Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Resilience - a recipe for a secret sauce?

Four weeks into 2018 and the word resilience has come up in various conversations at school with colleagues as well as having professional development examining the concept last week.  There are a few definitions that I have been reading:

  • "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties";
  • "trust and belief in yourself"; and,
  • "the capacity to call on tools and techniques to recover quickly from difficulties and help eliminate future difficulty"

While I see it as an important skill set to bring into my teaching practice, I needed to put myself into the context to get a better understanding and reflected on the session.  Scott Beattie from Elevate Coaching spoke to us about creating our secret sauce which was made up of a combination of the following elements:

  1. Staying present - it is easy to get caught up with the day-to-day of the learning space and the ability to stay present is vital especially at this time of the year when you are building relationships with both colleagues and more importantly the children.  A noticing I had about my own practice is that I am not giving enough thinking time when I ask questions.  I often was asking two or three questions at a time so what I am trying to do at the moment is use the physical action of counting to ten on my fingers to help anchor me to that moment rather than skip ahead to the next part of my plan.
  2. Sharing my values - I reflected that in 2017 we looked at our values as a team, however I had not shared with my new team on things that I feel are important as well as listening to them to get further insight on how we can collaborate effectively.  This includes making the effort to get to know the team outside of school to get that full view of my colleagues as people, rather than 'teachers'.  This openness extends to how I am building relationships with the kids at the moment.  This year there are a lot of kids who have not had me as a teacher and this means that I need to ensure that I am sharing who I am, not only as their teacher, but as a fellow learner.
  3. Reflection - I mentioned earlier that I was excited to continue this blog as a way of reflection however I found myself beating myself up as I hadn't blogged in four weeks.  While this is a tool for reflection, it is not my only vehicle for reflection and how am I doing this while teaching to not only role model but to capture the noticings/learning as well as celebrate the successes.
  4. Exercise - I had been told not to fill the void of study with more teaching and work on maintaining the work-life balance.  Given it is the start of the year, it is naturally a busy time however I am trying to stick to a routine of exercise as a way to 'switch off'.
I think these are some great starting points for this year, especially as we move into looking at our inquiries for this year and gives me some short-term goals to bring into my practice for 2018.  Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

2018 - New Year, New Me?

Like our learners, it is the first official day of school tomorrow and there is a sense of trepidation in the air as I go through preparations for this week.  

During our teacher only days last week, I was noticing how often I was using the word 'new' - new year levels, new team, new hub ... but does that mean I am needing to change along with these?  I agree that there will be some adaptation and learning involved but I think that reason that I was noting all the different elements was due to the fact that my support network at school has changed as well as  no longer having a mentor teacher.  This means starting afresh with a new team so remembering to communicate and be open in order build factors like trust in our team is fundamental in this initial set up period.  I am teaching in a four teacher team with 104 learners so last week was discussion about how we will use the space.  What I am noticing from the four of us already is the sense of adaptability when we discuss about observing how the learners are reacting to the space and being flexible to tweak or update based on these observations and discussion.

I am excited to see the learners this week as I have taught a majority of the Year 4s (as Year 2 and 3s) and Year 5s (as Year 3s) so am looking forward to seeing how the break has treated them as well as looking forward to exploring new content alongside them.  The Year 6s will be a new entity to me however the first couple of days, we as teachers are sharing our identities as a lead in to our Term One concept so during this time it will give me opportunity to both reflect as well as observe.

I am excited to continue blogging this year as I enjoyed the reflective element it brings to my practice and will help draw out some of the wonderings I am currently having throughout 2018.  So new year, new me?  Lets wait and see!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Graduations - MDTA and PRT

November and December have been busy months with loads of deadlines looming for both study and school assessment however it was great to stop and celebrate some of the milestones at the end of this year.

We were fortunate to have our MDTA graduation at the Google HQ in the CBD where we all came together to celebrate.  The support for the group was oozing out of the room and it was great to hear everyones mentors and principals speak highly of our journeys.  While I already considered myself fortunate to be a part of the MDTA, it wasn't until I reflected on the great opportunities I had since joining the programme.  I now feel more confident within my teaching practice and the skills that I have gathered since starting will allow me to continue to grow as a teacher.

