Archive | March, 2018

Appreciative Listening

23 Mar


Lots to think about this week. One of the things I did notice was the idea of listening.

Listening is complicated. It is the sign of a good leader. This week we have done some work on this skill.

Active listeners are listening both with an emphasis on enhancing the interpersonal relationship and to gather information. People have natural listening styles or ways that they process what they’ve heard. A Comprehensive listener will listen to gather information and put it together to create the big picture. An Evaluative listener is automatically judging the information they are listening to. Discerning listeners have a natural style that sifts and sorts fact from fiction. An Empathic listening style helps the listener tap into the feelings of the person they are listening to.

Listeners who have an Appreciative listening style listen for the entertainment and enjoyment of listening, not necessarily to gather information. Understanding our own personal listening strengths and our opportunities for growth is tapping into the power of listening. Almost everyone who experiences being listened to appreciatively, reports that it feels good to feel so deeply heard and respected.

 I find like most leaders, talking is what characterizes our days. Answering questions. Setting direction. Speaking with people about what needs to be done.   It is not unusual for a leader to want to find the “speed up” button when people are speaking or to be multi-tasking.   This links me back to the social discipline window which I am now using a great deal.


Consequently, it is not uncommon for leaders to feel impatient with speakers and to view listening only as too passive a form of influence in their busy schedule.

However, Appreciative Listening is not passive. It is a highly active, totally focused form of attention.  It is not active listening, repackaged. Unlike in active listening where you’re expected to repeat or confirm that you’ve understood what’s been said, appreciative listening asks you to show that you understand the person.

What is Appreciative Listening?

It is listening with the sole purpose of identifying qualities, strengths and values of the speaker that you respect.

Your commitment to do this only needs to be 3 to 5 minutes of focused time.

The payoff is high in terms of increased understanding, improved rapport and in building a more positive work relationship.

The consequences will be that everything begins to work better simply because you have a better understanding of what really matters to the other person.

Appreciative Listening Opens Door to Changed Relationships

Appreciative Listening offers two profound benefits:

  1. It increases the common ground in all your work relationships– even the ones which feel least susceptible to any positive change.
  2. It changes you the listener.

How do you rate as a listener? What role does it play in your work as a leader?

More Blended Learning

22 Mar


At Manawa Tapu (my School) we are aiming to enhance our learning and teaching by fully utilising technology that is available.  However it is important to note that we can’t just throw out everything we know that works for our students.  Blended learning is about combining what we already do so well with technology.  The clip below illustrates this nicely. This was a key point from my blog last time.

Simon Sinek takes a great deal about the Why? This “Why” is so relevant with LwDT. The SAMR model is worth revisiting.


How is your journey in this area going? What are the challenges you are facing?

Clearly Add-on

21 Mar


Clearly is a Google Chrome extension which allows you to read a website without any distractions. It removes pictures, advertisements, comments etc. It is very simple to use. The removal of any distractions is only one mouse click away. You do not need an Evernote account to use Clearly.

How to download Clearly on computers:

  1. Go to: Chrome Web Store
  2. On the top left hand corner, type in “Clearly” and search it up.
  3.  Click the option that looks like this:               \
  4.  Click “Add to Chrome”.
  5.  A pop up box will appear, please click “Add”.
  6. . If you see lamp icon on the top right corner, you have downloaded Clearly.

How to use Clearly:

  1. Go to the website you want to remove distractions from. If you have downloaded Clearly, on the top right hand corner, there should be an icon that looks like a lamp.
  2. Click on the lamp icon.
  3. To go back to the original website, there is a bar on the right, click on the first one icon which should look like an arrow(the direction of the arrow is left).
  4. You can also press Ecs to exit or Control + Alt + Right arrow to go back to the original website.

Blended Learning

20 Mar


I am immersed in a blended learning environment at present in my classroom. Blended Learning doesn’t leave any kind of learner out—whether you prefer the familiar traditional classroom or would rather do things online or both—everyone has a chance to benefit from this all-encompassing style. Not only that, but Blended Learning utilizes so many methodologies that the content can be customized to the learner and optimized for the subject matter.

Blended Learning is an interactive experience in every sense of the word, which makes it fun. Learners engage with the offline lessons by practicing online through a variety of different content media, each geared to suit a certain learning style. Learners can choose which type of content they wish to interact with, practice what they learn and communicate with instructors and other learners anytime and on any device. The community experience keeps learners engaged and informs teachers as to their progress and areas needing more attention.

This week I brainstormed what my classes looked like pedagogically.

Face-to-Face Teaching: Traditional instructor-led learning sessions, supplemented with technology to allow learners to control their own learning pace. Benefits are role-play, mentoring, hands-on practice, collaborative group work and feedback.

