Upoku Pakaru

a black and grey photo of a boy, head in hands and the words Upoku PakaruA few weeks ago I talked about kickstarting my reo.

As usual, good intentions turn to custard when other, more pressing things take over my time. So, my daily half hour has turned into a weekly, manic rush to catch up before the next webinar!

Anyway, these are my musings this week…

In this week’s mahi we had to make an image to express something about ourselves and use the structures;

Ko _________ tōku wāhi pai rawa.         My favourite place is _______.

Ko ____________ tōku papakāinga.        __________ is my home.

I had a go at saying that my favourite places were the mountains and the ocean.  I created this image;photo of mountain overlaid by a beach with tress framing the image and the caption Ko ngā maunga rāua ko te moana tōku wāhi pai rawa.

I posted it on Twitter with my image and then when I saw a Māori colleague, I asked her if it was right. She helped me correct it to this:

Ko ngā maunga me te moana tōku wāhi pai rawa

So far so good. I will go back and edit!

Then, today, I spotted roses in my garden with raindrops on them which made me think ‘of my favourite things‘ –  “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…..”.  So I thought I would have a go…

I tried to adapt the base sentence – changing ‘wāhi’ to ‘mea’ – thing (though not sure if that is the correct word for ‘thing’ amongst the hundreds in the Māori dictionary!) and came up with this;

My favourite thing is = Ko …………tōku mea pai rawa.

Then to add ‘raindrops on roses’ – more searching in the Māori dictionary and who knows if it is right!?

Ko ngā tōuarangi ki runga i te rōhi tōku mea pai rawa

My favourite things are raindrops on roses

BUT.. then I thought, I actually want ‘things’ plural not ‘thing’ singular, so does that mean that tōku becomes ōku?  Aha! Good thinking methinks! I might be getting this, feeling a little smug!

BUT THEN …. places take ‘ō’ but things take ‘ā’ – so surely I should change it to ‘āku’ instead of ‘ōku’

Ko ngā tōuarangi ki runga i te rōhi āku mea pai rawa.

OR does the fact that they are favourite things and therefore precious make them ‘ōku’ ??

a yellow and an orange rose with raindrops on and the caption: Ko ngā tōuarangi ki runga i te rōhi āku mea pai rawa.

AND THEN that took me back to my original sentence about mountains and ocean and I thought, that too is plural so ‘tōku’ should be ‘ōku’.  So should my original sentence be?;

Ko ngā maunga me te moana ōku wāhi pai rawa.

My head hurts – I’m not even going to “whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens”!

 

 

 

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‘We’re all doomed, I tell ye’. ‘We’re all doomed!’

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Just found this post from a while back which I started writing after the announcement about CoLs and CoOLs.  I never finished it as plenty of others responded in a similar vein to me and in a much more eloquent way.  See this post ‘Keeping our cool about CoOLs’ from Claire Amos.  There was a lot of ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ and cries that ‘the sky is falling’ about online learning. Things have gone quiet since then and we have seen the introduction of the new Digital Technologies|Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum and, of course a new government. The reason that I have come back to this post is, partly because I found it in my drafts, and having found it, it resonated with me as I am currently reading “Different Schools for a Different World” by Dean Sharesku and Scott McLeod. Now I don’t think that, for many of us who are steeped in the NZ education system with our flexible and forward thinking curriculum, they say anything particularly groundbreaking. Much of their commentary is of US schools and school system. But despite seeing plenty of excellent contemporary, collaborative, student centred learning happening in schools, I also know that there is plenty of mediocre teaching and learning happening which is not meeting the needs of all our learners. 

In the book, the authors offer 6 arguments for why schools need to be different. As I read the book I am tweeting the thoughts and questions it is provoking in me. The first deals with information, where we get it from, how we get it, and what we do with it.

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We, and our students, can find all the information we need online; what our kids need is to ‘master the skills of information filtering and critical thinking’ so that they have the skills to thrive in their world. That is the role of the teacher.

The 2nd argument is that of economics. We’ve all heard it said – the jobs our kids will do haven’t even been invented yet, automation has taken our jobs, a job won’t be for life. Shareski and McLeod suggest that manufacturing jobs are being replaced by higher skill service jobs and creative jobs. They ask ‘what value do human workers add that software robots don’t’? Critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, high level communication, collaboration…

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 16.51.28Then we come to learning. How we learn, how we teach, what our role as teacher is, whether we are meeting the needs of our learners.

