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Updates from Jude

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

16 October 2020

posted 15 Oct 2020, 16:30 by Carolyn Brett

"It's a we thing!"

Over the break, I rediscovered this article in a SET/Teaching/Learning research magazine. The initial blurb in this reading caught my attention:

"Increasingly teachers are expected to collaborate because of recognised learning gains for diverse students and a variety of professional benefits. Policy directives globally and in New Zealand support collaborative teaching in flexible learning environments." The article (Keehan and Forbes) went on to suggest the keys to successful collaborative teaching, so I thought it very timely as we look to plan for 2021 to get inside this work again.

Some of the key messages I took:
  • When teachers share responsibility for student learning, students have improved access to their diverse strengths
  • Hargreaves 30 plus year study on collaboration in school concludes that student learning improves when teachers circulate their knowledge and take more risks with creative teaching, along with collective responsibility for all students' success
  • More collaborative schools tend to have higher student achievement.... and partnerships with parents
  • Removing isolation boosts morale for teachers
  • Synergy occurs when teachers working together can create a learning environment that a solo teacher cannot generate
  • Teachers expect to develop and help others to develop
  • Differences can be complementary and lead to balance
...and more.

All of this made sense to me... tick, tick, tick. How fortunate we are at Worser Bay to have no other option but to work extremely collaboratively in a school that was designed just for that. It isn't lip service. It's not straightforward either. 

Teachers can't hide away or take 'control'. Everything is communicated, discussed, shared, debated, critiqued. There isn't room for much autonomy. It's like other workplaces - adults need to work with adults, listen to adults, communicate with adults, negotiate with and so on.... This isn't always the case in schools, so our teachers require a particular mindset and toolbox of skills.

For this to work really well, our teachers need to talk openly work together on problems, take turns leading, share and help, follow through, be kind and forgiving, share problems and successes, make time to communicate.... Whilst celebrated in many work environments, these attributes are painted in neon in a collaborative teaching philosophy based school.

So, my thoughts right now as we rev straight back into things is for the staff as a whole, all that they do.... and especially this week, the teachers, who keep so diligently working on honing their practice so that your/our children/yourselves may reap the rewards of collaborative teaching. 

25 September 2020

posted 24 Sep 2020, 16:54 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 24 Sep 2020, 22:08 ]

We are now at the end of Term 3 with plenty on the plan ticked off and more to be achieved over the final Term of 2020. Term 4 tends to be even more 'full' than the other three, so please take note of the multitude of dates and actions that will come your way early next term as we enter the final fling!

In Term 4, a Summer term, please remember your children need to bring a sunhat to school daily - even if it's raining as we never know what changes in the course of a day. You can check out the Sun Smart Policy here:

On that note, we have a new shade sail for the sandpit being installed and, of course, we are hoping our outdoor classroom will be ready for the arrival back to school. The Character Strength of 'Hope' cannot be underestimated! We always count on lots of opportunities for Education Outside of the Classroom (EOTC) in the final term along with a final push with the 'basics' against our annual Reading, Writing and Maths targets. We were determined not to take the accelerator off in this tipsy topsy year, we haven't and the mahi is paying off, thanks to you too for the engagement in your child's learning and progress. "It takes a village......"

A parent Working Bee, Children's Disco, End of Year Progress Discussion with your child's Base Group teacher, End of Year, Year 6 Leavers events and the 2020 School Community 'Wrap' will all be a go (Everything crossed for Level 1 to stay with us). At this time, our heads are very much in 2021 mode as we look to transition for children moving spaces, designing of learning programmes, building of annual plans and target setting...... even down to good ol' stationery lists and how many sharpies are really required!!

We talk about the absolute value we place on our whole child philosophy - academic AND physical AND social AND emotional....... wellbeing in order for our children to have a chance to not just get by - but to live a flourishing life in the future. 

That's my desire for the staff over this break. The requirement to take heed of their whole person too and take the steps needed to be their best 'person' too.

We need to practice what we 'teach'. Please see our Positive Education/Wellbeing model below.


