Friday, December 11, 2015

Leaving Today

Five and a half years ago I was a Principal of a medium sized mono-cultural Pakeha dominated Primary School in the middle of Wellington city. I had spent ten years there and leaving was difficult and sad. It was a great school with awesome staff- many of whom are still good friends and fantastic students, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.

In July 2010 I was appointed as the foundation Principal of a new area school in Te Karaka 32 km North West of Gisborne.
I had been to Gisborne exactly once in my life.

Te Karaka is a small village with a predominantly Māori population with strong links and allegiance to the local marae.
I hadn't been on a marae for 15 years.

As an area school we were going to have a projected roll of 140 Year 1-Year 13 students.
My knowledge of NCEA was restricted to that of a parents, and even that had been six years previously. 

I knew there would be some suspicion of me; I was female, I was white, and further to that I did not have much cultural experience behind me apart from two years as a Principal in Fiji. I came from a Decile 10 school and I was from the primary sector. I could hear the whispers and rumours being spread around the community.  How was I going to understand the needs of kids in a school with a predominantly Maori roll? How was I going to handle the situations, both at school and in the community, when it was evident that people felt a male should be in the lead? How would I possibly understand the needs of, or relate to the kids in a Decile 1 environment? How could I possibly understand the curriculum demands of secondary students, or the intricacies of NCEA?

I’d been involved in, and a part of, some really exciting innovations in the ten years before I came to Te Karaka and I wasn’t prepared to accept that rural kids living in perhaps a more deprived area, than the Decile 10 urban kids where I’d come from, were entitled to anything less.

Things weren't always easy. The kids didn’t always understand the different approaches, and neither did others looking in from the outside. We had a vision for kids to meet their full potential and for that to happen they needed to understand a whole lot about themselves and they needed to become self managing, a concept difficult to understand for those who wanted us to simply exert our authority in a traditional way. 

There are still suspicions from some corners about the way we operate; we don’t look like a ‘normal’ school, and we actually never will. That’s not because we are small, or rural or anything else. It’s because we don’t believe a normal school meets the needs of lots of kids any more, if it ever did.

There have been immense challenges, some to bear and some to guide others through. And there have also been immense rewards. 

Today is my last day at Te Karaka Area School. Before I head into school for the day I reflect on the last five years.

I've had the privilege of working with a group of staff that pulled together and dared to dream, explore and discover new ways of learning that would re-engage these young people in learning that is authentic and real and meaningful for them.
I've worked with teachers and leaders some of whom I am sure are going to make a real mark on the development of education in this country going forward.

Over the last week I've listened to staff working together to plan next year and been able to reflect on where they are and where they’ve come from. There is such strength and such beauty in those conversations I’ve heard. I leave knowing that education on te Karaka is in great hands.

Ive made some of the best friends Ive ever had. Living in an isolated community certainly inspires close bonds and I leave behind some very good friends, as well as having a few now spread all over the country who have left before me.

I’ve met some amazing local people and some incredible young people. 
I've said it a few times now but my life has been forever changed by the experiences I've had and the people I've met in Te Karaka.

I understand bi-culturalism and the history of Aotearoa now on a deep level. I might have thought I knew that before but my knowledge was so superficial.

I understand the difficulties of living in an isolated village, and in an isolated province, with the issues of unemployment and declining populations.
There have been great times, and difficult times, but I’ve never had any regrets about taking this journey. I may not have thought I had the ability to deal with some of the difficulties if Id known what they would be before I came. But I did and I have.


There have been so much I have learnt, and so many skills I have developed.

So as I head off to school for my last official day as the Principal of Te Karaka Area school I say a huge and public thank you to everyone who has allowed me to be part of their lives over the last five years. I’m sure the day will have some laughter in it, and I’m also sure there will also be  tears. But in my heart the strongest feeling is gratitude. Gratitude for what I’ve learnt, for the people I’ve met and the ways my life has been enriched.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

My TKAS Journey is Soon to End

Nearly five and a half years ago, I won a position as Principal of the newly established Te Karaka Area School, 32 km NorthWest of Gisborne. I began at the end of August 2010, and the school opened in February 2011. We are now nearing the end of our fifth year in operation. Many of our learners are vulnerable learners who have not been well served by education systems of the past. Hopefully they are now being better served.

