Thursday, 5 January 2017

Passionate Teacher?

This morning I woke up after a terrible sleep, half missing my sister who I'd dropped off yesterday and half feeling terrible vibes perhaps as a result of seeing mum or having mum here a few days ago, and rushed outside to take the rubbish and recycling out.

I was more grumpy than normal, seeing as recycling used to be my favourite thing about living here in Rotorua. Our recycling centre was simply outstanding. Now we have bins. Not as satisfying doing the sorting, yet still helpful to the environment.

Grumpy I guess because I'd been woken up by a pretty horrendous dream where my mum had put lots of new things I'd bought into the rubbish bin and my old friends from university that I don't talk to anymore but still would like to... helped me break into my apartment building as I'd left my keys inside, where I found a new flatmate - a korean girl - and my friends helped me sort out the stuff my mum had thrown away. Unfortunately that stuff ended up in the middle of The Warehouse and I then had to sort out that mess.

Then I woke up. To take the rubbish and recycling out.

Let me just break the dream down a bit for my sanity.

1. A reminder that mum gets too involved and treads heavy on my soul, chucks things that I'm not ready to be removed from just yet.

2. A greatful thanks to my sister for being here to help me declutter and remove objects in my house that were clogging up my brain and soul and giving me a great setting for a demo video to get onto the Hoarders tv programme...

3. A reminder to take the rubbish and recycling out before the trucks came.

4. My subconcious' way of dealing with difficult issues that I can't quite do in real life just yet. I feel like I need to have trauma counselling done before I can talk to those friends again. Mainly because they are triggers to that trauma and because they still associate with those that caused the trauma.

5. My mum still has a hold over me. I can't quite get rid of all of it until my sister is older and then she can't use it against me.

Regardless... once I'd done all that... I got an email from a friend who had been thinking of me and saw a job on Seek. Clicking the link, I saw that the MindLab is looking for a new facilitator on the West Coast near Nelson and Blenheim.

It asked for a passionate person. That was the first thing that stopped me. The second was the need for a masters and 8 years of teaching experience. Both of which I don't have. Hopefully the right person applies because it would be awesome to have the MindLab down there!!

Back to the passionate thing.

I don't know whether it's because I woke up tired, grumpy, dealing with sub-concious thoughts in my dream... but I don't know whether I'm still that passionate teacher. I struggled most of last year to find my place in a changing landscape. Hopefully this year things will be a bit more sorted and I can actually just be me. The passionate teacher I know I am... but still need more sleep. It's 8.34am for god's sake haha

Anyway... random thoughts... a very random post for now. Been a while. Hopefully this clears the 2016 juju on my blogging and I can start writing again properly.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

End of Term: Last Day with Students and Big-Time Reflection

Today was full of mixed emotions.

It felt good to be so proud of my students and the prizewinners. Felt good to observe another kaiako working with the same students I struggled with this year. Felt good reminding myself, through his teaching why I love having the honour to be in this role.

To be so instrumental and inspirational in my students' lives. To know the power I have to help guide and mold our future generations. To be the frontline in identifying issues and helping students to make the first steps in overcoming and managing their problems.

Today I read the reflections that I'd had both junior classes write this week. The same kind of things popped up: their love for choice and group work, their love for helping to guide the learning programme and their love for my caring nature and support. On the other hand: their frustration with my lack of discipline, the noise levels created by the disrupters in class and the lack of self-management on their part and their need for more guided and structured learning.

All things that I know and try to work on each year.

However, I read one of the last reflections and realised I should have read it earlier.

This student wrote something in the answer to the question - what will you be doing in five years time? And I didn't see it til today.

If I'd taken a mere moment between the moment he'd finished typing it and the moment when he was in his next class, choosing to do something incredibly stupid - I might have been able to potentially stop it. He's okay. But we, his teachers and his peers, his whanau and his support network are incredibly concerned for him.

I've also been thinking about the peaks and valleys that has been my year this year. Big highs, big lows. Finding it difficult to keep the energy high while being pulled under by the weight of the job. Finding it difficult to keep the passion flowing with continuous setbacks and issues keeping students motivated. Struggling to keep going in spite of the incredibly awesome stuff my students have done and achieved this year.

Today I contemplated opening the letter an old friend sent me from prison earlier this year. When he'd sent it, he'd sent it to school. I found it in my pigeonhole. It felt like an electric shock when I'd turned it over to see who the sender was. Chucking it back in my pigeonhole, grabbing the arm of the Principal's PA, as I led her away from it as if it was a bomb and explaining why I reacted that way.... I still don't think I'm ready to read it. In fact I had a dream a few nights ago where I literally told him I wasn't ready yet. My subconcious gets it. The psychological trauma of that event and the underlying issues continue to plague my thoughts.

Perhaps the thought of opening it today after getting myself down about the texts I'd taught this year with my students and the impact that could have had on his overall decision... perhaps if I'd read it there and then it would have been like ripping off a plaster. But to be honest, having dealt with the fact that I know what that old friend did and that he's in prison and that he'd sent me a letter... has been enough to seriously make me rethink my love for teaching.