18 September 2020

posted 17 Sep 2020, 21:05 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 17 Sep 2020, 21:10 ]

On Monday, we welcomed new children/whānau to the school at the mihi whakatau. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Be brave, be brave, be steadfast - and what a great way to start Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. Māori Language Week. There has been a lot of great learning out there!
Some of you experienced the children running Positive Education workshops on Optimism a couple of weeks ago at the SLCs. I'm sure some of them were engaging those Character Strengths of Leadership, Bravery, Zest, Teamwork... possibly some hope... and more!
The shared language of Character Strengths is a valued feature of our school and, when I talk with teaching staff who are newer to the school, this is something they often talk about - the embedded nature of strengths. 'Strengths spotting' in others, understanding our strengths make us unique from others but together we can achieve great things!
When staff join our school they all undertake the VIA Character Strengths survey and also Strengths Profile (CAPP, UK) which provides some insight into performance, use and energy levels around pieces of work. Awareness of how often we use our 'top' strengths and setting out to deliberately plan for engaging them is one factor in increasing resilience. As a staff, we need to do the learn and live aspects - before we can successfully teach and eventually embed this science with the children in the aim of providing them with tools to take on their life's journey.
"Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence" is one of the Character Strengths I have deliberately been trying to focus on in the last couple of weeks, taking a moment to actually notice the things around me. How fortunate we are to live and work in such a beautiful, ever changing environment - totally enveloped in nature!
This Character Strength positively correlates with 'openness to experience, altruism, devotion to others/larger community and capacity for change'. Sounds pretty good to me, so I'm certainly going to try and keep being appreciative of what's around us!
Remember the beautiful illustrations our children and community developed a couple of years ago?

This is how they all fit together:

For more information on Character Strengths, watch the following video - A Universal Language that Describes What’s Best in Us by Ryan Niemiec.

11 September 2020

posted 10 Sep 2020, 19:35 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 15 Oct 2020, 17:50 ]

A couple of weeks ago, I looked up the synonyms for the word I could use to best describe this year. I came up with quite a list of synonyms relating to unusual (eccentric, freakish, idiosyncratic, nonconformist, unconventional, unorthodox, extraordinary, preternatural, rare, deviant, uncommon, uncustomary, unwanted, odd, peculiar, strange...)

So, in one of these years in the life of a school, like in your homes and workplaces, things have been turned a little bit sideways! In the main, our tamariki and staff have marched forwards and ridden over the speed humps as smoothly as they could.... and I thought the massive building project would be the main distraction. How very wrong I was, but in a way it (the building project) has seemed more like a gentle breeze rather than a howling southerly.

What it has meant, however, is our usual fundraising efforts, which we so heavily rely on for resourcing - staff and stuff - has had to be cancelled as in Disco number 1, food for Arts Celebration, and due to the uncertainty and not being able to have many people on site due to no driveway (Health and Safety) and who knows regarding Alert Levels... has meant that our fabulous School Fair has had to be altered in this deviant year. 

Not all is lost, the phoenix will rise and something inventive is being cooked up in the fundraising oven to help with the blip this will cause the school, and no doubt many others.....

Come March 2021, we will be celebrating the opening of a wonderful 'new' school. This serves as a wonderful opportunity to wrap something festive and fun (draising-ish) around this much anticipated moment in the life of Te Kura o Whetūkairangi and bring the community together in a new year. Yay - so a new addition here! Then the 'normal' Fair come November 2021. Again. 

Also, we have a lot of smaller things going on. Rust doesn't sleep! You would've see in the last Newsletter that we have made $5150 so far from:
  • Sausage Sizzle
  • Pizzas
  • Pilates
  • Hoodies
  • Deli Items (ongoing until none left - and very delicious)
  • Munch
Soon we have:
  • Knack Market - Saturday 19 September
  • Quiz Night - Thursday 24 September
  • Double Vision - Brew for Good (date to come soon)
  • Disco number 2 (Friday 30 October)
.......and there may be room for a little bit more!

It's a bit tough, yes, but with creativity, energy, goodwill, strong networks and just plain old good ideas, I feel confident that we can do it. 

Thanks for your mahi and looking forward to new challenges and perspectives. We need to aim to not just bounce back but get even stronger

4 September 2020

posted 3 Sep 2020, 17:57 by Carolyn Brett

This week: A Tribute to one of education's great gurus - Sir Ken Robinson, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. 

Sir Ken was a teacher, author, a government adviser and a great orator. The video in which Sir Ken tells the story of a fidgety student who was “just a dancer” has been in full circulation since 2006. The Ted Talk Do schools kill creativity? has gathered at least 66 million views. If you are going to watch any of his - please watch this one.

He was passionate about the need for radical reform and school needing to provide an environment that cultivates creativity and divergent thinking rather than purely academic knowledge and 'exam success'. Whilst he was very familiar with the UK system and the New Zealand Curriculum is more 'whole person' ..... he inspired many of us on our island as well to improve, to do better...... and now...... to keep going with his mission. 

On Monday we have one of the Ministry of Education allocated 'Teacher Only Days' so your children won't come to school. We call it 'Staff Only Days' though as it's our vital Support Staff who will also be here working with us on our mission. Monday focuses heavily on evaluation and programmes. There will be plenty of questions posed like, What's having the greatest impact on student achievement? How do we know? What isn't? Where is the time going? What are we going to do about it? Are we providing balance? Are we cultivating creativity and divergent thinking and academic success? So, basically, a lot of evidence-based navel gazing and critique as we take a reflective and objective deep dive into our business or is that busyness? Intense! (There will be lunch provided as a sweetener!) 

