Sunday, October 13, 2019

Flashback ...

The wee school in the town up from us has had to deal with the tragic loss of a student over the holidays.  My closest friend here has had to support her daughter losing a best friend.  There are no words. 

Something about loss had me revisiting and thinking about those I miss the most at times.  I miss Sarah - the 21yr old me who was woken up by my parents and told my best best friend, only a week shy of 21, had been killed by a drugged up teen in a car on a straight road.  But most of all, I miss my Nana - the lady who was part of a trifecta of women who raised me.  Here is what I wrote for her funeral in January.  Rest easy.

Most of us here would know the Beatitudes in some way shape or form:
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If I could add to the Bible, I would add Blessed are the grandparents, especially my Nana.  I’m going to use grandparents here as I can’t speak of Nana without remembering Grandpa who passed 15 years ago as well.  I was amazingly blessed in that Nana and Grandpa took me in, not only during my university years, but most school holidays before that.  

Blessed are the grandparents who spoil and snuggle with you. 

Blessed are the grandparents who hug you and hold you and hope with you when life is difficult. 

Blessed are the grandparents who prayed for you – but not just prayed for you – acted on those prayers and supported you, driving down Island and packing you up and taking you back up North with them so you could achieve your dreams – even if you didn’t know they were your dreams yet.

 Blessed are the grandparents who pamper you – buying cocopops and tiny teddies for you even though you’re 18 and starting University.  Who had rice risotto with a couple of slices of bacon beside it waiting for you when you got home from a shift a KFC – and had washed the uniform from the day before as you only had two and tomorrow it was meant to rain.

Blessed are the grandparents who worry – I think Nana was most excited when she realised my restricted drivers license meant I’d have to be home by 10pm for at least 12 months.  And even a few years later – she would stay awake till I got home and knocked on the bedroom door to tell her I was back. 

Blessed are the grandparents who share, their homes, their hearts, their life skills – I’ve never looked at roses the same way after living with Nana – she shared her knowledge, her love and her passion about them with me.  Pretty much every early still Saturday morning during rose season we would be outside, me holding and pumping the backpack and her spraying.  I know where to cut them while pruning and whether I should be using copper or something else on them.  I can still visualise the deck outside the living room while I was there was filled with pots with rose cuttings covered in plastic breadbags while she propagated them with her brother Eddie. 

Blessed are the grandparents who hold onto and share their passions.  As long as I can remember, Nana painted.  They were hanging everywhere, in the conservatory in Millard Ave where I remember tea parties with Carmen and Theresa.   In my home my children are lucky enough to have hanging some of the paintings she did for me.  They are more than just pretty pictures, they are part of her heart and legacy – and inspire her greatgrandchild Anya – who loves color and drawing with a passion as well.  She’s proud to draw and paint ‘just like your nana mum.’ 

And finally, blessed are the grandparents who are brave and couragous – who stand up for their grandchildren and hold them tight, who tell them everything will be ok and life will pan out and that they are enough as they are. 

Words can’t say in public how much Nana meant in my life and to my life.  But from the bottom of my heart – thank you Nana for being the most important part of the tribe of women who raised me – it truly does take a village.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Over the Block

Climbing over Writer’s Block

An amazing teacher posted an opportunity through on our email list – there were gaps in a short course for extension writers.  I was in like a shot.  The ability to get to third party professional instruction for seniors especially, only two hours drive away (vs nearly four hours to Christchurch or Dunedin), is very hard.  Usually I would have to budget a large amount the year before to ensure a visitor could come down, do half a day, stay overnight, do another half day and then travel back to their hometown.

Another school had engaged the Christchurch School ofWriters and very generously allowed us several spots in the afternoon as their seniors couldn’t make it due to exams.  Due to the very generous nature of my amazing colleagues, we managed to get internal cover, and I set off after interval with six writers.

I’m not sure who enjoyed the afternoon the most – them or I?  The presenter ran us through four different writing genres and activities in the course of two and half hours.  He read us examples and led us through exercises before we had some creative constraints put in place.  Apart from the last very different genre, which was really difficult (writing without the letter E) I felt the cathartic peace of actually taking the time to write wash over me.  Even with the creative constraints, as my pen started to move. 