What made me more humble about the experience was the support we have had from the start, both Dorothy and Anne have added so much to my kete and I look forward to connecting with me in 2018.  I was also fortunate to have Latai at school with me and this shared experience has allowed me to see all opportunities for collaboration.  What I am most grateful for is the support of my mentor teacher who exemplifies what it means to mentor and has inspired me to become an AUT mentor in 2018.

Today I was also fortunate to have a graduation ceremony at school for the end of my provisional registeration.  Through an administrative error, this meant that Stonefields graciously held a ceremony for myself, Latai and Sammy and looking back, I would have not had it any other way.  To celebrate with the kids meant the world to me!

So while this brings me to the end of my journey as both a MDTA and a PRT, this is not the end of my blog.  I am moving into a new year level in 2018 and intend to continue blogging not only to help me with reflecting but also help me develop further as a writer and connect with others as I move onto the next stage of my teaching practice.  For all those who have supported me so far, thank you very much.

Friday, 24 November 2017

2017 Reflection on my Impact

With the end of the year drawing to a close and assessments finished, I thought it would be timely to reflect on what impact I had this year and how I would use any learning from this year to help form next steps for 2018.

I did some data analysis on the shift of my learners this year. I measured those who had had the expected 12 months gain (i.e. maintaining their National Standard curriculum level between their 2016 and 2017 EOY results.) and those who had accelerated their learning and had 18 month or greater gain (i.e. shifting from Below Standard in 2016 to At Standard in 2017, or shifting from At to Above Standard).


The majority of the learners that I taught for numeracy maintained their progress and will be moving into next year with a strong foundation for the continuation of their maths knowledge.  Looking at this data, my numeracy practice is something that I want to continue to evolve as I feel that I can improve in this space.  During the middle of this year, I moved away from the digital aspect of my instruction based on feedback from my principal when I went to her to ask for help to see how far I could challenge some of my groups.  Learning became hands on and we did tangible examples using pen and paper during instruction, allowing learners have gain success with new strategies and having these to refer to as they moved through their follow up activities.  This is something that I intend to continue moving into 2018.


While this data looks very similar to my numeracy groups, this set shows that I have continued to push learners who are currently at 'Above Standard' for them to maintain this shift.  The reading groups I worked with were all very enthusiastic readers and now all reading at Level 2 of the NZ Curriculum.  I have really enjoyed my time with these learners as they have allowed me to blend other areas of the curriculum into my reading practice.  Using tools like GetEpic! has allowed me not only to offer more opportunities for students to access multimodal texts, but also allowed me to teach skills like research and inquiry which is something that I am going to continue into next year.  


This has been my biggest impact and something that I am most proud of as we now have a gang of writers who are enthusiastic about writing and want to continue this journey.  For some learners, this has meant that they have made considerate progress however the attitude they know have for writing is what inspires me the most!  As a writer myself, I need to ensure that I am continuing to build my craft and practice to continue to develop and challenge others to write.  Knowing myself as a writer will allow me to see opportunities to engage with my students and colleagues as well as continue to challenge my mindset as both writer and educator.

So what's next?
I am moving into a new year level in 2018 teaching Years 4/5/6 with three other teachers.  I am excited for this challenge as it not only means that I am moving with some of my learners that I have been teaching this year, but also reconnect with learners that I taught in 2016 who will now be in Year 5.  I am also excited for the opportunity to teach at some different curriculum levels as well as working alongside some other teachers whose practices I am interested to tap into and see what impact we can grow for our 2018 cohort!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Manaiakalani Film Festival 2017

This year's Manaiakalani Film Festival was an absolute blast - it was such a great occasion to take the hub along to see both their entry as well as other schools from around the cluster.

This year I gave the control of the film over to a group of learners who crafted an idea to highlight one of the 'issues' that happens in the playground.  Having a goal and a vision really helped the kids storyboard out the different elements of their narrative and allowed them to direct me as to what types of effects or shots they required.  I was merely the cameraman for the day!

I enjoyed the fact that our vision principles came through in the story without me prompting these and the fact that the stars wanted to ensure that the entire hub were in the film.

Here is 'Thunder' which was proudly presented three times at the film festival by two learners.  Please check out the film on our hub blog and if you get an opportunity, please leave a comment on there for the kids.  They really love to read and respond to these.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Amazing Writers

My inquiry this year has morphed since the last time that I wrote about it.  I was first looking at the connection between both engagement and achievement in writing with the use of non-cognitive skills, last term as I was analysing the data that came from my sample, it was clear that I needed to examine how students were interpreting the role of these skills within the context of their writing.

