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

13 September 2019

posted 12 Sep 2019, 15:54 by Carolyn Brett

With 2 weeks now until the end of Term 3, I am starting to compile my reading list. I often can be found carting piles of heavy books around from A to B and back again. The recent goodies range from strengths-based parenting to creating fantastic workplaces and a few in between. If I aim high, I may get at least 2 fully read cover to cover.

A few years ago, I read "How kids succeed" by Paul Tough. (What a surname!) Different themes emerge around learned optimism, character strengths, curiosity, grit, self control, willpower and the like. Angela's Duckworth's study into self control is really interesting. As is the fabulous NZ-based project  'The Dunedin Study'. If you haven't heard of it, this article gives a good overview.

This huge piece of work gave us the very clear line between childhood self control and adult outcomes. Now - I will be unlikely to be the Principal of WBS when our children hit 35 (possibly?!) and for many I may not know where their adult lives take them. But, I would like to think that over their time with us, we have deliberately and thoughtfully planned for and taught them techniques to have that bit more self control. Part of this means not rescuing or preventing mistakes from happening. Brain wiring requires repetition and opportunities to practice, practice, practice. There is also quite a bit of research around the link between self control and academic outcomes. I guess that makes sense.

At the Parent Workshop on Wednesday next week, I'm pretty sure the teachers will be including some simple techniques for helping children (and us!) calm those impulses - you will no doubt have plenty of ideas too - so come and chat!

He waka eke noa! We are all in it together! 

6 September 2019

posted 5 Sep 2019, 15:13 by Carolyn Brett

Awe.... it's an interesting word!

I have some writing from some of our senior students on the wall in my office describing what they think awe is. I was impressed by it as it can be one of those difficult concepts to get your head around. It's interesting though as it's come up in a number of readings and different learning I've been doing recently. This word - small - but seemingly powerful!

Awe is so very closely related to inspiration and happens when you come across something so much greater than yourself. It makes you feel small and humble in comparison. Often, it’s connected to nature. How lucky are we then to be able to witness this every day we enter the gates of Whetukairangi! I’m trying my hardest to get the children to notice and breathe in what’s surrounding them...... it’s a mission!

According to Barbara Frederickson, one of the leading researchers on positivity, awe is one of the big 10 forms of positivity along with joy, gratitude, serenity, inspiration, hope, pride, amusement and love. Positivity opens us..... our hearts and our minds.... and it’s good for our health. We have to be realistic and we can’t run around in Pollyanna-ville but we can certainly have power to grow all of these qualities within ourself and our children. 

At the Parent Workshop on 18 September at 6.45pm, we will give you a snapshot of the type of learning that happens  in our Wellbeing/Positive Education programmes. The main focus will be on positive health, positive relationships and positive emotions......... will be great to hear what you already might do at home, too, to support the social and emotional side of learning.

Now, speaking of inspiration....., did you see this in the paper recently?



Should we bring it back?!

30 August 2019

posted 29 Aug 2019, 19:45 by Carolyn Brett

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." Voltaire

Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle, in his wisdom, provided a guiding principle known as the 'golden mean'. Simply, this is the mid point between either extreme. 

This is so very essential when we come to raising and educating children! Children are often under immense pressure to achieve, but is about getting the balance of over involvement and under involvement as right as we can. We can't be laissez-faire with a 'she'll be right' demeanour, nor can we constantly critique, observe, evaluate, provide feedback at every step of life's journey. The perfect path doesn't exist.

Parents and teachers do their best to provide clear directions and point out right from wrong, but too much guidance can be too much of a good thing. We need to be brave to allow children to explore the unknown, the uncharted and run into cul-de-sacs every now and again. As long as they feel safe, we need to allow them to make imperfect decisions and make mistakes and learn as they go. 

Aristotle describes things well in that the key is to be involved at the right time, at the right degree, with the right motive and in the right way. As I am writing, I'm thinking, yes, well that's certainly easier said than done, but I think if we are really mindful of this and we have this as an intention, we may get it just that little bit more 'right'.

This is timely as we head towards group Student Led Conferences next week for most. As the parents and teachers, I wonder how we can get our involvement, prompting and feedback around the golden mean! Let's make an effort to be 'good enough' and, unfortunately, there aren't any shortcuts when it comes to child development. Let's enjoy what they want to share and what they are proud of. 

Leading up to SLCs, it's also a  good time to reflect on the research around praise that I discussed in a June Newsletter.

