Monday, 11 August 2014

EdChatNZ Blogging Meme

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends. Make sure you send your answers back to whoever tagged you too.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)
I was there at HPSS for both days of the conference, but did spend a lot of time online, trying to follow all the workshops that were going on at the same time.

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
Besides myself there were 2 others from Hurupaki Primary School in Whangarei - Tania Macdonald (@tarnzs2014) and Shelley Muston (@cassie091). The 3 of us have been tasked with implementing some significant change at our school, and the #edchatnz conference has given us considerable food-for-thought as we continue down the road we are taking.

3. How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
I did have a look at the challenges before I left, but to be honest, I couldn't remember most of them. Looking at the list again now, I did do a few of them. I did shout out a few 'rhetorical questions' to Maggie Barry, but didn't get any pics - selfie's are near impossible as my iphone 3gs only has a rear facing camera may be time to upgrade...). I forgot about the food sculpture, and reckon I could have done a good job with that one. 

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
It was great to meet so many educators that I knew only through twitter - some of them looked completely different to what I expected.
Reid Walker (@ReidHns1) is a real kiwi bloke and a guy I have a lot in common with. We meet in the foyer just before the start of the first keynote, and we bumped into each many times during the two days, both in workshops and in the breaks. We talked about various issues and ideas we had, and his enthusiasm was pretty infectious.
Bridget Compton-Moen (@bridgetLCM) and I had a conversation during the summer holidays (on twitter, of course) about reading. She recommended some books by Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) that have since transformed the way I view and teach reading in my class. I was really glad that I was able to thank her for that, even if we only spoke for a very short time.
Annemarie Hyde (@mrs_hyde) is always amazing, giving so much, and is another real kiwi character. I never get tired of her, and I know she has helped so many teachers around the country (and the world...) with her caring and sharing attitude. 
5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
There were actually quite a few workshops that I missed out on, but just like Steve Mouldey (@GeoMouldey) I would have liked to have heard Pam Hook (@arti_choke) speak. I will admit that I'm not a huge fan of the SOLO Taxonomy, but by all account she was amazing - maybe she could have converted me. I also wanted to hear Ros MacEachern (@rosmaceachern) speak about her day/life at Hpss.
6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 
I would love to have taken all of the staff from our school, but although she is supportive in allowing us to attend professional development opportunities like this, I would like my principal to attend herself. I feel that if she were to experience an event like this and, in particular, see a school like Hpps in action with her own eyes, she may be more open to making the kinds of changes I would like to see made in our school.
7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why
There were a few... I attended Steve Mouldey's (@GeoMouldey) workshop on creativity and found it really interesting ("not a team sport"). In particular, I liked his approach to helping students generate questions, which I sometimes struggle with. Ros MacEachern (@rosmaceachern) is another tweep that I would have liked to have meet. Also Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher) was really busy (imagine that...) but would love to really talk with her in the future.
To be honest, I ended up coming away from this conference increasing the number of people I wanted to meet rather than meeting all the ones I wanted to (if you know what I mean....).

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
The principal at Hpps (I've forgotten his name) recommended a book - I'm struggling to find it in my 'notes' but I think it was "Hidden Lives of Learners" by Graham Nuthall. If this was it, then I'll give it a go.
9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?
I have had a few false starts with blogging - writing doesn't seem to come naturally for me, and often feels more like a chore than a pleasurable and/or effective process. A structure like this makes it much easier for me. Usually I just feel that I don't have that much to offer.
Something I do want to do in my classroom is change the environment even more. I want to use different furniture, create spaces and give students more choice in where and how they learn.

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
I know this is something I need to do more in my class. This will be my endeavour - watch this space...

Who do will I tag with this meme:
I wouldn't be surprised if every one of these people have been tagged already, but what the heck...
Bridget Compton-Moen (@bridgetLCM)
Ros MacEachern (@rosmaceachern)
Raewyn Donnell (@RaewynDonnell)
Mary Robinson (@MaryWomble)
Philippa Isom (@PhilippaIsom)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

My Son Is Amazing And Is Not Dumb!

There are many problems with National Standards, such as the potential narrowing of the curriculum, along with other negative impacts on schools and teachers. But one issue that I really think is critical is the impact on kids.

Last year I had a student who found school difficult. Sure, he had learning difficulties, which I and my school took measures to address, and by the end of the year he had made improvements. However, these improvements were not great enough to meet the standards in reading, writing or maths - he was below the standards, but not well below.

His parents are aware of his difficulties, and we have spoken about them together at two parent interviews and on some other occasions. They knew before they got his report at the end of the year that he was unlikely to meet the standards.

