Friday, 11 December 2015

One word Reflection. Sol Blake Wai-

Teacher Reflection-Oneword2015 Engage

Writing a blog has been one of my goals to engage in the wider community, or more specifically the education community.

I am a first time blogger and of course very nervous about putting a piece of writing online for people to read and wonder what the response will be.

A few of my delimmas – “”Where do I start?” “What do I write about?”What are the expectations?” “Who would be interested in what I write?” “Is there a specific format or number of words you need to write?”

 Researching online, I read you needed to have a topic to write about first. That was easy, as part of our professional development, was to think of “one word”, to describe a personal focus for the year.  The word I chose was, “Engage”.

Engage in conversations with students.
Engaging in conversations with year one and year two students , talking about the activities they were involved in and articulating their discoveries. From having conversations with these young students, I learnt they were learning by absorbing information through daily interactions and experiences with the teachers and other students.  Students chose their own activities and their play mates, engaging in and taking turns in longer conversations. Students didn’t use paper and pen to solve problems, but solved them by trial and error. They were willing to share and allow others to try their ideas. Conversations with senior students were more complex and focussed on specific tasks. Students were involved in independent activities.

Engage in blogging –
 I’ve taken the first step by writing this blog and hopefully will develop confidence to write more to engage with others intellectually. Let’s be honest, we all need to do something
challenging at some point in life. It’s easy to slide into our comfort zones and stop growing.

Engage in research –
What does research say about coaching helping to improve student achievement?
A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change their practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated.
I continued to research different areas based on coaching and used the information to support others in their learning.

Engage in learning conversations
Taking the time to actively listen to colleagues and asking questions, lead to many learning conversations around teaching practices. Individuals are challenging current practices, listeing to and acting on feedback , and providing feedback that leads to improvements in student achievement.

Over the year I have continued to engage in conversations with students and staff. Engage has helped me to improve my own practices.

Staff have reflected on their practices, and positive relationships and trust have been established with students and staff.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Teachers refection: One Word 2015 FAITH


My one word was Faith for this year. The reason behind this was four reasons they are the following;

1.     Faith- In my planning and that I will keep my lessons creative and exciting for my students. I will constantly keep seeking new ways to help with their learning.
2.     Faith- in my collegaues and that I would have their back and they have mine.
3.     Faith- in my abilities to balance my life/work. I will try and remain a well balance life where I am able to work and do things outside of school.
4.     Faith- I can have a full time job and be a great mum to my new born baby, Leon and Jayden.

This has been great and I think it comes down to the collabarative planning with  teachers from our learning community. It was great to work with others in order to come up with exciting workshops and to question each other when we thought either one of us were being dull or flat with our inquiry task.

This has been a great journey. We said as a team that we “gel” really well together. We can give each constructive critisim, question our thinking, construct innovative programmes and walk out of our learning days feeling like whanau. We do care for one another and we will be there till the end for one another. Yes it cheesy but its true.

Balance between work and outside of work.
I am going to admit it hasn’t been easy and I wouldn’t even be able to say I have actually cracked the code. However I do try to leave mahi at mahi and I think what has helped with this has been the conversations I have been able to have with another collegue. I literally talk shop the whole way home that by time I get home I am done.

Full time vs Full time mum
This is one I battle with constantly first was with the loss of our baby. I thought I would not come out of it but I did. I constantly battle with my boys and the energy levels they get to with all their sports. I try to be the active mum they need however sometimes I am really tired and need Husband to sub me out. I love that my boys are active and I am there to support them but I do get tired when juggling them and giving them the undivided attnetion they need plus juggling my full time job. Life is Life and I am still working on this one too!

Faith has been everywhere for me. Within my own teaching and learning beliefs and whether I am doing the right thing for the students and myself. I am constantly questioning myself as to how these inquiries that I am apart of are helping our students. Are they what they need? How are they getting credits? Am I doing a good job? Are the students learning anything? Will their whanau be happy with what Im doing? I am asking these type of questions constanly but I just think to myself. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your collegues. Have faith in your support.