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A blend of digital and kanohi ki te kanohi learning provides both content and the interactions necessary for developing the soft skills needed to manage the information.  We need to prepare our students to be fluent navigators of an online world, to have a positive digital presence, to understand the ethics and legalities of a digital landscape, to be able to share their knowledge and skills as both consumers and creators. We need to prepare students for learning agility – they need to know how to ‘flounder intelligently’. (Guy Claxton)

I think online learning offers us some really positive options especially for kids who are isolated or marginalised, but also for those who sit in a system that sort of works for them but sort of doesn’t.  I’m thinking of the majority of middle of the road kids who get by in spite of a school system that is out of date and not a good fit for them.  The kids who are ‘passively disengaged’.

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This is dealt with in Chapter 4: The Boredom Argument.   A question for every teacher….

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How much time is spent in your classroom when the student is ‘passive’?  What activities motivate your students to learn? My wero to you is to time some of your lessons, or someone else’s, and reflect.

George Couros asks in one of his blogs;

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‘Different’ schools could be online schools but there is a danger that all we do is extend a traditional model of learning into an online environment.  We need to think of ways to allow our kids to learn without just replacing an exercise book with a device.  Teachers need support to design blended learning opportunities that allow pathways for all learners.  Students need to collaborate – the classroom should be a space for ‘doing’, asking, sharing, exploring, then go home and use a computer to reflect on content, write up notes etc. So, there has to be a lot of thought as to how online education is blended with face to face interaction. And online doesn’t mean ‘robots’ delivering courses as some have said. It means carefully constructed pathways of learning created by teachers, with discussions facilitated by teachers and learners with multiple ways of accessing content and creating responses.

This brings us on to the Innovation Argument; Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen (2009) suggest that innovators possess 5 key skills;Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 17.40.43

and that we need to create an environment in school which allows for those skills to be developed and flourish. My question is;

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We are constrained by top down drivers – results and standards, which can be used as an excuse not to provide opportunities for genuine inquiry and experimentation, to limit questioning, to stimy divergent thinking, and to prevent kids from forming and using networks to amplify their learning.  I can see so many possibilities to support and develop these 5 key skills by using a powerful blend of online and face to face learning.  At the moment, though, our assessment system isn’t playing ball and too much testing is still geared towards passive ingestion and thoughtless regurgitation.

The final argument is one of equity.  The obvious is a lack of access to digital technologies and thus online opportunities. But it is also a question of usage – even with access what do kids from different socio-economic backgrounds use digital technology for?  Studies done in the USA suggest that substitute tasks such as drilling and practice are overwhelmingly done by African American kids whilst more affluent students use technology for creative, higher order thinking activities.

I haven’t had time as yet, to explore my thinking about how online learning would solve the issue of equity – my initial thought is around attendance.  It is clear that lack of attendance at school has a profound effect on kids learning outcomes. Barriers to getting to school are many but if kids can access learning from home when they can’t get to school, surely that helps to reduce the inequity in some small way?  It is also a question that Shareski and McLeod don’t really answer either apart from suggesting that we ask questions of our communities to get a clear picture of who has access and who hasn’t, and to build partnerships with community and businesses to support access.

When we think about ‘different schools’ we are not talking about the physical or virtual space, we are talking about pedagogical philosophy.  As teachers we can all be part of the conversation, pushing for dialogue, questioning our own assumptions about how we teach and how our kids learn. We can demand (in reasonable terms) that those in power think very carefully about how to implement what could be a very positive model for learning. We also have a responsibility to read widely all of the information and assess critically, not jump to conclusions and onto the ‘sky is falling’ bandwagon. Online learning in some shape or form is going to happen so we might as well work together to ensure that we implement the best model possible which works for all our learners.

Kickstarting my Reo

September 13, 2017 at 10-45PMA year on and I am kickstarting my reo journey by following Te Reo Manahua. In the year since I completed Te Reo Pouāwai I have tried to keep my Reo going and embed vocabulary more deeply in my mahi. I have become more comfortable saying my pepeha and have extended it and improved the way that I say it as I have listened to feedback from Māori speakers.

I get the Kupu o te Rā delivered to my inbox everyday but mostly it passes me by after I skim read it. Earlier this year I joined the 100 Day Project and decided to use the Kupu o te Rā as a focus for my creative challenge.  I know that some of my sentences are incorrect but the process of trying to work them out was good for me!

