Friday, October 28, 2016

New waiata possibility for next year

As part of our mihi whakatau process and work on a school graduate profile, we have been discussing what we feel is important for our Cobham graduates to have in their kete when they leave us to move onto high school.

We have now embedded tikanga and te reo practices across our whole school that means our kids know two karakia tīmatanga (starting blessings) and two karakia whakamutunga (ending blessings) as well as waiata Manu Tiria, a Ngāi Tahu waiata, who are mana whenua here.

I saw this waiata shared on Youtube by a fellow teacher colleague that is part of my Twitter and Flipped Classroom practitioners network and thought it might be a great one for our kids to learn too - he aha ou koutou whakaaro e hoa mā? (What are your thoughts my friends?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Reflecting honestly on my leadership practices...

Forgive me blog for I have sinned - it has been several months since my last post, eeek.

I wanted to write that and formally own that because I know how challenging it can be for our teachers to ensure they are reflecting regularly and analysing their practice on top of the day to day grind of teaching, managing, coaching, personal life etc and I am no different. I believe it's important for a leader to understand other peoples roles, their workload and what it takes to juggle everything and prioritise their tasks and that a good leader will role model this themselves. So, although my role changed last term from DP to Acting Principal, I didn't want to drop the ball and ignore my responsibilities to reflect on my own practice when and where possible.
This reflection is about my change of role. I wanted to reflect back after having been in the hot seat for several weeks and look firstly at what the change of role was like, what difference it made to my professional growth and development and what might eventuate out of this change.
To be quite honest, the change to acting principal was quite seamless in some ways. I was lucky enough to work alongside my last principal more than for them and so there was very little that I didn't have involvement in already as the DP. In saying that, there have been some small but noticeable differences. I felt more withdrawn from staff and students. A huge amount of the principal's work at our school seems to revolve around meetings. My role as DP was all about administration and relationships - staff, students and whānau. As acting, it was less of all of those things but a huge increase in meetings - CAIMS, cluster, CPPA, Ministry, Board, transition meetings and planning for the new principal and 1-1 family visits for new students looking to enrol. My admin dropped a lot which is nice but I seriously missed the daily connection to staff and students. Reflecting on what this means and what I have learned is that I feel that the principals role in a large school is often just as the face of the school. The person who fronts and speaks on behalf of the school. The only way you can be successful in this role e.g. being able to make the right decisions in the best interest of your staff, students and community, is if you know their strengths and needs really well. Herein lies the paradox - how do you know this crucial information really well if you are always off/busy in meetings? I can see how the disconnect could have serious repercussions for a school if the principal becomes quite distanced from the heart and soul of a school (kids and staff) that they then become the face and voice/decision maker about school issues they may not know enough about. This of course will lead to disillusioned staff, poor resourcing, lack of communication etc. The challenge is maintaining the vital balance of being available to and engaging with your school community while upholding your responsibilities to the external groups. How I dealt with that challenge was through calendar scheduling (critical in this role) and blocking out time for anyone who asked for it. I also continued to keep my door open at all times when I wasn't in a meeting which is what I have always done as a DP. I don't know how feasible that would be if I was in the role full-time but for 1 term I was determined to keep that tikanga going.
In relation to what difference this change has meant for me professionally and personally and next steps, I am grateful to have had the opportunity. It did open my eyes to some of the challenges and possibilities of being a school principal and it has made me carefully consider if this is something I want going forward. Being the principal of my current school was appealing because I know and love our kids and staff. But what would it be like at another school? I also know that the demands on your time can leave very little for your own family and personal health/fitness if you allow the balance to be one-sided. So yes applying for principals positions make sense in terms of a next career step but that would depend heavily on the school, the location and the school community. People are important to me and make it either really worthwhile or really hard work! I won't be rushing into anything but am a firm believer I will make the right decision about my next career move when the right opportunity comes knocking. Although I have only been here at my current school for almost 2 years, both as DP and then as acting principal for 1 term, I aim to add some value to the school in some way and that is my priority and goal for now.
Another key reflection around my leadership practices occurred earlier this year while I was away at a leadership hui in Auckland and I was able to reflect on some of the areas of my leadership I feel need to be developed.
While attending the hui we were working on some activities to identify our leadership style. One of the key breakthrough a-ha moments for me was when I was becoming frustrated that there were some issues happening back at school. I was being emailed or rung about about how to solve an issue or just being kept in the loop. This is a good thing in some ways e.g. open communication etc, but I also reflected that I seemed to be often needed and contacted whenever I am off site. The facilitator of the hui did a great job of challenging me about why staff were emailing, ringing me and made me turn it back to myself and have me consider whether this was about the confidence and competence of staff or more about my leadership style. Have I set up systems and organised things so that I am the one needed to make decisions or act, rather than empowering others to be able to do that?
I have always known I like to get things done and can sometimes think 'I will do this myself because I want it done a certain way or by a specific time'. Although I of course want to be consulted and informed of key issues, I need to build the skills and capabilities of others to be able to address issues effectively, whenever I am unavailable or they are in the right position and capable of doing it themselves.
We have structured the leadership team for this to happen specifically around behaviour, but I can see the need to ensure this becomes more widespread. Even the example of our Monday morning admin meetings, where I am always the one to set the TV up, run through the agenda and lead the discussion. I noticed that if I am late and I assume when I am not there, no-one really takes the initiative to lead this themselves. Not because they cant, but perhaps because they see me doing it and assume it needs/should be me, when in reality, it doesn't.
I like to think I can help everyone and want to reduce the workload for teachers as I know they are so busy and appreciate any support they can get, but often this means that I rush to step in and 'fix' things for them, rather than with them. I need to ensure my inner control freak is kept under control!
One of my next steps is to hunt out opportunities to openly encourage other people to step up and problem solve, take on small but key leadership responsibilities or make important decisions themselves. When staff come to me and ask me to 'fix' something, a key statement I will use from now on will be "Thanks for sharing this issue with me, how can I help you to resolve it".

