Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 10, Criterion 3, Standard 1, Standard 3, Teacher Registration

The Importance of Community Engagement

Earlier this year I began my Masters in Educational Leadership and Management through Unitec. For the one paper, I was required to interview my principal about how he facilitated diversity at Whangaparaoa College. This is part two of the essay that I wrote about my key findings.

The school has a diverse range of learners which represent 52 different countries. 60.6 % are New Zealand European; 11.8% are Māori; 10.6% are other European and the remaining people include African, Chinese, Pacific Island, Latin American and Middle Eastern learners. This is a huge range of learners and community engagement is necessary to support the achievement of all learners. Although my principal is Pakeha, his leadership style is cognisant of the need to “resonate with Māori conceptions of leadership…” (Hohepa & Robson, 2008, p. 31) in which communication with the whanau is valued. One of the school goals, Objective 9, is to  “create a welcoming and inclusive environment; evidenced by cultural harmony, respect, and a positive two-way relationship with whanau/community” (School Staff Handbook, 2016, p. 2). He is aware that what works for Māori will work for all but that the reverse is not necessarily true. There are many ways that the school utilises to engage with this diverse community.

There is a whānau support group that used to meet regularly once a term when the school was establishing itself and working through some issues. Recently, this has not been as well attended by local whānau. When I asked my principal why he thought this might be, he explained that 10 years ago there were growing pains and the school was establishing itself as a new school so there was more interest in what leadership was doing. Nowadays, it would seem that the school community feel more confident in the way that school is being run so don’t feel the same need to attend meetings.

The Board of Trustees also has included a member of Māori descent to represent the Māori community. This was recognised the recent 2016 ERO report,  “The co-opting of a trustee of Māori descent to the board of trustees with te reo and Tikanga Māori, and links through to the Māori community” (p.4). This member can communicate with their community to report on all the positive initiatives that are lead by the principal. Hohepa and Robson (2008) describe 4 principles of Maori leadership and Principle 4 relates to the leader being a waka and “ensuring that the status of the community is such that the people can feel proud to belong” (p. 23). The community of this school are proud and the recent ERO report of 2016 supports this: “Māori students speak very positively about the school culture and learning. They value the opportunities they have to engage in the wider life of the college. They also appreciate teachers’ efforts to be culturally responsive and to affirm their language and cultural identity. Māori students demonstrate a strong sense of belonging and pride in the school” (p. 4). It would seem that the school is providing a supportive learning environment in which learners of diverse backgrounds feel that they are able to achieve well in.

Another way that the school engages with the community is through counselling and youth workers. There are five youth workers who visit the school and hang out at break times with learners. The counsellors collaborate with the youth workers and they contact home when needed. According to Bishop, O’Sullivan and Berryman (2010), “Effective leadership that aims to sustain an educational reform needs to develop a means to spread reform so that parents, whānau, and community are engaged in a way that addresses their aspirations for the education of their children” (p. 106). By using youth workers to connect and engage with learners the school is able to help learners feel that they belong and have someone to talk to about any issues they are facing. The councillors will also connect with learners to help them develop strategies to deal with their issues. The whānau are then contacted so that they are aware of the issues. When our learners are supported in this manner, they are more able to address their learning knowing that they are supported by the school and by their whānau.

When discussing communication, my principal explained that instead of assuming that a communication was received and understood, he will go the other way and assume that it wasn’t until it is confirmed. He will check by asking a parent what their take away from the meeting is. To him, it is really important that both parties are clear. He explained that families from other cultures may say that it is clear but will sometimes misunderstand. Shields and Sayani (2005) when explaining cross-cultural leadership state, “For us, the term requires that leaders take a stand in the midst of diversity, helping all members of the community to understand it and to translate those understandings into positive and respectful action” (p. 384). By checking that both parties are clear, respect is shown and both parties can move forward in a positive manner.

