Thursday, April 27, 2017

Work/life balance???

At the start of this year I had an idea. Nothing amazing, but it sounded like a great idea all the same. The idea? Not to do school work in the weekends. Awesome I thought, I'll get all my work done during the week so that I can have my weekends free and get rid of that nagging guilt and panic feeling I get on Sunday evenings. Totally doable, after all some of my co-workers seem to make this look easy and my husband thought this was equally a great idea.

So 11 weeks down, how's it all going for me? Well, not so flash but one could argue that I haven't really set myself up for success on this occasion. The old saying 'doing what you've always done and expecting a different outcome' is definitely alive and well here!

After speaking with a specialist about a minor health issue, her advice (one of many) was to lower my stress levels and strive for a better work/life balance. "But how?", my 'poor example for a work/life balance' mother asked when I spoke about it with her. How do you get a balance for a job that is never done? How do you maintain a professional standard, while not answering emails at 9.30 at night? How do you manage your extra work responsibilities while leaving work before 5pm every day? Of course every time I work in the evenings or on weekends it is my choosing and my want to provide the best for the students I teach. I also don't always see this as an issue and the perfectionist in me is alive and well but it has got me thinking again about my idea from the beginning of the year and the way I 'sell' the 'learn, create, share' learning philosophy with others. No ones going to want to try using a multimodel approach to teaching reading if they think it will take them longer to plan than their current programme!

I started watching a series very long winded video about an American couple (created for learning) who discuss this very idea of work/life balance. In a nutshell these are the ideas that I found the most useful, not necessarily rocket science but food for thought.

  • Make the decision to arrive and leave on time every day (with a few exceptions of course). What time will work best for me, my colleagues and provide the time to complete what I need to get done?
  • Where are the pressures/expectations coming from? Or more importantly what unspoken pressures have I instilled upon myself? For example, the idea that I should work in the evenings or I have to get everything looking good on our class site.
  • Make to-do list and actually use them. I envision that for this to be most effective, I would need a longer term to-do list and then to-do list broken down into aims for before and after school. I also like the idea of completing a to-do list for the following morning before you leave for the day.
  • Watch out for 'water cooler' talk. As much as I love to catch up with my colleagues I know that an hour can very easily slip by and I will have been unproductive. I get caught in the whole 'came to the staff room to get a drink and ending up sitting and gossiping!
  • What can I trade. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I like things to look good, but I know that this is effects my time management. Sometimes I like to ask myself "will this have an effect on the children's learning?" Chances are that the pretty background on my slideshow will not have any effect and therefore doesn't really need to be done when time is short!
  • Use any spare moment effectively. Refer to to-do list and make the most of the opportunity.
  • Do similar tasks at the same time eg set aside time to respond to emails 
  • Work at work. Sounds simple but it is drawing a line in the sand and saying when enough is enough. 
As  I said not necessarily rocket science but it has got me thinking about some things I need to make better attempts at in order to get a better work/life balance.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Meet Des and Troy.

Mark Maddren taught me a new wee saying today that was quite appealing to children was using Des and Troy when walking around with their chromebook. Des and Troy refer to your arm and more importantly how they should be used to support a chromebook while being carried. As part of the Kara of Care the children are expected to carry their chromebook with a closed lid and to use the crock of their elbow to support a corner of their device while crossing their other arm across the rest of the chromebook. Definitely my new favourite saying for the next few weeks to get our children back into this habit.

This year I am lucky enough to have support from Mark Maddren as part of the Manaiakalani Outreach programme. Today was our first session working with the children and the main focus was to introduce the children to the Kawa of Care.

The task for the session was to read critically the expectations for looking after their Chromebooks and how to use them correctly as a tool for their learning. The children needed to go through and highlight the different points using a three coloured code for order of importance. It was a great opportunity for the children to begin expressing their critical thinking and giving reasoning for their
decisions. After re-colour coding the children were required to select what they believe to be the three most important aspects of the Kawa of Care and create a DLO (Digital Learning Object) to explain their understanding of the expectation.