These five years have been amazing. We have all learnt so much. We have learnt that innovation is not only as possible in a lower decile school as it is in a higher decile school, but that it is vital. We have learnt that buildings don't make innovative practice happen- its teachers and students and a trusting BOT that do that. We have learnt that schools can operate in order to be personally responsive to the needs of every individual learner- that the don't need to be a machine focused around restrictive structures like timetables and traditions who’s time is way past. We have learnt that learning can look way different than it has in the past and still be learning.

Ive seen both students and staff grow in so many ways and take some giant leaps of faith that is now represented in their daily practice.

And me, personally- what do I get out of the last five years? I have learnt what it truly is to live in a bicultural world. My life has been immensely and forever enriched by the students, staff and whānau I have worked with; by developing an understanding of their culture and beginning to understand their language.

What I have gained at Te Karaka has been incredibly more enriching than the normal trajectory of going onto be a Principal of a bigger school, like many people expected.

I now understand a corner of Aotearoa I didn't know existed five years ago and I appreciate so much more about the history of this beautiful country and its inhabitants- especially our indigenous cultures and people.

So it was with some sadness last week that I announced to our BOT, staff, students and community that I am leaving at the end of this year.

I feel privileged to have been offered and accepted a position as a Director of Learning at Haeata (formerly known as Aranui Community Campus) in Christchurch. 

I am truly excited by this position and the opportunities and challenges it will bring. I am looking forward to the move and the possibilities.

But for now I will spend the remaining four weeks of school soaking up everything I can in Te Karaka.

Thank you to Andy and the eBOT at Haeata for having faith in me and giving me the opportunity to join your exciting venture as the next stage of my educational journey.

and


Thank you TKAS whanau- there will be proper goodbyes said later, but thank you for everything.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Dare Greatly- a Video Blog with Reference to Brene Brown

Edblognz Week 3 Challenge 2  
Create a 1-2 minute video about an education topic that you are passionate about and post it on your blog.

I love Brenes Brown work and presentation on vulnerability. Her leadership manifesto (below) taken from her book "Daring Greatly" is a fantastic read.






Here is a video I made for a presentation at the end of last term- it shows you a walkthrough of TKAS with a section of this manifesto read spoken at the end. Show up, let yourself be seen, and be courageous. DARE GREATLY WITH US.



                                


For an extra watch here is Brene's Ted Talk on vulnerability.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

MLE Conversations

Edblognz Challenge Week 2 Challenge 2

Find a blog post you have written in the past. Consider whether your thinking on the topic is the same or different and blog about why your thinking has changed or expand on your original ideas.

Ive written a couple of pretty passionate posts this year about MLE's or ILE's or whatever you are calling them.

You can read them here (focused on exploring the pedagogies and whether this is just a returning fad) and here (focused on why we need to change and do things differently than in the past).


I wouldn't change anything I've written in those posts.


It still concerns me that I hear and read stuff like its not working- kids are getting lost because they are moving all the time to different teachers because thats what you are "meant to do in a MLE."  There is no MLE/ILE handbook that says this is the way to do it. 

It's all about being responsive to learning needs.

Its about critically reflecting, reviewing and analysing what has actually served kids and effective learning well in the past- all kids not just the highly successful top learners.

And then its about responding to those needs in an innovative way using some thinking that maybe wasn't around in the past. And that means you cant just keep taking reading groups and math groups and writing groups in exactly the same way as in the past if you want different results.

It is definitely NOT about putting 3 or 4 classes of kids together in a big open barn with some different looking furniture and then continuing to teach in the same way- just moving the kids round from teacher to teacher.

It's about preparing learners for a time that is vastly different, and changing every day. 

It is about harnessing the power of technology to make that learning even more effective and relevant.

It's about harnessing the power of multiple adults with differing skills to make learning more authentic and Its about those adults collaborating because they will achieve more tgogether than they can by themselves. Its about professionally challenging each other to do the best thing for each learner.