It is exciting as the start of the course follows hot on the heels of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori and there has been lots of kōrero about the language and tikanga in the media.  I enjoyed the focus on using the language as much as possible by joining in with Mahuru Māori. I committed myself to always greeting people in Māori and my husband I practised our numbers by using them when we played cribbage in the evenings!  I have loved that there seemed to be so much more engagement with Te Wiki o te Reo Māori across the country this year.

I like this article about Guyon Espiner – RNZ presenter, who has made a real effort to learn Te Reo and use it as much as possible on the radio.  He talks about how he felt when he first started learning – about not wanting to get it wrong and feel humiliated. I guess for him it is a bigger step than for most of us as he has a large audience!  He also talks about how people send in feedback, sometimes positive and sometimes negative and how easy it could be to focus on the negative when in reality there are more positive comments. But it hurts when someone puts you down when you are trying. It is interesting that he says that he encouraging comments come from Māori who are pleased that he is having a go and that the mistakes don’t matter too much. We have had mixed messages about that and there are now one or two people who I am reluctant to try speaking Māori in front of. They are people who, I think, have my best interests at heart and don’t want me to put myself in an ‘unsafe’ space where I may offend if I get the tikanga or the language wrong.  

The pākeha who have criticised Guyon seem to be those who have been brought up in NZ, they may well be 3rd generation Kiwis and see the resurgence of Māori as a threat to all that they have ever known.  Other radio and TV presenters spoke about what they believe is their role in promoting the use of Te Reo; Duncan Garner said about the people who don’t believe that Te Reo should be used more widely; “It’s sad because it’s a taonga, it is a treasure.  And once we lose it, it’s gone mate.”  Kanoa Lloyd says she reckons New Zealanders are too scared to give it a go, and she doesn’t think that’s a decent excuse either.

20170923_061712Recently, we stayed at Michael King’s house in Opoutere (it is now owned by the University of Waikato and is available to rent for employees and their whānau). Whilst I was there I read his book “Being Pākeha Now“. It is not a long book and it is very readable; it tells his story as a Pakeha and his ‘growing up’ and his developing understanding of Māori tikanga and reo and his sense of identity as a Pakeha.  He talks about our responsibility to know where we fit as Pākeha in New Zealand, about not being afraid to find our own identities but to also respect others’ cultures and language and value the place of Māori tikanga and reo in Aotearoa.  In an interview with Terry Locke he talks also about how New Zealand attitudes, values and habits as well as his experiences growing up ‘have contributed to or intensified that feeling I have that my culture is not European. It’s something different, it’s Pakeha, and it’s something which I now would define, as I say, as a second New Zealand indigenous culture.’  Both are well worth a read.

Copyright for Innovation

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Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan  CC-BY

A few weeks ago I attended a panel discussion about copyright and how fair use of media, copyrighted material promotes or inhibits creativity. It was hosted by the University of Auckland Law Department.

A panel of international experts on copyright and innovation led the discussion about copyright, fair use of intellectual property, open access and how it all works in the media, education and business.

Below is the Storify of the evening.

But how does all this apply to schools, teachers and students?

Mention copyright in staff rooms and people’s eyes usually glaze over.  The only real exposure most teachers have to it is in ignoring the poster over the photocopier warning them about what percentage of a book they can legally copy!  Some schools have a vigilant admin person who manages all the photocopying and enforces the rule strictly, in other schools the law may as well not exist.

Drama and music departments have a better understanding of copyright laws as it directly impacts the work they do.  Some media is available for use in an educational context but the limitation lies in that the content cannot be published or presented to the public. It may be possible to perform plays, use musical scores, sing songs within a school context to an audience composed of people within school, but as soon as you invite an outside audience in you may find yourself breaching the terms of the copyright unless you have sought permission to use it. (https://www.tki.org.nz/Copyright-in-Schools/Guidelines-for-schools/For-teachers-and-contractors/Guide-to-performances)

So far so clear.  But what about films? I know that films are used extensively to support learning in many subjects. They are also used as ‘end of term fillers’. The philosophical and pedagogical rights and wrongs of this I will not go into here. However, it is clear from the guidelines on the TKI page Guide to copying and showing films that the showing of films should be for educational purposes only.

“You may not show a hired or purchased video/DVD in your school simply for entertainment purposes. For example, you can show the film Shakespeare in Love when it relates to your drama course, but you may not show it to your drama class merely to entertain them at the end of term.”

