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.


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 Collaborative, inclusive and supportive environment, Reflections, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals, Uncategorized

Going Digital: Reflections on our one-one journey

NZQA visited our school to make this short video depicting our journey after introducing technology into the classroom. The positives that I take out of this visit is that in New Zealand we have a qualification authority that is consulting with teachers who are at the proverbial coal face. But far more importantly than that, they are interviewing the students. If you want to know how a new initiative is working, ask the people most affected by it.

I was appointed as year 9 Dean, the year one-one devices were introduced to this year 9 cohort. As I reflect I feel immensely proud of these students. We have travelled on this journey of discovery for the last five years and I have witnessed their growth and their incredible potential to succeed in this ever changing digital world. At the start of this journey it was all about the technology. What we could do, now that we have a class of students with technology in their hands. All discussions surrounded possibilities: apps that would do the job better than before devices and websites that made work more engaging. Activities that were inconceivable before, were now a reality. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR scale was invaluable as a driving force to shift pedagogical thinking.

However five years on, with all students in the school carrying devices in their school bags, we have largely moved on from the discussion surrounding technology. Technology just exists in the class, along with everything else you’d expect to be there. It’s a given. Now I find that I am simply looking for the best tool for the job.

I feel so grateful that as a teacher we have so many options. I used to dread this time of year because most of my classes are immersed in revision. But we are actually having a great time. Our AKO OREWA drive is towards student agency. So I have given my students choice in the area of work they will focus on. Consequently I have some groups creating Kahoots for their extended texts, others are videoing instructions for their teach-back session based on their section of work. Still others are creating Google Forms for recall type questions. After our PD this week where a colleague, Annie Davis, gave us ideas about revision, I have groups playing “Bananagrams” which is a word game similar to Scrabble.

She introduced us to an excellent app called  Exam Count Down which I have found my students love. It shows them at a glance how many days they have left before the NCEA exams. For example:

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 12.22.24 PM.png

So yes, we do still share good apps. But it is far more about changing pedagogy to suit the situation. It is more about students taking ownership of their learning and finding out what works best for them, and working at their pace. And it’s about us being flexible enough to allow and promote student choice.

Posted in Respond to the diverse needs of individuals, Uncategorized

Pop up Globe

We were very excited to be attending Romeo and Juliet at the Pop up Globe, even though we were lowly groundlings. Having said that, I think we had the best ‘seats’ in the house. It was great to watch teenagers laughing at all the right places in a Shakespearean play. We loved the interactive nature of the acting. And of course the students thought the fake blood was a good touch. Well worth the bus trip into Auckland.

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Posted in Bicultural context, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals, TAI

Reflections on our department TAI

I admit it. In the past I have put learning intentions and success criteria up on the board in case I have a five minute walk through. But since this is part of our TAI I have had a change of heart. I have tried two approaches:

1. I have put the ‘next steps’ in quite a bit of detail, along with different colors, arrows and pictures. This seemed fine and grabbed their attention, but that was about all.

2. Next I put the LI and SC as a numbered sequence. Depending on the class I allowed flexibility surrounding the steps. This is purely anecdotal, but what I found was that many of my senior boys followed the steps as I had them on the board. For the final internal assessment, using this approach, not only did they all finish and submit, they all finished ahead of schedule. And they all passed.

That might be due to the time of year (they feel the need for credits) Or the nature of the standard. But I know certainly for some, they liked the step by step approach to learning intentions and success criteria.

Posted in Analyse assessment information, Demonstrate knowledge of how akonga learn, Education, Personal TAI, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals

Encouraging independent learning


I was really interested to see the NCEA results for my level one class. I looked at the external results and compared them to my class from the previous year. The most obvious difference was the number of Excellences, with the 2014 group more than doubling the number. So there is a significant shift up when you look at the number of Achieved and Merit grades.


What was common between the two groups?
1. They were both extension classes with talented students
2. The texts I taught remained the same over the two years
3. The exams were largely the same

So why the jump in Excellence grades?
The biggest difference was that in 2014 all my students had devices, so I was able to confidently flip lessons when required. We could run with projects, knowing that we could share and collaborate because we were all connected. We also introduced blogging. My aim was to develop independent learning.

Now I know we shouldn’t get too hung up on grades, there’s more to teaching and learning. But it’s nice to see hard work paying off. Will this trend continue in 2015? Who knows, but I’m certainly excited to watch my students grow in confidence and independence.

Posted in education, Personal TAI, Respond to the diverse needs of individuals

Differentiating a college classroom

I started my lesson reminding my students that they should take responsibility for their learning. They know what works best for them, they need to communicate that to me so that we can get the best out of them.

1.One student said he learns best when I tell him what to do. I said it didn’t work that way but the point he made is a common one. He feels comfortable with the old style of teacher-led lessons…particularly with NCEA exams looming. So I started him off with a skeleton plan. But look what happened. These guys took over and I took a step back. And smiled.


2. Then as I wandered around the classroom I listened to what was being said. Some were collaborating and listening to the Explain Everything video I had posted for them.

Relaxed yet productive.

3. Next was this group who were not sharing ideas. They felt they had so much information, they were streamlining and consolidating ideas. Working largely independently of each other.


4. As I went around asking for evidence of what they were doing, I saw students on task. Just not the same task. Deeply engrossed in their higher level thinking. Sharing ideas and themes to prompt work. Even some jokers in the back row, posing for a photo.


Gratefully, as I wandered around looking, listening, recording, most did ask me questions. They engaged in real discussions as opposed to ones held solely on Google Docs. So I’m not totally redundant, but I do have a sense that I have some independent learners.

Parting question: “So why you taking photos miss?”
“For my blog…of course!”