Posted in Ongoing PD, Show leadership, Uncategorized

What blogging has taught me

I’ve been blogging for a number of years now. And what it has taught me is that I actually love writing. I often blame having not enough time for not writing. That’s simply not good enough. I have also learnt that it is important to reflect and act on those reflections.

In addition to my personal blog, I’ve also written a number of articles for Fractus Learning, an educational blog coming out of Ireland. I loved the reaction from the editor on my last article so I include part his email along with a link to my article:

Woweee Linda! That was such an incredible read! So much experience, heartache, success and inspiration have been poured into that post. Just magnificent! It really shows how much a rollout like that is about culture as it is technology. What an amazing professional experience! NICK GRANTHAM

And here’s the rather lengthy article based on our one-to-one device journey, five years on.

Link to my published article

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-1-27-52-pm

 

Posted in Promote well being of all akonga, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals, Show leadership, Uncategorized

Reflections on my years as a dean

This week has been a week of goodbyes. My year 13 cohort graduated and this ends my five years of deaning. We finished off with a heartfelt goodbye, first from my English class.

Next it was the walking school bus followed by the ‘big reveal.’ I really wanted to surprise them. The theme was “Goodbye childhood, hello world.” So what we created was a really childish playground with jumping castles, water slides, jousting rings and mini rugby. Add to that as-much-as-you-can-eat candy floss and lolly bags. The general consensus was that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They did exactly what I hoped they would, and that was dive headlong onto the slides.

 

And finally we got to graduation. They all did remarkably well and I am so proud of their behaviour, and their accomplishments. A moving moment was the standing ovation, I must admit.

fullsizeoutput_a90

I attach some of my speech for my reflection:

The last five years seem to have passed so quickly. I clearly remember sitting on stage as the year 9 Dean, and watching the year 13 Dean give his graduation speech. As his tears welled up, I sat wondering what all the fuss was about. Now that I have walked that same journey and watched these students grow in confidence as well as maturity, I totally get why he was so upset. This group of students are exceptionally talented and I feel privileged to have been their dean. This night marks the end of our journey together, but remember that graduation is not the end; it really is only  the beginning. Take stock of what you have learnt in your time at the college, and then look forward to the amazing opportunities that await you.

One thing that you won’t forget is that you are ground breakers. You were the first year 13s to go from mufti to uniform. Doesn’t it make dressing up tonight so much more special? You were also the first cohort to use one-to-one devices. Technology is such an integral part of the class now, that it’s hard to remember what school was like before the introduction of devices. I do believe that our students have developed 21st century skills that far surpass anything we originally envisaged. At this point I’d like to take a moment to remember Mark Quigley, who was our senior manager for the past four years. A few years back he said to me: Linda write this down so we don’t forget: we must remember to say a special thank you to our students at graduation for allowing us to make such a big change.

So, thank you for moving forward with us and for setting the example for others to follow.

I’d like to conclude my final duty as a dean with a quote from Steve Jobs:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

 

Posted in Professional development, Show leadership, Uncategorized

Lifelong Learners

The New Zealand curriculum states as one of its visions that we want our students to be lifelong learners. What about our teachers? Are we modeling ourselves as lifelong learners?

I’ve been speaking to a number of my colleagues and the answer for many is yes. Take my one colleague who, when faced by a year 13 class who seemed reluctant to prepare for their speech, prepared her own speech. She researched her topic and applied the speech techniques. And so the teacher was the first to present her speech, modeling what she expected from her students. Another colleague has joined a band and has undertaken to learn a new instrument. He is, how should I put it, not a spring chicken. (He’s only a few years my senior, but then again, I’m no spring chicken either.) And then of course we have a number of staff doing post graduate papers. I’m happy to say I’ve signed up to do MindLab, based on the recommendation from my colleagues.

As an English teacher I find that, prior to introducing formal writing, I model what I expect from my students by writing an article. I submit my work to Fractus Learning which is an educational blog. Once it has been published, I share it with my students. Besides the idea of modeling what I expect from them, more often than not the subject of my article is my students. So it’s good for them to read about my reflections on what they’ve done and what I’ve learnt from them.

Link to my article here

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.19.32 pmScreen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.16.06 pm

So this is a link to my article. My hope is that, through sharing this sort of article with my students, they will see that I am still reflecting on my practice and learning. And for some at least,  instill a love of lifelong learning in them.

 

 

Posted in Show leadership, Uncategorized

Prefect camp 2016

Having returned from a productive yet exhausting few days away at prefect camp, it is time for some reflection.

  

1. The location was absolutely great for this type of camp. We had the luxury of being close to civilisation if we had an emergency (which thankfully we didn’t!) But far enough away for the students to really soak up nature at its finest. In addition, the park is a sanctuary so is pest free. Having no where but a gazebo to store food was not an issue. Food needing  refrigeration was dropped off. The weather was beautiful but for next year I’d suggest that ‘skins’ would be a must-wear item of clothing. No amount of sunblock could stop the sunburn, particularly when you do so many water based activities. 