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cobham Hāngi - Wednesday 30th November!

Hāngi pitHāngi pit — by Tamara Bell

Get your orders in now and join us for a hot, delicious hāngi here at Cobham this term!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ditch the desk and dance staff challenge!

Video: DTDAD Cobham Intermediate Staff 2016Video: Video: DTDAD Cobham Intermediate Staff 2016 — by Sophie Crawford

This term all of the tamariki at Cobham Intermediate School have participated in the Ditch the Desk and Dance challenge..and the staff responded!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori


This week is Māori Language Week with the theme Ākina te Reo - give te reo Māori a go!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Asia New Zealand Foundation Leaders Workshop


Cobham had the privilege of hosting the Asia NZ Foundation leaders Canterbury workshop this week.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Matariki - what do you know about this time of year?

Kua puta Matariki ka rere Whānui.

Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!

I have been thrilled to have my babies come home from their school this week excitedly talking about Matariki.  They are proud to tell me they "know lot's about Matariki" and we have been getting up early to go outside to try and find ngā whetu o Matariki (the Matariki stars).

Matariki is the Māori name for a group of stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. Contrary to popular belief, there are nine stars in the Matariki constellation instead of seven. The Māori New Year is marked by the rise of this star cluster and the sighting of the next new moon. This year, 2016, Matariki started on 6 June.

There are some amazing resources out there to support teachers sharing the kōrero and importance of Matariki. Firstly, try to connect to your local Māori community to find out if there are any events or local tikanga or history you should know about Matariki (like this awesome Matariki celebration happening locally where I live).