This realisation brought both joy as non-cognitive skills have become somewhat of a passion of mine to explore within my practice, but also fear as this meant that I would have to rewrite a large portion of my dissertation.  This fear also showed me that I had forgotten about myself as a learner of writing.  This year the academic writing has not come easy to me and it is something that I have had to persevere at and build my confidence in.  I have drawn on the elements of writing that I have been teaching this year - using the conferencing time with my supervisor to discuss openly how I am feeling about my writing, reflecting on feedback and seeing it as a prompt to practice more but most importantly continue to believe in my skills as a writer.

Looking back at where this low opinion of myself of a writer comes from, I can only pinpoint some report comments that stuck with me from when I was a similar age as the kids I now teach.  This is where the passion for developing non-cognitive skills in my students comes from, I do not want to have kids say that they aren't 'good' at something.  I would rather have them reflect on how we can work together to overcome learning that they are finding challenging in the moment and equip them with strategies to help look at problems from different perspectives.

So yesterday I decided to be open with the kids and tell them about an upcoming piece of assessment that was happening this week.  We spoke about who our audience would be for this writing to give them a chance to think about the reason behind this assessment.  Responses I got (unprompted) were like the following:

"So you can see how I am going with my writing."

"So you can talk with me about how I am making progress in my writing."

"So I can see my progress in my writing."

This was a pretty awesome moment to have in Day One, Term Four.  I decided to ask the following question to the group: "How do I show that I am an amazing writer?"  The amazing writer is an in joke with me and the kids as earlier this year, I had over-indexed in using the word amazing to describe progress and the kids picked up on it.  So now it has become the norm to describe ourselves as amazing writers.  The kids rushed to write on these pages and again the responses were amazing for kids who did not enjoy writing in Term One.

All the responses resonated that these kids have become more self aware of their writing abilities and are determined to give any writing challenge a go.  So I am looking forward to reading through their samples this week as they have inspired me to continue developing my craft as a writer to help become a stronger teacher of writing.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Perceptions of Progress

In order to prepare for Term Four, I got learners to do a reflection on how they enjoyed their learning this term as well as ask some other questions to get insight into how they were finding my planning and instruction.  As these learners have been with me for the majority of the year now, I chose to add in a question about had they felt that they had made progress in their learning as I was interested to see what voice came back from them in this regard.  Having used Google Forms to capture this information, I have been able to analyse and graph their responses.


All these learners are now moving from Early Stage 5 to Stage 5 so it was great to see from their responses reflect some of the different areas that we were learning about this term.  I chose to explore a more hands of approach with these learners where we problem solved together and share our ideas on a group modelling book which the learners enjoyed judging by this graph.

I also chose to dedicate one of our weekly sessions to building their confidence with strand maths as most of our learning had centred around either number knowledge or strategy.  By making these lessons more hands on, the learners have been able to make progress in areas that historically I have left to the end of the term to go through and they have been able to make connections to other parts of their numeracy learning.  However how did they rate their own progress?

Reading through the responses, the majority of them talk about being able to work through 'harder' or 'bigger' strategies which rings true to how I introduced the bulk of the Stage 5 strategies to the groups.  We would start with Stage 4 or Early Stage 5 strategy first and unpack that before making connections to the Stage 5 strategy.  The one learner who felt that they did not make any progress is one that I have been tracking for confidence and their response reflects this.  What was more awesome to read however was that they wanted to continue their learning and wanted more assistance (a 'workshop') to help them with this.


We have had a busy term with literacy and these learners have been able to move into more complex texts based on the learning that we had done the previous two terms.  We have also looked at building our inquiry skills with information literacy.  As I have mentioned earlier, this group are very engaged and their reflections about the term mirror my observations:

The two learners that said 'no' are ones that have recently moved to new reading levels and I have been working with them to manage any anxiety over the shift in focus.  

I also asked all the groups about what they thought their reading focus was for this term (please note, it was a bit of a trick question as all answers they could choose from were focuses but I was more interested in seeing how they responded):

Gold 21 and 22 Groups:

Silver 23 and 24 Groups:

Having asked about their focuses for the term, it was great to see how some of these had come into their responses about making progress.

I am currently looking at how learners self-report as part of my dissertation so am aware of any bias that may come from these responses however I am more happy to see that the learners are seeing themselves making progress.