Mark and I spoke briefly about giving times limits on creation tasks and encouraging children to use Google Drawing and creating their own image as opposed to simply finding an image on line. These fits in nicely with two points I have been thinking about recently when dreaming up create activities for my reading lessons. In order for the task to be worthwhile I want it to be something the children will actually complete in a timely fashion, as well as, being meaningful and fit in with some of the higher levels of the SAMR model.  A task that is not given to the children for the sake of creating but enhances and/or affirms their learning. I believe it is also making sure that the tasks doesn't take more time than the learning is worth or at the expense of other learning.

An example last week was trying to come up for a meaningful create activity about an article a group of children will read about motocross. For a similar activity in the past I got the children to design their own track but I wasn't entirely happy with the meaningfulness of this task. Simon (my work husband) suggested that the children make a track using dough and then make a video explaining why they have included different aspects of the track. By filming and explaining their creation the task itself is more meaningful and enters the transformation zone of the SAMR model. Plus at a guess the children will find this highly engaging!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Year, new me???

I must say since I last posted there has definitely been no shortage of ideas for post.... getting them written down has been another story! 2016 was a massive year of learning for me in two areas in particular literacy and the affordances of learning through digital technology.

For the first time in almost 10 years I began studying again towards my Masters. The three papers I completed where all focused on Literacy. Although a tad stressful at times, I really enjoyed focusing on one of my teaching passions and have been excited to implement my new knowledge, knowledge that I could have written many great posts about!

Last year was my school's second year as part of the Manaiakalani Outreach programme. Learn, create, share and the affordance of digital technology has been an amazing gift for us, a wonderful challenge and we have already seen great gains in our students achievement.

My goal this year is to get back into writing on my blog and using this as a way to record evidence towards my registered teacher criteria. And look at that, first post done!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pearls of wisdom from ULearn 2015

3 days, 6 workshops, 2 guest speakers, great food, even better company and a bombardment of information! That is how I would briefly describe my fantastic time at the Core ULearn15 conference. Below is a reflection of what I have learnt, questions I now have and how I would like to implement this learning in the classroom.

Day 1
Guest speaker: Grant Lichtman

  • Teachers don't need to provide/transfer knowledge anymore, thats what the internet is for!
  • The world is not divided into subject areas.
  • We need to teach our students how to embrace failure
  • As teachers we cannot be innovative without taking risks
  • There is a feeling that we must make a choice between choice, innovation and experiences, and standardised testing. How can we get a balance?
  • Change in schools is uncomfortable, not hard; get comfortable with discomfort.
  • Lead from where you are, teachers in the classroom can make change, not just school leadership
  • How could we get away from teaching 'subject areas' while still providing our students with the basic skills such as learning to read? All very well doing integration but how many books are available at a suitable reading level for our struggling readers. How can this be done without causing an overload of prep time from the teacher?
  • How do we get a balance between creating, real word experiences and our requirements such as National Standards? 
Now what...
  • Have more discussions with my students about their learning process eg, what did you learn about how you learn best? What happened when this didn't work? What will you do next time?
  • Carry on implementing new ideas and take more risks of my own

Workshop 1 - GAFE in an ILE, PDQ!
Presenters - Diana Wilkes and Caroline Bush from Ormiston Primary
  • Not just about preparing children for their future, aims is to create learners that are successful in our time.
  • Four levels of independence when learning
  • Power of Narrative assessment, making these more important than reports - 3 narratives per term, per child
  • Using twitter as part of planning and evidence of learning
  • Children find evidence in regards to learning progressions and put this on their blogs with links made by teacher to National Standards
  • Could following our learners assist in developing good learning relationships? Not having to get to know a new group of students each year.
  • What is the point of end of year written reports? Would using learning stories be more beneficial and meaningful to parents?
  • How can we engage our parents more? Would be great to see more parents commenting on our blog
Now what...
  • Think more about the idea of best reporting methods, discussion with Gary and Simon
  • Organise another techy breaky for Term 4
  • Look at ways Ormiston school organise their planning
  • Explore 4 levels of independence and how this could be incorporated into literacy