It's about adults understanding that a classroom is not their personal kingdom- and a place for them to the the queen or king of- it's a place for them to both facilitate and deliver authentic and relevant learning. It's the learners place for learning.

It's about empowering learners to take control of their learning- if we want confident life long learners then we need them to understand and be an active participant in their own thinking and learning.

It's about harnessing that joy of curiosity that our early childhood centres see and empower in kids, and maintaining and growing that as they enter schools.

I know that if you are stuck in a more traditional school it is very difficult to go and visit a school truly operating in a responsive way and  not focus on the lovely spaces, and the bright modular furniture and the big groups of students with multiple teachers and think those things are the most important. But they are not.

Its those teachers ability to reflect on and critically analyse the learning needs of those learners and respond to all of those in a way that continually puts the students at the centre, not the learning programmes that we've been led to believe are the way to teach.

For us in our responsive learning environment (referring to the pedagogy and practice the keys are:
self regulation- learners making active decisions about their learning on a weekly, daily and hourly basis
integration- developing concetps- helping ākonga to form a big picture of connections rather than teaching subjects
inquiryteaching just about always through an inquiry approach
learning choices- our learners having increasingly open choices with regards to their learning
teacher collaboration- constant talking, sharing and advising on what each learner needs to move to the next stage for them
(None of this is dependent on having a modern learning environment in the property sense)

For us in our modern learning environment (referring to the property) we choose to do this through
open spaces- with multiple learners and multiple teachers collaborating and learning together which includes multiple year groups being together 
collaborative teaching- teachers sharing learning spaces and groups of learners
choices about where to learn with restrictions depending on who we've reponsded to each students learning needs in their personal learning plans.






Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thank God for the Teachers of Our Children

Connected Educator Edblognz Challenge Week 1 Challenge 3 Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.


One of my favourite "teacher" pieces of music is In The Garden- Terry Kelly. I've used it with a couple of different staff over the year. (And maybe I should not admit to this but i first became aware of this piece of music through an episode of Dawsons Creek!)

At TKAS we do an induction week on a different marae each year before the students start school. And at the end of that induction timeI give staff something as an inspiration for the year. One year it was a framed poem relating to something of importance for the year. Or a set of quotes for the year etc. 

In 2013 I gave everyone a small houseplant to care for, for the year. The plant was a metaphor for growing our learners. And we listened to this piece of music. We reflected on our progress at the end of each term by bringing our plant in to share its growth and listening to this music again.



Think of all the people in your life that have left impressions on you
The ones who never let you down and those who were there each time you lost you way
All through your lifetime do remember the ones who really cared
Coz they were always there in the garden, where the flowers grow in the garden
The future will unfold
Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow

Without a firm and guiding hand a tender sprout is lost among the weeds
Until your roots were firm and strong in the garden
Where the precious flowers grow in the garden
Where a better future will unfold

Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow


It was a great challenge for the year. 
This what we learnt about our plants:
  • That they all grow at different rates and speeds- as do our learners
  • That they all need different things fed to them and to be cared for in different ways in order to grow- as do our learners
  • That we need to think about our mindsets- whether we are growing plants or people 
  • That we can utilise the power and magic of technology to help support our plants....and our learners 
  • That although it is sad when people move on and gaps are left, others will step in and up to provide the care and support needed for those left behind- whether its plants or groups of young people 
  • That is order to care for other things, we need to look after ourselves and our nearest and dearest first- we need to be healthy in body and mind to nurture and support others


You can read the whole post here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Has My Leadership Evolved over Time?

Edblognz Challenge Week 1 Challenge 1  (Originally written for a University leadership paper.)

Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time? Blog about it.

Distributive leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on spreading the leadership in a wider way than some of the more traditional hierarchical models of leadership. It can also be called a range of different terms like shared leadership and collaborative leadership. This essay will describe the main characteristics of distributive leadership, the conditions needed for distributive leadership to flourish, consider the significant advantages and drawbacks of distributive leadership as a model, explore my own history as a leader and draw comparisons between distributive leadership characteristics and my leadership style. 