When it comes to practical methods of communicating with the community, the school has a website, an app, a Facebook page, a newsletter, and a sign near the main road to the school. My principal explained that he tries to make sure it goes out in three different ways at three different times. He said that it’s got to be in the newsletter, on the app, on the sign, on the Facebook page and on the website. This is for advertising an upcoming event such as an Achievers’ Breakfast or a Prize Giving Ceremony. He explained that to try and engage through programmes, strategies, and support methods is much more complicated but the school will keep trying and be listening. My principal believes that listening is important, and will also ask, what can we do better? According to Bishop, O’Sullivan and Berryman (2010), “Leaders of high-achieving schools are more likely to see their goals and expectations are well understood and to see that academic achievement is recognised and conveyed to the community” (p. 101). By providing so many methods of communication and being prepared to listen, engagement with the community is more effective and our learners’ whanau are aware of the progress that their young people are making.

Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 3, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Teacher Registration

The Importance of Relationships – Whanaungatanga

Earlier this year I began my Masters in Educational Leadership and Management through Unitec. For the one paper, I was required to interview my principal about how he facilitated diversity at Whangaparaoa College. This is part one of the essay that I wrote about my key findings.

To begin, I thanked my principal for agreeing to help me with my assignment and then we began. As we progressed through the questions, I had to consciously stop myself from contributing and remember that it was an interview. This was a challenge at times as I wanted to share ideas. This was a drawback of interviewing someone from my school as I knew what he was talking about when he gave examples. Interviewing someone from another school may have eliminated this challenge. However, I am happy that I chose my principal as I left the interview with plenty to ponder and there were clear themes that arose from his answers.

The first key finding that arose from the interview with my principal was his focus on the importance of relationships. In particular, knowing and growing our learners which is one of our school goals. The school motto Together, Believe, Achieve also reflects the importance of relationships and learner achievement. When asked about strategies in place to lead a diverse population, he explained how important it was that every teacher knew their learners and appreciated their differences. He also explained how important it is to respect all learners and to lead by example. This is supported by Shields and Sayani (2005), who explain that “Dialogic interaction is the foundation of the educational leader’s ability to lead in a context of diversity. We must meet the other, in the fullness of his or her identity, experience, emotions, and actions, in order to develop the relationships that lead to sharing within diversity” (p. 388). My principal can often be seen chatting with learners, especially after school, as he likes to connect with them as they leave for the day. He will also chat with learners on his way around the school. In this way, he is able to develop relationships and understand some of the differences of our learners.

Some of the ways in which these differences are appreciated are through an International Food Festival where many different cultures set up food stalls to sell food from their culture. Staff are also encouraged to dress up in a costume that reflects their heritage. In June, the school celebrates Matariki with a concert in our wharenui. There is a variety of dance and music and anyone is welcome to participate. Also at Matariki time several ex-learners, who are of Māori/Pasifika origin, visit the school and join four to five Year Seven learners for an early morning dawn ceremony of acknowledging and celebrating Matariki by planting trees and sharing kai.

My principal also values talking and listening to learners to find out more about who they are and where they come from. In these ways, a sense of community is created that values and respects diversity and difference. As Shields and Sayani(2005) explain, “For school leaders, an understanding of dialogue as ontological and deeply relational, leading to meaningful communication and understanding, provides the focus for creating spaces and a sense of community in which all members of the school feel accepted, respected, and valued” (p. 389) Modeling communication and relationship with learners shows the staff how much our principal values members of the school and encourages us all to do the same. Building a positive and relaxed rapport with our learners is something that stood out to me when I first began teaching here last year. The learners feel accepted and acknowledged.

 The strategic plan of knowing your learners was emphasised several times in the interview. My principal explained the four Ns – Numbers, Names Needs, Next which is broken down into the following questions: Who are these kids? How are they doing? What do they need? He explained the importance of each Academic Counsellor and each subject teacher knowing something about their learners and the need for greater understanding of where the learners come from. Bishop, O’Sullivan, and Berryman (2010) found that “…teachers and leaders create learning relationships wherein learners’ culturally generated sense-making processes are used and developed so that they may successfully participate in problem-solving and decision-making interactions” (p. 98). Acknowledging difference and showing interest another’s culture builds trust and helps to develop a positive learning relationship where learners are able to achieve well. As Bishop, O’Sullivan, and Berryman (2010) also found that an effective leader will model and promote these strategies. In their summary of effective leadership, the element Leaders support the development and implementation of new pedagogic relationships and interactions in the classroom, an associated task is to “promote the cultural identity of learners as being fundamental to learning relations and interactions” (p. 110).