And you cannot copy the film multiple times to enable every student to have their own copy, nor can you make it available on the school learning management system. Read more at Electronic copying and works on the internet.

OK, so all this is well and good, and the law is quite clear if we bother to find out about it and pay any attention to it.  But there are areas around use of media and ownership that are less clear (or more open to interpretation).

Who owns what you produce as a teacher for your students?  At any time of the day or night, term time or holidays?

The answer is simple: your employer. The Board of Trustees. Not you.

What does that mean?  It means that legally speaking anything that you create in the course of your employment has to stay in the place of your employment when you leave and you cannot take a copy of it with you. WHAT?!  My work, my time, my blood, sweat and tears, my creativity, my imagination!

How does not being able to share my work fit with Kāhui Ako (Communities of Learning)? How does it encourage collaboration across schools and between teachers? How does it encourage me to be creative, spend my time working on great resources if I can’t keep them? How will anyone know if I take a copy anyway? Who is going to stop me?

Well the answers are, it doesn’t and nobody. Unless you start to sell them and make megabucks, or if you take them and don’t leave a copy behind for your colleagues to use and they are left in the lurch.

So, how can I legally own what I feel I morally own because I created it?

A CREATIVE COMMONS policy provides teachers and schools with a way forward.  Put simply, if a school adopts a Creative Commons Policy, then the BOT maintains ownership of resources but agrees that those resources can be shared as long as they are shared under the same license.

So what about images and media that you and your students use in your work? How do I know who has created media on the internet? Who owns the photos in “Google Images”? How do I know what I can use and what I can’t? How do I attribute ownership?   Creative Commons provides answers there too. There is heaps of ‘free to use’ media if you know where to look.  In Google images, go to Tools and then Usage rights to get a return of open source images.  Photos4Class is a great one to send kids to as it inserts appropriate referencing too.  The Creative Commons website has a heap of links to open source resources as well as useful information on how to appropriately attribute and reference media you have used.  Saying “Retrieved from Google Images” just doesn’t cut it!  Or take your own photos and use them and apply a Creative Commons License. Encourage your kids to be creators rather than consumers.

Nobody is very likely to prosecute you if you use an image or a piece of music that is not yours to use unless you are particularly unlucky. Although, there are plenty of examples when that has happened, especially where music is concerned. And I have heard plenty of teachers and students say, “But how will anyone know if I have used a photo, a video, a piece of music?” and “Why should I care?” and “Will anyone really stop me?”

But it comes down to trust, to values, ethics and morals. The values of citizenship that we instil into our kids, that are enshrined in our school charters, that we live and work by everyday.  Taking what is not legally yours without asking permission is theft. Pure and simple.  Using media that is created by someone else without attributing it to them is just bad manners and shows lack of gratitude. And as educators we have a responsibility to model good practice.

An Unlikely Conversation

Rāpare, 21 o Hōnongoi 2016

First of all I tried to find the Māori word for ‘journey’ because we were asked to reflect on our ‘journey’ of learning Te Reo so far as part of our course. My little Dictionary of Modern Māori said ‘rerenga’ or ‘haere’ or ‘haerenga’. Which one should I use? So I back referenced and found that ‘haere’ is a verb, and ‘haerenga’ and ‘rerenga’ are nouns.

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Still not sure which to use I went to the online Māori dictionary and ….there were even more options! All sorts of nuances for the word journey!
Journey

I think that finding out which word to use in which context is the most challenging thing for me about learning Te Reo. I love that in the online dictionary there is so much detail, every nuance of how the word ‘journey’ can be used from personal growth, to setting out, to carrying responsibility, to sunrise and moonrise, to preparation, to actually being on a physical journey. It is fascinating reading all the whakatauki, and the kiwaha and the history around the words but sometimes I just want to know which word to use…quickly!! I think I have resigned myself to the fact that learning Te Reo is going to be a long journey, a journey of discovery. I have long believed that learning a language is far more than putting words together to communicate. It is about learning about the culture, finding out what makes a people tick, it’s about the whakapapa and the feelings and the memories.

Which brings me to an interesting conversation I had yesterday sitting in the hot stream at Spa Park as it flows into the Waikato River in Taupō. A group of Māori men ranging in age from mid teens to mid thirties, I suppose, were there. Some were heavily tattooed with what looked like gang insignia, others were not. This is an observation which has some relevance and is not intended to be a judgement. I will come to that later. They were doing what young men do – larking about, having fun, probably laughing at some of the tourists! One of the older ones was climbing up and down through the pools picking up litter and debris that had been washed down or left there.

