Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

#edblognz ULearn15 Blogger Selfie Challenge #cenz

If at Ulearn - Find a blogger you admire, shake their hand and take a selfie with them to post on your blog. Then find a new blogger and do the same! If you’re feeling really generous buy them a coffee! Write about it too!

This last week I went to ULearn15 at Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland.  This is my fifth ULearn in a row, and at each one I have found inspiration and met amazing people and reconnected with old friends from many areas of my life. 

This year the networking was awesome.  I got to meet bloggers and tweeters and inspirational educators who I've been connecting with for up to four years (the amount of time I have been on Twitter as I joined at the end of ULearn11).  This is how I have built up and widened my Personal Learning Network and become a connected educator through Twitter and going to ULearn, Educamps and EduIgnites.

On Wednesday night I attended the Twitter Dinner.  There were about 55 people there, not all of whom were attending ULearn.  @digitallearnin organised the evening and had us interacting with a game of Twitter Bingo, as you can see below.

First up for the selfie challenge was @st3ph007 or StephT who has the blog Four Seasons in One Kiwi.  I've always really enjoyed reading her blog posts.  They challenge me in some of my thinking.  Often I agree, at times I do not.  @st3ph007 has also supported @kerriattamatea in her establishment of the #BFC630NZ quick education chat each week day morning of term which I have participated in on occasion.  @st3ph007 also is a regular participant in #edchatnz and has been known to put her wisdom out on Facebook pages I frequent too.  It was fabulous to finally meet Steph and hear her passion for education in the flesh.

One of the Breakouts I went to at ULearn15 was presented by @Cherie59789095 and it was about networks and clusters, a hot topic currently.  It took me a few minutes to click on to the fact that I had been interacting with the presenter on Twitter for quite a while as I wasn't able to click into the online resource for about 10 or so minutes.  I had the opportunity to have a long chat with Cherie later in the evening after the Gala Dinner and I was thrilled to make the face to face connection with such an amazing leader.

During Brunch on the last day @vanschaijik who is also known as Sonya, sat beside me, and soon after we were joined by @mrehu.  Sonya is one of the admins for #edblognz and is a big driver behind TeachMeetNZ, a virtual PLD meeting space.  Sonya has also been a connected educator in many other ways too, which you can check out at http://sonyavanschaijik.com/.

I have been following @mrehu for nearly two years, I think, and at the Gala Dinner I met one of his teachers, @KNgarangione, who had come to ULearn15 with a group of the staff and she raved about working with him.  So it was a bonus to sit down with Maurice for a few minutes and shoot the breeze about our highlights at the conference.

And lastly, after a false start the afternoon before where our timing was out, @mjbuckland and I finally caught up and had that f2f meet up and chat about the conference this year and in the past, Twitter and the "take homes" we have. 

Alas, I failed to meet any new bloggers at ULearn15, but if you are a fairly new blogger and you are reading this and would like to help me out with a virtual meeting, or a f2f if you are in Hamilton, Cambridge or Te Awamutu, drop me a line at @melulater or through the comments.

It was great to meet all these people in the flesh for the first time this year, but also great to meet up with many other awesome educators that I have been meeting over the last few years, especially since 2012's ULearn.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

ULearn 15 - Keynote Speaker: Grant Lichtman - On the Road: Keys to Successful School Innovation in Times of Change.

Surprisingly (NOT!), I arrived to ULearn15 just after the first keynote speaker, Grant Lichtman, began his address to the conference.  As I caught up on the previous couple of hours of messages and social media, I was listening and picking things up.  But I decided to retweet others and respond to their tweets rather than live tweet myself.

Consequently, when I drew the tweets from this keynote from my Twitter timeline for the Storify down below, it is out of order of what actually was said when as the tweets came out where I retweeted from.

Grant Lichtman's address to ULearn15 was about being successful with innovation and change in your school.  A timely address, as, like all education systems around the world, New Zealand is going through yet another change.

Going to Grant's website, www.grantlichtman.com, this is the introductory paragraph about Grant:
Nationally recognized thought leader in the drive to transform K-12 education, Grant speaks, writes, and works with fellow educators to build capacity and comfort with innovation in response to a rapidly changing world.

Grant also blogs at http://www.grantlichtman.com/blog/.

As Grant spoke, I was struck by a number of points he made and how similar his metaphor was to Dr Jean Mitaera's metaphor during her address to the NZEI Annual Conference last week.

Grant likened being a teacher to being a farmer.  The teacher has to clear the land of obstacles and layout the fence lines (boundaries) so they can nurture the crop/animals/learner.