Whānau is the principle of extended family structure and whanaungatanga is the forming of groups that are treated as an extended family (Bishop, Ladwig, and Berryman, 2013, p. 189).  Bishop, Ladwig, and Berryman (2013) found that Māori learners attributed good quality relationships and interactions with their teachers as an influence on their educational achievement (p. 191). They also saw a supportive learning context as one where their teachers established caring relationships. “In effect, the context that Māori students saw as being supportive of their learning was one where teachers establish caring and learning classroom relationships that they described in terms of whānau-like relationships, whanaungatanga” (p.191). So there is plenty of research to support the importance of knowing your learners and growing whānau-like relationships with them to help them achieve well.

Hohepa and Robinson (2008) examined whether the conception of educational leadership was inclusive of Maori perspectives on leadership. They explain that relationships are built into all of the eight dimensions of leadership. “Relationships can play a significant part in developing knowledge of and respect for individual and cultural identities” (p. 34). It is important to know our learners and understand their experiences so that we can create a caring environment for them to learn well in.

Hine Waitere (2008) found that, “… leadership is not only a call to action but rather it is a call to relationship. A relationship with people, processes and principles embedded within the socio-political contexts that do indeed require foresight, courage and critical engagement” (p. 45). From the interview with my principal, I have learnt that he values relationships highly and sees them as the foundation for positive learning outcomes for our students. The valuing and promotion of positive relationships is part of creating a successful environment as explained by Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd (2009): “Leadership can facilitate the achievement of important academic and social goals by creating an environment that is conducive to success” (p.42).

Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 3, Standard 1, Teacher Registration

Maori Language week 

Maori Language Week ran from 11 – 17 September this year and our department chose to celebrate it with our learners by creating presentations about our favourite whakatauki. The wonderful Christine Emery created a resource for us to use which I modified slightly:

As my learners entered the class I greeted them with ‘Morena!’ and, after calling “whakarongo mai!’ explained what we would be doing. My learners really enjoyed this activity and engaged in it wholeheartedly. Once learner even created some poi which we had fun with. It was great to have a break from the activity we had been working on for a few weeks.

Posted in Criterion 2, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 5, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

Can we truly personalise learning?

I have a dream! A vision of learners who are excited to come to school and learn because they have chosen what they will learn about and how they will do it. Their learning is totally personalised.

If I was at school today I would want to learn how to form a rock band, write and record songs, plan a tour and a marketing campaign. To do this I would choose music, English, business studies, design technology, fabrics (costumes are important!) and maths – eek!

How cool would it be to do subjects that you could see were totally relevant to what you wanted to do in life?! I realise that this is not an original dream or vision and that there are many schools already achieving this to some extent. But I feel like I can almost taste it, that it is just around the corner…but how do we get there?


What is Personalised Learning?

Recently I decided to do some research into what personalised learning is and how it actually happens. According to The Glossary of Education Reform website:

The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. 

A range of strategies and methods are employed to personalise the learning of each student. These strategies and methods include developing strong relationships with learners; mentoring; differentiated learning; creating learning portfolios; including student voice; passion projects; and inquiry based learning.

I was surprised to realise that many schools already offer a range of these strategies and methods. We are on the way to realising the grand vision!


What do we already do?
In the English faculty at Whangaparaoa College, many of us use Project Based Learning as a teaching and learning style which gives our learners choice and voice. With our junior classes we add a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix in which learners collaborate to choose activities and then present their learning in a visually appealing format of their choice. This could be a slide show, a video, or a website.

Many of us gamify our junior classes by using Class Dojo or Classcraft to provide competition and motivation. Some teachers also create podcasts that are used to flip the learning so that learners can choose when they engage with the information they need.

We have a Creative Writing group which is run at lunch time for those who enjoy writing. These learners can choose to complete the internally assessed writing standard at either level 1 or level 3 as these are not part of the English programme. We also have a choice of English course at level 2 and 3. At level 2 learners can choose either a literacy heavy reading and writing course or the viewing and presenting course which is focussed on visual texts and a speech. At level 3, learners can choose a literacy course to catch up on missed literacy credits or the mainstream English course offering the usual subjects.