Moving it Around: Students go from learning activity to learning activity, either in a structured learning session directed by a teacher, or online in a self-directed manner. Examples include learning stations, labs, and the flipped classroom where learners practice the lesson before attending the face-to-face training.

The Lab: This blended learning model is entirely digital, with little or no instructor interaction. It takes place either before, during or after a lesson. Learners can access content on mobile phones (this is known as mLearning), laptops or tablets.

Flip the classroom: This blended learning model is entirely self-directed and takes place in a digital environment. Learners can engage with an instructor through chat, email or message board. It provides a flexible schedule and personalized learning, but lacks the face-to-face interaction of other types of blended learning. This great for conferencing assessment both formative and summative.

How are you dealing with this digital environment?


It’s just not cricket..

18 Mar


Before I begin apologies for the metaphors this week but I couldn’t resist. Recently, I went spent a day at Junior Primary cricket and it got me thinking about the links between cricket and our role as teachers.

Selecting the Right Bat:

Mine was always the Duncan Fernley Magnum growing up. When you arrive at the crease, it is important you select a bat based on your size and strength. Some people select a heavy bat, while others select a lighter one. Some people select one on feel or brand. Me? Well, it was the Magnum because Martin Crowe used it.

Personalized learning should allow students to have choices and to select tools (the bat) that will make them feel comfortable while searching for answers and participating in the assigned tasks.


Sometimes when you are younger you play on a half pitch or the ball might be modified.

When students need modifications, it is worth the time, money, and effort. Modifications allow students to gain confidence and eventually some students will be ready for the next level of learning without the modifications. Scaffolding is another term that came to mind when I saw my young daughter have a hit. Scaffolding is a skill that teachers learn over time and it provides students with instructional supports which facilitate learning when students are first introduced to a new subject.

Second Life:

In the younger grades often the tamariki get another go if they are out first ball. As a Dad I really like this rule. As a player I know I would have hated it.

Frequently, teachers create assessments which only provide students with a single opportunity to reach a proficient score. Tamariki gain confidence when they get runs, because it means that they get a second go it helps them. The simple fact is that if we want all students to meet standards (and we already have established that such success is essential) then they must all believe that success is within reach for them if they try. The critical new insight about assessment is, what students think about and do with assessment results is every bit as important as what the adults think about and do with those results. As we look at the example from cricket, we must remember that the goal is for all tamariki to succeed and develop a love for the game, even if they do get out on their first attempt.

The Rules

There is no doubt cricket is a complex sport with many rules. There are many teachable moments here especially around leg before wicket (LBW). At all levels the fielding team can be seen to appeal for everything and there is often confusion as any players do not understand the rules.

How often do our students experience a confusion in their understanding? Students may demonstrate proficiency in some areas, but they still lack true understanding of a key concept. When teachers are developing curriculum and instruction, they must anticipate a lack in student understanding. There are several ‘misunderstandings’ that teachers can predict will occur at each grade level. Wiggins and McTighe (2007) suggest that teachers should identify student misunderstandings in curriculum documents. If teachers predict that students will need a second or third attempt, then they will be prepared to reteach or offer different approaches for students to gain a clear understanding and meet the learning goals established by the teacher. Most of our students will not score a strike on their first attempt, and we should be prepared to reset the pins and offer additional opportunities to learn.

A wicket:

Everybody had a bowl. There were high fives and cheering when someone got a wicket. It is fun to celebrate success.

Students need a goal to aim for. It is easier to reach a learning goal if you understand the rules and are supported in your learning. Teachers can create small wins when they develop curriculum and instruction. Teams of teachers should meet on a regular basis to share strategies which support diverse learning styles and result in student success. I am not trying to advocate for a script for all teachers, but it makes sense to have a learning target and to provide support for each student.

No balls and wides:

The game of cricket consists of penalties and there are penalties for bowling poorly. Bowlers are not allowed to cross the line when they release the ball it is called a no ball or wide if the batsman can’t reach it.

When teachers design curriculum and instruction they should take precaution and make certain that students understand the boundaries. Some teachers prefer inquiry learning or experimental learning and this style of teaching discourages boundaries to a certain extent. Some adults view boundaries as expectations or societal norms. Quality curriculum and instruction can lead students to understand boundaries which exist in life (i.e., citizenship, communication, technology, collaborative work, and research ethics) and develop the key competencies. Students may decide to push the boundaries in some areas, while staying within the boundaries in other classes. The key is that our curriculum and instruction create opportunities for students to as they will need to understand in order to be successful as adults.


Personalized learning, opportunity to learn, identifying learning targets, providing scaffolding, identifying barriers to learning, and celebrating student success have been in existence for over one hundred years. Teachers and administrators understand what good teaching looks like and they strive to meet the needs of each student. However, wishing to succeed and having an intentional strategy are two different approaches.