For the first exercise the teacher had us move into a space where we could imagine the sea and all that goes with it.  We then listed about fifty words on the board that spoke of ‘our’ collective seascape.  The constraint then came – we couldn’t use those words.  Here is my piece – in its raw state:

By the Sea

The long and winding road led me back again.  Sand and surf beckoned as the car edged over the last hill.  

The turnoff.  
The RSA.  
The Z station.  
Turn left then second on your right.  

They tumbled from the car like eager puppies, yapping about who would sleep where and with whom.  I stood.  The ghosts of yesterday held hands around the bach.   Poppa and Nana, slight shades of grey, tucked into the porch arm in arm.  

I still stood.  

The feijoa tree was discovered to gleeful yells.  The tents tumbled from the open boot.  Again, eager voices edges closer to me.  The ghosts smiled at me and I smiled back.  

A step.  
Pull back the manhole.  
Reach in and grab the keys.

Back for the summer.

Image result for waihi beach
Waihi Beach 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Listening to my own Lesson

The last thing I wrote about was resilience.  I am still coming back to that word.  I think I need to develop it further.

The last week, if I’m brutally honest, has been tough.  I’ve had that sort of cold where you’re ill enough to feel like crap, but it’s a virus, so nothing is going to shift it but time, and you’re not ill enough to stay home hunkered in bed.  Not to mention with five kids, sick days are guarded for times they are puking or highly feverish.  So, powering through.  Pretty sure I wasn’t contagious – lots of hand sanitizer and absolutely no coughing near students – as much as you can – although classes this week seemed spotted with kids out with a similar virus.

I reckon when your physical wellbeing is down – your mental wellbeing takes a hit as well.  I had several things happen that actually in the bigger scheme of things were out of my circle of control.  I (and hubby) had to deal with them, and we’re happy with how they were dealt with, but added another layer to an already layered week.

What bought it all back together nicely was the Friday last block.  At our kura we’ve taken the 3a period on a Friday and are focusing on the 5 ways to Wellbeing.   It is part of the bigger focus for our Kahui Ako as well.   All teachers of Y11-13 at that time work together to create a programme for our seniors.  Currently we start as a larger group then split into smaller groups.  I am a firm believer in affirmations – so yesterday took my group through some mindfulness exercises and then the process of building a page of affirmations or quotes they could hang by their study area or tape inside their locker/folder.  I showed them the quote that was in my diary:

Image result for i will breathe i will think of solutions
Taken from: Flicker - labeled to reuse.

We chatted and they started searching and we talked about how sometimes stopping and refreshing and taking notice and reminding yourself and affirming yourself is key to our wellbeing.  I think I needed my own lesson yesterday.

So – weekend plans.  Stop – be present with my family.  The snow is forecast, but we'll see where it brings us.  Maybe a rugged up walk.    Do something I enjoy (actually, making the time to write here  as well as other things - @Tania Roxborogh looking to you!).  Block out time for work so I am fully ready and rearing for next week (having an amazing time studying #Tuia250 with Y9/10) but other than that – family first, home first, wellbeing first.

Saturday, June 29, 2019



1.      1.
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
"the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions"
2.      2.
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
"nylon is excellent in wearability, abrasion resistance and resilience"[1]                                    

I have been pondering this word for the past ten days or so since I got word that our Teacher Led Innovation Funding application was declined.  I get it – it is the last round and there are probably many many worthy applicants – but I couldn’t help but feel slightly crushed, not just for myself but for my colleague who had put in the bulk of the written application after all our Skype conversations. 

One of the comments that came back as feedback was there was not sufficient evidence that it was led by teachers for teachers (I’m assuming more teachers make changes = larger numerical student benefit).  The slightly cynical part of me was left wondering if we were from a bigger school/cohort, therefore able to have more teachers on board to start with – would it have made a difference.  Sure, we could have ‘proven’ we were impacting more teachers initially – but if our inquiry follows our hunch, it will be beneficial for both the teachers and students within our Southern Area Schools Kahui Ako and potentially beyond. 

So – what now?  Obviously we won’t have funding but we are still going ahead with our project, it will just be a scaled back and potentially longer timeline.  We have a SKYPE session with our inquiry facilitator early Term 3 to keep fleshing it out and ensuring we stay focused.  I have started changing my practice - part of that being using a wider variety of tech, such as Flipgrid with my students to reflect on their learning – and they know have learnt the WHY behind the choice to use those particular technologies.

