Tag Archives: Ako

Reflection: Ako@Home

25 May


Our platform for delivering digital learning during Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, Ako@Home, proved to be a successful model.  Microsoft Teams provided consistency of delivery and flexibility in its capacity and proved to be an appropriate place for both the sharing of resources and virtual face to face engagement.

The key to the success of Ako@Home were some key habits generated through our Manawa Mission dispositions of Ako, Manaakitanga and Wāhine Toa. These habits were:

  1. Students checking their email every morning
  2. Staff and students following the daily timetable
  3. Finding a quiet place to work
  4. Embedding the relationship with lead pastoral carers, Manaaki teachers.

The key support person at school was the Manaaki Teacher, who contacted students every week. Through this process, I’m proud that our staff were constantly looking at ways to move forward and offer our students a better educational experience, instead of defaulting to a compliant “it worked before” mentality. I was excited about seeing positive energy from our staff in preparing our students for their futures, as a result of this unusual experience. As we reflect on Ako@Home, we must continue to move forward by re-considering our structures and reflecting on our teaching.

I saw many things in our students during Ako@Home. Our students have engaged in the learning at times that suited them. They have self-managed; driven their own learning and behaviour, such as making the effort to contact staff themselves one on one when they had questions. They made choices, problem solved such as solving technical problems and discovered how to use digital tools themselves. They felt empowered and a sense of accomplishment. They developed skills that will one day truly assist them moving from education to employment. At home, they noticed real-life and reconnected with whānau in their homes. They genuinely applied our Manawa Mission dispositions.

Some students struggled. In saying this, we need to remember that it is OK to be stuck or to have a hard day.  In fact, this should be welcomed as I would suggest that if we can find ways to get past difficulties or hard days, we can find our way forward towards real learning. As teachers and caregivers, we need to try to avoid finding solutions for our young people straight away. While it might be frustrating when our young people don’t follow our instructions, or we feel understandably worried for them when they are not managing their learning, we need to resist rescuing. These challenges lead to enhanced learning.  By helping our young people develop these key life skills we are also helping them to experience that sense of achievement that can only be truly experienced after a struggle.  This builds determination, resilience and a growth mind-set.

Celebrate our Principals..

12 May


Last week, I was at an online course and one of the contributors spoke about the importance of pedagogy on student learning. She spoke about the importance and impact of quality leadership in schools on student learning. Very true.

It made me drift away and consider the role of principal. The role of the principal is not just that of a master teacher who has climbed up the ladder. Occasionally it is and that is where we get it wrong in our profession but that is a blog for another day. Principals are tasked with fostering effective relationships with students, staff, parents and whanau. Look at any job description and you will see there is an expectancy that they are visionary in nature and are able to lead their learning community both effectively and efficiently. They must also be instructional leaders, facilitate leadership opportunities in others, manage school operations and do so with an appreciation and understanding of multiple perspectives and varying contexts. In addition, be problem solving and collaborative in nature.

Being a lifelong learner is part of their mandate. Great schools come about by pushing good schools to be better, not upholding the status quo. Persevering what has always been done. Challenging the status quo is never easy and is often met with resistance from both home and abroad.

To continually seek innovative practice and enhanced student learning, is never without some push back. Being a successful change agent requires that principals build significant organizational trust and practice both persistence and patience simultaneously.

Even though school leaders are required to be learned, it is equally important that they are constantly learning and modelling continuous growth to staff, students and parents. Sometimes it might be difficult for these leaders to be gone from the school and out of the building, principals must be fully engaged in high quality professional learning in order to support the overall school community. It is crucial that they maintain a high level of educational leadership through their own learning.

When you really look at the job description of a principal it is easy to recognize how important their role is in promoting student learning. It is a complex position that requires almost superhuman abilities. This week while we are celebrating going back to school it important to take time to reflect on our principals and the job they do.

Kai kaha.


A time for everything….

24 Apr


I  believe that prayer, mediation, mindfulness call it what you will is good for the soul. The following I keep close at hand:

A Time for Everything from Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,

A time to plant and a time to uproot,

A time to kill and a time to heal,

A time to tear down and a time to build,

A time to weep and a time to laugh,

A time to mourn and a time to dance,

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

A time to search and a time to give up,

A time to keep and a time to throw away,

A time to tear and a time to mend,

A time to be silent and a time to speak,

A time to love and a time to hate,

A time for war and a time for peace.


Currently I am often asking often that we do not understand where, or when, or why, or how. But we learn to trust in the Lord and we walk together as a faith community.

I’m proud of our middle leaders and the staff in our buildings. I’m proud that they are constantly looking at ways to move forward and offer our students a better education experience, instead of defaulting to a compliant “it worked before” mentality. I’m excited, as I see the positive energy in our staff and transformational changes in our buildings and classrooms that are preparing our students for their future and not our past. That is the passion they possess as we go AKO@HOME.

