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Updates from Jude

Also see the Positive Education page - one of Jude's passions!

24 May 2019

posted by Carolyn Brett

When we asked for our parent whānau to feed into our strategic direction a while ago, your response was pretty much a keep doing what you are doing, people, BUT we want more Music, please! Music is one of the 4 elements of a vibrant Arts Curriculum - along with Visual Arts, Dance and Drama.

We are intent on keeping The Arts alive and well at WBS and will not let anything stop us. One of our thought leaders, Sir Ken Robinson, would be proud. In his work on 'Finding Your Element', he often laments that schools have become lacklustre and unable to allow for freedom of expression or creativity to flourish. I know it takes careful planning, energy and an innate desire to provide an exciting learning programme for our tamariki. I know that The Arts can also push boundaries for some of our staff and take them out of their comfort zones, so I am impressed with the Growth Mindset they often model in their own learning and also the support for each other. 

So, when we look at Music, we have made some serious movement in 2019 thanks to our teacher learners and passionate parents. This year, due to your fundraising efforts, we have employed Henare, our fab Kapa Haka expert tutor for weekly sessions of waiata, actions and recently new moves with tī rākau. Thanks to committed parents, we now have our very own Orchestra (who are sounding so good!) and our Kiwilele/Ukelele group has started this week. All of these happen on a Thursday! So, for some of our children, they must certainly wish every day was Thursday.... and why not?!

Our Matariki Celebration will be upon us before we know it and this year we have a focus on Music Making. Watch this space - you will find out more soon. Now this is a bit of a taster to what we will be revving up to in Term 3 - yes, the annual Arts Celebration for 2 evenings of merriment. Please diary Wednesday 21 August - Thursday 22 August.

We have a very full on Professional Learning and Development programme for our teachers (PLD). That's what they are doing in the staffroom every Monday after school and every Thursday before school. After a day with the children on the Monday or rushing to get to work early on the Thursday, we need to be able to shut aspects of our professional and personal lives off and others on. To help us to get in the zone for learning, we often start the sessions with what we call a Positive Education (Pos Ed) starter.

This can be anything from a game to a breathing exercise, singing, some yoga moves or a time for a written reflection and the like. Often there is a Music theme - linking to positive emotion. Teachers can then use some of these simple techniques back in the spaces with the children. Some of these PLD sessions lately have also been Music orientated - with our teachers learning how to compose music using GarageBand. 

Here is a little about what the New Zealand Curriculum says about The Arts:

Arts education explores, challenges, affirms, and celebrates unique artistic expressions of self, community, and culture. It embraces toi Māori, valuing the forms and practices of customary and contemporary Māori performing, musical, and visual arts.

Learning in, through, and about the arts stimulates creative action and response by engaging and connecting thinking, imagination, senses, and feelings. By participating in the arts, students’ personal well-being is enhanced. As students express and interpret ideas within creative, aesthetic, and technological frameworks, their confidence to take risks is increased. 

My feeling is, if The Arts has the ability to do all this for our younger learners, then it must certainly be good for our older learners too. I want our staff having plenty of opportunities to get creative, take risks and enhance their personal wellbeing - it's a no brainer!

So here's to keeping The Arts alive and our staff and community volunteers also learning and growing alongside the children. Here's also to keeping our eyes and ears open as we don't want to overlook anyone. This is a funny anecdote from a radio interview with Sir Ken Robinson last year:

“But anybody who knows anything about education knows the real key to improving education is teaching.”

Contrast his experience with that of Paul McCartney, whose music with the Beatles was avidly followed by the young Sir Ken in Liverpool.

“I can remember ‘Love Me Do’ exploding into the airwaves of Radio Luxembourg which is what we used to listen to at the time in Britain. I couldn’t believe how great this record was. I’d never heard anything like it.”

Decades later, interviewed for a book, McCartney told him he hadn’t enjoyed music at school and his music teacher didn’t think he had any talent. Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison was in the same music programme a couple of years later and the teacher didn’t think he had any talent either, McCartney said.

“I said, well look would it be reasonable to say this, that there was this one music teacher in Liverpool in the 1950s who had half the Beatles in his class and he missed it? And he said ‘yes’.”