All teachers should check out this webpage on New Zealand Curriculum Online too which has an abundance of great links to YouTube clips and supporting websites and resources: 

And if none of that helps you learn about the Matariki story, here is one of my daughters telling you what she has learned about Matariki so far...DISCLAIMER: please don't take it as gospel but rather a super cute version of a 5 year old from Aotearoa trying to summarise all the cool new things they have learned about Matariki this week!  :)

Authentic learning reaps rewards

Last week at our school I had the pleasure of dining at 'Cobham Cuisine' - a student run restaurant organised, set up and run by two Y8 classes.  Staff, parents and students were able to book a table and order and eat a meal which they paid for.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as a diner and was super impressed with the obvious engagement and hard work displayed from every child.  Each student had a role to do, based on their strengths and they were working their backsides off to do that job well.  They were communicating, collaborating, creating and working towards a common goal.  They had meticulously planned every detail from creating a CV to apply for their chosen restaurant roles to planning the menu, entertainment, cooking, cleaning, bookings, finances, wait staff, ordering, marketing..... You name it, they thought of it and planned it to ensure the success of their business venture.

One of the fathers of a student is a very successful business owner in Christchurch, with a string of successful restaurants under his leadership.  He was able to come in and mentor the students and even devoted hours of his time to supporting the cooking and delivery of meals to customers on the day.  Being able to tap into the expertise in our community was an important aspect of new learning and established an authentic connection to real world business.

Here is what our teachers and students had to say...

WALT: Create change using business and entrepreneurial flare.

"After the Cobham Cuisine had closed, we gave the students the choice to spend the profits on making a change in a biosphere of their choice or to spend the money on themselves.

The choice was done with an anonymous vote.

The students voted 19 - 9 to spend the money on an environmental cause. We are considering buying two acres of rainforest".

"The learning was fun and authentic, the kids loved it. The parents loved it. Teachers loved it.
Our Food Technology teacher AL was very supportive as always regarding the use of her kitchen and advice."

"The teachers were very easy to work with, really efficient, with a great sense of humour. So good relationships were helpful when catering for 115 guests!"

"Everyone involved loved the restaurant and the entire experience and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I think we made it a really authentic process and experience for our kids following the CV, application process and letting them do the work, themselves (teacher)."

Finally, I went away from this experience thinking this is absolutely how learning should be.  A real issue to address, real life experiences that connect to our community, authentic tasks that allow student strengths to be developed, access for parents, other students and community members to participate in the end result and most importantly, everyone involved was having an awesome time.  Watch this space - these types of learning experiences are soon to become the overwhelming norm at Cobham!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Meeting the needs of Māori in English-medium schools

This week I read a CORE Education blog post by Alex Hotere-Barnes called "Developing warrior-scholars, rethinking success".   It was mainly devised from an interview Alex did with Kia Aroha College Principal, Dr Ann Milne, of whom I have been a huge fan of for some time.  The blog struck a real chord with me, the concept of 'white spaces', holistic achievement and really just about how Kia Aroha are approaching teaching and learning from a cultural identity perspective.  I would strongly encourage you to read Alex's blogpost as it was hugely insightful and bang on in terms of radically re-thinking innovative educational change that meets the needs of our Māori learners.

  Tamara Bell: Te reo Māori in English medium schools from EDtalks on Vimeo.

I was reminded of this Ed Talks I filmed way back in 2012 when she discusses 'Whitestream' rather than English-medium schools and how the majority of our Māori and Pasifika kids are in these schools, not immersion, something I have always been acutely aware of and concerned with.  How are we meeting their needs?  How can we do better - this is a huge focus for our school again this year and we have just finished constructing our school wide goal, which is trying to build on the steps we took to work towards our 2015 school goal.  As you will see below, our focus is strongly targeting the needs of Māori - and you won't get any apologies or regret from us for that.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui e hoa mā - if you want to make a difference for your Māori learners and whānau, put them to the front, no excuses.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

So what is an ILE - innovative learning environment?

The huge changes taking place in education throughout New Zealand are not just isolated to our country.  This shift or move to what the Ministry of Education initially called MLE's or modern learning environments but has now more accurately been coined ILE or innovative learning environment, has been rippling throughout schools around the world.  With all this change, comes a lot of confusion.  Many parents and even teachers are grappling with the new jargon/terms and even the purpose for the change to teaching practice and a new way of learning for our tamariki.