Workshop 2 - Agency and ownership: Why the how?
Steve Mouldey, Hobsonville Point High School
  • Curiosity enables student to find their own learning path
  • Questioning is the number one thing to assist in own learning and engagement
  • teaching children to use a critical eye to refine questions
  • The what are you learning is more important than simply the content
  • Seperate inquiry away from research
  • The choice - co-design continuum - teacher controlled - student choice - student voice - co-design
  • Feedback quality may have more impact on student achievement than any other factor
  • Rose, bud, thorn feedback model
  • What are the concept skills that we want our students to develop?
  • How can we use student voice more in our planning?
Now what...
  • Set up a wondering wall and curiosity table in the classroom
  • Work on developing question skills in the classroom, use question scaffold as a tool
  • Make self and peer assessment a key concept in Term 4

Monday, October 5, 2015

The last piece of the puzzle...from a large collection of puzzles!

My latest motivation at the gym has been to watch Ted Talks while pedaling madly on the exercycle. If you don't know about this resource yet, I strongly encourage you to check it out here. Today I watched a talk which hit close to home for me on a personal level. It was one of those, 'oh yeah, I get it! It all makes sense!' moments. This year has been filled with these moments in my professional life. My first post is a perfect example. It reminded me of putting all the pieces of a puzzle together; you can see a lot of the picture already but it's not until you stand back and look at the final finished puzzle you get to see the true picture. It's having a fair idea about something already and then having that moment when it all comes together.

Tomorrow I'm and traveling to Auckland with two colleagues for the 2015 U Learn conference. My hope is I will have lots of 'puzzles' coming together over the next three days. One of the workshops I have signed up for is title: 'Creativity in education is no longer an option, it's an absolute necessity'. I'm particularly keen for this workshop as it has been influenced by Sir Ken Robinson. Creativity is a key component of our learning model, 'learn, create, share'. One of the messages that has stood out for me from his talk  'changing education paradigms ' is that as teachers, we are preparing children for jobs that don't exist yet.

So, why are we so focused on teaching literacy and numeracy? Don't get me wrong, until someone can convince me otherwise I want my students to leave our school literate and numerate but what other skills do they need for their future? What's is going to be important for them to be a successful member of society and to reach their full potential? We are so lucky in New Zealand that we have a curriculum that has a vision which matches this and that education is not just about the 8 learning areas.
Recently I watched another Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson called, 'Do schools kill creativity?' This talk spoke volumes to me and was another one of those 'of course...' moments. What struck me while I drank in his word, is that in the background I could see the year, 2006! How did I not know more about this before now? and why wasn't this seen as more important in our education system?! 

I will admit I have definitely had moments where I have worried about not giving enough focus on literacy and numeracy but over the past few years it has become clear to me that skills such as creativity are equally as important. This is one of the skills that will prepare our students for reaching their full potential.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Never thought I had a list of top apps until today...

Today I learnt about a new app that will be a major time saver. Flick is a free app which I have now downloaded onto all my apple devices. Basically it's an app that makes sharing things like photos from one device to another almost instant. Once you have opened up the app on the device you want to share from, and to (must be opened on both), pick a photo and simple swipe up to the top of the page to share.

Before today if I wanted to share a photo I would have to email it to myself or cross my fingers and hope my iPhotos was playing the game on my slowly-dying Mac. Tomorrow I want to download it onto all our iPads so that the kids can instantly share their work with us. This will be perfect for printing out and sharing their work on the blog quicker. Bonus, the likelihood of sharing will increase dramatically if I can do it right then and there!

The help section is easy and straightforward, just had to check it then to add photos! Once I downloaded the app onto my Mac, an icon appeared on my task bar and flick now runs in the background.

Open flick on both devices.

Select image you want to share and swipe upwards to the tool bar at the top of the page.

It then instantly transfers onto your chosen device.

The help section is easy and straightforward, just had to check it then to add photos! Once I downloaded the app onto my Mac, an icon appeared on my task bar and flick now runs in the background.

My only issue was I had trouble saving the image once it was on my Mac but this wasn't a problem on my ipad. Perhaps something to do with needing an update to the latest IOS?
Great app,, looking forward to using it in the classroom and with the kids.