DisruptEd the past two weeks has been prompting us to question the principles and mindsets required to deliver powerful learning.  I responsed to the question “What principles do you believe underpin powerful learning?” with he tãngata, he tãngata, he tãngata, - the people, the people, the people - by putting the learners first, the learning then become collaborative, it becomes accessible to all and authentic.   To this end, we will carry on and we will put our learners again in the center – changing our practice as needed to ensure positive outcomes, collaborative planning and real agentic learning for them. So – the link to resilience – I too need build the capacity and ability to move forward and bounce back after a disappointment – this isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a curve in the learning journey.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Reflections: Week Four - DisruptED

Currently, education serves to prepare people to take on the tasks of a job or discipline to “do” something. As we move farther into the future, education will need to support children to develop the skillset and mind-set to do anything in their future rather than a particular “something.”[i]
It was with this concept of developing further skills and a wider open mindset that I knew I needed learn more and develop my own pedagogical understandings … therefore I joined the social learning experience of DisruptED ….

I joined DisruptED as I enjoy reading, pondering and mulling over all things education and mustering up ideas about how I can then use this new information to best serve my students and community.  I also want to understand and get a better grasp on the pedagogy so I can engage with and support others, especially the kaiako who teach my own children.  While making time can (at times) feels like the ever threatening thunderstorm – I am finding reading and researching in the early morning with a coffee the best time for me as afterschool/evenings are dedicated to family time. 
So – thoughts as an educator and a learner so far as I start to apply them to my own inquiry and learning process. 

Thought one:  These readings (and the reflections of others) has made me consider is there a disjoint and inequity currently in education?  Distance, monies and energies appear to be scattered over schools and places.  I believe all teachers deeply hold akonga interests at heart, otherwise they wouldn't  be there, but I am wondering if all teachers have access to time and energies needed to build the future-focused skills we need as educations and times are rapidly changing.  HOW can we change this?  Do we need actively work to change this, or is it a case of starting off on the train and picking up people along the way?

Thought two: For me, in my kura and classroom, I would suggest from the readings that having future focused learning involves  “emphasizing things like entrepreneurship, design skills, and also collaboration”[ii]   I believe that critical, creative, problem solving and collaborative skills will be the ones most required of our learners – and these are already in focus as we daily flesh out of the Key Competencies, which the MOE which in our curriculum document come prefaced stating learning “starts with a vision of young people developing the competencies they need for study, work, and lifelong learning, so they may go on to realise their potential.[iii]. 

This is also backed up by the MOE strategic planning[iv] which when condensed down to the  one page layout of the overall goals – highlights tailoring of “responsive educational services which meet the needs of and raise the aspirations of all children.”  They also highlight that for this to happen there must be a “quality, responsive, future-focused teaching workforce”

Thought three:  So – jumping back into the inquiry circle – my hunch is that currently in my immediate practice changes need to be further developed to enable the building of skills to ensure this future focused learning.  To that end a fellow teacher and I are in the process of working together to build this future focused learning – and have applied to the Teacher Led Innovation Fund for further time and funding to develop these competencies and agency through empowering students with the skills needed to (ultimately) develop and personalize their learning modules.  We believe that “The choices we open to students must be authentic choices through which students can see that their opinions and--most importantly--their actions can have a real impact on themselves and the world around them.”[v]

So ... there are my thoughts - off to put Mum hat back on and ensure there are enough muffins for school lunches and a plate for the staff room :-)


[v] Williams, Philip. "Student agency for powerful learning." Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 4, 2017, p. 8+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 6 May 2019

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


25th April 2018.

5.50am. Darkness.  Marching feet.  A hush speaking volumes.  A parade halts and then comes to attention.  A semi-circle huddles close surrounding a flagpole beneath which a stone monument shines bare.  Two small bodies inch closer to mine.  This is tradition.  This is respect and gratitude.  This is honour – this is ANZAC morning.

