Archive | August, 2013


30 Aug

This week I am in the middle of marking an internal assessment. As teachers, we spend a great deal of our time marking and giving feedback to our students about their progress and how they can improve. I often wonder if the comments that I am making to students are being used for improvement or whether they just look at the grade and then shove their test/essay into their folder and never look at it again. I have been considering how I can make sure that the time we spend giving feedback is meaningful?

The following seem to be worthwhile:

  1. It is good to critically analyse the feedback that you are giving at the moment. Is it worthwhile? Is it being used by the students for improved achievement?
  2. Even if your students are not using learning logs it is vital that any feedback that students get from you is understood and synthesised. GIVE THEM TIME TO READ: When you hand work back to your students give them time to read your comments and ask questions about them. Then they should summarise the comment in their own words and formulate THREE goals for their next piece of learning.
  3. BEFORE the next test/assessment give the students time to look at their goals. Five minutes before the end of the test/assessment tell students to write in the margins where they think they have met their goals.
  4. When students hand work in for marking get them to indicate on a continuum how much effort they put in.
  5. Allow the students to work collaboratively. While drafting, my students have enjoyed this process of working together and creating a scaffold. They also enjoy the blended conferencing process.

Professional Reading

CD – Consultation – May08

Wise Words

30 Aug


I have really enjoyed these tips which are worth reflecting on.

Show Your Strength as a Leader

Competence can be established by virtue of the position you hold, your reputation, and your actual performance. But your presence matters too. If you want people to see you as a strong leader, do the following three things:

  1. Feel in command. If you see yourself as an impostor, others will, too. Instead, believe in your abilities and you’ll project confidence, enthusiasm, and passion.
  1. Stand up straight. Good posture does not mean the exaggerated chest-out pose known in the military as “standing at attention,” or raising one’s chin up high. It just means reaching your full height, using your muscles to straighten the S-curve in your spine.
  1. Get a hold of yourself. Twitching and fidgeting sends the signal that you’re not in control. Stillness demonstrates calm.

Adapted from “Connect, Then Lead,” by Amy J.C. Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger.


Improve Communication between Parents and Schools

25 Aug

I am often thinking about parent/school engagement. Many schools do this well. Recently as part of our annual plan I have been thinking about it. Hence, here are some thoughts. As a parent and educator, what can we do, or, what should we remember:

Parents are partners

Parents voice a strong desire to have a important and defined role within the school community, which means they want to be part of an active and ongoing dialogue regarding what is working well or not for students. They want to be part of the place.

Have an Open Door

Parents like to come in for a chat. I find that very often parents ring up or pop in for a yarn.

Make parents feel welcome

It’s not enough to just have ways for parents to get into contact with the education system… they also need to know that they are welcome, and encouraged, to use those means. If there are barriers to parents getting involved in school discussions, real support and resources should be put towards overcoming them. Some other common barriers to parent communication include language and technological literacy so more support in these areas would be extremely beneficial.

Provide parents with support/resources to help their children at school

I try to include links to resources in our newsletters, to help parents. I find primary schools do this especially well. A great way to keep a positive and ongoing connection with parents as well as assist in boosting student learning outcomes, is to provide parents with support and resources they can use to help their children study at home. This will especially help support parents as educational partners and also keep them in the loop on what their children are studying and how well they are grasping the material.

Ethical Dilemmas

“Real leaders concentrate on doing the right thing, not on doing things right.” That advice from organizational consultants comes as no surprise to school leaders, whose lives are filled with difficult ethical dilemmas. This was my reading in NAPP this week. Well worth reflecting on.

Wise Words

If You Want to Lead, Start Now.

To become a leader, don’t wait for the fancy title or the corner office. Here are three things you can do now, even if someone else is calling the shots:

• Demonstrate your potential. Raise your hand for new initiatives, especially ones that might be visible to those outside your unit. Look for opportunities outside of work, too. You can sit on the board of a local nonprofit or organize a volunteers’ event in your community.

• Support your boss in reaching her goals. Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems.

• Find role models. Look for people who have the roles you want and study how they act, communicate, and dress. Identify behaviors that you can emulate while being true to yourself.