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Normally, I am not someone who strikes up conversations with strange men and I have to confess that whilst I don’t believe in making judgements about people based on their appearance, given the negative media coverage of gang members, I would generally not have engaged in conversation. However, I ended up talking to him along with a young woman who was travelling around NZ from Australia. She was asking him about where he came from, the Māori language, she wanted him to teach her a few words.  After a few moments thought he asked her who she was and why she was there.  He seemed to suggest that it is not all about words, it is about who you are. He talked about Māori language being a ‘native tongue’ specific to who you are and where you come from.  He talked happily about how his family had lived in the area for generations, he was proud of his history, that his family had been Queen Victoria’s warriors, that his grandfathers house was over 200 years old – one of the oldest in the area. I didn’t hear everything very clearly (we had a waterfall pounding in our ears!) but he also talked about the difference between gangs and iwi and bloodlines and connectedness.

When she asked him what his relationship with the other men there was he said they were all brothers. She asked how many brothers he had. He thought for a bit, as if counting them up and then said that he had 9 brothers but he had lots more sisters. I wondered then at the different understanding of what ‘brothers’ might be. He may well have had that many biological brothers and sisters, but I think from what he was saying it was more the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood. The sense of belonging that comes from shared experiences, from a belief, from a shared history, something that comes from the heart. And he talked about everyone being answerable to a higher being – ‘rangatira’ – and how we had a responsibility to look after the land – he said that his ‘mahi’ of cleaning out the pools was something he did because it was part of who he was as a custodian of the land. He called it his ‘mahi whakapapa’ – a task that was part of who he was. It was fascinating listening to him and I think he would have talked happily all evening but unfortunately I had to go.

I take a few things from this experience;
1. My belief that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover has been totally endorsed
2. Language and culture are inextricably entwined and the meaning of words is entirely dependent on personal experience, feelings, context and history.

3. My pondering is how on earth do I ever get to even scratch the surface of being able to communicate in Te Reo in any meaningful way if the language is so specific to whakapapa?

4. Learning a language is all about listening to stories, making connections, immersing yourself at every opportunity.

5. It’s weird how really interesting conversations can happen in the most unlikely of places such as sitting in a hot pool in my underwear in the middle of a river with two complete strangers!

Rātū, 19 o Hōnongoi 2016

This week our task in Te Puāwai is to record and share our journey integrating some of the classroom commands into the classroom or home. Our kōrero must include the following:

1. A list of the different commands in te reo Māori that you have been using

2. What challenges you faced integrating these commands into everyday conversations

3. What benefits or growth you may have noticed as a result of speaking the commands in te reo Māori rather than in English

4. What are your next steps, what will you do next to continue learning and using more te reo Māori in your class or home

Over the last few weeks I have been working on integrating as many Māori kupu into my mahi as possible.  Working at home doesn’t make that easy – I can hardly talk to myself! Well, actually, I do! I have post it notes all over my office with kupu and kiwaha written on them and I say them out loud to myself whenever I look up and see them.  We have a morning coffee Skype group and always start off asking each other ‘Kei te pēhea koe?’ and responding appropriately. Renee helps us work out words we don’t know, which is great.

20160630_193331When I send emails to schools and colleagues I try to use the appropriate greetings for the time of day such as ata marie, morena, kia ora…  Last week we ran a workshop for a group of schools and we incorporated a few of our greetings and commands. e.g. saying hello and introducing ourselves, e tū, e noho, whakaporowhitia, he whakaaro anō ā koutou, kuamārama koutou.  I think the main difficulty was that the group of people were all Pākeha and so using Te Reo sounded quite unnatural and the teachers didn’t respond until we repeated in English so we didn’t get the immediate feedback which encourages more language.

The use of the target language followed immediately by English has been a constant tension in my world as a language teacher.  It is generally accepted that immersion in a language is the absolute best way to learn but, of course, that leads to people, however open they are to learning, frustrated when they don’t understand.  My life in the classroom has been one of hand gestures, role play and generally looking bonkers as I jump around acting out my own version of charades to try to get across what I am trying to say to my students!  By following up with an English translation, accepted wisdom is that learners don’t bother working out the target language as they know that you will say it in English eventually. But I guess that at the moment the aim of my using Te Reo in workshops is not necessarily to teach others but to learn myself, become familiar with using the language and to develop ways of working which are culturally responsive.  And although I still feel a bit awkward using Te Reo, as I become more confident, it is getting easier.  A positive by-product is that by integrating Te Reo in my everyday and working life it becomes embedded not only for me but for others, and starts to become more of a ‘lingua franca’ in this supposedly ‘tri-lingual’ and ‘bi-cultural’ country!