This video is a fantastic resource by some of our leading educators worldwide, that supports and explains what an innovative learning environment is, what changes you can expect and most importantly - why.

Take a moment to watch this and consider what they are saying.  I found what they were describing to be hugely inspiring and motivating and as a mother, this is exactly what I wish for my child's education.

It gives me great hope and excitement about our journey to create an innovative learning environment at our kura and about the kind of amazing tamariki that innovative learning systems will no doubt produce!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Whanaungatanga in action!

A new year has arrived.  The summer holidays flew by as they always do for us teachers and before we know it we are back at work.  This time last year was my first day at a new job, at a new school and I remember clearly how awkward the first teacher only day was for us newbies.  The school did things quite differently to what I was used to and because of this and it's sheer size and therefore number of staff and students, it took me quite a long time to settle in and feel like I belonged.  This is not an easy thing to navigate, especially being Māori and coming from a previous job where tikanga Māori took pride of place.  Not having mihimihi meant I did not know who everyone was, where they came from and if we were perhaps connected somehow.  Not having karakia tīmatanga, waiata or karakia whakamutunga before and after hui was also jarring as it felt like we went in cold and separated to hui instead of combined as one and when we finished everyone just went their separate ways.  This is not a criticism of my school, merely pointing out that at this time, these elements of tikanga Māori were not in place, which no doubt was one of the reasons I was hired, and if you have read my earlier posts you will know that many of these things are now highly valued and implemented daily at our school.  But in response to that feeling of isolation from the start of last year, I planned a very different teacher only day this year.

Firstly, I changed the name from teacher only days to staff retreat and the emphasis for our retreat would be whanaungatanga and effective planning for 2016.  I asked the Principal and BoT to support this initiative with some funding, which they kindly did and I promptly went about booking accommodation and a conference venue in Hanmer Springs for 2 days in Jan. An agenda was created early in Term 4 where all staff could add their ideas to and volunteer to take certain sessions or workshops over the 2 days.  Some of the things we worked through was all the day to day running of the school issues like duty, curriculum update and responsibilities, sport/music/cultural responsibilities, planning and appraisal etc.  But excitingly, we also covered some awesome new ideas like collaboratively creating a M.A.T.E's  document (mutually agreed team expectations) for the way we as staff will work together and practiced a process for mihi whakatau for when we welcome manuhiri, in line with Ngāi Tūāhuriri tikanga as mana whenua. We also spent time talking about PB4L (positive behaviour for learning), Teaching as Inquiry and all of our LwDT (learning with digital technologies) initiatives planned for this year.  I might be showing how much of a geek I am but it was awesome stuff! Highly engaging, productive, collaborative and relevant for all staff.

One of the best outcomes for our staff retreat though was the obvious effect it had on building a sense of whānau for us all.  Staff were sharing rooms together, car pooling up to and back from Hanmer, having a drink together, going for walks together, having dinner together, working in groups throughout the 2 day hui and all the time, building a strong sense of whanaungatanga.  We got to know the person behind the teacher - what they liked or disliked eating, how tired they were because of waking babies at home,  that they snore loudly or that they can play the guitar.  We even started our first day playing a game called "Whanaungatanga".

One person stands and starts talking about themselves - where they are from, family members, interests...anything they want.  When someone else can connect to what they are saying, for example if I said I have 3 children and someone sitting down also has 3 children, they stand and yell out "whanaungatanga"!  Then they take over and start talking about themselves until the next person can buzz in with a 'whanaungatanga".  This game was great to hear more about each other, to demonstrate that although we might all lead different lives, we all can connect to each other in some way too and it also was awesome to hear the improved te reo Māori pronunciation!  And do you know what really blew my mind and made my heart sing...when I walked around our school on the first day back for our kids, several of the classes I walked into were playing "whanaungatanga" - ka mau te wehi!