2. Time of year: I missed out on two to three lessons with my classes which I feel I can easily recover, given that all my work is available on line. I’ll spend some time at the start of the week to look for any gaps of knowledge. The prefects will have also lost about two to three lessons per subject. Again, I assume that they can access their work and will need to put some effort in after school hours to recoup the time lost. I will review this with them later on in the week.

3. The stand up paddle boarding from the SUP Shed was a highlight. After some safety instructions and the basic techniques, they set off. After a brief paddle they were all up and even ended with a race. This activity was well worth doing as it catered for everyone, regardless of your fitness or skill set.

4. Master Chef is always an interesting challenge, particularly when cooking under the trees. The winning group stuck to the basics and produced tasty, hot food. 

5. The 10km walk is a tradition and is a good time for house leaders to bond with their new prefects. The views were spectacular, but that could be said for pretty much any camp in NZ. They were able to say their mihimihi, discuss goals for the year and even plan their assembly dance.

 6. Two different sets of beach puzzles revealed the resilience and ‘can do’ attitude of this group. They came to solutions very quickly and worked as a unit. Another hot day with very little shade.

7. We reintroduced the house performances this year. We tried to include activities that would draw on a range of talents. The entertainment was hilarious and the sunset priceless. 

 

8. Raft auction and race: this was the last activity. I thought the energy levels would be low and that they’d quietly complete the task. Was I wrong! It was the most animated I have seen some of them, bidding for raft items as if their lives depended on it. Even though their rafts looked sturdy, it wasn’t enough to keep them afloat for very long.

9. One of the highlights for some: the solo sleep out. This camp ground was the ideal setting for this. Not out of eye sight for us, although they felt isolated. The ridge where we dropped them afforded students the most magnificent sea views, on both sides for some. The easterlies meant that they fell asleep to a cacophony of bird sounds wafting across from Tiritiri Island. It sounded like a zoo. When I went to collect them the next morning, the chatter was about the magnificent sunrise over the water. And the stars. Some saw a shooting star and also satellites. Having teenagers talk at length about the stars and the view was refreshing.

  

10. Finally, their downtime was spent under the trees singing to two guitars, two ukuleles and a mini keyboard. They were complimented by members of the public on their excellent behaviour and manners. 

So to sum up: the things I’d  keep would be the above mentioned activities, keep a mixture of activities catering for all talents, and constantly mix the groups. We had some activities with friendship groups, some ‘names out the hat’ groups, number groups and then random selection. The whole aim was to start working as a team rather than as distinct pockets depending on their role for the year. I’d also keep the clean up at school as part of the programme. That’s when energy is at its lowest so you really need all hands on deck.

What I would change is the meeting time at school. Teachers need about an hour to get equipment ready, before students get there to load gear. I’d double the quantity of food. It’s a hungry beast when you add all that physical activity to the mix! We made sun hats compulsory at all times, but in retrospect I should have insisted on ‘skins’ or rash vests for water based activities. I will ask for student feedback and then adjust this reflection if necessary. But as for me, I’m no camper, but I might just be a convert now. 

Posted in Show leadership

Head prefect selection

I have always been in awe of the students that nominate themselves for the head prefect role, because if short listed, they have to pitch a speech to the entire staff and the year 12 cohort. In addition, this has traditionally been done in the library. An intimate venue at best. At worst, students stand toe-to-toe with teachers as they deliver their speeches. 

So this year we transferred the speeches to our auditorium. My thinking was that this would give the students the real feel of an audience. They also had the chance to ‘lean’ on the lectern as they delivered their speech. In addition, I wanted to break the ice and used this video to introduce the candidates. 

 
We got some laughter from the staff and it did set the students up for some excellent speeches. Eight brilliant candidates who I was very proud of. All of them gained some life skills though the entire prefect selection process.

Posted in Education, Ongoing PD, Professional development, Show leadership, Uncategorized

Blogs. Selfies. Instagram. Generation Narcissist.

Our students are asked to do writing all the time in our English classes. Blogs, essays, creative writing. But when last did we their teachers write anything? The last blog you wrote counts. The last model essay you put together counts. How about your last Twitter rant or Facebook post? Surely that counts as personal writing? I think it is important for students to see us modeling work and enjoying the process! I happened to mention that I had a second article published by Fractus Learning.

Blogs. Instagram. Selfies. Generation Narcissist.

I was really surprised by their reaction, particularly one of my reserved students. She loves writing and does a lot of it in her own time. I think in that moment I became worthy or authentic in her eyes. Whatever it was she blurted out, ” Send me a copy miss. Writing is what I do, I’ll check it out.” We were all so surprised by her vocal response. Her excitement reminded me that we as teachers need to model our expectations as this encourages our students.

Posted in education, Professional development, Show leadership

Thoughts on teaching and learning in BYOD classrooms.

I was very pleased when my article was published on line and now I look forward to a monthly submission of articles.

Forget 21st Century Teaching and eLearning. It’s Teaching and Learning. Now.