Next steps are to keep going and using Te Reo when and where possible.  I had an interesting situation last week when in my role as a BOT member I had a meeting with some Māori students and their whānau.   I was very conscious of the fact that the BOT are all Pākeha and I wanted to greet the students and the whānau in a culturally appropriate way. It is difficult to know what the impact was but I would like to think that it made a difference.  I have decided too, after reading one of the “strategies for learning” posts in the Moodle course that I will write the date in Te Reo in my notebook each day and as I am trying to post a photo a day this year on my blog, that I will start writing the date in Te Reo – could be a challenge but it will make me think every day!

Here is today’s blogpost – Ra 201, Rātū, 19 o Hōnongoi 2016

I also made a video to practise and embed the commands into my (very slow) brain!

Challenging myself

20160624_071035Last week I attended the Core Breakfast “Non Māori roles in supporting Māori success” by Alex Hotere-Barnes. It was a thought-provoking sessions and made me question a few things and re-spark thinking around language learning and culture.  I storified the tweets of the session – while there are not many (and most of them are mine!) I think they briefly capture the main ideas.  I will come back and explore them more deeply once I have had time to formulate my ideas.

I am trying also at the moment to learn some Te Reo. As a linguist I completely understand the benefits that learning a language can bring to the understanding of the culture. But I am also nervous of offending by getting things wrong or appropriating a culture that is not my own.  Alex talked about Pākeha Paralysis – the idea that we are so afraid of making mistakes in our interactions with Māori and offending that we don’t even start.

This week were the inaugural Matariki Awards and the words of Scotty Morrison who was awarded the Te Waitī Award for Te Reo & Tikanga gave me heart.  I can still only recognise a few words in the linked video but on National Radio this morning I heard him say this:

If you’re living in New Zealand the Māori language belongs to you. You are most welcome to take ownership of it, to learn it and make it your language because there’s heaps of benefits. Once you open that door and you start learning Te Reo you’ll start to see what the benefits are“.

He went on to say that we cannot underestimate the power of the media – TV, Radio, Social Media to raise the profile of a language. Using the language in any way starts to give it ‘mana’ and others will start to use it too.  But there is a tension sometimes and not all Māori are as welcoming as Scotty to Pākeha using Te Reo.  That can be one of the causes of Pākeha Paralysis.  Alex talks about (see video link above) how knowing who you are, what your identity is, knowing whose land you stand on and acting with humility, honesty and integrity helps us to interact in such a way that we build good relationships. That this is an ongoing evolution and that by constantly reflecting those relationships can flourish and people’s acceptance of Pākeha using Te Reo grows.

So, on with my wee ‘wero’ – this week my ‘mahi’ was to make ‘a digital resource that others can access that uses 6 different locative sentences in Te Reo Māori.’
//www.thinglink.com/card/802410997263368193

#edblognz Week 1 Challenge 2 People who inspire me

Mmm…

A good word…inspire:

1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Who has inspired me?  Got me thinking… so many areas to think about… and makes me think of what my passions have been over the years. There are two types of people who have inspired me; those who I have met and who through their interest in me and the care they showed me have had a profound effect on who I am today. And those who I have never met, but who through their actions, deeds, philosophies fill me with admiration and who make me want to aspire to be or act like them.

As an eight year old I was introduced to gymnastics by my PE teacher at primary school.  Mr Biscombe.  I was a quiet little thing, didn’t say boo to a goose in public (although a complete chatterbox with my friends).  He recognised that I had some talent, he nurtured it, he believed in me and he encouraged me.  I spent the next 20 years of my life pretty much immersed in gymnastics as a gymnast and a coach.  It is probably partly because of Mr Biscombe that I became a teacher.

As a nine year old I was introduced to French at the same primary school by Miss Larraine Francis. She was passionate about French and her interest in all her students was clear.  She treated us all as if we were special and brought out the best in us.  I have spent the rest of my life with a passion for learning languages, for exploring cultures and travelling.  She also shares my love of Roquefort cheese!  Miss Francis is probably the other reason that I became a teacher.