But at the end of the day... I'm not like him. I never will be. I may still need to get some grief and trauma counselling to truly deal with it... seeing as it seems I'm finally ready to talk about it properly...rather than just through the blank faced shock that I was in at the end of last year and beginning of this year... but I know the boundaries.

My students are amazing. I'm their support at school and often the role model for many students. They care about me and I do my best to care about them. Unfortunately, the events of that old friend has really tarnished the way I interact and engage with my students. I have kept a larger distance this year and my students have noticed that I haven't been as happy or bubbly this year. Heck, I've noticed it.

I've been searching for something else this year. Something to make me feel like myself again. Conferences haven't helped really, I was sick and/or busy with other things on my mind to fully engage. I applied for three different jobs this year. Two of which I didn't get and the last I'm still waiting on.

I'm happy at Heights though. The staff I work with are all amazing in their own way. I have a strong support network that wraps around me when I need. But I have to remember to ask for help when I'm struggling, to help lighten the load or discuss what I'm feeling.

Our students are crazy incredible. Students would be awesome wherever, for sure. But at Heights, they're something special.

I gave out certificates and hand written post cards to each one of my junior students. I gave small thankyou presents to a select few who had truly pushed themselves this year.

In return, I recieved happy, thankful students. One class of which who spent the weekend desiging me a certificate, a board of thankyou notes, chocolates, gifts and thankyou smiles and hugs. My other class were kind of quietly blown away and all took their certificates home. Which  said something really powerful and respectful, particularly for those who need to put more effort into their learning next year.

I still have a handful to give out, post or drop off at people's homes. But I'm just thankful to have been part of these students' lives this year.

Whatever comes my way - I'm just thankful that I have people backing me, supporting me and helping to guide me further. I just must remember to look back and see them there pushing me forward. Because, as always I stand on the shoulders of giants and am proud to have come as far as I have. Thankful to those who have always been there for me and thankful to those yet to begin being part of my life.

Ngā mihi nunui ki a koutou katoa.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Self-Care and Pacing Ourselves

After a particularly stressful day today, tired after Crystel's prizegiving (pics and vids to come), sorting out last minute assessments by seniors, refocussing my social studies class and helping them focus in prep for their goal setting day next week, many many reports to write, kai in the staffroom, indepth creative writing sessions for junior English students with the Game of Awesome cards and the new game they made yesterday, discussions on next steps, discussions on goals.... we had a particularly good first meeting with some seriously knackered and hopeful people to start a Health and Wellbeing group at school.

Initially I wasn't going to go because I was just so tired. Workload made it feel impossible to find a few more minutes for something that would be actually beneficial. I dragged myself over to the meeting spot and sat down, reluctantly.

And then our DP gave us a slimmed down Term 1 Heights version of Dr Ian Vickers 'The Good New Habits' book. It all came rushing back. His korero at the NETs conference last year. The way in which we need to self-care more often. How we need to take time to look after ourselves and our well being.

After a day like today, after weeks, months of looking after others, I finally said no to a school activity tonight. It was above and beyond something I normally would have dropped everything to go to. But tonight - I just couldn't.

After the energising korero with the new Good Habits crew, I wish we'd started something like this a long time ago. Really looking forward to next year. Identifying solutions to make obstacles more manageable is definitely my A Game.

Still, after the meeting I walked ever slowly away from school, forgetting that an energising convo really only lifts the spirits, not the energy you actually have inside. So to home I went.


Feel better now but still gutted I chose not to attend the school performance. But for now, self-care.

If I'm in this teaching game for the long run, I need to pace myself. Got the message loud and clear last night from my amazing kaiako still at MColl. Pace and longevity, despite the wrinkles.

We've got this. Not long to go now.

Need to enjoy time with our students, not regret time spent not doing other things. 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Sticker Charts - Visible Success

Last year I spent a RIDICULOUSLY long time colouring in blocks of rectangles to show student's credits.

This year... I was smarter.

I went to Uncle Bill's (seriously the most amazing $2 shop-esque in Rotorua) and found stacks of neon coloured round stickers. Grabbing four different colours, Orange for Not Achieved, Green for Achieved, Magenta for Merit and Yellow for Excellence, I headed back to plan out how this new sticker chart might look.

For future reference next year...

Each sticker is 2cm - diameter.
Name stickers were 7cm long.

With those measurements I created sticker chart sheets for all three of my senior classes.

A few things:

I started these in Term 2 - if I'd started earlier to not only track the student's credits, but to identify students lagging from the get go... it might have had a more positive effect overall.

The Y11 charts look amazing. We do six internal assessments with them. But our Y12 class only do four (five if you count oral text but hardly anyone ever takes me up on it...) and this year what with the two students in 12L not finished their writing portfolio, the massive majority on both the 12L and 12A students who didn't participate in the visual verbal assessment... there are a lot of orange stickers.

