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

22 March 2019

posted 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".

1 March 2019

posted 28 Feb 2019, 18:25 by Carolyn Brett

I think (hope) I have managed to shake many of my perfectionist tendencies off as I've moved through this thing called life! Having a chat with one of our newly graduated teachers this week, I was reminded of my final year of University. Going to University as a 16 year old wasn't all that easy. The freedom was fabulous but I hadn't come across the essay form too often. This meant my grades in my first year were fair to middling, improved remarkably over the next couple of years and by the final year if I didn't get an A I was devastated. So when my final results came out, I saw As, A+s and ........... and A-. All I could look at was the - symbol. I was not happy with that.
 
Fault finder alert! 
 
A few years back, Dr Tal Ben-Shahar was one of my lecturers in my Positive Psychology studies. In one of his many books "The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life”, he explains that chasing perfection may be the number one internal obstacle to finding happiness.
 
"He argues that instead of being a perfectionist, we should aim for being an optimilist. Here’s the difference between the two:
  • Perfectionism is the neurotic belief that everything about you and your environment has to be perfect.
  • On the other hand, Optimilism is setting high standards which are grounded in reality; accepting that failure is a natural part of the process of achieving goals; and knowing how to find value and satisfaction in an imperfect performance.
While perfection is a destination at which you’ll never arrive, optimilism is about focusing on the journey and being happy with doing your best as you strive to achieve your goals."

It's something I actively work on, not just personally but with my staff, colleagues and also our Worser Bay kids. We can't worry if it's not perfect. 

As the adults in children's lives, parents and teachers, support staff (and principals!), we have such a huge responsibility in terms of the role modelling we provide. I was reading something the other day about anxiety in children after listening to Psychologist Gwendoline Smith on RNZ. This is what she said:

"I wanted to draw your attention to this aspect of worry, not just because it is educational, but because this is what children observe. If you are a worrier there is a 37.7% chance that one or more of your children are genetically predisposed to worry, just like you were. So, as with almost everything there is ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ working together. Hence, children learn about how to manage, or not manage life’s challenges, through watching their parents just as you would have. It’s called Role-modeling. Yes, every furrowed brow, every time your hand clutches your face, they’ve got their eyes peeled, because that is how they survive. Children know they are safe when the adults are ok." 

I'm going to watch my facial expressions in Assemblies (although sometimes.............!) 

Let's all be mindful of the impact we have on our tamariki - let's make sure they know the adults are OK.

22 February 2019

posted 21 Feb 2019, 18:04 by Carolyn Brett

A few weeks into the year I thought I'd take a bit of a temperature check on what our children thought was going really well. The responses, as to be expected, came thick and fast, far and wide:
  • "I like drawing the best of all things, I can draw and draw and draw and am never tired."
  • "I love playing outside but I get hot and sweaty, like today I was running around and playing soccer - it's my favourite."
  • "I like solving things in Maths, I like addition and subtraction the most, well, subtraction is harder I think."
  • "I like making up stories about all sorts of things and describing details."
  • "I know a lot about birds, all sorts of birds.....did you know...? did you know.........? did you know........?" (and I really learned a lot in that short conversation with my ornithologist friend!)
  • "The monkey bars is something I am now good at and I like dancing to the music at lunchtimes."
  • "Learning all the tricky stuff, it's great, especially in Maths."
  • "Now I am back at school I have things to do, in the holidays I didn't really."
  • "Writing is my favourite thing, I especially like poems and haiku."
  • "I missed my friends heaps and now I don't, as I play with them everyday!"
So I moved onto the staff:
  • "I'm enjoying getting the know the individual quirks and they are so funny."
  • "I like the way they are feeling comfortable giving opinions and having a voice in what happens."
  • "Some are being incredibly supportive of one another."
  • "There is some settling in to happen, reestablishing connections and getting more focus."
  • "The energy is definitely dwindling in the heat of the afternoon - for all of us."
  • "I'm glad to be back into routines."
  • "Feel like I am getting heaps of support from my colleagues."
  • "Talk about full on!"
  • "I'm having loads of fun and learning so much. I can't stop talking about it to friends and family."
  • "I need to pace."
and then accosted some parents and spontaneously received some thoughts as well:
  • "A big relief.....I thought the transition to school could be very hard.....but no!"
  • "Everyone is so friendly and we feel we belong already."
  • "They are happy and tired - that's a good combination."
  • "I am enjoying the positive vibe - so warm."
  • "Looking forward to watching them grow - in every way - this year."
  • "Seesaw is new to us and we are really loving knowing what's happening and the blogs are really great to go into too."
  • "It's hard to get much out of them apart from an 'alright' or 'OK' and sometimes a 'good'."
  • "A child in the seniors came up to mine at the picnic and said 'You can do it, you can do it if you persevere'. I was amazed and so impressed with what they are taught."
Children, staff and parents/whānau = the 3 sides of the triangle. The triangle - the strongest shape - sturdy and powerful when all 3 sides work equally in unity! All 3 sides will be also present in the upcoming Goal Setting meetings.

