed in the senior secondary school curriculum with secondary principals and curriculum leaders was just too important not to come to.
Getting there and finding the school story session was being led by Maurie Abraham was the icing on the cake.

My Takeaway-

Lots of people want to be the early adopters but want someone else to take the risks, to do the leading from the front. 

We know the rhetoric about the pace of change. We know serious changes are needed in our system. We know that the wellbeing of young people is being compromised and that that is becoming worse. We know that there is a culture of assessment driven learning programmes in most of our schools.

If we are truly teaching a dispositional curriculum how are we modelling this for our staff and our learners? Are we showing true value in this by making it as important as anything else we teach? Or do we show what we really value by what we choose to put our emphasis and time on assessing?

We like to blame the system. But maybe, just maybe, schools have done some of this assessment driven stuff themselves in their interpretation of requirements and even in their drive to keep up with if not compete with other schools.

We need to have courage and lead a change. We need to know what our  moral purpose is and we need to show leadership. We are the sector leaders. We ask our students, our whānau, our staff, our communities to trust in us. Maybe in turn we should trust in the system to support us, as we take big bold steps. 
Let's stop talking about being on sides. Let's stop taking sides. We all want the best for young people. Let's put our energy into that.

Let's talk about positive and constructive learning and make that the central part of every conversation rather than the assessment.
Many things in our system are world standard.We have some amazing documents. Especially Te Whāriki, Te Marautanga o Aoetaroa and the NZC. Let's use them as they were designed to be. Let's use national standards and NCEA as the were designed to be used not as the driver of our learning programmes. Lets stop saying "but if we didn't have to ..."  and start saying "we could try it this way..."

To truly and absolutely focus on learning rather than assessment we have to change what we do.  Sure we will have to put ourselves out there. And we will need to work and strategise how to take learners, staff and the wider community with us. 

We are all worried about workload level of our staff, and as leaders we should absolutely be monitoring this. To make significant and big changes will require time and effort for our staff and we can't ask them to do that if we don't take away some of what they currently do. 

  • How much of what they currently do is necessary vs something someone somewhere thought was a good interpretation of something we don't actually have to do. 
  • How much of what they currently do do they do because we expect it just because we always have?

If we want better for our young people, then we need to stand up ethically and morally as the leaders and we need to seriously think about what the balance is on learning and wellbeing of the young people in our schools. 
We need to take leadership, and stop waiting for the system tell us what to do, or to resource us differently. 
If we listen to people like Maurie Abraham, and I do with absolute conviction, then we need to act now. 
If we stand up as leaders and all act, system support will follow. And if we can't all stand up then at least some of us need to with some sense of urgency, and then gather those early adopters quickly so we get to a tipping point in our system wide practices.

Start by articulating what real success for the learners in your school looks like. What is the purpose of your school? Critically review NZC. Critically review the requirements of National standards and NCEA.  Make sure every practice- including and especially every assessment procedures matches your purpose and that everyone in your system can attest to that.

Be brave. Be prepared to stand up and stand out. 
Challenge doing things the way everyone else does them. Ask where it says we have to do things the way we are. And if you think you know, go back and read it again- critically.

Know NZC intimately. Especially the first half. And Follow it. 

*(Bay of Plenty Prinicpals Association/Central North Island Secondary Principals Association) 

Monday, August 3, 2015

He Kaiarataki

Blogpost 7 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Today we had a coordination team meeting for most of the day. We have moved the focus in our time together from some training around some management stuff- timetabling, managing resources etc back to strategic big picture stuff this term.

Today we looked at the concept of narrative assessment and looked at some indicators for whānau engagement and read and critiqued some 'review stories' I had written based on the learning story format.

Once everyone was comfortable with the format all the co-ordination leaders identified one of our six teaching and learning beliefs and went out to somewhere within the school to see if they could find evidence of that principle to write a learning story around.

I think everyone enjoyed the process and by the end of the school day we had seven rich stories full of information bout the learning taking place around the school today , as well as strategies for enhancing it further. 

We have agreed that we will systematically work through our curriculum picture for the year writing narrative assessments with the different elements that make up our curriculum this year so that we build a rich picture of the learning that is happening- the stuff that you cant see by just looking at data and numbers.  As we strategically assess these against the devaluing indicators for the different elements of our curriculum this will give us some real strategic goals to move into next year with.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

He Kaikōtuitui

Blogpost 6 for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori

Yesterday I attended educampPalmy. Over the last two years I enviously watched educamps take hold in many regions feeling isolated and too far away to attend.

I happened to be in Wellington for another hui the same day as EducampWelly in February so went along and met lots of people- known and unknown.

So when edupalmy started to be advertised I had to consider it. The power of networking is so immense. And just because we are physically isolated, we need to not use that as an excuse.

Many of our staff use social media to network- a group of us are active on Twitter, another group on Facebook. Some blog regularly. And these are all great. But there's nothing quite like the opportunity to meet up face to face with a few people.

So although it is a 5-6 hour drive through some roads that aren't very forgiving, and despite being able to drive those roads very rarely without a bout of carsickness I put the wero out there and found two other staff willing to take it on.

I attended a couple of sessions centred on leadership- thanks to Carol and Laura from Edlead and Bede Gilmore from Opiki School. I offered a session facilitating a discussion around the things we need to do to lead in new environments and allow innovation to flourish. Great discussions all round in all three sessions.

But the true power came in the networking. Putting faces to names, or rather to Twitter profiles.
Chatting to both like minded people and being challenged by people that aren't like minded. Talking  learning and possibilities is always so exciting.

Ive returned to  a life of  absolute hectic- with four trips away in the next three weeks, and three uni assignments due in the next week. But I feel incredibly invigorated for someone who's driven from Te Karaka to Palmerston North and back. (Well actually been driven- thanks to Morgan for doing the majority of the driving.) The talking with Morgan andTtara in the car all the way there and back was fabulous. We never ran out of things to reflect on the entire way there or back! And even though the old carsickness did kick in between Napier and Wairoa- gotta love that road- I have no regrets about putting aside Friday afternoon and a full Saturday to get there and back.

As we left after six hours of great networking in Palmerston North the hugs goodbye from new friends were fabulous and the requests to keep blogging and sharing our journey so appreciated.

Sometimes you just have to make the effort to get to places in person. Social media is awesome for building networks. But its also great to meet up and know that those things you blog and tweet are being read and valued by real people. And to have those conversations you cant have on 140 characters. and the be replay human.

Thanks to all who made EducampPalmy a reality. Your efforts were worth it.