The difference that I think it has made is that because I am constantly having faith in myself and what I am doing makes me accountable to our students and whether I am doing the right thing for them and their whanau.

FOCUS- A teachers One Word Reflection


When I chose this word for my “one word” challenge, I didn't realise what it would mean to me. I intended it to only be pertinent to my career and how I did my job. Like most people I looked at the dictionary definition, with the reality of knowing it’s a cliche…

Definition of focus in English:
noun (plural focuses or foci ˈfəʊsʌɪ)
The centre of interest or activity:
An act of concentrating interest or activity on something:
our focus on the customer’s requirements
(obviously it means way more, but instead of  customers, why not students!)

In hindsight, I could have chosen the word “Organised”, because this is what I was initially after. But I stuck with focus and this is why.

Much like the focus on a camera I started to zoom in and out, looking at the big picture and re-focusing in on details. I changed my aperture, which also narrowed my focus onto one thing, providing less “background noise”, so to speak. My mind became the lens and one day I mentally acquired a wide angle lens!
Focus for me became a profoundly deep concept. What was I focusing on? My career? My family? Myself? All of it? Or none of it?
At the end of the day I am just a bloke, thankfully not a red necked one, but a bloke none the less.
 I have an awesome Lady who supports me, three awesome kids that do what kids do best! I have a job that I love. I am a member of the Senior Leadership Team, I teach in a community of year 6 through to year 13 students (yes, all together!) and I get to work with awesome teachers and human beings. I am the Gateway/Star and Careers coordinator, I am the Principals Nominee and I am the Staff rep on the Board of Trustees, oh, the PPTA rep also.
I love to catch up with friends and family, do stuff around the house, surf, sing, cook, make/create, play with my kids, blah blah blah.
The point being, you all identify with what I am saying, don’t you! How many of you are in similar situations? What suffers? Your career, your family, or you? Or do they take turns? 
I struggle to keep up with the amazing minds in Education. The innovators, the movers and shakers. Twitter, EdChat, Big Picture Schools, Inquiry Based Learning, innovations in teaching NCEA, the list goes on. I love it all and intend to continue to evolve and grow as an educator. My desire to help young people to love learning is strong! But my desire to be a good husband and father is strong also. And how can I do all that if I am not looking after my own well being, my own Hauora? 
As my Baby Mama always says, “it’s about balance” and she is dead right. When I drop the lens of focus over top of balance I have a clarity of mind (I’m no Jedi as of yet, but my Padawan journey has began!) 

“ The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” Eckhart Tolle

What I’m saying isn’t new and it is simply common sense. But living and practicing it is the hard part. Focus on what is important, Focus on creating balance in your life, Focus on your own wellbeing and mostly Focus on being present. 

You will wain from the path, it is inevitable (I’m down to 107 times a day!) The key is learning to jump back on the path! Use your lens on Manual, not Automatic. That way you have control over what you choose to zoom in and focus on. Don’t miss out on amazing small details that make life special. Be present and embrace what you have, only then can you change what you don’t.
Your life is a blessing and is to be cherished. Don't let it slip by unnoticed. 


Monday, 30 November 2015

Breaking Limits Open One Word 2015 Reflection Tara O'Neill

 Like many Educators I work within certain limits.  Curriculum limits, school wide limits, parental limits and often limits set in my own mind as to the way things have always been done.  Mostly I don’t question those limits because I am not aware they are there.  Sometimes, I pretend they are not there because they are scary and I don’t want to be pushed outside my comfort zone.

Up until this year, where my one word has been limit, I have experienced the safe side of limit. As someone who often finds myself outside of personal limits set to keep me safe from burnout, I came to realize that limits have another side.  Professionally, acknowledging limits has enabled me to move beyond them, to explore and develop new practice.  Not for my sake, but for my students.  In pursuit of excellence breaking limits is all about learning.

Professional Limits

I ended 2014 by writing about the exciting journey of play ahead for 2015

I am pleased to say it has been successful.  Learning has become explosive, captivating, enabling learning but not in the way I expected.

