Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Covid-19 Reflections

Never waste a good crisis Winston Churchill once said, or, 'so what does this mean for my learning?' when I was writing Learning Stories (narrative assessment) for pupils.

What are we to make or learn from this pandemic that has forced us to provide distance learning for 7 weeks for our learners and families/whānau? We have all heard about wonderful examples of engaged and motivated learners creating superb learning products and excelling in the home learning environment. However, we also know of many students that have not engaged in purposeful learning during this time, and there are a numbers of obvious reasons for this which still need to be addressed.

We have all witnessed how schools have responded to distance learning and how various governments around the world have responded to the pandemic.

During the last 7 weeks, the importance/value of the following has been strongly reinforced for me ...
1. leadership
2. collective action
3. coherence
4. challenging the status quo

I am not reflecting so much on the pedagogy in this blog, my colleague Robin Sutton at Hornby High has done some wonderful thinking in this space, I strongly suggest you read his recent posts.

I believe our Prime Minister and coalition government's response to Covid-19 and their leadership has been superb, some have descibed it as a "masterclass." An explicit game plan, clear and regular messaging and involving a team of 5 million. As a result, everyone bought into the plan. Contrast this with the leadership on display in the USA and United Kingdom, or more accurately, lack of leadership! Countries that have displayed strong decisive leadership, and strong government, have reduced the curve of infection and as a result, have saved lives. An interesting sidenote, the majority of these countries are led by females.

Strong leadership has been required during Covid-19 in order to support our learners and whānau during distance learning. This has not been easy, however, leaders who have employed the following qualities have been able to successfully navigate these challening times.

Kiwi Leadership for Principals (Ministry of Education, 2008). Four educational leadership qualities underpin principals' ability to lead their schools:

  • manaakitanga (leading with moral purpose)
    a strong values base is essential for decision making
  • pono (having self belief)
    a strong values base enables self belief
  • ako (being as learner)
    non negotiable, effective leaders must be life long learners and 'walk the talk'
  • awhinatanga (guiding and supporting)
    Sergiovanni refers to 'servant leadership'

Throughout this journey I have focused on all 4 qualities to varying degrees. I must admit there were times when I questioned my  'pono' ... was I up to this? However, a strong manaakitanga, always open to ako and awhinatanga convinced me I was ... my community and staff were relying on me. During times of crisis, leaders stand up, strong leadership is crucial if we are to win the battle. 

Because I am a political junky and am fascinated by Donald Trump (not in a positive manner), I will draw the comparison when the above leadership qualities are absent ...
  • manaakitanga - Trump is 'value free', only believes in winners and losers, and what is in it for him
  • pono - like all narcissists, plenty of self belief but unhinged and deluded, and lives in a parallel reality
  • ako - a "stable genius", does not need to read or seek expert advice, has little if anything to learn
  • awhinatanga - not a team player or capable of building high functioning teams, thrives in chaos
Barack Obama describes the current USA administration as a "chaotic disaster." This should not be a surprise to anyone.

Collective action ... no better example than the Manaiakalani Education Trust, which includes The Manaiakalani Programme (TMP). 

None of us are good enough to do this all by ourselves. The following collective action has put Hornby Primary and the Uru Mānuka Cluster in a very strong position to support our learners and familes/whānau during the lockdown. It looks like this
  • Manaiakalani Education Trust (MET)
  • shared pedagogy based on Learn Create Share
  • affordances of digital technology to supercharge learning
  • Woolf Fisher Research Centre (WFRC) data analysis and research, including high leverage  practices that accelerate student progress and achievement
  • shared sense making sessions with WFRC
  • Uru Mānuka Educational Trust (UMET)
    provide funding to employ Educational Programme Leader (EPL)
    supports procurement and provisioning of digital devices for families/whānau
  • Uru Mānuka Teaching as Inquiry PLGs that meet every term and share inquiries about raising student progress and achievement
  • Manaiakalani Digital Fluency Intensive (DFI)
    9 week intensive on Google applications and Learn Create Share pedagogy
  • One digital solutions provider across our cluster
Collective action has provided valuable support, not only locally, but nationally. Being able to connect with other principals in the same situation was invaluable, a problem shared is a problem halved. Manaiakalani Convenors were meeting weekly and sharing ideas and planning for each Alert Level. This certainly created more clarity for myself and I was able to share this with our Uru Mānuka cluster colleagues. An interesting sidenote, as a result of these weekly Google Meets, there is a desire to continue these Meets during Alert Level 2. 