When distributive leadership is in action the members within the team lead and organise each other, without clearly defined hierarchies. It is when people all take turns leading. Leadership comes from any of the members not just the appointed leader. Team members are fully accountable to each other and do not abdicate all responsibility to the appointed leader. Or there is no appointed leader and all members of the team influence each other with power and decision making being spread rather than held by one person who wields that power over the group. Bush, Bell & Middlewood refer to distributed leadership as- “Drawing upon social psychology, a distributed perspective on leadership concentrates on the interactions rather than the actions of leaders.” (p56)

For distributive leadership to be effective healthy interdependent relationships need to be developed. There needs to be an understanding that conflict is healthy and a commitment to constructive and positive conflict resolution. Crawford states: “....headteachers have to perform a delicate emotional balancing act much of the time. They have to build a climate of genuine emotion where trust and acceptance are the key, and others not only want to follow them as leaders, but feel able to become leaders themselves. Positive emotional context then becomes a necessary condition of distributed leadership.” (p 155) Distributed leadership is a relatively complex leadership style and leaders need to develop a good understanding of how to influence rather than boss. 

A major advantage of distributive leadership is the scope it gives to spread the load of energy and effort required across all members of the team. From the commonly known Goose Story-“When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.” Anon.
Distributed leadership also allows one to give more opportunities for growing the leadership of less experienced or young staff. 

Distributed leadership is complex and requires deep understanding. However it can be interpreted in simplistic and ineffective ways that do not result in any leadership really occurring. Robertson and Timperley say: “Both scholars and practitioners have invoked distributed leadership as an improvement strategy for schools, often with simplistic and unwarranted mantras such as ‘everyone is a leader’ or ‘the more leaders the better’.” (p159) Another disadvantage can be a less clear career pathway for people as the traditional pathways of team and middle leadership heading into senior leadership could be seen to be ‘watered down.’

For schools, which have traditionally been operated on a traditional heads down leadership approach, there are two different things to think about if you move to a different leadership style. There is all the organisational leadership required in a school, and then the leading learning aspect of school leadership. This is often referred to as managing versus leading as if the first is a negative and leaders should spend all their time on the latter. However my experience has shown me that without some degree of structural organisational leadership the opportunity for leading learning can become lessened as a leader ends up being reactive to perceived crises rather than being proactive around leading learning.
For a school to move to a more distributive model requires a basic underlying structure and organisation to be in place to allow creativity in practice to flourish. And to allow creativity to flourish means a leader moving from a position of having power over their staff to sharing that power with their staff. Hargreaves and Fullan refer to this by saying “The movement from power over to power with is still a struggle. But it is a struggle for a greater social good, not for self interest or supremacy. It is a struggle for a greater social good, not for self-interest or supremacy. It is a struggle that should not be a win-lose battle, but that will still require initial positive pushes and pulls from small groups at both the bottom and the top-pushes and pulls that you can be part of and that you might even start.” (p9)

In my personal history I came into school leadership as a relatively  young teacher, influenced by the fact that I worked in very top down hierarchical schools where as a young teacher it was expected  I “did my time, without questioning,” and “played the game.” It was expected as a young teacher that you spent many years being the lower totem on pole before you earned the right to lead in any way or even to speak up. When I didn’t agree with the type of teaching I was being asked to do the only way I could see for teaching the way I believed I should be in my classroom and influencing teaching pedagogies across a school was to get into leadership. In my eighth year of teaching I became an Assistant Principal and in my ninth a Principal. This hasn’t always been easy. As a young teacher still learning my teaching craft I was also in the position of leader. And in those days (mid 1990’s) there were very few opportunities for school leadership training. (Or a perceived need from many corners.) So naturally my first forays into leadership tended to be modelled on the leadership I had had modelled myself, although it was exactly that kind of leadership that had driven me into seeking  leadership in the first place.

