Friday, 2 December 2016

How do you measure success?

People measure success in many different ways and on many different levels.  When setting goals in life or education, it’s important that we identify what success means to us personally, so that when we succeed we will know it.

I became a teacher to make a difference. I had dreams of teaching children to go beyond their immediate backyard, to offer them an opportunity to peek out at the possibilities the world has to offer. Having been bought up by a single mother of four, and living my early childhood well below the poverty line, it became my goal to provide the love of learning, joy of school and excitement of teaching so that the next generation could have better opportunities, experiences and options than I had.  My life goal was to work toward creating a positive difference, by nurturing, encouraging and challenging the children (and later the staff) in my care, and thus add value to their lives. 

We all have tales to tell and histories that make us who we are. These histories do not have to define who we can become. If this were true I too would be a solo mother of four still living below the poverty line, struggling to provide the basics for my children. My love of learning, and dedication to education has seen me overcome those odds. I measure my success against my own dreams and goals. However, that does not mean I have reached the pinnacle of success nor does it mean that  my journey stops here. I have more dreams and more goals and more successes to strive for. This Growth Mindset message is one we have been emphasising with our children for some time now. We hope it has become embedded in their psyche and will help carry (and push) them to personal success throughout their lives.

Throughout my time at Woodhill School we have been encouraging and supporting children to realise and see they can be what they want to be, and they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. It requires a Growth Mindset and Grit in the Learning Pit. This is also supported by our school values - Together We Care Learn and Grow. These values hold a simple yet powerful message.  We only need to stop and think, what does it really mean?

CARE - for ourselves, others and our environment. 

This starts at home and is extended beyond ourselves. It is about being self-less and caring about everyone rather than only those close to you. It means having empathy and an understanding of and empathy toward other people and their cultures. It also means caring beyond today and looking at tomorrow, because what we do now, will impact future generations. 
As an example, through the power of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori are now in a position to think and plan for future generations.

LEARN - to be curious, creative, collaborative, critical and reflective.

This starts at home and is extended locally by working together. Encouraging, co-operating, collaborating, sharing and accepting others' ideas and opinions. Encouraging children to have an open mind and have the courage to ask questions. Creating a supportive environment where everyone is inspired to ‘have a go’ and accept that we all learn from our ‘mis-takes.’

GROW - by Dreaming, Daring and Doing

This starts by ‘Dreaming’  - a goal starts with a dream.
To become a goal you must Dare - have the courage to ‘have a go’.
Dreaming and Daring are important but they must lead to action - to Doing. We put our dreams into action by ‘doing’.

Everyone has their own definition of success in life. It’s not my job to live up to someone else’s idea of success. My accomplishments and successes are mine, not theirs. And I get to measure success by my own standard. We teach our learners to set high standards and have high expectations and then to strive to meet them. This leads to my definition of success - the inner satisfaction that comes from putting your heart and soul into something.  

I am so proud of our children, our school, our learning programme, our classroom environments, and our progress as learners who Care Learn and Grow. We set high standards, held high expectations, and then exceeded them.

The one area where we did not meet a measure of success is our school roll. Sadly with the decision to end the bus service, no local Kindies or Kohanga and no stream of new children coming into our catchment area, this was something absolutely beyond my control. 
A challenge somewhat related to that is our small roll. This means we need to rely on parents to take individual children to inter school events when they compete. Those individuals have often absolutely shone - winning events from Young Farmer Competition to Speech Competition to Discus as examples. As the manager of a small school, it has been unfortunate and simply unrealistic to take a teacher away from full class responsibilities to supervise one or two children at a sporting event. This is one of the many realities I have to face as principal of a small school. Fortunately we have passionate parents who step up, provide transport and encourage their children as they compete at these events.

In the areas we could control we shone. We went from:
- a starting financial deficit of $50,000 to a small annual surplus each year
- a one year ERO Review cycle to a three year ERO review cycle
- a Limited Statutory Manager to a self governing school

We have upgraded our classrooms and implemented an Innovative Learning Environment. 
Visitors - including the newly appointed Commissioner - have been hugely impressed with our learning environment and learning resources. We introduced one-to-one iPads and ChromeBooks for our children. Installed Apple TVs, Flat Screen TVs and data projectors in every classroom.

Woodhill School has done amazing things in the short time I have been there. 

I wish the new staff and children at Woodhill School the best of luck. 
They are set up for success with the right frame of mind and support from the community.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

'To Inquire' or 'Not to Inquire'

What is Inquiry Based Learning?

- Asking Questions
- Thinking to make meaning
- What will I learn today?

How is this different to what we are used to?

Moving from Traditional teaching methods - Teacher provides all the information / students then recite what the have learned

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) - constructivist Theory

What is the Teachers Role?