I laugh out loud when I hear people who wish us to return to the ‘good old day’s of education. I might argue if it was truly good enough for them but I’m sure it is not good enough for our students today. It can’t be. The world is far too complex to resort to the basics. Foundational skills must be mastered but not as a product but rather as an opportunity to expand our learning.

We must move forward by adjusting our structures, reflecting on our instructional practice and creating the rich learning environments that our students need and deserve.


Learning from Lock-down

27 Mar


“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

During the lock-down I have been thinking lots about how things on the other side. Doctors are certainly viewed as learned. They possess an incredible amount of knowledge and their practice is unique. Their medical degree certainly suggests that they are learned. But how satisfied would you be with your doctor if she did not engage in further learning beyond her degree? Would we not want our own doctor to learn about the latest research, most effective practices and prescribe the best new drugs? It would be unacceptable for doctors to be simply learned; they must also be learners.

The same must be true for educators. Although it is not often recognized universally, educators do possess a unique body of knowledge that satisfies a professional designation. It is easy to criticize educators because all of us have gone to school, but the fact is unless you’ve been in the classroom you have limited knowledge of the real work of a teacher. However, receiving that education degree only enables educators to be viewed as learned.

There was a time in education when being learned was all that was required. We held the knowledge and delivered it accordingly. We have all heard of the sage on the stage.

But today’s classroom is far different and far more diverse than ever before. Now, educators must still be learned to a high degree but to be truly effective, educators must be learners through and through. Just as we would expect our doctors to engage in the latest practices, we must expect that of our educators too. Today’s educators must be lifelong learners throughout their careers.

Educators, new or experienced must first have the attitude to be a learner. There needs to be a constant desire to improve one’s practice, to hone one’s skills. This is a difficult task because it requires honest self-reflection on the part of the teacher and high levels of feedback from supervisors and peers.

“Teachers who set high goals, who persist, who try another strategy when one approach is found wanting – in other words, teachers who have a high sense of efficacy and act on it – are more likely to have students who learn.” (Shaughnessy, 2004)

 “To teach like a professional or teach like a pro, as they say in the language of sports, is a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence, and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract. But teaching like a pro, day in , day out, cannot be sustained unless your colleagues teach like pros too. … “Professional capital is about collective responsibility, not individual autonomy; about scientific evidence as well as personal judgment; about being open to one’s clients rather than sitting on a pedestal above them; and ultimately about being tough on those colleagues who, after every effort and encouragement, fall short of their professional mission and let their peers as well as their students down (p. xv)”. (Hargreaves and Fullan)

We recognize that a love of learning must be a goal of any educational system since learners will be those who inherit the earth. We also understand that while students are in school, their greatest impact is from their teachers. They have the ability and possibly the responsibility to act as a role model for the love of learning and the importance of being not just learned but a learner. It is no longer permissible to be just learned.Educators must be learners.


Our Pledge to Students

7 Jan


As a school leader I often get caught up with staff and forget the students. My reflection today as on our students and a pledge to them. We all need reminding of this sometimes.

  1. I pledge to pay attention to who you are.
  2. I pledge to keep out of your way so that you can take on the work of learning and enjoy the fruits of learning for yourself.
  3. I pledge to provide you with a physically and psychologically safe learning environment.
  4. I pledge to listen to the feedback you give me verbally, non-verbally, and in your work, and use this feedback to do a better job of meeting your needs.
  5. I pledge to keep trying until together, we figure out the best way to help you learn.
  6. I pledge to do all that I can to set you up to succeed.
  7. I pledge to learn alongside you.

You may have some to add.

Religions of the World

25 Feb


While my ako inquiry will deal with leadership again this year I am making a big effort tin the area of my own specialist subject- Religious Studies. A reminder this is an academic subject not one of faith development. Well, that how I see it.

On describing his conversion to Christianity, C. S. Lewis remarked, ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’ (Lewis, 1945, p. 21). To paraphrase, for Lewis, not only is Christianity something credible to believe in, but it also provides a coherent and credible framework within which to make sense of everything else.

Theologians working within other religious traditions would mostly concur with this: while no one can have a “God’s eye” view of the world (other than God) – religion provides the most meaningful and satisfactory way to see the universe. Furthermore, in addition to perceiving, religions also provide a way of being in the world. They impact and form the habits, philosophies, theologies, aspirations, ethical positions and education (among other things), of those who identify with them.

RE teaching aspires to place religions into a historical context. This is important because it prevents students from the quintessential: just because a Scripture says x, or members of a tradition have done x, it does not follow that all members of a tradition will do the same. A historical context for the development of religion also encourages adherents of a given tradition to view their own tradition more critically.