However over years I became more sure of myself both, in what I believed as an educator and as a leader. I have a firm belief in the importance of relationships, and in a positive environment in a classroom and a school that both allows for positive warm relationships and is at the same time demanding of accountability. I have come to believe that accountability systems that come from peers are those that are most effective. Interdependence in learning and in leading learning is integral to my beliefs of running effective learning in a classroom, or in leading an effective staff to run effective learning in a classroom. Henry Ford said it clearly when he said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” 

I have endeavoured to develop systems and relationships that allow all staff to share power and have a strong voice, not feel they have to “do their time,” first. This has though, caused problems for some staff members used to operating in this way who have moved to other systems with a more traditional approach and found that speaking their mind and trying to share power- as has been modelled to them in our systems, is not acceptable in some schools. Robertson and Timperley state: “Organisational routines more or less structure interactions among school leaders and teachers, influencing who talks to whom about what.” (p166)

Furthermore my experience in collaborative teaching, and in leading others to develop collaborative teaching over the last fifteen years has influenced further interest in development of a shared distributive model of leadership. It is, I believe, a natural outcome of successful collaborative teaching. I will explore this more in the following essay.

As a leader I am committed to working alongside my staff to coach the best out of them. I do not like being referred to as the boss. I am a leader, and I will coach others in both pedagogical practice and in leadership, but I want and do share the power. I do not want to tell, I want to influence others so that they strongly develop their own philosophies, practices and pedagogies.

Bibliography

Bush, Tony, Les Bell, and David Middlewood. The Principles Of Educational Leadership And Management. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. Print.

Crawford, Megan. Getting To The Heart Of Leadership. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2009. Print.

Hargreaves, Andy, and Michael Fullan. Professional Capital. New York: Teachers College Press, 2012. Print.

Robertson, Jan, and Helen Timperley. Leadership And Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2011. Print.




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I Blog & Those Legendary Bloggers and Educators that helped


Edblognz Connected Educator Week 1 Challenge 2

Write a blog post about why you blog professionally and some of the things you blog about.Write about some legendary bloggers, educators, inspiring leaders that help you to dream bigger.

I don’t think of myself as a blogging legend. I go in phases of big bursts of blogs, and then breaks when everything else takes priority for a while, so I think casual blogger fits the bill nicely. But as I was away, and “unplugged” for the first week of the blogging challenges I thought I’d combine the casual and legend challenge 2 together to catch up! 

In 2013 I began following and reading- with some envy, but also with huge professional interest, admiration and agreement the journey of Maurie and his team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School as they prepared to take in their first intake of learners. Starting with Maurie and Claire and their blogs, and then moving onto the blogs of now well known educators like Sally and Steve as the school began employing more people. I still avidly read anything they all write. They are the blogs I subscribe to, so if I happen to miss the tweet about them, they come into my email anyway.  (@maurieabraham, @ClaireAmosNZ et al)

I spent a bit of time talking to Lesley- the Principal at Amesbury in Wellington and she encouraged me to start blogging and tweeting about what was happening at TKAS. I think all of us need someone like Lesley- someone you respect as an educator, who encourages you and affirms for you that your story is worth sharing. (@LMurrihy)

By 2013 we had spent three years starting up a new school, but one with a difference in that we had all our students (and more than expected) on Day 1, and we were still on a temporary site while our new buildings were being built.
So new school, but old buildings, older resources, and a full school with not enough staffing.
We are a rural area school and we cater for some learners who are vulnerable and have not always been best served by the systems- nation-wide as well as educational.

For me I wanted to share the story of the learning happening at TKAS, and particularly to share the stories around my thinking that its not just privileged learners in new Decile 10 growth corridor communities that new and different learning programmes are good for.  They are also necessary, and in fact maybe vital for the learners in more vulnerable communities. In short I wanted to ensure the Decile 1 story is shared alongside the Decile 10 stories. 
Sam Gibson has recently begun sharing about the journeys at Tapawera High School and it’s great to have another low decile secondary voice out there sharing similar kinds of stories. (@samgibson1983)

I also thought that although new schools tend to be in larger urban areas, different kinds of learning programmes can work in rural schools as well. In fact as I have become more involved with the area schools network over the last few years, my common catchphrase is area schools are some of he best situated to be making some of the transformative changes in learning programmes being talked about today.

Lots of people have written over the last week about how blogging helped them to put their thinking together. How it helps them to reflect and find a way forward. And I absolutely agree. Reflective practice a great outcome of blogging.