23 August 2019

posted 22 Aug 2019, 17:42 by Carolyn Brett

We are very fortunate to have a resident collector. Some people collect ceramics, others records... our teacher John collects 2 main things in my opinion - that being pieces of wood and people! It’s not surprising as John has connector and other strengths within the ‘humanity’ area as some of his key attributes.

So, people, young and not so young, artists, scientists, inventors, historians, political machines, trappers, sports people, conservationists, artists, leaders in Te Ao Māori, writers, film makers..... the list goes on and on. Oh, and now also astronomers as you would’ve witnessed a couple of weeks ago!

A teacher’s knowledge certainly isn’t endless, but being able to tap into experts and potential mentors from outside the school is so important if we want to give our children something a little different within a rich local curriculum. 

So, whilst we are very fortunate to have our own people collector, I’m sure many of you relate and have your own networks and ‘collections’. This is evident when it's the biggest community event of the Year - our Fabulous  Annual School Fair! Here, we witness the shoulder tapping, the combining of talents, the collective idea-brewing sessions, the “I've got a friend" or "my neighbour knows........” 

Please don’t stop making suggestions of people you know who may be able to provide our children with something new, some different thinking or open their eyes to something profound!  And please don’t worry if a suggestion doesn’t fit right there and then. Like we say to the children - don’t give up - try again! We always need perspectives and ideas that may ignite minds! Maybe you had something ignited this week at the Arts Celebration! You may have also noticed John’s pieces of wood!

This whakatauki is so well used but totally on my mind right now.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He Tāngata, he Tāngata, he Tāngata!!

What’s the greatest thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people!

People - please get your Fair Volunteer Forms sorted so that our children get the best.

16 August 2019

posted 15 Aug 2019, 15:55 by Carolyn Brett

Over the first holidays this year, we hosted a Positive Education Conference here. Obviously, this wasn't enough to satisfy the holiday break appetite of some of our staff .... as last holidays we hosted a Maths Workshop. This was a big success and was attended by over 30 Principals and teachers. The 'we' instigating and leading our Math's world go by the names of Ximena and Nicola! 

Four years ago, Ximena undertook some professional learning around 'Mathematical Mindsets' and it has revolutionised her practice. She found a like minded learner in Nicola and from there these 2 have led workshops at National Conferences, are always inundated by teachers from other schools requesting visits to observe and learn, are taking Professional Learning sessions at our own and other schools. The commitment is huge and the passion big. When I chatted to Ximena, she explained that she wished to celebrate the 4th anniversary of her 'wow' moment by giving back to others as part of living the Positive Education principle of 'Positive Purpose'.

Why Positive Purpose? 
People will flourish when they believe and serve things greater than themselves and when they frequently engage in behaviours that help others. All of you that work hard behind the scenes, whether it be in class, fundraising, governance, communication/linking/networking, are certainly demonstrating this altruism and kindness. We want to help our children to engage in these behaviours too.... and, in fact, this service to others may help them develop lifelong patterns of making positive contributions to the community. It's more than feeling good...... it's about others.

So we can see how the work that Ximena and Nicola are doing is helping our children, our staff, our colleagues, their schools, their children and allowing them with a chance to grasp a bit of the 'flourish'! It's a nice reframing exercise next time the schedule all seems a little too much - this contributing - I think!

Not too far away now, teachers will be collating school-wide Maths data, analysing this and reporting against the annual targets by year end. This will be informing the where to next in 2020.  Based on 2018 end of year data, the Maths targets in 2019 are:
  • To accelerate the progress of all children at risk of underachievement in Maths against curriculum expectations.
  • To maintain the rate of progress for students already meeting or exceeding curriculum expectations.
Below these big targets, there are groups and names and graphs and plans and conversations and more plans and assessment and... and... and... all in the name of 'shift'!

Thanks, Ximena and Nicola, for leading the Maths charge with such verve! It's a beautiful thing as "The book of nature is written in the language of Mathematic” -Galileo

9 August 2019

posted 8 Aug 2019, 16:08 by Carolyn Brett

Talking about the weather always seems like a last resort……. but I will anyway! It's been rather good of late but, for the purposes of this, please let's visualise a typical 'unpleasant day'!

For many of us, when it’s colder, wetter, windier, it makes it just that much harder to venture outside. In the Summer term, some of the staff and I were pretty well dedicated to going out for a quick blast around the block before meetings or over lunch, if we could. Speaking for myself….. it’s been more of a rarity since April. But….. I’m bringing it back! After reading a recent blog post about the importance of spending time in nature or, as it was stated, taking a ‘nature pill’, I have approached Term 3 with more focused attention on making time.