So, here's to the number 3, historically revered for its completeness and wholeness. That's a concept also worth striving towards - this strength - and also celebrating in 2019!

15 February 2019

posted 14 Feb 2019, 17:19 by Carolyn Brett

Each year we set annual goals aka targets in the 3 Rs and other areas that are important for our school. The targets in Reading, Writing and Maths are based on the analysis of the school-wide data from the end of 2018.

As many of you would have heard at the Wrap at the end of last year, we are pretty excited about progress and achievement and find this exercise of target setting motivating, and it's certainly important in keeping the focus and conversations constant. 

In 2019, we have aspirational but hopefully realistic 'stretch' targets in all areas - Reading, Writing and Maths. We also have targets for pockets of children who need to make accelerated progress in order to meet curriculum expectations. Other key areas for tracking progress are in the areas of Wellbeing and Te Ao Māori.

Having very much a whole child philosophy with wellbeing, a key strength means that the word is AND. Yes, it's an AND mentality and not an either or. In fact, when a child has friends, can make mistakes, take risks, contribute, participate, deal with emotions, negotiate and all the rest, there is, in most cases, a correlation with academic achievement as well. It makes sense. And as (dare I quote Martin Seligman 2 weeks running?) says, "Isn't wellbeing a child's birthright?"

Soon you will be asked to book a goal setting meeting for your child and yourselves to meet with the base group teacher. I don't know about you, but I do find setting my own goals quite a challenge. It's not easy. Is it a long term goal? A goal that can be achieved next week? A stretchy goal? A basic goal? A goal that has a clear path? A goal that is ever evolving? As a staff, we attempt to set what's known as SMART (ER) goals with the Exciting and Rewarding being as important as the specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound!

It's not all about working on the 'gap', we also want to set goals around what the children are already good at, something that will stretch them further and motivate. We call these strength goals. The teachers will be doing some work with the children around goals before you meet, but you might like to be having a ponder about this too before you come to the meeting. For us, we will be focussing on the areas we can influence between 8.55am and 3.00pm, but there may be aspects that you can continue with outside of the school boundary! 

Who wants a classroom with walls anyway!!

8 February 2019

posted 7 Feb 2019, 17:30 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 7 Feb 2019, 17:31 ]

Although I could say I'm rather goal focussed, I'm not a great one for New Year Resolutions, never have been.

This year it seems I do have a rather lofty focus, more by proxy. Day 2 of our summer camping holiday, my partner exclaims out of the blue "OK, so 2019 is going to be known as The Year of Optimism"! I didn't argue with that notion, it was an easy sell, but I was clear that it will not be blind optimism in any way shape or form, more of a considered form of optimism!

As many of you know, we have embedded Positive Education at this school. Martin Seligman, a hugely influential psychologist, was key to Positive Education becoming even 'a thing'. What's very exciting for us this year is that trainers from the Institute of Positive Education/Geelong Grammar School in Australia, who are world leaders in this work and trained by Marty Seligman and his team, are winging their way to us! We are hosting a 2 day workshop in the April holidays..... China, Singapore and us! We may be small (ish) but rather weighty!

Optimism is defined by Marty Seligman as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability. Multitudes of studies demonstrate that optimism is healthy - outcomes include living longer, healthier immune systems, better coping mechanisms..... and on we go! The great thing is that optimism can be nurtured in children as well as adults. A few years ago, he wrote a book based on this "The Optimistic Child".

What I find fascinating is that when I completed a wellbeing survey (EPOCH) with our Year 5 and 6's late last year, their constant question to me about one of the questions was "What does optimism mean?" .......not one child had ever heard the word before (they said) ....... interesting, it's possibly not a word we use with them often, if at all. I'd love that to change. 

In saying this - the evidence showed that they are a pretty 'happy' bunch. This also gives us a good steer for where to put more focus this year, especially around getting 'in flow' and engagement.



Click here to find out more about the tool.

My appreciation this week goes to our staff who have been so incredibly generous of their time and so focussed in doing their utmost to get this year off to a fantastic start for our learners/community. What a crew!

So, welcome to my year of Optimism, feel free to give me a nudge if you see me wobbling in this quest too often.

7 December 2018

posted 6 Dec 2018, 13:53 by Carolyn Brett

Here we are at the final 'full Newsletter' for 2018! You can anticipate a page of important dates and any last minute information next Friday.

These last couple of weeks are a bit of a whirl - with so much action on all fronts going on. I do think when a teacher comes here, the advertisement must scream in lights and loud hailers "overachievers only". I thank them for making sure they do the very best they can for our very fortunate children. If they haven't been squashed into a small space chatting with you about your child's progress, they have been donning wetsuits, cycling, getting out into the community, adventuring into the bush, at Capital E, at the City Gallery, building, painting, analysing data, meeting with the Board, organising Poetry evenings, pool trips, picnics, helping Year 6s with speeches and dinner organisation, sorting transition days and finalising all the planning for 2019, working on other secret things that you will find out about at the Wrap... (just saying!). I will have missed some things out for sure - it's been so full!