It struck a chord with me as Dr Jean last week said teachers were like gardeners: preparing the soil (finding out about their learners and making the classroom a great learning space), choosing the seeds (what needs to be taught), watering, weeding, pruning, nurturing.  You can read more about this at Talanoa and Dr Jean Mitaera at the NZEI Annual Conference.

This is my tweet from the NZEI conference last week.  Dr Jean also spoke about choosing the right tools to do the job and making sure they were sharp and ready.

Grant also talked about teachers being active in the learning with the students, not being a guide on the side with a degree of detachment.

Another stand out comment from Grant that spoke to me, was how impressed he was that New Zealand educators were not reliant on text books generally like they are in the US or the UK.  I found, when I was in the UK in 2001/2002, that it was almost like, "Today is Wednesday 7 October, so the Year 4s should be doing page 27 of Blah Blah text book" regardless of whether or not they were a struggling learning, on track or way ahead for their year group.  New Zealand is very good at catering for the diverse abilities within a class, however, we have also found, with National Standards being implemented, that sometimes the target group gets all the attention and the capable and above sometimes don't get that extension we would like to give.

Surveying my students for that one word that describes a part of the day - I quite like this idea and I think it would be worth a go - so that is a "take away to try" for me.

And these two questions tweeted out by @chaelebel and @MissDtheTeacher are well worthy of further consideration.

The difference between just going to school and really great learning?  I guess it is being excited about school and learning in my opinion.  Just going is a chore, a necessity.  But being excited about school and learning is another thing altogether.  But I think this doesn't just apply to our students.  I think it has to apply to us as teachers too, because if we are not excited about learning and school and our students, how can we expect to inspire our students and give them what they need from us?

I think for wanting more time, some of it has to do with being planned and organised.  There is nothing worse than kids waiting for you to think about what you want to do with them when they get to the mat.  Another aspect is having great classroom systems so that the students know what is expected of them and when so they can be self managing.  And another aspect is timetabling - running workshops, having flexibility about when you take your maths or reading or writing groups, when you demonstrate a skill, a MYLearning aspect to it.

The tweets below are basically telling us that we have to be used to change.

This is my 20th year of teaching, and in my experience, teachers are constantly in a state of change and discomfort.  This is our normal.  When I was still at high school, Tomorrow's Schools was the huge shake up.  During my teacher training and early teaching life in the 90s there was constant change with a new curriculum document in draft form each year along with another curriculum document being gazetted and implemented.  Plus there were huge political issues with bulk funding and individual employment contracts for principals.  Then there were changes in areas such as EOTC and ICTPD.  Moving into the 2000s we had the Literacy and Numeracy projects and inquiry hijacking the ICTPD.  In the mid 2000s we had a whole new curriculum document to comment on, and then just as we were working to implement that document, we were knocked sideways by the introduction of National Standards, followed by IES/Joint Initiative.  Now this is merely looking at it from a primary teachers point of view, but the ECE, secondary and tertiary sectors have also had massive upheaval and change, and adult education/night school was massacred.  So to me, this statement is somewhat of an insult.  Change is our norm.

Below is something I agree with - but I am not sure we are talking the same thing.  This statement may be focused on the small picture within each school.  I'm thinking big picture, nationwide, all of education!

To me, the Operating System is our Education System.  Now Hekia Parata has clearly stated on a number of occasions over the last year that she wants to totally revamp the Education Act.  She intends to do this over the next year.  The last time we had a major change to our education system was Tomorrow's Schools. 

What I think we need is a full stocktake of the system.  Identify what is working and what isn't; what should stay and what should go; what is fine and what needs to change; what would work better with a bit of tinkering or a bit more tinkering.  And this should happen before changing the funding, before changing the Education Act, before bringing in another level of bureaucracy like IES/Joint Initiative - but it won't.

It was a very good keynote to start the conference with and certainly got people talking, tweeting and thinking.  So that was my thoughts.  Read through the Storify below and let me know your thinks.

What was really nice was that Grant Lichtman attended the Twitter Dinner that evening and it was great to interact with him in a social environment.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭

Sadly, my first Breakout was a failure with the presenter being a no show due to being double booked.  I was extremely disappointed that the ULearn organisers were not more proactive at the time in ensuring participants knew and had an alternative to attend.  However, it appears a major communication failure happened to cause the situation, and Core Education has been brilliant in coming to a solution to appease my disappointment.  So thanks team at Core Education.

My second Breakout was cool as... but that is for another post!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Why do I blog? #edblognz #cenz

So here it goes, yet another challenge for #edblognz:

Write a blog post about why you blog professionally and some of the things you blog about. Share it using the #EdBlogNZ hashtag so the newbies can get further ideas to blog about.