As a school, we offer Academic Counselling instead of form classes or tutor groups. Academic Counselling is focussed on goal setting and reflection, creating digital learner portfolios, and preparation for the Learner Led Conference held in the middle of the year. The Academic Counsellor mentors each learner in their group by offering support and guidance. They will contact home and the learners’ teachers when necessary to advocate for their learner.

The Social Science faculty offer social projects where learners identify a social issue and plan a campaign to help. Recently a couple of our learners were on television and interviewed by John Campbell about the issue they had chosen. Our PE department have a Sports Institute that learners apply to become involved in and this has proven to be very successful.

Cross disciplinary personalised learning opportunities?

We have made a solid start towards the dream but I wonder about the following:

1. How do we move from where we are now to a cross disciplinary approach?
2. How might we involve the community?
3. How might we incorporate and value diversity?

The Heads of Learning at Whangaparaoa College have begun to meet regularly and we discussed personalised learning recently. We have created a spreadsheet and each added a page detailing what topics our faculty will be covering each term. We then looked at each other’s pages and identified areas where we could work together. For example, when year 9 social studies are investigating political systems they could write a descriptive piece for English based on a dystopian setting. It’s only small steps but its a start.

To really achieve the dream of truly personalised learning it is going to take a massive disruption to schooling as we know it. Timetables will have to go; faculty silos will have to go; year levels will have to go and that’s just the beginning!


I’m up for it, are you?




Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Criterion 9, Standard 1, Standard 3, Standard 4, Teacher Registration

Year 9 Priority Learner Progress

Have I seen any improvement in the learning/behaviour of my PLs so far this year?

I have 9 priority learners in my year 9 English class, there were 11 but 2 have been moved to a different class. They comprise of a mixture of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha learners whose curriculum level ability range from level 2 to 4. I have definitely seen an improvement in the behaviour of this group this year. One of my learners was very disrespectful at the beginning of the year and now we have a positive relationship. They are all completing their learning and four out of nine have passed their first common assessment test. Four did not submit the test and one failed.

Explain the possible reasons for this. What did I do that worked/didn’t work?

I am happy that four learners passed their assessment and I attribute this to the task they were given which was well scaffolded and easy to understand. I have also developed positive relationships with these learners and have given regular feedback/feedforward on their learning. Using Google Classroom has been effective as it means that I can check on what learners are doing by looking at their document in the Classroom folder in Google Drive.

I am disappointed that so many learners did not submit their assessment even though they had completed some of it and I had seen it. I sent a letter home to these learners and did receive some supportive replies from parents who said that their child would complete the assessment and send it to me but only one of these did this. The learner that did submit their learning achieved well.

Where to next?

I have been doing some reading about how to help Maori/Pasifika learners to achieve and, as these strategies will work for all learners, I will apply some of these principles. I will focus on teaching until my learners understand as I sometimes can get impatient and not do this.



Posted in Standard 1, Teaching Standards

Committing to bi-cultural practice

I had a discussion with my colleague, Christine Emery, about the use of Te Reo and tikanga in teaching and learning last year. Christine commented, and I agreed, that we could do more at Whangaparaoa College. The last ERO report supported this observation.

Teachers would benefit from more closely aligning their professional inquiry to the requirements of the new Education Council. In particular the requirements related to Tātaiako: culturally responsive teacher practices.

 I commented that, as a Pakeha, I would like to do more but was afraid of not doing it well or offending Maori by doing it wrong.  However, I don’t want this to be a cop out and have had a closer look at Tataiako and how it can be incorporated effectively in our pedagogy.

Christine and I came up with a solution for our department which was to introduce Maori terms and phrases at each curriculum meeting. This is one way that we could, “Demonstrate(s) integrity, sincerity and respect towards Māori beliefs, language and culture.” (Tataiako pg. 8) Everyone would have a turn at doing this. 

We have started this initiative and it has helped to give us ways of demonstrating that we value Te Reo. We are also able to build relationships so that we can ‘know and grow our learners’ – a Whangaparaoa College goal. This has been fun and we have enjoyed sharing our ideas. Recently, Marius shared some relevant proverbs so we are making some posters to pop up around the department.

There is more to be done in this area and it will be exciting to reflect upon this in years to come.


Education Review Report (2016), Minstry of Education.