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!!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Last Unit ....

For the last 'official' unit of the term my Y9/10 class as been participating in QuakeCraft - a unit supported by NetNZ ... here are some pics - but couldn't recommend NetNZ enough!  (will update with more 'verbal' once I have a bit more of that elusive 'time'.

Assembling the 'Shake Table'

They decided on a 'teepee' design for their tallest tower challenge

Brainstorming what community could do in natural disasters

Adding in junior school meccano as another design element

Hot potato exercise around sustainable 'tiny' and other housing

Sunday, October 22, 2017

That COL word ...

The term has started again, with the buzzing energy that is the build-up to NCEA exams for seniors and the count-down to Outdoor Ed week for the middles.  My own tamariki in the Junior school are ticking off calendar days till their overnight camps; whilst I make a list and check it more than twice to ensure I’m not forgetting anything.

So far this week coming has Milo & Stories on Wednesday night (we’ll walk up to the library in our PJs) and dress as a book character Friday.  That means sewing up at least three costumes during my duty-free lunchtimes.  DD1 wants to be Moana, DS3 wants to go as cat-boy and DD2 wants to be a flying lion.  The other two haven’t decided yet; for me, I’m leaning towards Hermione or Professor McGonnagal - although Thing One or Thing Two might be easier. 

But I digress … whilst Term 3 was busy finishing I was appointed to an ‘in-school’ (but more sideways) role for our Kahui Ako – the Southern Area Schools COL.  I’m really excited to start getting into working together with the other English and Humanities teachers to support all staff as we work towards the bigger goals set by the schools.  We had an amazing Jumbo Day late in term 3 and what a buzz to have all the staff from all five schools meeting in one place.  Just phenomenal!     

I have seen our across school teacher work with an amazing energy and passion as the COL has gotten off the ground since Term One.  I have so appreciated her enthusiasm and vision as she works for the staff and students within the COL.  This enthusiasm and also the willingness to go outside her comfort zone was part of my inspiration to apply for this position as it came up.  Working together collaboratively for the good of our students can only be a positive thing.  With the advent of technology that joins rather than divides and the willingness of teachers to put themselves into a learner role if necessary – we can work towards furthering the amazing opportunities Area Schools already offer their tamariki. 

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini ke.
My strength does not come from me alone but also from others.

Saturday, September 9, 2017


Image result for Interlead

Over the past 18 months, another staff member and I were privileged to attend the Aoraki Emerging Leaders program run by Interlead as part of our PD as middle leaders.    This saw us not only engaging in a change project within our school but also traveling up to Timaru at least once a term to discuss pedagogy surrounding change and leadership along with learning from other middle leaders in the secondary schools from this area.

This course has now wound up, and our inquiry and project have run its course our next steps will be to ensure that the change we created with all our senior teachers is sustainable as we head into 2018.  So, below is a very short summary of the project and some of the things we discovered in our journey.
Title of the Project
Prepared to Lean Level 1-3
A rationale, the ‘why’ behind this change
We wished to be able to equip the students with a wider skill set, both academic and personal, in order for them to be able to work towards the senior school goal of achieving more merit and excellence grades.
The process taken.  

We discussed together ideas that we had between the two of us before then narrowing down to an idea would work in well with the wider school goals along with sharing our ideas with the principal.  Key to this was the meeting where John from Interlead came down to the school and discussed our ideas with us and principal.   We enlisted agreement and sponsorship from our principal before discussing with all NCEA staff two terms prior to project start. We introduced the ideas at staff meetings over the last two terms of 2016.  This allowed time to introduce the idea to staff and revisit it a couple of times before introducing our finalized idea . We gained support by pulling staff in rather than pushing the ideas.  We were aware that we should dream big and go for a larger amount of time (aiming for five days off-timetable) and then ‘settle’ for a smaller amount if needed (three days).  We shared our ideas with staff, they contributed their own and we refined our project as time went by in negotiation with staff. Staff opted in to areas they felt they could contribute to, some ran parts of the programme, others assisted, but all were involved.  In terms of gaining student's voice; we completed a survey of all Y10 students before entering Y11 to gain a more specific and wider perspective of how they felt.  This enabled us again, to enlist agreement and support from students regarding the project as they could see how their needs were being met  by staff.   
The outcome achieved