A colleague of mine is a friend of this student's mother. Today this colleague sent me this facebook status form the mother:

Ok teachers out there please give me an insight into the stupid idea of this national standard bull****. My kids reports came home at the end of year and clearly stated on the page of this report is a grid that ever so nicely puts yours kids national standard level in. My sons report states that he is below the national standard line. Now I struggle very hard to understand how a school can put something like that on a report that the child is of course going to read and now my son has spent the past 3 weeks and will spend the rest of his life telling me how dumb he is!!!! AWESOME for the confidence of the kid aye?? It is something that should be talked at, at parent interviews not for the kid to see. Im horrified and deeply upset as my sons morale is dead. He thinks he is dumb. Thanks New Zealand Education system you have ****ed up yet again! And for the record my son is amazing and is not dumb!!!
I hate being forced to give kids these labels that they will carry with them for years. This was one of the biggest problems I have with the National Standards, and I remember having this conversation with many people years ago.

I have been thinking about how to respond to this, or even if I should. And to be honest, I'm struggling. For the record, I do agree with her on most of these points. He is an awesome kid, but he does take things to heart easily, and needs to develop his resilience. There are lots of great things about this student, and I have told his parents that, and wrote about them in his report.

He does not deserve to spend next year, and possibly beyond that, thinking that he is dumb. No kid deserves that. I don't have all the answers and solutions, but the Nationals Standards in their current form are not it either.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Blogging Meme

This is my first blog post for 2014, and the first for this new blog - I have just discovered that my old blog has been removed. I guess that shows just how much I blog.... Thanks to Marnel @1MvdS for tagging me in her post.

The blogging task includes:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don't nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me:
  1. I, also, am a very reserved person, an introvert of the highest degree.
  2. I was born in Ashburton but went to Otago University due to my father's blue-and-gold blood. I am a Mainlander living in Whangarei.
  3. I wrote an MA thesis called "Marriages and Inter-gender Realtions in Monogatari and Nikki Literature of the Mid-Heian Period" which is a known cure for insomnia.
  4. I strongly - very strongly - dislike spring onions and coconut. Especially if served together.
  5. I am married and have 3 kids - Phoebe (9), Oscar (7), and Rebecca (2).
  6. I played soccer since I was six up until last year when my right knee was injured.
  7. When I was 11, I lived on two Japanese islands called Miyake-jima and Hachijo-jima with my family while my father was on the JET Programme.
  8. I love my Apple toys.
  9. I don't like writing. There. I said it. I like maths, where "outcomes are right or wrong, not like in writing where everything is all fuzzy and fluffy." (not my own words...).
  10. You know the food pyramid? I believe that there is a forth layer below the fruit and vegetables called "ice cream".
  11. My spelling is terrible - see if you can find *all* the intentional mistakes in this blog post.

My answers to Marnel's questions:

1. What Inspires you?
Lots of things. In terms of teaching, I really value the relationships that my class and I build over the year, and love it when students have their 'a-ha' moments. I'm lucky to teach in a school with a fantastic staff and great students.

2. What are you reading now?
In all honesty, I'm not much of a reader. However, these holidays I have already read "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller and "Igniting a Passion for Reading" by Steven Layne. I'm currently in the middle of Jonah Lomu's Autobiography, and also "The Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas

3. If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
At high school I was going to be a cartographer, then a statistician, then at University I was going to be a translator. I taught English in Japan for 3 years which put my on to 'proper' teaching. However, I would probably have ended up as an accountant - I like numbers.

4. If you could change something about the education system, what would it be?
Just one thing? I think that if politicians and policy makers actually placed their trust in us teachers and other educators, our system would look very different. I really hope that education in NZ doesn't turn into the one-size-fits-all model that we seem to be heading for....

5. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Um,.... That would have been just after the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. I wrote to a family that I was worried about. I knew their postal address but nothing else.

6. Android or iPad tablets? Why?
At our school, we have neither. I have an ipad at home, and am a big Apple.

7. What do you find hardest to teach your students?
Writing. It is not a strength of mine at all, and I think my lack of confidence transfers into my teaching. Having said that, I know I am getting better all the time.

8. What will you be doing differently this year?
I am going to focus a lot on reading this year - after reading the books mentioned above - not teaching the skills of reading as such, but focusing on the joy of reading, and get kids hooked into reading as much as possible.

9. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be and why did you choose this language?
I already speak Japanese "fluently" but I am pretty rusty now, seeing as I don't use it very often anymore. Japan, its culture and language are full of contradictions and extremes. Learning and speaking Japanese has taught me a lot about myself.

10. What is your favourite way to waste time?
Mucking around on twitter is up there right now. I always check the latest news about my beloved Seattle Mariners baseball team. Spending time with my family is always something that takes me away form work and other thing I should be doing.

11. What is your life motto?
I like "Every marathon begins with a single step" but also "You can not wait to spontaneously combust - you must set yourself on fire."

And now my 11 questions:
1. What motivated you to become a teacher?
2. If you could invite anybody to dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
3. What fictional character are you most like, or do you most relate to?
4. Where does the tomato sauce live - cupboard or fridge?
5. What would be the first thing you would do as the new Prime Minister of NZ?
6. What has been the coolest thing you have ever done in/with your class?
7. Crosswords or Sudokus?
8. If you could be a professional athlete, which sport would you play? Why?
9. What is one thing you want your students to remember about a year in your class?
10. Uniforms or Mufti? Why?
11. Choose a verb, a noun, and an adjective to describe you.

Thanks for reading.