This couldn't happen with our fantastic Office staff for they are often the brain power behind the scenes, connecting dots, communicating far and wide, and getting all the information to the right people at the right time. Their heads are in piles of paper, figures, graphs, plans, names, lists, documents, timelines, calendars, payments... they are awash with information!

Christine, our Librarian, works Fridays.... or so she is meant to. Christine goes the extra mile whenever she can, and can often be seen dashing in and out on days that certainly aren't called Friday - just because she wants to.

Our Teacher Aides are supporting our children in the classroom, in the playground, socially, emotionally, physically and academically - focussing on the whole child. They have to be flexible, creative and care a good deal.

This week it's an ode to our staff. 

What they can achieve in terms of moving children along academically has been incredible this year! 40% of our target students made accelerated progress. This means that these target students' learning and progress show a noticeably faster movement towards NZ Curriculum expectations. You can look forward to our full report against curriculum levels in Reading, Writing and Maths in February - it's impressive! More than that - they inject fun in learning, are hugely focussed on their own growth and development, smart and creative... happy to model 'mistakes grow your brain' and support each other hugely.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” -Voltaire

Thank you to the Worser Bay Staff. You make me smile (most days!). Please take plenty of  time out to stargaze after the 18th!

30 November 2018

posted 29 Nov 2018, 18:04 by Carolyn Brett

We had such a hilarious time last Friday at 'Worser Bay's Got Talent' show!

I was so thrilled to especially see some of our very young ones up there dancing, performing magic tricks, playing instruments......... with so much confidence! Student led without a doubt! Our senior students organised and ran the whole thing with aplomb! Give these children the opportunity and the waypower and they can totally deliver!

This is an aspect of this school that we treasure. Although our Year 6s have particular expectations on them as the biggest (and wisest!), all of our seniors have council roles, our juniors and seniors are whānau buddies for Rising 5s and a child of any age can lead Assembly. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms - leadership of paper recycling, leadership of gardens, leadership of sports' tournaments, leadership of games, leadership of playtime activities, leadership of lunches........ you name it, they do it! 

I am constantly told of the leadership our WBS children show well past their time here - at Intermediate, at Secondary... onto wherever life takes them. The most important thing, however, I would hope we instil is, first and foremost, leadership of self for "Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu

One of our biggest responsibilities is leadership shown on road patrol - the crossing of our people safely to the other side! We need your help with this as well - as you know we are situated on a corner site, with fabulous views and all the rest, BUT surrounded by dangerous roads and some very dodgy drivers. If road patrollers are not out for some reason (and our aim is that they/teachers are there), please make sure your child crosses safely and doesn't bolt out of the car door without looking and listening. 

Today was our final Assembly for 2018 and our next big opportunity to get together and witness some great self leadership is the WRAP as we have a sing along and listen to our Year 6s as they say their "Farewell Speech" to their community. It's such a great opportunity to share and celebrate the year together.

Bring your picnic and a cushion to sit on in the courtyard (better be a nice evening - no wind and a bit of sun, thanks!).

Hope it's diaried! Thursday 13 December from 5.30pm to 7pm.

23 November 2018

posted 22 Nov 2018, 16:46 by Carolyn Brett

We have had a bit of everything this week - rain, hail, sun and, at the stage of writing this, not a lot of wind!

In amongst the weather gods having a party, there have been multiple class trips going on and many more in the pipeline.

I congratulate our teachers and support staff for making such an effort in the last few weeks of the school year. We don't 'limp' to the finish line around here!

But what this organisation does take is a lot of documentation, pre-approvals, approvals, Risk Analysis and Management documentation, payments to work through, bus bookings, payment sorting, uploading on Kindo, checking payments and on it goes.......

I know what it will mean for you is multiple requests for parent help, multiple requests for payment and a large amount of information to digest. Please know, it will be worth it! Education outside the classroom "EOTC", "Learning without walls", "Ubiquitous learning", it's all the 'stuff' that happens out of the confines of Matariki, Māhutonga, Autahi and Tautoru. 

"EOTC programmes provide students with access to hands-on experiences that are not available inside the classroom. They offer unique and stimulating learning opportunities that support your child’s learning and achievement" (TKI, Ministry of Education)

Come on, weather, please help these stimulating learning opportunities to go as smoothly as possible!

On top of all the out and about, we are in the midst of signing off final written reports - in preparation for our communication with you as to your child's successes, progress and next steps. Please ensure you have booked a time (see Newsletter for more details).

The Year 6s are getting hyped with their speech writing - when they will be farewelling you all at the WRAP..... cupboards and shelves are being cleared and ready for some further sparkle and shine.... transition days into 2019 spaces are being finalised, we even have our final Assembly for the year next week, which is very hard to believe. You know when you get to the stage you don't know how old you are anymore? - it's officially arrived for me!

It's all go with a bit of help from a sense of humour and 5 finger breathing!

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