The outcome achieved was an 100%  agreement from NCEA staff to go ‘off-timetable’ for the first three days of term in 2017. The first day and a half were to be taken in seminar sessions by a variety of staff on the school premises and the continued day and a half taken off site at the school lodge beside Lake Ohau.  This enabled staff to contribute as and where they were most confident.  Staff who were not leading seminars acted as support crew for those who were, covering the ‘brain breaks’ outside or moving between groups.  This also allowed staff to get to know new students to the school and Y11 students to become more confident and familiar with NCEA staff.  Seminars covered topics such as NCEA subjects choices, reflections/advice from Y12/13 students about NCEA, resilience, growth mindset organisation, making connections between each other, stress ( good and bad) and NCEA Literacy.    STudents also developed a literal take-away binder which then and their mentors could refer to closely throughout the coming year.  

In terms of the outcomes received the verbal discussions with students have been only positive.   Students have referred to the binders mostly in discussion with their mentor teachers  They have been able to use them to keep a record of their subjects and credits gained.  

In terms of continued staff buy-in we have already had staff approach us with ideas for speakers and topics for the 2018 school year.  We feel this reflects the amount of buy-in that our staff have felt towards the wider goal.  
What you have learned as a leader of change

Sponsorship in terms of time is one of the largest  gifts that SMT/SLT can give any person who wishes to be a leader of change.  Time is highly valued at a secondary level, and to ask teachers to give up classroom ‘time’ to support a project is huge.  The fact we had 100% acceptance of the off timetable idea showed us that our staff really support the values and knowledge we were wanting to build in our students.  

We have learnt that framing and promoting a change project involves:- adequate lead in time , obvious benefits to all involved and a clear shared vision.  If change can be linked to wider school goals this also enables a better acceptance and sponsorship of goals.   The continued success of a change project involves keeping it visible on the table and not cluttering it with other business.

Working as a team meant already a TEAM of two - we were able to  build on each others strengths and weaknesses.

Other notes on the course

I could not underestimate the value of the readings and collaborative PD that John from Interlead supported us through.  This provided a stronger basis and understanding of the change and how it may impact us personally/professionally.  The plethora of readings also supported us gaining a wider understanding of the pedagogy surrounding leadership and change within an educational context.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017


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My baby 'graduated' on Friday ... and I've had a wonderfully crazy weekend celebrating her turning five.

I am so thankful for the NZ early childhood centre that she has attended.  She has been in ECE care since she was one and a half and attended 3 different centres as we moved from the North Island to the South when she was two and a half.  All these centres, both daycare and a stint at kindy when we first arrived in Twizel have given her skills she needs to now navigate the school system.  She is so excited about starting school - but I'm also a bit sad to leave behind her amazing teachers in this early childhood setting.  These teachers have given her the confidence to ask questions, developed her caring and nurturing side, pushed her to grow skills when she needs it, but also have given her space and place to just be as she needed it.

This is the end of an era for our family - we are now all school side and again, I count the blessings of working in an Area school.  I know for her first school lunchtime I will actually be 'on duty' in the junior lunch area and will be able to smile at her as she settles next to her bestie to eat the kiwi classic marmite and cheese sammies!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Navigating from the other side

I am amazingly privileged to work in an Area School.  As a mum to five kids - one of the best things is that I know their teachers not only as a 'teacher' but as a colleague and know the amazing amount of work these people put into their students and the learning from the other side of the fence as well.

In less than six weeks my youngest is due to start school.  This is where the other side of the fence is starting to come in.  While our children all learn at different stages and paces and I've learnt about being well below national standards and navigated reading support - this one is helping me realise that our Special Needs (for lack of any other term I am aware of) system and that related aspects such as RTLB and HHN are woefully hard to navigate and gain funding for.

I have much that I would like to write about - but I want to be extremely careful in how I portray those in the system who do work tirelessly for the students in their care.  I cannot fault the staff in our school who have helped me navigate from the other side.  Here I was with this thought since I was 'in' the education system it would be easier to understand.  Um.  No!  If anything - I am left wondering where those with more severe needs manage.  Whilst my child has qualified, at least we hang on to the hope that she will outgrow this need within the next five years - best case scenario and positive thinking.  What about families who don't have this end game in sight - or don't have any understanding of how long the cogs in the system take to work so don't even start the wheels turning before a child appears into the primary school system.  What about those parents who had such a bad experience with learning and school themselves they are unsure where to reach out for their own children?

I have a special needs child - and inspired by several mama and papa bears out there - I will advocate for my child.