(Oh, and do you know the best part? Mrs Biscombe and Miss Francis, my two favourite teachers, fell in love and got married!)

My Mum and my Dad both inspired me too but I didn’t think they did when I was a teenager. They were just, well, Mum and Dad! Doh! Looking back though, how much of what you do is not inspired by your parents? They are the ultimate believers in you, everything they do is for you, even when you don’t think it is!

woman doing a handstand on the top of a hillAs a gymnast I was inspired by my coaches, Mrs Pollard and Mrs Marjorie Carter.   Mrs Pollard was an old lady – well she seemed that way to me as a 10 yr old – small, wrinkly, white haired and extremely agile. She could still do the splits and handstands.  I was determined that at 60-something I too would still be able to do the splits and handstands!  A few years to go yet but the challenge is still on!  I was terrified of Mrs Carter at first but soon realised her bark was worse than her bite and as I got older and started to coach alongside her I appreciated her determination, strength of character, integrity and absolute fairness.  Her belief in us all was absolute.

Olga Korbut – every gymnast’s idol in the 1970s. I so wanted to be like her, do what she could do. But it was Elvira Saadi who inspired me with her grace and poise.  She was the gymnast who “flew under the radar”. She didn’t turn the tricks of Korbut and the Comaneci, she did her own thing beautifully. I never met these people but I was inspired to train hard to be like them.

caver doing a handstand in a caveAs I left gymnastics behind, my new passion was the outdoors. In particular caving.  The old guard of the caving club were incredible. Their longevity, their dedication to their passion and their perseverance to keep doing what they loved was, is inspiring.  As their bodies grew old, they moulded their actions to their abilities. They caved less “hard” but still went out every week passing on their passion and their skills freely to any who would listen and accompany them.  They tell their stories, many have gone down in the annals of caving lore, embellished, growing richer in the telling.  I have moved on, I wonder if I was still in Yorkshire whether I would still be caving, but motherhood and a move to the other side of the world has broken the continuity. Who knows – it is never too late…

Man diving from a rocky outcrop into a riverNorbert Casteret is my caving hero.  Maybe partly because he is French and he links two of my passions? A highly talented sportsman he won many national honours in an array of sports; diving, running, boxing, ski jumping. He also explored more caves than appears humanly possible often with very little equipment. It is documented that he stripped off, attached his clothes to his head with a candle and matches firmly enclosed as he swam through sumps to continue exploration of caves in the Pyrenees. Anyone with that sort of dedication has got to be inspiring hasn’t he? But he was also deeply patriotic and risked his life in the Resistance during WW2 rescuing many fugitives and hiding important documents deep in the caves.

The last person who inspired me (not the only one but this post could get even longer than it already is if I go on!) is a colleague of many years in the UK. Actually, I’m going to cheat here and slip another inspiration in. Both these women, had qualities which I admire and aspire to. I’m still working on them.  Mrs Adam, a diminutive, white haired Scotswoman with half moon glasses who taught me Latin had such presence and commanded such respect that even the biggest, loutish boys at school would obey when she stood at the end of the corridor and shouted “WALK!”.   She was fair, had high expectations of us all, was always prepared and taught us with interest and passion for her subject.  Mrs Sue Cross, my dear colleague, just retired, had such serenity, her classroom door was always open, invited anyone in and her students were always clearly engaged in whatever task she had set them.  Her passion for French was, is, such that her students couldn’t fail to be infected by it.  She rarely raised her voice, was calm, firm, fair and stood absolutely no nonsense.  Of course, she had difficulties from time to time, don’t we all.  But she didn’t pretend, she asked for help when she needed it.  She accepted everyone and was generous with her time to help others.  And her sense of humour was infectious.

It is the human qualities of all of these people which connects them and inspires me. Their passion, their humanity, their integrity, the way they communicate with me and show absolute interest to make me feel special, their belief in me.  If I could go half way to being anything like any of these people, I would be a rich woman.

Learning to Explain: English Lessons

800px-Le_voyage_dans_la_lune_drawingSo, we are well into Term 3, “I am Not Esther” is done and dusted but the themes of the novel are not. Some of them come to the fore in this term’s focus which is a film study. We have watched the film “Hugo” based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick.  We are now well underway working on activities that help us to explore the characters, the story and the themes of this wonderful film.

I spent an inspiring day at the #edchatnz conference at the weekend and was reminded of the importance of student-centred learning. I also re-read a couple of chapters of “Understanding the Digital Generation” by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain & Lee Crockett. This section really resonates with me; “It is far better for students to discover the content rather than be told the content because discovery creates the interest that gets students engaged in learning.”