Adapted from “Act Like a Leader Before You Are One,” by Amy Gallo.


Video of the Week

25 Aug

I need a hero…



Just Thinking…

17 Aug

Deep learning is the basis on which I instruct my students; whether it is through the use of practical thinking skills, human dimension activities, and/or data gathering. Even with a subject like Religious Studies this is common. Staff are role modelling this in our College with the use of their learning plans.


Engaging students actively in their own learning, and encouraging understanding of presented materials, should be the main goal of all educators. As an advocate for student learning and success, I am obliged to help move students towards their goals through the implementation of deep learning strategies in the classroom.


Practical thinking skills are an essential part of my lesson planning. Students are most likely to be interested in classroom activities when they feel an emotional connection to the lesson on any level. Practical thinking strategies involve connecting curricular activities to real-life experiences, in hopes to evoke critical thinking. My goal as an educator is to ensure that all my students are higher-level thinkers, moving from basic knowledge level-based learning to evaluation level-based learning. Through problem-solving and decision-making activities, my students are capable to answer questions, make decisions, and solve problems successfully.


Human dimension activities also play an essential role in my lesson planning. By the time my students leave my classroom, they learn to take pride in their accomplishments, see the importance of community building, learn how to stay positive, and mentor and/or develop accountability among their peers. Students reach these goals because my classroom is a community of productive citizens working together to reach success. We are a chain, and we are only as strong as our weakest link. We have class meetings to discuss challenges we may face daily in the classroom in search for positive solutions. This brings stability to my classroom and makes each person accountable for their actions individually and collectively. Indirectly, students take ownership and pride in being a citizen of my classroom, and they succeed academically in the process.


Data gathering is incredibly significant to the way I plan my lessons. This deep learning characteristic gives my students the opportunities to practice and develop their abilities to make and record observations, research and record factual information, and report findings accurately and effectively. I never want my students to get in the routine of completing mundane assignments, to the point weekly instruction becomes predictable and uninteresting.


As you can see, deep learning is pivotal to successful teaching and learning in my classroom. When my students are learning and being transformed in the process, I feel accomplished. Implementing deep learning takes dedication and successful planning, but it is well worth it in the end. Besides, as an educator I am here to service the needs of my students and I plan to do just that for as long as I can.


Wise Words

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

– Jim Rohn

This really struck me that we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to the people we work closely with. By this I mean we need to support those around us to develop and grow to raise the average among us. I have used this in all aspects of my life recently. Be it at work or training for an ironman.

Video of the Week

17 Aug

21st Century Learner


Being a Learner

11 Aug

An educator can never cease to learn – but what makes learning meaningful to us?

My daughter’s preschool teachers have told me about (free) play for children and how much it contributes to their learning – I think the dynamic nature of play is the main contributor there, (I don’t have any definitive data about this, but to me it seems like common sense: being able to control the play and make sense of the sensory feed related to it).

I find being involved in education as a learner exhilarating. I find the role as student a valuable insight into what my own students go through. Having to access course readings, contribute to message boards, doing homework and getting valuable feedback help me in my own practice.

My NAPP experience this year is a constant challenge which I note is sharpening my skills as a practitioner. I am fortunate enough to have Colleen Douglas (Massey University) working with the SLT and Middle Managers in the appraisal process. This again has made me think about the way I am doing things. I will reflect on this in a later edition.

This leads me to a great post about learners and student by David Warlick. Thank you to JENNIFER BROKOFSKY who led me to this article which will lead to powerful PD discussion.

Every day I gain more information about how learning happens: with imaging techniques researchers are able to track what areas in our brain are active during learning. We know how each brain is different, and how learning is individual, and how different people manage and manipulate the knowledge in unique ways. As a student I wanted feedback not grades. I sought out opportunities for collaboration not competition. I like to be in control of my learning.

How about teaching? Are we still using the same teaching methods that were common hundreds of years ago? Teaching and learning are like the two opposite sides of a coin – inseparable but opposite. We educators must learn to match our teaching styles with the dynamic view of knowledge, and find new ways to facilitate our students’ learning.