ANZAC morning has been part of my life as long as I can remember.  At first it was along a dark footpath holding a parent’s hand – flashlight bobbing as we walked one street left and one right the the Queen Elizabeth Park where the cenotaph stood tall and imposing.  Four cadets posted on each corner – not moving an inch.  As I grew the flashlight was left at home and I stood beside a parent near the back of the crowd.  At university it was a different cenotaph, standing resolutely beside a grandfather as he wore his medals with pride – he might not have been a NZer by birth, but by golly he stood straight and tall on ANZAC day. 

Now, 30 years later I walk along the streets still.   One turn right and a lone turn left to a cenotaph that isn’t as tall or imposing as the one of my childhood.  It however still stands proud.  I hold my own children’s hands as we join our fellow town members.  We are all there in that darkness to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices of those who stood up for what they believed was right.  We are there to show respect for those who not only gave their life, but came back with burdens we can’t even imagine.  For families who lost members overseas and families who lost the person their loved one had once been.  We stand and salute silently – and give thanks for the peace we have in this place – while murmuring a prayer under our breath for countries and people still caught in conflict. 

My daughter grips one hand.  My son grips the other.  I do, again, shed silent tears as the anthems play.  I am proud of my student as she reads in remembrance.  To the three veterans sitting opposite the cenotaph from me – thankyou from the bottom of my heart for your courage, dedication and fortitude; but really that feels like it isn’t enough.   I am so so blessed and so so thankful for the spirit of the ANZAC – and I promise you that I will make sure that my own children and my students alike will also know that it will  be remembered, respected and returned. 

Photo credit: J McLellan 25/04/2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018


It's early to be up, especially for a 'holiday' morning - except this appears to be what 'normal' looks like even in the holidays for our family.

I'm up a bit earlier - bad dream unsettled me and I wasn't chancing going back there if I fell into a light sleep again.  That means it is 6.23 and I've had one and a third coffee mugs already.  In my defense, they are mocha's.  I'll switched to Tleaft after this ...

3/5 (all my boys) are up and playing Minecraft or something similar on the ipad.  The girls will probably wake around 7ish and since we've cancelled Sky (ok, put on hold) for the summer 502 will go on at 7.30 and they can watch Sesame Street before some breakfast.

Summer is some sort of holding pattern it feels - I'm squirreling away on school work in the early mornings, days are spent knitting/sewing/FEEDING THE CHILDREN ALL THE TIME/cleaning/swimming/lagooning/doing dishes .... you get the idea.  DH has been working pretty much full time, except from Christmas - New Years - an as much as I love my tribe to bits, holidays time can get a bit long in the tooth. 

So ... in terms of school - this will be the the start of my fourth year at my school. I keep pondering a #oneword2018 but nothing has really stood out for me yet.  Consolidate and pace keep popping up into my head both in terms of family and work. - I will get back to you on that one.

The Y10s I started with are now Y13s and I'm really excited for that class.  The girls have keen interests and the course is designed around what they want to study; based on discussions with them at the end of last year.  None of them (currently) plan to study or major in English at Uni, but they are keen to look deeper into how we tell our stories and the feminist voices of the past. 

My Christmas Book (thanks to our local store for choosing one for me as a surprise whilst I choose the kids ones) was The Bone Sparrow - which nicely ties in with the Y12 theme for the year of 'Identity and Place'  They will start with a study on literature surrounding the Boat People in Nauru  and the voices that we hear through media and other texts.  We will study Warsan Shire and Apriana Taylor poetry - along with possibly either the film or novel Kite Runner. 

The Y11s were keen to do something around the world wars, so rather than sticking to a time and doing Wilfred Owen over and over, we'll look at several poems about conflicts from the past and they can choose the ones they want to really dig deep into.  We've also go the NZ drama scripts Land Girls/Glory Boys and The Book Thief to explore. 

My integrated studies class (Eng/Social Studies) will have the theme of 'Turangawaewae' - My space and place .... this is the one I'm having the most fun planning the first four weeks - and then I'll work with the students as to where we head.  We will look at Rekohu (Chatham) Islands for a start and also how story is passed down and the stories of the same places but from different peoples and perspectives.   One novel I have for a class study this year is Refuge by Jackie French - which does this to an extent. 

So that is a tiny snippet/ideas about my classes.  My professional journey will continue with COL work - and I'm excited to sink my teeth into that more this year.  Other than that ... really looking forward to #NZBFC630 starting up again to join my cup of coffee!!