Levels of Inquiry


  • Teacher directed
  • Teacher provides the question
  • Step by step instruction
  • Develops students ability to inquire

  • Students take more responsibility
  • Teacher guides the inquiry


  •     Students take the lead
  •     Requires higher order thinking 


We were required to reflect on Inquiry Teaching Approach and identify the positives and the negatives of having a 'No Inquiry Approach' compared with an 'Inquiry Only Approach'

Below are our thoughts.

  • Traditional
  • Linear Learning
  • Reusable
  • Schools are set up already for this
  • knowledge
  • Measureable
  • Recycling resources / planning
  • National Standards
  • Understanding growth
  • Easier Predictable *
  • Efficiency *
  • Scalable*
  • Deployable *
  • Controllable - Totalitarian *
  • Suits some subjects better than others *
  • Innovative Learning
  • Cross curricula
  • Creators
  • Student ownership
  • Skills development
  • Adaptive Resources
  • Exploration
  • Real World Application
  • Growth  mindset
  • Skills
  • Drilling skill
  • Teacher centred
  • No catering for learning styles
  • Fixed mindset
  • Lacks creativity *

  • Student Learners falling in-between the gaps
  • Preparation of foundation skills
  • Lack of parent understanding
  • Resource organising

  • After much discussion and further reflection it appears we are always inquiring!


    When do we need to use direct instruction?
    • when safety is involved
    • driving / sky diving
    When do we need to encourage specific inquiry?
    • depends on the purpose
    Google 20% time - independence to do whatever they like, do not commit a crime or hurt others.


    5 Whys
    Getting to the Root of a Problem Quickly -

    Thursday, 3 September 2015

    Woodhill School makes music with Makey Makey

    Coding with MaKEY MaKEY

    What's MaKey MaKey?

    Welcome to the world of MaKey MaKey! A world where every day objects are much more than what they appear. Bananas are more than just a curvy fruit - they’re keys to a virtual piano. Play-dough isn’t just a tasty child’s toy - it’s the controlling force behind Pacman’s up/down/left/right. And your simple pencil drawings are a portal to Portal.

    Click on the link and view what can be created using MaKEY MaKEY

    MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Woodhill children had the opportunity to explore, programme and create a musical instrument using Makey Makey. Thank you Jay Silver!

    Below is the learning brief.

    Group Challenge

    Create a musical instrument using “Scratch’ and ‘MakEY MaKEY’
    • Select any musical instrument
    • Can use boxes, tin foil, playdough

    Musical Instrument
    Has to be able to play at least 5 different notes

    Must be connect to something physical

    Here is the script to get you started
    Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 10.23.51 am.pngScreen Shot 2015-09-03 at 10.28.12 am.png

    Sunday, 30 August 2015

    MaKEY MaKEY Inspiration

    30 August 2015

    Today I had time to explore and play around with our MindLab group links, and discovered I have been sitting on a piece of magic that has huge potential to change the way our children interact with the world and get them creating.

    Well.. this week I will be using it with our senior children and will be encouraging them to 'smash' our natural environment with our digital environment to create something musical.

    In the meantime I hope by watching this YouTube Ted talk you will be inspired too.

    Wednesday, 26 August 2015

    Flipped Classrooms

    You may have heard that flipped and blended learning are transforming school and university classrooms, but what exactly is a flipped classroom?

    For many schools, with the teacher at the front and students seated in rows, the classroom has barely changed in the last century. But, today we know that there's no 'one size fits all' approach to learning. The idea behind a flipped model of education is that much of the content is covered outside of the classroom through bite sized video clips, quizzes and collaborative on-line discussions. Subsequently deeper learning can occur in the classroom through face to face discussion which can apply, evaluate and contextualise the content, as well as enhancing collaborative activities, strengthening relationships, and developing communication skills and other key competencies. 

    The end result is a personalised, engaging learning experience for every student — whatever their learning style, pace, or ability.      

    This term in room three we have been trialling a flipped classroom approach with our literacy learning. In practise, I have created a learning website and placed our literacy learning information online. Having the learning available online has enabled children to access the learning material at school and from home.  Scarlet and Izzy have already been accessing and working on their learning at home.  If a child is away from school for a time, when they return to school, they can still be up to date. Their class time remains focused and engaging and we are able to continue our learning without children being left behind or needing to catch up.  Our children have been very focused and extremely engaged, and because of this, I have been able to explicitly focus on specific children and their learning needs.          

    Our learning site can be accessed from this link:

    I also developed a simple music site children can access and learn how to play the ukulele:

    Thursday, 20 August 2015

    What Makes a good leader?

    What Makes a good leader?
    • active listening
    • good communicator
    • reflective practitioner - open questioning
    • collaborative - two way process / collaborative, supportive 
    • two way process
    • growth mindset
    • trust integrity
    • high expectations
    • self confidence
    • social skills
    • patient
    • managing with heart

    What type of leader are you?