So - a toast to Sir Ken - his wisdom will be very much missed on a global scale.

28 August 2020

posted 27 Aug 2020, 20:24 by Carolyn Brett

As much as we attempt to integrate curriculum areas, we also need to pull them apart behind the scenes to ensure there is adequate 'coverage' of different concepts by the end of the 6 years at Primary School. It's a delicate balance of responding to interests of children and also doing what we need to!

Each year we also set out to review a number of learning areas outside of Maths, Reading and Writing. This year, it's Health and PE (which also ties in so closely to our Positive Education programme) and also the Science Curriculum. Off the top of my head, I can give a solid large tick to many aspects, but not all, and these are the pieces we need to highlight and make sure we respond to in our 2021 planning. We cannot do dinosaurs or the Rocky Shore forever, people! Yes, dinosaurs may be of high interest to many tamariki and, in terms of a local curriculum, we are situated close to the rocky shore.... however, we need to continually check on the 'knowledge building' aspects of our programme.

Whilst we knew that many aspects of the Sexuality Education programme was covered within our Positive Education Programme, Bounceback, we needed to make sure that all aspects were being paid attention. We didn't - not ALL aspects. Hence the recent Professional Learning for teachers from the Family Planning Association and the whānau consultation on Wednesday. 

Thank you for coming and the positive affirmations about the content and inclusive nature of the material. Fun ahead for staff and students alike!

Please - if you  have further questions about the content, contact John. The more that we are all on the same page and reading a similar font size, the better for the children!

Please find further information on the programme in this week's Newsletter.

21 August 2020

posted 20 Aug 2020, 15:53 by Carolyn Brett

It has been a joy to witness our children moving, experimenting and collaborating in new ways this week as they get ready for the filming of the Arts Celebration.

On Monday, I sat in the sun to write this (it's a bit dark with 'the tent' all day in situ!), I witnessed movement, negotiation, listening, organisational skills, moments of glee alongside some moments of not.... everything felt very alive with a great energy.

We talk about increasing 'agency', yet another of education's well used words. We talk about requiring the children to be insiders to their learning, to be active, not passive  and so forth. Sometimes that can be quite hard to manage when teachers are under so much pressure to increase achievement in the 3 Rs (Reading, Writing and Maths). There can be a tendency to talk too much, for too long, to have children sit for too long, to have them listen too hard..... because there is so much we want to do for them, there can be too much too!

So, this week it feels like there is licence to just be that much more free, to shake the timetable up, to give greater space for the children to fill. It's a challenge but the question we need to keep asking - how can we have/manage both more often? How can we keep the  scales centred more of the time whilst continuing to have high expectations for the 'basics' and all the richness that supports growth - of the whole child. 

OK, the sunshine in the beginning of the week is helping the cause but what could it look like if our children could even be 10% more active on a daily basis...... I don't think the world would stop on its axis. I won't mention it to the staff this week though...... it's been rather full on and they may not want to discuss it.... until next week when the show is over, so to speak!

Watch this space - the Arts Celebration links will be coming your way soon. In the meantime, let's keep working together to provide opportunities for our Worser Bay School children to grow and flourish.

14 August 2020

posted 13 Aug 2020, 17:23 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 13 Aug 2020, 17:23 by Stephanie Williams ]

In the ‘olden days’ ..... circa 1987, amidst my asymmetrical haircut, massive earrings and pastel hues, I fell in love with teaching Art. It was my first year teaching, I had juniors and, in those days, things felt a little ‘looser’. When we weren’t doing ‘Donald Graves' writing process’ (children just wrote and wrote and wrote without much teacher intervention at all) or teaching Maths with BSM (Beginning School Mathematics), bags and bags of intricate materials which got cross pollinated and was totally headache inducing....., studying ‘the rocky shore’ (I taught close to yet another rocky shore!), banging drums, dancing, listening to stories over the intercom system...... I was teaching Art, Art or Art. We had money for beautiful art equipment, textured paint of every colour palette and these wonderful Arts' advisors existed. We had local ‘Education Boards’ - a far more expensive model than ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ - our current system of each school having their own Board.

Every now and again I read an article about the demise of the Arts in NZ education, the lack of funding or prioritising of the Arts, the lack of value placed on the Arts...., the lack of professional development in the Arts, the lack of funding for the Arts... I tend to agree and, although my recollection of my early years in the profession may be cloudy, rose tinted and not totally accurate, it certainly felt that the Arts were more centre stage. We can’t go backwards, we need to go forwards but we also need to make sure we are giving every child a chance to uncover a burgeoning talent or passion in all learning areas of the curriculum - Arts included. From the NZ Curriculum - The Why?