However, research in the field of the Study of Religions has stressed an additional sense in which cultural context is important. W.C. Smith emphasized that ‘religion’ itself is an unstable category, which has been shaped through political processes and is defined in different ways in different contexts. Concepts of ‘religion’ may be related to one another genealogically, but what they share, according to these theorists, is that they are determined by the assumptions and political expediency of the powerful over the less powerful.

Religion has, of course, been defined in many ways by scholars. Ninian Smart argued that religion was characterised by doctrine and philosophy; myth; a tradition of law and ethics; rituals; an emotional connection to the sacred and the presence of distinct hierarchies. Smart stressed that none of these characteristics were necessary for a tradition to be a religion, but that most religions included most of these features.

Nevertheless, the study of religion has been plagued by its difficulty in pinning down its subject matter precisely: it has been accused of becoming a discipline that has failed to find anything to study. But such accusations miss the point: instead of focusing on individual religious traditions (Islam; Christianity; Judaism etc.), the study of religions has found a new focus in the problematical the term ‘religion’ itself. ‘Religion’, J.Z. Smith would argue, cannot be used as a term of analysis because its definition is too contested to be useful and we cannot be sure that we are comparing like with like.


On the other hand, the study of religion has re-focussed its efforts around tracking the ways that ‘the powerful’ have used the definition of the word to re-forge the world in their own image. Nongbri’s work in particular has rebelled against the idea that traditions have a true religious belief, which is embedded in Scripture and which, like Protestant Christianity, can be privatised without intruding on the state. He emphasises that the notion of a true core belief (‘Christianity is the religion of love’; ‘Islam is the religion of peace’) is indebted to Romantic-era notions of the ‘true spirit’ of different national cultures. We might find it appealing to imagine ‘good’ versions of Islam and Christianity, with things we dislike as later accretions, this does not do justice to the formation of religious traditions as fluid entities that change and transform as they are passed between generations. Lots to reflect on but plenty of discussion for my Religious Studies class this week.


Learning for the Week:

6 Apr


The more distractions you have during competing that big project, the less chance you’ll have to discover that mind-blowing, problem-solving, genius idea. While it’s good to get up and move (think walking meetings “walk with me”; getting outside on duty for lunch; periodic stretching at my stand up desk) make sure that you’re not constantly stopping and starting your work–especially when you’re onto something.

I have learnt this so far this year. Gather up everything you need ahead of time. Minimize distractions by finding a quiet place and letting others know that you’re not available for talking about last night’s game (we’re not above popping in a pair of silent earbuds if that’s what it takes). Take five minutes to prep your space and materials so that nothing takes you out of the zone once you find your zen. It has also minimized mty mistakes. I hope.

Mindful Communication

2 Apr


Have you ever said or wrote something you later regretted? Me too. Even though I read and practice mindfulness it all sometimes get the best of me.

Mindful communication helps us use the space between our thoughts and words to “undo” potentially troublesome language before we put it out into the world. Here is something I am trying to perfect.

How do I do it? Ask yourself these questions before turning a thought into words:

First, ask whether the thought is true.

Second, ask if it’s kind.

Third, is it necessary.

Fourth, is the thought beneficial?

If the thought does not meet all of these four criteria, avoid communicating it.

Wish me luck with this and feel free to take it up yourself.

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



Professional Reading Weekend

28 Oct


A have had a big weekend dedicated to professional reading. This is all part of my annual goal and to continually improve. Common themes that emerge from my reading were:

  • the importance of connecting
  • a leadership paradigm of coaching
  • collaboration and learning spaces for thinking and working in teams
  • approaching curriculum design as an innovator.

In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson writes about generating breakthroughs and the patterns behind innovation. The keys are: developing slow hunches over time (as opposed to sudden Eureka moments), connected minds are smarter than lone thinkers, where you think is crucial, and the best ideas come from building on the ideas of others.

In Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner contends that the disruptive nature of innovation creates challenges to traditional authority.

“Can those of us who have positional authority develop this kind of earned and enabling authority? Can our institutions of learning and work recognize and promote a new kind of authority? Can we move from top-down, compliance-based systems of accountability in our schools to forms of accountability that are more face-to-face – reciprocal and relational? And, finally, are we prepared to not merely tolerate but to welcome and celebrate the kinds of questioning, disruption, and even disobedience that come with innovation?” (Tony Wagner)

In Bringing Innovation to School, Suzie Boss makes the case for design thinking, the use of physical space, gaming for learning, and using networks for innovation.

“When teachers are fine-tuning project plans, they can use rapid prototyping to invite feedback (from colleagues, outside experts, and students), make adjustments, and then see what happens during implementation. Projects will get better with each iteration if teachers make a habit of reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and how they can improve on the plan next time around. When they approach curriculum design this way, they’re modelling what it means to think and work like an innovator.” (Suzie Boss)


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