".........Research over the last 30 years has demonstrated that connectedness and exposure to nature is linked to a range of mental and physical health benefits including:
  • increased positive emotion, vitality, and life satisfaction;
  • pain and faster hospital recovery;
  • stronger feelings of connectedness with others, greater sense of community, lower levels of violence and aggression, and a better capacity to cope with life’s demands.
However, whilst all of this is great – we are busy. We have students to teach, and families to look after, and meals to cook, and reports to write. How much nature do we actually need?

A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan has helped to answer this question. They found that taking a “nature-pill” involving spending 20 minutes in a “place that brings a sense of contact with nature” was enough to significantly reduce stress hormones in saliva samples. On average, participants who were exposed to between 20 and 30 minutes of nature, had their blood cortisol levels reduced by 18.5%.
 
Whilst the researchers acknowledge that age, baseline stress level, socioeconomic factors and lifestyle factors all modulate the effect of nature, there is significant potential benefit for all of us." (Excerpt From David Bott, Institute of Positive Education.)


So, I’m thinking how we need to keep this part of our curriculum programmes too, escaping the confines of inside and getting down that bush track, running on that beach, breathing it all in, noticing the colours and sounds before getting back up that hill and getting back down to some inside learning. 

This great article was circulated amongst the staff just last week. 'It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier Neuroscientist Shane O'Mara believes that plenty of regular walking unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else. I recommend a read.

Funnily enough, I have noticed a few more 'walking meetings' being brought back since!

How about a whānau 'nature pill' this weekend?

2 August 2019

posted 1 Aug 2019, 17:50 by Carolyn Brett

Wellbeing must be at the heart of education. 

At our school, we have been on this ‘journey’ for about 6 years now and are yet to 'arrive' as there is no end to our own learning and teaching.

When potential staff members are inquiring about positions at WBS, they become aware very quickly that this strong wellbeing focus is something they will need to embrace. They will need to learn, to try and live the best they can and then deliberately plan for and deliver in their teaching programmes. The other interesting thing is that when we have had staff leave us they have all been emphatic that it has been this focus that has made the biggest difference to them both professionally and personally. Indeed, it has been known to even keep people in Wellington for a few years longer than planned!

As a staff, we are all at different stages in our learning and living but I can say emphatically that in many years of leadership this focus on wellbeing is the thing that has made the biggest difference to our ‘culture’ hands down, no doubt in my mind whatsoever! In the recent holidays one of our teachers met with an education consultant who was keen to look around the school and learn more about what we do and how we manage to get all of our staff supporting each other so strongly with growing their practice, taking risks, being confident with mistake making..... and all of that 'good stuff'. The response from the teacher was simple - it's essentially our Positive Education philosophy.

We have recently contributed to a book being published internationally on Positive Education. This is exciting and I hope we make the final cut. The piece I wanted to focus on in terms of contributing to the book was staff wellbeing. If we aren’t learning about the science, understanding the research, practising and growing together, we really don’t have much of a chance at the teaching piece. That would be one of those ‘do what I say, not do what I do’ moments!

So, wellbeing needs to be:

Sought by our staff 
Taught explicitly in our programmes
And Caught by our children if we are trying our best to authentically live this work and be the role models we aspire to be.

I am pretty passionate about this!

We are very much looking forward to sharing some of our work at the Parent Workshop at 6.45pm on Wednesday 18 September.

Please diary!

Hope to see you using your Character Strengths of 'Appreciating Beauty and Excellence', 'Curiosity' and 'Love of Learning' at the Stargazing event on Tuesday!

26 July 2019

posted 25 Jul 2019, 17:42 by Carolyn Brett

Welcome to the second half of the match! It’s great to be back and I’m looking forward to building upon the successes of the first half and reaching the peak around mid December!

A school’s ‘year’ is interesting and all definitely have a distinctive pattern. The third term takes on its own personality - we know the children well, we are well into working with whānau, we also annually really magnify our children’s artistic pursuits with a whole school Arts Celebration - which is always a stunner! This will take place from 5.30pm to 7.00pm on Wednesday 21 August and Thursday 22 August.

Over the school break, I came across an article from one of our educational go tos - Professor Yong Zhao. An introduction to his 2018 book caught my attention “Stop Looking at My Bad Leg - Reach for Greatness”.