Sir Ken points out talent doesn’t always show itself.

“Human talent is like the world’s natural resources, it’s often hidden from view.”

Food for thought! Here is the full interview.

17 May 2019

posted 16 May 2019, 17:30 by Carolyn Brett

Feedback from the parents who made it to the Parent Workshop on Inquiry Learning was really positive. They experienced an almost 'painful to watch' short clip of Toto the Turtle attempting to turn themselves over. We were all so tempted to jump into the screen and just flip it to get the agonising wait out of the way. Such is the frantic pace of our lives, so we can go 'tick' and onto the next task so often. Well at the evening, dear ol' Toto was likened to what we often experience with children.... it takes time, it can be frustrating but, with some perseverance and patience, we can witness Toto doing things for himself or herself!

Kath Murdoch is a well known Inquiry 'guru' with many of us looking at her material for inspiration, research and  away forward. Kath wrote a piece about the 'Art of Inquiry'. In this, she illustrates 10 practices of the Inquiry teacher and let's think of a 'teacher' at home too.
  1. Cultivate curiosity - provoke, model and value curiosity
  2. Question - good questions are at the heart of Inquiry
  3. Connect - help children see connections across learning areas and between school and outside of school
  4. Release - Learners have to do most of the work!
  5. Keep it real - keep purpose and authenticity at the forefront 
  6. Notice - Observe, notice, reflect, respond
  7. Grow learning assets - value the process of learning - be a researcher, a thinker, a self manager, a communicator and a collaborator
  8. Play - understand the power of purposeful play
  9. Think big - keep your eye on the bigger picture
  10. Get personal - get inside the lives and passions of the learners
As I said at the start of the Parent Evening, this approach just seems so much more complex and interesting than my many elaborate cover pages and copied words from the blackboard in days past! You can find out a lot more information from the Blogs. If you look hard enough in one of the presentations, you will even see poor Toto!

When you have your Progress Meetings with your child's base teacher later this term, you will also hear more about Inquiry and how your child/ren is/are responding to the learning. This will also be a great opportunity to ask any further questions about that area that really encapsulates all the competencies, links strongly to Reading, Writing, Maths achievement and Positive Education. But, first, I really recommend you digest the Blogs if you couldn't make the evening and are keen to support at home.

Hope you have your outfit sorted for the Slumber Party Disco tonight! Thanks in advance to our Mr Disco Maker and the staff and parents there working to make it happen.

10 May 2019

posted 9 May 2019, 20:18 by Carolyn Brett

In the holidays, we hosted two days of Positive Education aka Wellbeing workshops with educators from other schools here at WBS. The trainer, Jessica Taylor, from the Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School, Australia, brought joie de vivre, wisdom and skill over to our shores.

This isn't a new journey for us here, but it was a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge our progress, to reinforce our understandings but also very importantly take the understanding, the research, the science to a new level. She left us with a strong message about placing a wellbeing lens over everything we do.... even if we could do this 10% more, what would this look like and what could the benefits for our children (and staff/whānau) be? 

A new report from the Office of the Children's Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki identified that a third of the 6000 children and young people who contributed to the "What makes a good life?" report indicated they faced challenges, whilst 1 in 10 faced multiple challenges.

"New Zealand should be a place where all children and young people are able to develop and flourish. From what we heard, a significant number of children and young people face challenges. Children and young people have valuable ideas based on their everyday experiences and hopes for the future. We undertook this work so that their views can inform the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, designed to drive government action on child wellbeing, but could also be used to inform practitioners and communities who want to make a difference for children and young people."