I started this blog four years ago next week at the end of ULearn11, well actually the 21 October 2011, but we rearranged when the term breaks were that year for a wee Rugby World Cup that was happening in NZ that year.  This is my first blog post:  ULearn11 - learning, discovering, trying it out for myself.

Since I began this blog I started four others:
  • One where I discuss the political side of education and society in general.  It is public.
  • One where I review books, because I love reading.  It is public.
  • One that is attached to my Curriculum Vitae as a link to give more information about how I run my classroom programmes and me as a teacher.  This is not public and is by provided link only.
  • One that is my Teacher Inquiry and is a record of me as a classroom teacher for registration.  This is not public and is by provided link only.

So what have I blogged about on this blog?
  • art activities I have done with my class.
  • social studies units I have done with my class.
  • reading units I have done with my class.
  • writing activities I have done with my class.
  • my class camp.
  • how I run my Reading Tumble, my spelling programme, why I do handwriting and homework.
  • how I use modelling books.
  • technology I have used in my classroom programme with the pros and cons.
  • courses and conferences I have been on like ULearn, ConnectED, Teachers Matter, Educamps, EduIgnites and NZEI.
  • why I use Twitter and social media.
  • blogging challenges like #edsketch and the blogging meme.
  • being the new teacher and the challenges it brings.
  • leadership.
  • classroom environments.
  • issues of the day in education.
I blog professionally because sometimes I want to reflect on what when well, what didn't and what I would do differently.  Sometimes I want to show off my students' work.  Sometimes it is to clarify my thoughts after PLD and conferences.  Sometimes it is just to share new information with colleagues.  This blog serves a number of purposes.  This blog fits the purpose I decide it will fit when I write the blog.

Cathedral Cove..... #edblognz

The Challenge:
Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

This is my favourite piece of artwork.  It is by Diana Adams, a New Zealand artist, and is of Cathedral Cove.  I have a copy of this artwork, which was given as a gift to me by my brother and his wife one Christmas.

I love this picture because, firstly, Mercury Bay on the Coromandel is my most favourite place in the world.  Although we holiday closer to Whitianga, Cathedral Cove is the most iconic part of Mercury Bay to many people.  When I was on my OE in the early 2000s I carried with me a picture of the view out into Mercury Bay from our family beach house my Dad's family built 60 years ago in 1955 when he was at primary school.  My beach is the place where I am the happiest, the calmest.  It is my turangawaewae.

How does it fit in with my life as an educator? 

When I was a child I learnt so much at the beach.  How to fish.  About friendships.  About how families operate.  About nature.  About how to ski underwater.  About time management - or lack of it in my case. 

I lived in Whitianga for two years and taught at two local schools.  I loved the lifestyle and made some true lifelong friends, as well as getting to spend extra special time with my Grandma who was in her 90s and passed away a year after I moved away for a new school. 

It is a place I draw inspiration on as a teacher for how I teach and what I teach at times.  I took my class to my beach as part of my camp in 2012, because it is the safest beach I know.  See the post:  Room 3 Camp March 2012 - Day Three.  I've used it as inspiration for doing art, such as in this post Beach Scenes where I was inspired by walks along the beach and the bunny tails glued on the art were actually from my beach!

When I take work up to the beach to do, like reports, records, planning and the like, it never seems like hard work when you have this view to look out upon.  I am calm and focused with the sound of the waves pushing in and out on the beach.


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Distant Dreamer.... #edblognz

The Challenge:
Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

This is a challenge set as part of Connected Educator New Zealand (#cenz) month for October.

The song I have chosen is Distant Dreamer by Duffy.  I've chosen this song for many reasons.

These are the lyrics of the song:

Although you think I cope
My head is filled with hope of some place other than here
Although you think I smile
Inside and all the while I'm wondering about my destiny
I'm thinking about all the things
I'd like to do in my life
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Even when you see me frown my heart won't let me down
Because I know there's better things to come, woah yeah
And when life gets tough and I feel I've had enough
I hold on to a distant star
I'm thinking about, all the things
I'd like to do in my life
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Yeah, I'm a dreamer
I'm a dreamer, a distant dreamer
Dreaming far away from today
Yeah, I'm a dreamer
I'm a dreamer

I am a dreamer.  I'm always thinking about what I want to do next with a group of children, what I think they can achieve as a group and as individuals.  I dream about what the future will be for the children I work with and how they will go forward in their lives.  And while sometimes I can feel upset or stressed out by the students I work with, or fellow staff, I know it won't always be that way.

I am also dreaming about how we can save our quality public education system from the GERM of neo liberal policies and how I can help fix the mess the current policies are making after a change of government in 2017.  And while the current situation does get me down at times, I know there are many people out there that are thinking just like me too.