Yong Zhao shares the story of Benjamin Franklin and how he had a philosopher friend who used his two legs (one ‘handsome’ and one not so) to determine whom to avoid as acquaintances. It was all about where they put their focus. One always finds beauty and good and the other - well - you can guess. 

Although this anecdote is over 200 years old, it can easily be applied to education in 2019. Children don’t always have the luxury of knowing where to apply their focus and that’s our job as the adults in their lives to guide them. They all have strengths that need to be identified and then ignited. As Yong Zhao says - we can all work very hard to fix the ‘not so handsome leg’ and completely ignore and potentially harm the leg that’s in fine form. A slightly odd way to look at a child, I realise, but it really resonated with me and the way in which we try hard to keep this strengths-based approach front of mind in our work. This is another reason I love whānau days, sports days, the arts, the play, the making, the creating, the questioning, the collaborative work ……. for some of our children this is where they totally shine. It’s ‘their thing’.

Education, after all, is about the whole - the academic, the physical, the emotional, the social…., it’s about building character. Roll on Term 3 and I’ll be thinking about that philosopher friend!

5 July 2019

posted 4 Jul 2019, 15:34 by Carolyn Brett

Welcome to the final Newsletter of Term 2. That makes us half way through the year! With so much started, completed, accomplished and plans a-plenty for a fab second half!

We hope that the recent parent/teacher conversations and the interim written communications have given you a good sense of what the first 2 terms of the year have been like for your child. Times have certainly changed…. I remember my parents rocking up in the Holden Kingswood (2 tone, blue) to a mysterious ‘interview’ with the teacher once a year and a ‘report’ being sent home at the end of the year and, if we had a teacher with more of the Character Strength of Kindness dialled up, well, we got to read it before we took it home in our bags. I’m not sure if that was always helpful!

At our school, we have the full smorgasbord available. Goal Setting Meetings (2 formal face-to-face with 2 formal written reports), Student Led Conferences, Seesaw, great Blogs, weekly Newsletters, Parent Workshops, Assemblies, community events, class emails, children sharing their day, whānau days…… et al. 

Yes, it’s all time and a big ask, BUT proactivity is key on both sides of the triangle - parents and teachers (with children being the third side!). If you have connected in all the ways above and still find yourself half way through 2019 not quite sure of what’s what or where and how, then please make an appointment with your child’s base group teacher…... it should not be a mystery to anyone!

We ended Term 1 / started Term 2 by hosting teacher Professional Learning Days for our people and others from a range of schools in the holidays pre-Easter. Then we started back and the upwards trajectory began…... we said we would pace… but, as I am not physically present right at this moment to see if that is the case, I am writing with hope at my fingertips, people!

I came across this the other day: 
“Teaching is the subtle art of shaping young minds without losing your own.” 

Staff: take note - rest up and go easy these holidays!

To you all, have a wonderful break and I am so looking forward to seeing you again in Term 3. 

28 June 2019

posted 27 Jun 2019, 19:14 by Carolyn Brett

I’ve written about one of my favourite subjects ‘GRIT’ often. With a recent Education Office Review (ERO) into GRIT out, I thought it was about time I harped on about it once more.

GRIT - ‘perseverance and passion for long term goals’ is a key indicator for future prosperity and wellbeing. We constantly hear about the need to build resilient children…. and there is a lot of evidence to show that children are becoming less resilient. 

It’s reassuring, but not surprising, that the ERO findings of 2000 NZ children showed that there is a clear link between resilience and how well children do at school. This mirrors what all the international research has concluded and what we have been using as a basis for our curriculum for some time.

Angela Duckworth is a key researcher into GRIT. Caroline Adams Miller’s work is also interesting if you are keen to find out more. In fact, there is also a simple survey of Angela’s with just 10 questions to do for yourself in order to get your ‘GRIT score’. 

Praise - be careful!
So, if we are wanting to develop greater resilience/GRIT in our children, one thing we can do is look at the praise we are giving them, the type of praise makes a big difference. Are we praising the person or are we praising the process? 

This subject of praise is a very interesting one and can be helpful or unhelpful to our cause. To reduce educ-speak, I hunted for a parent voice and came across this article ‘The Ultimate Guide to Praising Your Kids' by parent, Ashley Cullins, in something called the Big Life Journal. I’m pretty sure it’s sound! The messages are on point to what we are aiming to do at school anyway.

We really hold a lot of responsibility in our heads and hearts, don’t we?! We won’t get it right all of the time, but if we aim for most of the time we will be doing well.

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