Curriculum development is critical if we are going to meet the needs of each student. Some teachers spend evenings and weekends developing curriculum and planning instructional strategies which will meet the learning needs of each student. Other teachers fail to plan and struggle to identify the learning goal of their activities and group assignments.  We don’t need students to get a wicket on  the first attempt, but we should be prepared to help each student get a wicket or run by the end of the unit or end of the semester. Tamariki will enjoy learning more when teachers plan curriculum which supports student learning needs and when teachers provide differentiated instruction and additional support.  How are you supporting your learners.


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, G., (2007). Schooling by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Facebook and School

12 Mar

Business Communication Duplicate model

Facebook has been a great communication / marketing tool for our school community. According to Facebook “insight” stats – our record is 3700 unique people that viewed content on our Facebook page in one week – usually this averages around 2000 unique people every week.   Most are students –however there are a lot of parents and Year 13 students from last year who still like to feel involved with the school.   We also “like” other community groups.

Status updates are used to promote events / achievements along with uploading photo albums (photos are checked beforehand for any inappropriate pictures, gestures – you need to look carefully as there may be a student doing something silly in the background, and using your discretion if there is a photo that isn’t very flattering
especially with body image conscious teenagers).  A lot of students share our photos on their own profiles and “tag” each other in the photos, as well as being able to post comments on photos and updates.

In terms of a quick way of getting news out – its great – when we had a water shortage and had to close the school we put out a FB update to advise our community.

Students and parents alike asked questions about how to contact bus companies.
Because each person uses their own name – there is very little if any inappropriate posting or bad language.   I have had to remove two derogatory posts in five years of our FB page.

I see the following as being key points:
Making sure its kept up to date regularly and status updates are “as they happen”.    Students really appreciate photos going up quickly –
i.e. most events where I have access to the camera I will post the pictures the same day.   The problem lies with staff members who give you photos weeks later – by then its too late and “old news” and students don’t bother looking at them.    It’s a buzz getting news, videos and photos online before students do!

Keeping an eye on things – I have notifications set to go to my email and I can easily check them on my cellphone.   If there are issues you can react quickly and remove inappropriate posts.

Interaction – if a student posts a really supportive/positive comment– I’ll “like” their comment or occasionally comment as well.   It reinforces positive comments and the way we expect students to behave.  It is a reflection of our dispositions.

A quote I use often dealing with social media is from Eric Qualman (who has written a book on social media and society). “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is HOW WELL we do it.”

How well does your school “do” social media?

Coaching Principles

10 Mar


When coaches and teachers interact equally as partners, good things happen.

                                                                                                                                  Jim Knight

This week our Leaders of Learning group focused on an interesting reading. In it Jim Knight outlined the partnership philosophy approach to coaching.  Through his research, practice, and reflection 7 principles are outlined. Equality, Choice, Voice, Dialogue, Reflection, Praxis, and Reciprocity. (Knight, 2007, pp. 37-54) 

Equality: Both the coach and the teacher contribute equally to the conversation.  The teacher and coach may not have equal knowledge on all topics, but both points of view are worth being heard and valued as a part of the discussion.  Respect and compassion must be infused throughout conversations.

Choice: In a coaching partnership teachers must have choice in the professional development.  Without choice it is hard to define the relationship as a partnership, thus without choice professional development is likely to fail. (Knight, 2007, p. 42) By providing quality choices the teacher can say yes and no.  When choices are taken away the teacher’s professional opinion has been neglected.  Everyone wants to be treated as a professional.

Voice: Make teachers feel seen and heard.  Their opinions and needs are heard and do matter.  Even if the coach does not necessarily agree with what the teacher’s opinions and what they have to share, the coach must put their opinions aside to listen.   Listening provides the coach with insight and provides the teacher with an engaged listener with an opportunity to share.

Dialogue: In a coaching partnership it is not about winning the conversation, but continuing conversations and bouncing ideas around in a professional way.  I like the analogy of a pinball machine to great dialogue in which it is difficult to keep track of whose ideas are who’s because the conversation is so constant.  Inquiry and innovation occurs through dialogue.

Reflection: Reflection is a practice to engage in as an IC and teacher during and after during and after implementing a new strategy or content.  Some teachers do not innately reflect on their practices, thus coaches can provided the reminders, prompts, and strategies to do so.

Praxis: When a teacher applies a new strategy or ideas and applies to their existing practice, this is praxis.  The teacher may explore, prod, stretch, and recreate a new approach into one’s own teaching practices (Knight, 2007, p. 49).  In my opinion Praxis “dove-tails” well with reflection.  As we become more reflective teachers and instructional coaches we tend to be more open-minded and connecting new strategies to practice is simplified.