I am learning a whole new way of teaching, a whole new pedagogy.  It feels like my brain has been removed and put back a different way.  I see teaching and learning in a totally different light.  

Keys to changing practice

1.  Release to inquire into new ways of teaching and learning given by my Principal.  Thanks Karyn Grey because without your leadership, I wouldn’t have even ventured out of my limits.  Being in a school where breaking limits is encouraged and highly regarded an environment is created, which embraces change and new ideas. 

2. Owning the journey and the learning. I wasn’t copying anyone else.  When I began the journey I didn’t know anyone trialing what I was about to do.  I did some professional reading as time allowed, and had so much fun trying different ideas in the learning community. I used courage to redefine and challenge old practice acting as a limit and change my teaching practice.   I wrote a blog earlier in the year ( about this discovery.   
My professional learning hasn’t cost loads of money.  A fraction of the cost of what I pay to do Postgrad learning.  It has cost my time and effort and I have had to take risks.

3.  Connecting with other professionals through technology at a grass root level.   I went to my first Educamp in Palmerston North.  I took a chance.  I decided I wanted to share my short journey into play-based learning.  To my surprise I got to share.  There I sat sharing with 20 other educators.  At the end of an hour, we hadn’t finished the discussion so I suggested I start a facebook page.

Which I did a week later. That was August.  And to my surprise it took off.  I spent my evenings sitting on facebook sharing practice. I called it Learning Through Play. Online I met two researchers, Sarah Aiono and Keryn Davis, experienced in play based learning. They linked me in to some significant research.   I met Linda Cheer from The Forest School an experienced educator in play-based learning.  I met Early Childhood Educators who totally got where I was coming from and could further my practice and I met other Primary Teachers further down the track and some interested beyond belief in starting play based classrooms.  The page is now sitting at just over 650 people all within 4 months.  More important than the numbers is the fact we are an active online learning community.  Different people post and loads of helpful conversations are had.  The Learning Through Play Facebook Group has provided a place where educators at different places on the journey can share and get feedback and response to what they need in the moment.

Early on in the Learning through Play facebook page we decided we wanted to meet in person.  I talked with Karyn Grey and decided the facebook community would hold an Unconference. An unconference encapsulates authentic learning. Participant driven professional gathering. The 'un' refers to the fact there is no top-down organisation. Self-authorized learning, the experts are amongst us.  I opened up the idea and two Kindergarten teachers from Hineomoa Kindergarten in Taupo offered to host the event.  We set a date for October.  What a success.  It was very very useful. We had 20 educators (one skyped in) from 6 different cities in North Island, two different sectors ECE and Primary and Deciles ranging from 1 to 10.  Powerful. 

4.  Connecting with different sectors locally.  I have appreciated making connections with other local New Entrant Teachers who meet once a term in Gisborne.  Sharing practice and hearing others experiences is always helpful. Start connecting where you are.

Not being afraid to ask for help has led to another hugely valuable learning stream. David Spraggs and Christine Taare from the Kindergarten Association have been very supportive and helpful.  David has come several times to visit me at school and spent time discussing learning through play.  The other valuable resource has been REAP who also have connections in the community.  Being invited to as a Keynote speaker at the Tairawhiti Early Childhood Symposium has enabled me to give back and make further connections. Finally, the Pre-school next door to my school have provided a layer of relationship bringing context into learning that has enabled significant progress towards transition to school.
Asking questions from other practioners from different sectors and deciles has been significant to my changing practice.  I have experienced engagement and flow at a whole different level.  I understand how learning isn’t primarily about knowledge but about being able to ask the right questions and finding the right people.

This has been the most significant year for my professional practice.  Like a snowball it rolls gathering pace. It has enabled me to learn quickly in a way I have never experienced.   I have broke limits of past thinking, I have redefined what teaching and learning means for me and the students I teach. I have redefined my own professional learning journey. This time I see limits as my friend.   

What about you?  How can you fast track your professional learning?  What questions do you have to ask? What relationships can you form?  What platforms – facebook, twitter, educamp, ignite can you explore?   Take a risk, share with someone.