It also begs the question, in the future, do our cluster meetings need to be face-to-face (F2F)? Or could we have a blend from now on, some F2F and some online Meets? May this be a more effective way of utilising our precious time?

This collective action, some may refer to this as a systems approach, not sure if it really matters, has undoubtedly placed Hornby Primary School and the Uru Mānuka cluster in a strong position to
  • reduce the digital divide
  • address fairness, equity and the moral imperative
  • accelerate student progress and achievement 
  • ensure fully engaged digital citizenship
  • ensure our learners are equipped to reach their full potential
As a result of five and a half years of collective action with Manaiakalani, Hornby Primary was well prepared to ensure learning was accessible and continued  throughout distance learning.  The UMET enabled 12 families to purchase chromebooks during this time also which ensured these learners were connected and able to access learning from home.

Coherence ... when all of its parts fit together. I love this word! Thank you Pat Snedden (Manaiakalani Chair), I first heard Pat use this word in 2015 when addressing our cluster at Hornby High and it has resonated ever since! Leadership and collective action will not be effective or reach its full potential if coherence is lacking. How does one enable or facilitate coherence? Certainly not by remaining in the Principal's head. Everyone must be 'singing from the same songsheet', fully undertand the game plan, and be intentional about the implementation. It is then the leader's job to keep the vision alive and enacted.

Status quo ... let's get back to normal as soon as possible. This is often the call we here in regard to Covid-19. But what we had before the lockdown was not working for all learners, reverting back to the status quo is not the answer as it was failing a significant portion of our learners. Dr Anne Miln in her video Colouring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools, states we cannot 'sit on the fence', we have to take a position and do something about it. Absolutely!

Challenging the status quo requires boldness, leadership and collective action. The status quo is easy, we don't have to do anything except keep reinforcing deficit theorising and blaming others which lets us off the hook. Let's take control and put ourselves at the centre of the problem and look for solutions, they are out there. Utilise our collective strength, support systems and expertise, and anything  is possible!

Hornby Primary will not be wasting this crisis, the pain and suffering endured by many dictates we have a moral responsibility to learn from Covid-19 and develop our practice to ensure we are providing the best possible learning environment for all of our learners so they reach their full potential and become positive contributing members of society. This is possible through leadership, collective action, coherence and challenging the status quo. No excuses, we can do this!

Note: the political views expressed by the author do not represent Hornby Primary, Uru Mānuka or Manaiakalani.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Authentic: the adjective authentic describes something that is real or genuine and not counterfeit ... something reliable, based on fact, and believable.

Whaea Heather teaches a Year 4-6 bilingual class (Level 2). Each year we have an Anzac Service at the Hornby War Memorial on the school grounds. Last year's service below.

Under lockdown this year, such a service was impossible ... but check out the video link below to see what this year's service looked like ... it was authentic!
Here is a short movie of our google hangout.

I found this learning creation inspiring! Why ... it included all the underlying principles of Learn Create Share, where the learning was
- authentic (culturally responsive practice)
- visible
- connected
- ubiquitous
- empowered
Our pupils were still able to Learn, Create and Share in lockdown without physically being at school. Arabella posted about her great grandfather who was a member of the 28th Maori Battalion and Mikaylah posted about her koro who served in WW11.

Side note: this learning experience was enriched by supporting roles from
- Matua Hector; reading the Ode in te reo Māori
- Arabella's mum sharing about great grandfather
- Whaea Christine our wonderful Resource Teacher of Māori (RTM)
This strengthened the authentic learning context further.

This was possible due to the affordances of the technology and Google Meet/Hangout. This is just another example of the learnings that are arising during Distance Learning. The challenge for us is to ensure we incorporate these learnings into our teaching and learning practices so that we engage and motivate all of our learners when we return to school and face-to-face.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Distance Learning - Term 2

Today is Day 1 of Term 2 and our first experience of Distance Learning thanks to Covid-19. Our last day of the term was 26 March, since then staff have been working tirelessly preparing as best we can for the first day of term today.

At 9.30 this morning we started off with a schoolwide karakia and waiata. It was wonderful seeing so many smiling faces! After this classes broke off into various learning activities, guided by teachers and support staff. I participated in 3 senior Google Hangouts. We often talk about the importance of relationships and connections. I witnessed the power of both in our Hangouts this morning! Dorothy Burt reinforces the importance of teacher-led learning and seeing our staff's face is a 'gift' for learners, your are dead right Dorothy!