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to widen my scope in terms of teaching subjects. Since arriving in NZ I have taught French (my main, specialist subject), Health, Phys Ed, Spanish, Food Technology, and this year English. I do not have the expert knowledge in any of these subjects, except French, to stand at the front of the class and be the “sage on the stage”.  Not that that has ever been my natural style of teaching, but not being an expert really makes you have to re-think how you engage students.  And you realise that what you need to teach them is not content but strategies and a curiosity for learning that provides them with the skills to progerss into the real world.

So my holidays were spent watching and re-watching Hugo and developing activities, gleaned and adapted from the amazing resources generously shared on the internet and especially via the TES site and TKI.  It will be interesting to see if the N4L “Pond” develops into a great sharing site like the TES site.  It has the potential to do so and it certainly seems like NZ educators are keen to share their resources.

However, because I do not have a background in teaching English and especially things such as cinematographic techniques (a word that, for some reason, I struggle to pronounce.)  This causes such great amusement for my students that it has become a standing joke and I don’t even try anymore!  Anyway, I have set up activities that allow them, and me, to explore the concepts of film techniques, and to find things out for themselves.  They work in groups or alone – their choice – and we share work via Google docs so that we can comment and discuss.

Nevertheless, I think it is also important that there are opportunities that encourage them to produce, to be put on the spot and to think on their feet.  Ted McCain talks about the 4D approach – Define the problem, Design the solution, Do the work, and Debrief what you have done – this equips students with the tools to solve problems and learn.

Working at their own pace on activities is all fine and good, but some slip under the radar and are not always challenged to produce under pressure. So, this morning they were challenged.  They chose two quotes from the film.  I divided the class into two halves and each half took one of the quotes. They had 15 minutes to brainstorm the quote and consider four questions;

  1. What it meant?
  2. How it related to the themes in the film?
  3. Why it was important?
  4. Give examples to illustrate your ideas.

One person in the group was at the whiteboard making notes of the suggestions from the group, one person was a scribe on a shared Google Doc and organised the notes from the board into a table in the doc. (one of the groups worked quite well with two scribes to help each other keep up with the pace of the discussion).  One person was nominated as the speaker.  They were to argue the point that their quote was more important in terms of illustrating the themes of the film, in a two minute speech.  As the rest were making suggestions, making notes and scribing they pulled the ideas together into a well-constructed speech.  

It was quite clear, as I observed, that one team was much more organised but I reserved judgement.  However, it was equally clear, once we listened to the speeches that the organised group was the most effective.  As soon as their spokeserson finished speaking the other group chorused; “Oh, they win!” 

This was our opportunity to reflect and debrief, which they did very effectively.  It was heartening to see how engaged, they had all been during the process. Yes, there were a couple of girls who lots focus, and in retrospect, I might have three groups to reduce the group size and ensure that more girls were involved.  However, they all agreed that they had learned a lot and they enjoyed the lesson.  

#edchatnz conference August 2014

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I just got back from an inspirational day of learning, collaborating, connecting, talking, sharing and all-round enjoyment. The #edchatnz conference, thoughtfully and inspirationally crafted in just 12 weeks by 7 passionate NZ educators. They were supported by over 350 equally passionate educators who all meet via Twitter each Thursday evening to chat about teaching and learning.

The #edchatnz conference demonstrates the power and potential of social media to bring people together. The #edchatnz twitter chats already represent one of the best PLNs for NZ educators but developing it into a Face to Face opportunity brings the essential human element to our PLN. We know that relationships are key to building trust, mutual respect and connections that lead to much more effective learning both for our students and for us as adult learners.

edchatnzHowever, conferences don’t just happen. The seed of an idea is planted, a dream is vocalised, a crazy “what if..” is encouraged and supported by passion and “we can…”. It needs a group of people who, together, can make crazy ideas come to fruition. It was an idea who’s time has come, teacher (tweechers) are ready for it, we are ready to take control of our own learning and the momentum is growing. @MissDtheTeacher and her team have started the ball rolling, they have proved that if you dare to dream big then you can make things happen and people respond to your passion.

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View my Storify of the Tweets of the #edchatnz conference from Saturday onwards – there were just too many to deal with over the full tow days and since I was only lucky enough to attend on Saturday I will leave Friday to someone else to Storify!