But I also blog to share. Living, learning and leading in an isolated part of the country the power of online communication allows us to share our story and the learning we are doing alongside our learners in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 10-20 years ago.

And through blogs, and then twitter I have made so many more connections than I’ve had- even when teaching in a major city. I’m definitely  little addicted to Twitter and the Blog links that get published on there. There’s something a little bit magic about reading other peoples blogs- it allows you inside their minds, and it allows you to connect at a different level than a twitter chat does- both really valuable connection tools. I think we get the most out of combining the magic of both.


It hasn't always been easy, and I struggled with the way to write things at times, because you re always aware that what you re writing is going out into the public domain. And you are always plagued by thoughts of why would anyone want to read this? As well as have I written this in an understandable way that is engaging for the reader? There were certainly drafts that were respectfully critiqued by educators that I respect and re edited a number of times. There were others that didn’t ever make it to publish stage. But that all helped develop more of an idea about how to write for a blog and keep it useful for myself, and for anyone who might be interested in reading it. As I began post graduate study this year I have noticed a massive increase in my confidence to write in an academic setting- and i think thats partly due to all the blog writing of the last couple of years.

So anyone thinking about starting blogging- go for it. It helps you reflect, it helps you develop a writing style and it shares a story and some thinking that someone somewhere is probably also thinking about it. 


You learn you are not alone. Because blogging definitely helps you connect with the wider education world.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. A Teaching Team that Worked.

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

Many years ago I began to team-teach, something I’d never done before. 
I am now an absolute convert to the learning, challenge and excitement that team teaching allows, and a true believer that if we do collaboratively teach with adults, then our learners get a much better deal. 
You can read a previous post about co-teaching here. 

And I can’t possibly write a series of blogposts on the people who have influenced my practice, as I have been this week, without writing a post about Matt- my co-conspirator, and co-teacher all those 14 years ago. 

Sharing a classroom block with complete collective responsibility for our learners for those four years were some of the most rewarding years of my teaching career. 

I learnt. Oh, how I learnt. 

I learnt from Matt, a lot I now take for granted I always knew about how to deal with young people. About approaching with care and love, not just confrontation and unexplained expectation. But my reality is I think I learnt or at least refined a lot of that from Matt.

We laughed a lot. With our learners. People wondered how well you could develop close relationships with 70 learners instead of 30. But between the two of us we had close relationship with those young learners. Different relationships certainly. And that was the magic. They could go to Matt for some things and me for others. And they soon learnt which one of us to go to for which. 

I learnt to let go of the ego so often involved in teaching. I learnt it was okay not to be everything to everyone. And Matt helped me learn that.

Matt was one of those teachers that just made kids know he was there for them 100%. He expected things from them, but he gave his all to them, and I got to be part of that too.

You don't realise how alone you are in a single cell classroom until you share a classroom, not just with your young learners but with another adult. The power of another adult to turn a possibly fraught moment with a child to a humorous one, or at the very least deflect the young person and disperse the tension. 

We definitely fought. We had huge debates at the beginning of each term about the direction to go in and what we each thought our young learners needed. We were both used to being innovative in our practice, but  \team teaching required us to hone that innovation into some very clearly stated purposes and visions, which only helped to improve the quality for our learners.

We learnt to balance. My need for documentation and paperwork and immense and complicated planning lessened a little, and Matt’s ability to see the need for some planning being written down increased!


I learnt from Matt how integral art could be to the learning process. He facilitated some of the most amazing integrated visual arts as part of our term inquiries I have ever seen. (Even if I sometimes had to teach all the maths to allow him the time to work with the kids to get it finished!)

But Matt, you were, (and although I haven't seen you teach for many years I have been told you still are) one of the most natural teachers there is. You had an absolute instinctive way with young people. You made them know they mattered. You cared and you inspired them to care. That you now have a young family of your own to share that with as well is awesome. Lucky whānau. 

Those four years team teaching with you were demanding, and hard work, because of the programs we were implementing, but they were so, so rewarding because of who you were and what we achieved together. Im so thankful that modern communication has allowed us to stay in touch, even when you were on the other side of the world. it’s great you are now back in NZ education.


You remain an inspiration. 

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