I wonder whether making the Y12's writing portfolio have a larger space to add two stickers - one for each piece of writing they did - and then an overall sticker to show their overall mark?


Last week I made some sticker charts for my juniors. They had been asking for a while for their own also.

Pics to come. More analysis to come too.

Kia Eke Panuku Obs

Have been thinking about my Kia Eke Panuku obs from this week.

At the crux of it... I'd probably call my teaching style, organised chaos.

Students arranged at random, per choice of students. We don't do seating plans. In fact, student led decision making on where they sit and why has become incredibly important.

The shared power in the room - can be seen too. Learning tends to be more co-constructed and we learn from each other.

At any given moment with certain classes there is self-directed learning occurring. 

What this looks like is different in different classes, with different students.

There is constant monitoring. Awhi, support and encouragement.

Wondering about my shadow coaching sessions and how KM modelled her lesson off of what I'd done in mine. Very cool. Loved her Numbered Heads strategy as well as how she had all the students e tu to refocus them :)

It was good to see that in both obs my relationship strengths came into play and that my giggly, humorous nature came out very obvious in the ob too.

I wonder how different my classroom is to someone who is much more traditional.

Two areas of focus for myself:
- Wananga - need to make the most of teachable moments and use that time to dig deeper, one on one.

- Develop more confidence with my Y9 social studies class. The revision stuff we're doing is mostly new. So we need to find a more concrete way to share this knowledge. Google Docs? Slides even? Not sure. That's my plan for this weekend. Figure it out.

I'd like to do more obs too because I need to improve my way of observation. I'd like to see more and dig deeper.

I really like the shadow coaching too. Different styles there - the side by side and the korero and discussing different points that came up.

I wonder how I might further improve and capitalise on the organised chaos and relationships in class.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Parent Teacher Interviews: Thankful parents

Last night I experienced another really rare moment. This time it was two parents of two of my students who explicitly thanked me for what I do for them and their students. It was so nice.

Nice because we don't often hear that. And the sincerity and seriousness of what they were saying made my heart sing.

One of those parents was the same one who said this last parent teacher interviews. She noted that her daughter should be more thankful, and apparently has said this to her in the past, because I let her daughter read an alternate text for her novel this year. The parent commented that she'd told her daughter that this wasn't normal practice and that her daughter should be more appreciative of what I do.

Last night we talked about how her daughter was playing a game on her phone yesterday. The one time I catch her daughter out doing something she's not meant to, out of hundreds of days where she has been absolutely brilliant and completely putting all her effort into her mahi. We laughed because that relationship, to share that funny moment, was there and had already been built.

What I would like is to have that kind of relationship with all of my student's parents. To have them know what I do, to have their support, to improve their learning and overall engagement in their student's learning.

Last night there were way less parents who came. Perhaps this is because of the two other house tutor group day sessions for goal setting and option choices we've held already this year since the last parent teacher interviews.

Regardless, it's always something a teacher likes to hear. That we are actually making a difference and that the difference is noted and appreciated. :)

Friday, 14 October 2016

Financial Literacy: Y9 Social Studies

Yesterday we started a new topic: Financial Literacy.

We discussed what financial literacy means and why it's important to be financially literate.

I shared my experiences with being financially illiterate as a high school student through to being a university student. When I was growing up I was taught about paying bills off. I never got taught to save my money. I learnt how to spend money... but never to save it. I was taught about how to stretch and juggle my money... but again... never how to save and definitely not how to invest it.

Through my experiences... flatting, terrible boyfriends, taking landlords to tenancy tribunal hearings and the issues around bank deals and 'free' overdrafts during O Week... I was able to paint a pretty clear picture that I had to learn the hard way. That I didn't want my students to learn the hard way.

So... we talked about flatting. What you needed to do when setting up a new place. Signing tenancy agreements, finding flatmates, paying bills, setting up joint bank accounts, finding furniture, organising power companies and internet to be set up... oh and figuring out whether to buy food as a flat or individually.

So... after that awesome lesson - even during it I felt that we had some real, purposeful, relevant learning. I lined them up like we usually do when we start a new topic at the end of the lesson and asked them what new thing they'd learnt that lesson.

Many of them were truly shocked with the experiences I had while at uni... and those were the ones I could tell my grandmothers about haha. But I think it sparked interest for many of them because they understand that it's important to be smarter with our money. Perhaps this generation is more savvy than mine with money - perhaps they've learnt from their parents mistakes and won't make stupid decisions like I did while navigating my way to becoming more financially literate.

Yesterday afternoon I made play money. They're super cool. Photos to come.

Now I just need to print off some examples of tenancy agreements ... because today we begin a mock flatting situation. I just need to make some income cards, expenses cards, dilemma cards and winning cards to really make this game work.

Hopefully... playing this game will give them an idea as to how to make their own financial literacy game.

Next things to do... print off tenancy agreements, rentals in Rotorua, budgets, and... figure out whether to let them figure out power, internet, etc companies or print these out too for them... insurance, kiwisaver too...