This is what they had to say about "What makes a good school?"
  • Young people spend a lot of time at school and generally believe education is important for future opportunities. Schools and communities can have a major impact on their wellbeing.
  • Young people want kind, helpful teachers who care about them. They say teachers who are the same ethnicity as them are more likely to connect and talk with them.
  • Young people with disabilities want teachers to be more patient in order to help them learn.
  • Respondents want to learn content which is relevant to them and would like to do more preparation at school for the career they wish to pursue. Some want more Te Reo Māori classes in school. One young person said education should include going to the marae and learning from elders about how to be a leader.
  • Some young people talked about the culture of their school and said it needs to be okay to fail. They want schools to be more accepting and respectful.
  • A child with a disability said it was important to be able to go to a school they liked and that they were supported to stay in a mainstream school.
  • Young people from a refugee background talked about how important language was to them and their families. They see getting good at English as crucial to having a good life.
  • Young people talked about needing support to learn ‘life skills’. They saw this as an important part of helping them to become an adult and getting a job. They wanted to learn more about interpersonal skills, budgeting, making good choices, managing their anger and knowing how to access housing.
  • Although some young people had had negative education experiences, the vast majority were still enthusiastic about learning.

We have a lot of responsibility as parents and educators, don't we? But, hey, what opportunity to help our younger people flourish in life.

7 years ago I began my real learning into the depths of wellbeing and my certification project was all about words.... language....how we speak and what we say......after all:

             "The words we speak become the house we live in." (Hafiz)

Whilst we can't be expected to get it right all the time (sorry, folks), it's one thing we can be really conscious about when communicating with our children and each other and, most importantly, first we have to listen!

So, here's to listening, here's to speaking and here's to increasing the lens by at least 10%.

3 May 2019

posted 2 May 2019, 20:17 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 2 May 2019, 20:18 ]

Welcome to the first Newsletter of Term 2, 2019.
Board of Trustees elections are coming up fast. Some of you will be very familiar with the role of the Board in NZ schools, others won’t be at all and many will fall in the inbetween. We are really keen to gather momentum as we head towards election date 7 June. That's only 5 weeks away. Nominations close 24 May - now that's only 3 weeks away!
So firstly, what is the role of the WBS Board?
"The Worser Bay School Board of Trustees (The Board) is entrusted to work on behalf of the community and government and is accountable for the school’s performance. It emphasises strategic leadership, sets the vision for the School and ensures that it complies with legal and policy requirements."
To find out more detail, a good place to look is the New Zealand School Trustees Association website.
We rely heavily on our parent community. Not a day goes by when there isn't parent help in the classroom, on trips, coaching/managing sports/orchestra/fundraising meetings and organisation, food preparation, Parent Net rallying troops and on and on it goes. A lot of these roles we understand the parameters, they seem fairly black and white. The Board always feels like more of a mystery, but it really isn't! A trustee is a role where you can contribute in a different way and, in doing so, deepen your understanding of education as a whole.
I would love to talk with you more about what it's like to be a Board trustee if you are thinking about putting yourself forward or I can put you in touch with another board member if you have a particular interest in an area they take leadership in. The best thing to do is contact Steph Williams ASAP and we can go from there. 

12 April 2019

posted 11 Apr 2019, 22:46 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 11 Apr 2019, 22:47 ]

Welcome to the last Newsletter of Term 1 and, wow, it's gone fast! I'm reminded of the saying about don't ever waste a day as you never get it back.... these 10 weeks have certainly not been wasted! They have been packed full of learning for the small, medium sized and bigger - or should that be older!? There has been a bit of everything. When we say we are educating the 'whole' the evidence shows that is not simply lip service!

We have a conference here the first 2 days of the holidays when a trainer from the Institute of Positive Education in Geelong, Australia, will be coming to work with us and other keen educators around student wellbeing. After these 2 days, I am hoping our staff will have plenty of off switch time, focussing on their own wellbeing, before revving into Term 2. Likewise, our children..... what would holidays be like with 20% less screen time and a 20% increase in reading good ol' books? I came across this letter from Rebecca Solnit, an American writer to readers recently which is a great thought as we go into the break:

Dear Readers,

Nearly every book has the same architecture — cover, spine, pages — but you open them onto worlds and gifts far beyond what paper and ink are, and on the inside they are every shape and power. Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything...... They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.

And I grew up to write books, as I’d hoped, so I know that each of them is a gift a writer made for strangers, a gift I’ve given a few times and received so many times, every day since I was six.

Have a gorgeous break and thanks for a great term of partnership.

5 April 2019

posted 4 Apr 2019, 18:05 by Carolyn Brett

There is a powerful link between music and the evoking of positive emotion. This is an area we are keen to delve more deeply into. Who doesn’t want to reduce stress? Bit of a no brainer. 