Reciprocity:  The coaching relationship is one that provides both parties with learning opportunities.  Both parties have an opportunity to win.

One member of staff put a successful coaching session this way. I feel valued. I feel as though I have reflected.  I suppose staff “feel validated as teachers, as professionals, and more important, they feel validated as people.” (Knight, 2007, p. 51)

Data Analysis Time

3 Mar


Leading a conversation about data can be a daunting task. Data analysis is an emotional experience for classroom teachers and senior leaders alike. When teacher teams analyse classroom and course analysis data, they often experience something similar to the Five Stages of Grief (Kübler-Ross & Kessler, 2005). The five stages for teacher teams are similar because each person on the team may experience a different emotional reaction to the data that is presented.

In my course analysis korero I ask staff to reflect on the last time you or your teacher team reviewed data from a common formative assessment, NCEA, benchmark scores, or feedback from a school audit or ERO. Did you experience any of the emotions listed Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression or Acceptance?

Were you frustrated because some members of the team denied the data? When teachers see data for the first time they may experience anger, denial, or depression. The initial reaction will not be the same for all teachers in a school and it is important to remember that the five stages are not linear. In my role, I hope that all members of the teacher team ‘accept’ the test data and develop SMART goals to address the strengths and weaknesses highlighted in the data report. The reality is that some teachers may not be able to ‘accept’ the data. If you are on a teacher team with six members and your third period class had the lowest scores, then you may experience denial or anger.

Douglas Reeves offers Five Tips for Effective Data Teams. Reeves’ cautions educators to remember “Data Trumps Opinion.” When teacher teams meet to analyze data about students, more informed decisions about curriculum and instruction. Teachers can use data analysis tools and protocols to assist each person with the range of emotions associated with test data. Leadership involves assessing the current reality and facilitating crucial conversations.

Whiria te tangata

1 Mar


Lots to think about this week as I continue my Te Reo journey on a Wednesday morning with staff. Below is a beautiful karakia, which I am learning this year. Richness of the language always humbles me. It has made me reflect on my Māori learners this week.

Māori students’ educational needs are not homogeneous as Māori identity is diverse (Durie, 1995). It is no secret NZ school students are high performing on a world scale however, the achievement gap between its highest and lowest performers (predominantly Māori) is one of the biggest from all of the countries surveyed (ERO, 2010b). Such research although alarming is not new as ERO (2010a) states: “Although many Māori students have been successful in education, research and national and international testing data continue to show significant disparity in the achievement of Māori and non-Māori students. Improved Māori student achievement has been a key government priority in education over the decade” (p.1). Despite national reports continuing to indicate disparity between Māori and non-Māori students, of the programmes, initiatives, and resources that have been implemented over the last twenty years there have been several successful initiatives such as Te Kotahitanga (Bishop, 2008) and He Kakano (University of Waikato & Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, 2010).

The question I continually ask is how relevant is my schools curriculum for Māori and students? That is cultural identity – every day, everywhere, from policy, the processes, assemblies, hui, through to practice. It must be more than having a Kapa Haka competition.

Culture cannot be left to all students doing Te Reo for 6 weeks in Year 9. It is about critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is not a sense of critical thinking, it is a movement. You need to be in it…culturally sustaining pedagogy. It is NOT about leaving our identity at the gate, which we pick up after school. Rather, collaboration throughout the day, where students can be Māori first, Indian first, Australian first, Pasifika first, and work in ways which are successful. We want our learners to be able to think universally, AND culturally strong.


This is reflected in Tātaiako – Cultural competencies for Teachers. The Tātaiako – Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners supports both Ka Hikitia strategies and aligns with the Graduating Teacher Standards and Registered Teacher Criteria developed by the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC, 2010). The main objective of the document is to improve teacher pedagogy and capacity to effectively teach students, particularly Māori learners. For school leaders the focus is on leading and engaging educators in a way that affirms Māori culture while providing the resources to enable this to happen. The document provides five competencies that include a set of indicators and outcomes that differentiate between a graduating teacher and a registered teacher. The five competencies Tataiako (MOE, 2011 p. 4) identifies are:

  • Wānanga: Describes participating with learners and communities in robust dialogue for the benefit of Mäori learners’ achievement.
  • Whānaungatanga: Expresses actively engaging in respectful working relationships with Māori learners, parents and whānau, hapu, iwi and the Mäori community.
  • Manaakitanga: Refers to showing integrity, sincerity, and respect towards Mäori beliefs, language, and culture.
  • Tangata Whenuatanga: Explains affirming Mäori learners as Mäori. Providing contexts for learning where the language, identity and culture of Mäori learners and their whānau is affirmed.
  • Ako: portrays taking responsibility for their own learning and that of Mäori learners.

How relevant is your schools curriculum for Māori and students? Whirea te tangata. Weave the people together




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