I'm also dreaming about what other possibilities there may be out there for me in education and other aspects of life.  I love teaching, the creativity, the child's light bulb moment, the fact that every day is a new opportunity to learn and brings something different - but it is now time to explore what else I can do in my life.  2016 will not see me back in the classroom, I will be spreading my wings.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Talanoa and Dr Jean Mitaera at the NZEI Annual Conference

This week I gate crashed the NZEI Annual Conference in Rotorua. 

Why?  Because on days two and three there are usually some awesome speakers, and the Pasifika team of NZEI did not disappoint me with their funny, witty and insightful speaker, Dr Jean Mitaera, they had chosen for their section of the Conference.

Last year they had Efeso Collins for the Pasifica session introducing and discussing the concept talanoa.  I included the Storify from the tweets made from Efeso Collins' speech in this blog post on my other blog:  World Teachers' Day 2014 - celebrating teachers who have inspired us.  You'll find the Storify at the bottom of the blog.

But here are some pictures of the tweets explaining talanoa to warm you up to the inspiring session with Dr Jean Mitaera.

The NZEI Annual Conference theme was It's Got to be About the Child but Dr Jean said straight up that this caused her some consternation has she prepared her presentation.  To Dr Jean, It's Got to be About the Teacher!  Dr Jean said that after the mother, the most influential person in a child's life is their teacher.

That is a rather confronting thing to hear.  I guess we all know the stories about how a child puts so much stock in what their teacher says.  But sometimes I know I am too busy to apply that knowledge to myself as the teacher.

My nephew started school in early Term 2.  All of a sudden my brother and his wife, and his great aunty who is their nanny, knew nothing in the eyes of my nephew.  His teacher was all knowing.  She said that museli bar has too much sugar in it, so when Aunty put the museli bar in his lunch he told her to take it home and not to do it again because the teacher says it has too much sugar.

I began with a new class at the beginning of Term 3.  I have a mixed group of children from all backgrounds and opportunities.  Although I have taught children with Pacific Island backgrounds before, this is my largest group ever in my current class.  But the concepts Dr Jean was talking about do not just apply to Pasifika children.  They are applicable to all children.

As only 2% of the teaching workforce is Pasifika, it is important that all teachers are aware of or are continuing to develop their knowledge of the Pasifika families in our classes.  And that was pretty much the only statistic that Dr Jean threw at us, because she knows we know the data for our own classes and schools and areas.

Dr Jean used metaphors a lot during her speech.  One of them was a gardening metaphor - and she said she is not a gardener.  She also took inspiration from her minister at church... from the last time she went six years ago.  The minister talked about how we reap what is sown before us....

She also said that was a load of rubbish!

But she did talk about us preparing the soil for our students.  We need to choose the right seeds (learnings, knowledge, skills the children need) to grow.  We need to nurture, water, plant, water, weed and prune what we are teaching and our students to grow what they need within themselves.

To often the Pasifika learner comes into an assembly line classroom.  We, as teachers need to dismantle the assembly line.  We need to develop talanoa within the class.  We need to develop the relationship with the family and design the learning house for the learner.

I saw a comment somewhere today where a teacher talked about how she had to rearrange her classroom to accommodate pushchairs because each morning she had many families and siblings in her classroom, the parents having a cup of coffee together.  What a wonderful way to grow that unity not only within the students, but within the parents of the class, and to help parents feel at home in the class.

The metaphor Dr Jean used for the learner was a house. 

So what did I get out of listening to Dr Jean?

Her talk resonated with me because I am still developing relationships with some students in my class having only been with them for one term.  I need to do more of what is in this photo below - building capability, sharing intelligence and facilitating transition. 

Dr Jean set us a challenge to increase our own knowledge of not only individual children and their families, but where they come from.  She asked us to also share our learning with other colleagues to increase their knowledge and understanding.  After Dr Jean spoke, each table had the opportunity to discuss resources and opportunities we have available to them within their communities to develop our personal knowledge of Pasifika cultures.  Tip:  Ready to Read, Junior Journals, School Journals and the Connected series have some great Pasifika stories and articles to help us and our students develop our Pasifika knowledge and understanding.

But most importantly, it was the reawakening that even a small amount of time spent one on one with a child can be an important piece of building a relationship with the individual child, and something they can cherish.

You can watch Dr Jean's address to the Annual Conference here:

Below is the Storify of the tweets and pictures from Dr Jean's presentation for the Pasifika session at the NZEI Annual Conference.  There is not a video link yet, but if one comes, I will add it.

Sadly, Storify has deleted itself from the Social Media scene, so all my Storify stories have gone.  😭😭😭😭😭