We teachers don’t like to have someone tell us what to do. Very few students like that either. To have an effective educational system, we must understand that effective teachers are simply facilitators of students’ individual learning processes – and the ones who incite the spark of lifelong learning.

What do you need to do to find the old flame, and fall in love with learning again? How about some collaboration, flipping the classroom or blended online teaching? These are questions of reflective practice we should always be asking ourselves.

Professional Reading:

John Hattie: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning| Chapter 9: The Contributions from Teaching Approaches

Notes from this chapter of John Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning‘

Exemplary schools who serve well students who have been struggling at school emphasise:

  • The engagement of students in the learning process,
  • teacher articulating strategies of instruction and paying attention to learning theories,
  • school buildings act as an infrastructure to support such instruction,
  • teachers provide constant scaffolding and modeling,
  • teachers attended to the day-to-day monitoring of students,
  • teachers seeking feedback about their teaching while also being concerned with,
  • making decisions about optimal challenging tasks to assign, and
  • seeking insights from other professionals.

Videos of the Week

11 Aug


“Turnbull’s Calamitous Corner”



Leader or Manager?

3 Aug

The way we educate students leave many of them feeling as though what they’ve “learned” is of no value; that the “lessons” they’ve received each day are of no use in the real world. We have created a system where we are assessment driven and students want to know if a task is worth credits. This leaves many teachers disheartened.

New strategies, tactics and procedures are developed to make the next school year better than the previous. Over my years in the classroom, I’ve been able to develop a few ways and means of getting the most out of my students and these overlap with staff.  This year I have also been reflecting on staff and how I can work with them in a better way. Gleaned from my inquiries, readings and experiences I made a list as I resolve this am I leading or managing.

The following site was particularly useful.


1. Relationships – In order to reach any group of people, you must know the audience to which you are speaking to. You have to speak their language, you must invoke their values and traditions in order to get them to go along with the information or concept(s) that you are presenting. You’ve got to meet people where they are. The learning plans we have developed for classes this year are an illustration of this.

2. Don’t Lecture – When people hear anything that sounds like a “lecture,” it is rarely a pleasant thought — it usually involves being punished. In the classroom, a lecture or talk should be more participatory in an effort to cut down the boredom of the students so they can gain the most in any lecture or talk you provide. Same with staff.  This requires patience but it is well worth it.

3. Choices – People like a choice. Often, we don’t provide our people with a choice when it comes to the assignments they have to do… maybe we should.  Giving a student the option of completing either assignment A or assignment B can create independence and ownership of the students work by the students themselves. My staff have been given choices in a number areas.  This has proven successful.

4. Let them Choose – People are opinionated: create assignments that allow them the freedom to give their “expertise.” Create a case study surrounding the content of your lessons or meetings, using language arts as the means for execution and reinforcement: verbally and on paper. This links to student voice or meaningful professional learning.

5. Examination and Discussion – Of course, I don’t mean arguing for argument’s sake. Rather, healthy discussion creates a healthy environment. Being nice is not enough.

6. Use The Technology – Make it their friend not the enemy.

7. Have Fun – Play and have fun when gaining an understanding of whether or not your students learned what you’ve taught them. Use meetings as “bonding” activities to have fun. We have initial one of our staff briefings as Fun Friday. Not nuts and bolts. Its all taking time and learning in different ways.

Professional Reading:

Indigenous Epistemology in a National Curriculum Framework

Angus H. Macfarlane, Ted Glynn, Waiariki Grace, Wally Penetito and Sonja Bateman

A real meaty piece this week which kept me occupied over the holidays. The paper discusses important parallels between western/European sociocultural theorizing on human development and learning (on which the key competencies seemed to be based), and the values, beliefs and preferred practices that are embodied within an indigenous Maori cultural worldview (Te Ao Maori).

Wise Words…

3 Aug

So many people will walk in and out of your life, but those who leave foot prints are true friends.”

Eleanor Roosevelt


Fitted Storytelling from Edward Roads

Danielle Anne Lynch

Music, Theology, Education, Liturgy

Learn To Love Food

Food Fun For Feeding Therapy and Picky Eaters


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