I know what a difference it makes when I enter a learning space before school starts and hear music... my shoulders drop, the corners of my mouth move upwards and I feel lighter.

I know what joy we experience from watching the children dance away to music at break times, without a care in the world and definitely dancing like no-one is watching (shhhhhh, please don’t tell them!)

I know what difference music makes in my own life, both listening and making. 

Learning the piano until the age of 16, attempting the violin (badly) and having guitar lessons from the neighbour, a great Neil Diamond fan, being part of the choir and orchestra meant music was all around. Growing up in New Plymouth during the ’punk era' also created opportunities for a variety of sounds and interesting dancing!! Let’s not mention the clothing!

Then the playing stopped until I inherited my parents piano when they downsized. Since this time I have been relearning and although sometimes I struggle to make space, when I do I can truly move into ‘flow’ quite quickly. I can’t think about anything else. I can’t plan, I can’t worry, I can’t compose to do lists..... there simply is not space. It is the perfect balance between challenge and ease.... not too hard, not too easy - it’s just right goldilocks!

We often refer to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on Flow when discussing our class programmes.

How might we create more opportunities for flow to occur? Have we got the pitch right? Interesting stuff.

The  recent Sunday night Family Music and Food get together was fertile ground for evoking positive emotion through music and connection. Thank you to the group of parents/ children/teacher who made this idea a reality. This is also what we are aiming for with the inception of our school orchestra.... and the work within class programmes.

As Aristotle in all his wisdom said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.

How true. 

29 March 2019

posted 28 Mar 2019, 18:32 by Carolyn Brett

Next week we have a Parent Workshop on Inquiry Learning on Thursday 4 April from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

These workshops are always good value and we try and keep them to the point and also have some fun and a chance to get to know each other a bit more. 

We will start on time and take you through some background and then a series of small group hands on activities covering key ideas. The aim is that you will be able to then follow on from some of these ideas at home.... learning doesn’t only happen within the confines of #168 after all.
Gratitude. We are turning our school foyer into living gratitude walls. The idea is to keep focusing on what’s going right and what we are grateful for in our world. You may like to add something for yourself, or as a family as it comes up. I’m starting with a picture of the gorgeous titipounamu that is growing in numbers and is back in Wellington thanks to our predator-free work.... so, whatever you want to contribute and whenever, just leave it in the office and I’ll get the ladder out and put it up. I’m not sure how it will work but I’m keen to give it a go. 

I came across some literature on teaching children gratitude recently and the studies suggested that parents/teachers support children to develop gratitude by asking questions in the 4 areas of what they NOTICE, THINK, FEEL and DO which I thought was a nice simple framework if you are interested. The trick is how we can help them go a little deeper than unicorns and pizza....... we will see!!

22 March 2019

posted 21 Mar 2019, 18:24 by Carolyn Brett

There is quite a bit of information out there regarding empathy being on the decline and a lack of human to human, face to face interaction often cited as a contributing factor. When I spotted the book “Born for Love - why empathy is essential and endangered” by Maia Szalavitz and Bruce Perry, I considered it a decent camping holiday read and stuck to my goal (amongst a pile of more typical light holiday reads and questionable magazines). It was fascinating. 

We know that social development requires multiple repeated face to face interactions. We also know that the brain becomes what it does. We also know that many aspects of 'modern life' can conspire against children having space and time to develop empathy through the strong ongoing focus on social skills. Now the difference between aspects of this book and our focus at WBS is that the schools focussed almost exclusively on cognitive development. In some of the schools, there were not any playtimes, in fact, play researcher David Elkind believes 40,000 American skills have eliminated playtime altogether. Additionally, structured programmes often fill weekends and after school activities - there can be very little time for free play or chat. Then let's get started on the TVs, mobiles and  video games........(No....... I can't do that!) 

So - it's incredibly important for us to find opportunities to build social skills and a chance to increase empathy. It's that fine line between letting children work through playground trials and tribulations with a little support from afar and not have adults managing everything whilst modelling good negotiating, respect of other views and ways of being and the like. It is also developmental - this "I to We" but together - home and school - let's really make a conscious and deliberate effort to build empathy - and as the authors say - it's essential and also endangered. 