The following was written earlier in the week:
Whilst we have certain spatial limitations this year (picture yourself now as a small sardine next week at the evening 'show' ) we were determined to stick to the plan of having a celebration of the Arts in Term 3.... as usual! This doesn’t come easy or is natural for all teachers or children - we all have different strengths - but taking a risk, just trying something out, being part of a team, producing something for maybe the first time may be just ‘the switch’ required. Although the focus isn’t really on the visual this year but more on the other aspects of the Arts Curriculum, I’m reminded of why we put the mahi into it and I reckon this may just be the new black - the new ‘gold ol' days’ ....... this time on a hill!

Please come and have some fun with us next week.

Most of the above is still accurate - but, this time, now the fun will be via video link, will come to you post production later than the filming next week... and you will then be able to have fun for many weeks of rewatching!

Go well, people!

7 August 2020

posted 6 Aug 2020, 17:45 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 6 Aug 2020, 17:45 by Stephanie Williams ]

I've written a number of times about our desire to get our children connected with nature, getting their hands dirty, growing understanding about garden to table, noticing, tending, caring, walking in the bush, listening to the sounds, learning about habitats, erosion....... the elements! I could just keep going!

This very important focus for us and for our world sits firmly within our Strategic Plan.

The synergy between Sustainability and Positive Education is strong. The link between nature and mental wellbeing, the link between doing good and feeling good. Who could think that by heading off to Centennial Reserve this week could tick so many curriculum boxes right across the school. Of course, it's not a one-off and this is ongoing pieces of work AND it's nice to stop and be reminded of what we are aiming to ultimately achieve! 

Additionally, Cultural Responsiveness/Te Ao Māori and Inquiry are Strategic Goal highlights. I had feedback from quite a few parents post Lockdown commenting on how carefully curated the activities appeared to have been over this time to align with the Strategic Goals. They were right.......... the teachers had been very deliberate in their choice!

The NZ Curriculum is a curriculum full of opportunity. Within this curriculum sits our local curriculum.

You may be familiar with the children's book "Are we there yet?" by Alison Lester. It's about a family's travels around Australia. It sometimes feels like that in education. The thing is there is no 'there'. The 'there' keeps moving... so, no, we aren't there yet but... what have we learned?... the children learned?... how have we grown?... and how have they grown?... and what next?

On that note, here's to continuing to enjoy some nature and turning the screens off (at least severely limiting!) this weekend.

31 July 2020

posted 30 Jul 2020, 19:17 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 30 Jul 2020, 19:17 by Stephanie Williams ]

Every Monday, the teachers have a Professional Learning session that covers a range of topics that relate to what we are needing to do to provide a rich, wide, varied curriculum and move the children along the Reading, Writing and Maths continuum. One constant is that we always plan to cover too much in any given year. A bunch of over-achievers or maybe limited ability to filter - we want the kids to have it all!

Every couple of years, we need to take a deep dive into the teaching of Writing as it continues to be 'the thing' that is hardest to shift. It's complex. the English language is often absurd and we live in an age where children infrequently see the adults in their worlds - both at home and school - sit down and write. They witness plenty of texting no doubt and brief responses on social media maybe, 'working from home' but....... pretty much gone are the days of sitting and writing for pleasure.

Occasionally, the relevance of the physical act of writing (and spelling) comes up for debate on more of a global scale. In fact, a teacher commented last week that some of our children think writing means the physical act of typing. (I'm going to save the conversation about screens for another day...) It's concerning.

This prompted 3 of the teachers - John, Ximena and Carl - to develop a Webinar of Developing Writers for you last term. The hope here was to prompt some thinking and get some conversation going. We had 28 attendees, which was a great start, and we are keen to offer this platform again in the future. Beats going out on a freezing cold night too.

At last Monday's Professional Learning session, we entered into a fairy light lit Tautoru, accompanied by delicious sounds, sweet treats, book and word prompts and plenty of pencils, pens and paper. The teachers leading this session just wanted us to write...... write...... write. It was powerful. Although I found my own ramblings slightly worrying, we all thoroughly enjoyed the chance to just.....,write!

In our quest to build a stronger Literary culture at Worser Bay School, we are clear that we totally have to focus on delivering the teaching of the mechanics of writing - the how to - and we need to place more emphasis on the desire to write, choosing to write, writing for a purpose, writing for an audience.... continuing to raise the profile of our children as writers (and ourselves as writers). As C. S. Lewis said, "You can make anything by writing." 

Let's get more making happening!

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