Our Positive Education programme supports this BUT we have to keep it in the pre-frontal cortex, all of us.

PS. I wrote this piece two weeks ago not knowing what tragedy was on the horizon for our country. The subject matter is now more poignant than I ever would have anticipated.

15 March 2019

posted 14 Mar 2019, 19:29 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 14 Mar 2019, 19:31 ]

I had a parent mention School Camp as one of those 'rites of passage' that many of our children love and some find more challenging. We are different after all.

Taking the Year 4s on the bus last Tuesday and listening to their chat was quite entertaining. Once I tried to ignore the grumbles of "Why did we have to take our togs and towel and we did not go in the water?!", I deciphered relative glee at the thought of this being their big adventure in 2020. They had a good look over the territory and poked around the cabins, much to the horror of their Year 5 & 6 friends! It's quite funny as the same thing happens every single year I take them - it will be them troubled by the Year 4s in their 'home' next year!

Cabin inspections, negotiations, tidying up, doing jobs, trying something new and the looks on their faces when it's achieved is a sight to behold. Independence! When we think of character strengths, an experience like Camp give many a chance to shine through. It could be judgement, it may be bravery, teamwork for definite and maybe even a sprinkle of zest when suffering from lack of sleep.

What really thrilled John and I was when one of the instructors asked us, "Can you tell me what's so special about Worser Bay? What do you do differently?". I answered, slightly nervously...., "What do you mean exactly?". He said, "These kids really stand out, they work with anyone, they get stuck in, they don't care if they get dirty, they just are really proactive and confident!"

Well, John and I were thrilled that the hard slog of our staff (and whānau) has been realised in our kids by 'outsiders'! We are so close to it, we don't always see it. 

So that really made my day. WOW!

Last year, parents helped out alongside children and teachers creating the visuals to go with the 24 VIA Character Strengths. You may have noticed them dotted around the school grounds.

It's not just Camp that calls on us to deliberately use our strengths. I know that staff too have found these little simple reminders around the place also useful. I see 'kindness' on my left as I walk into the office every day and it sure makes me smile. 

Character strengths may be a way in when you talk with your child as to what they can use to help them achieve a goal. They are also useful to contemplate when something 'turns to custard'. A simple "What strengths do you need to dial up or down?" can work wonders. I know - I have this poster in my office for just that reason!

8 March 2019

posted 7 Mar 2019, 13:30 by Carolyn Brett

It's quite full on around here - but then isn't that just the nature of the dynamic and fascinating place commonly known as school! 

There was our fantastic annual Powhiri leading onto Camp Kaitoke, then back from Camp (fresh as daisies - ha!) and now full steam ahead as we move on into our round of Goal Setting Meetings.

We use the word 'kaizen' often when we discuss goals. Kaizen is a word used in many different work and learning environments when we discuss the way forward. This notion of continuous improvement via small incremental changes is a Japanese concept essentially meaning change for the better. 

It's useful to head into Goal Setting Meetings with your child with this in mind so we can support them to select goals that will be achievable, but also let's aim for a bit of excitement and satisfaction too. A goal that will be achieved an hour later doesn't provide the stretch factor and a goal that may be achieved in 10 years is hard for a child to comprehend. 

What about a strengths focussed goal too? We all have things that we are naturally better at - that doesn't mean to say we shouldn't have an opportunity to get even better in this area - for this is the skill that may 'get us over the line' one day. 

The late Rick Snyder delved into the area of HOPE. His book The Psychology of Hope explored two aspects concerning people’s ability to shape their futures. This focused on Will Power - the person’s will to shape their futureAND Way Power - the person’s ability to see ways to shape their future.

This explains why a person facing a particular challenge may feel confused. They may have a strong will to move forward, but may not see a way to find a solution.

The old saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” could be turned around and become “Where there’s a way, there’s a will”. If we say a way forward, it's more likely to happen. 

Let's help our children find the way and the will when it comes to their social, emotional, academic and physical learning and maintain HOPE. Additionally, let's also try something new - as Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th century BC, of Ephesus said "You cannot step into the same river, for fresh waters are flowing in upon you".

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