How did we get to today?
1. The Manaiakalani Programme (TMP). We are in our 6th year of TMP - Learn Create Share and the affordances of digital technology. I cannot think of a better time for visible teaching and learning, and rewindable learning to be available to us all. A massive thank you to Pat Snedden, Dorothy and Russell Burt for your relentless support and pursuit of equity in our education system! There are many other unnamed people and organisations who make TMP so successful ... you know who you are ... thank you!
2. Hornby Primary staff who have worked through their holidays to have sites up to speed, learning activities and devices in homes.
3. Kelsey Morgan our wonderful Education Programme Leader (EPL) who has been supporting our staff and principals within the Uru Mānuka Cluster - thanks Kelsey!

Hornby Primary School and Uru Mānuka are well-placed to confidently take on this unique challenge we find ourselves in. I thank all the above and feel very privileged and proud to be leading such a professional and committed team!

Kia kaha

An example of a class site with a Home Learning link for our learners, and a links to our Morning 
Karakia and Google Hangout.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sense Making and Professional Learning Groups

Our first Woolf Fisher sense making session  of the year at Hornby Primary last week. A great turnout of principals and leaders of learning analysing student achievement data and problem solving. A big thank you to Selena and Naomi for their wonderful facilitation!

This year our Uru Mānuka Cluster will have a relentless focus on reading ... teaching and learning practice that accelerates student progress and achievement.

High leverage practices (HLPs), as identified by by Woolf Fisher, provide the foci for our Teaching as Inquiries (TAIs) this year.
Teachers from our 7 schools have opted into one of 4 Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) based on the foci below. We have aligned our foci with Woolf Fisher classroom observations to provide us with an insight into our teaching practice.

This week we had our first cluster PLG with groups splitting off into their particular areas of interest. There was robust discussion and valuable connections established across the cluster. I am confident our relentless focus on reading will result in improved student outcomes and a better understanding of the high leverage practices that enable this to happen.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Leadership - 'Why'

Mandy O'Sullivan hosted last week's Convenors' meeting at Grey Main School in Greymouth. Mandy has recently returned from a Woolf Fisher study fellowship where she was investigating leadership. One of her significant findings was the importance of  'Why' and she referenced Simon Sinek and the 'Golden Circle' Ted Talk.

This got me to thinking about our 'Why' at Hornby Primary School (HPS). HPS vision statement ...
Our community will be adaptable lifelong learners who are digitally competent and are
- resilient
- critical thinkers
- participators
- communicators

I am very clear 'why' we are in The Manaiakalani Programme (TMP) and 'why' we continue to implement Learn Create Share and the affordances of digital technology. We must
- accelerate student achievement
- reduce the digital divide
- ensure fully engaged digital citizenship
- and in doing so, equip our learners to reach our vison statement

When you have a compelling 'why', it makes the 'how' and 'what' much easier. As Simon Sinek states, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. I would like to think that the people and organisations who support the Uru Mānuka Education Trust buy into our 'why'.

The 2 graphics below illustrate why we implement and are totally committed to TMP.

Graph 1
Summer Learning Journey (SLJ): e-asTTle Writing Scores Term 1 2017 - Term 1 2018

Graph 1 demonstrates the impact of students who blogged over the December holiday break. Boys who blogged had a 12 months gain in e-asTTle writing scores and Māori and Pasifika had a 6.7 months gain.

Graph 2
Within TMP Cluster & Outside TMP Cluster

Graph 2 demonstrates the difference in e-asTTle Writing scores for Year 8 students within and outside of TMP cluster in Term 1 this year. TMP feeder schools students were 3.5 terms below the national norm while non-TMP feeder schools were more than 2 years below the norm. Although still achieving below the norm, TMP feeder schools are accelerating progress at a greater rate than non TMP feeder schools.

The evidence above is compelling. At HPS we are accelerating student achievement, reducing the digital divide and developing fully engaged digital citizenship. Are we there yet? Definitely not, but we are most certainly on the right bus and will not be getting off! This is why we do what we do ... pretty simple really!

Leadership is about communicating the 'Why' in a convincing authentic manner, backed up by leaders who lead, and as a result, people will follow, not because they have to, but because they want to, they get the 'Why'.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Four and a half years down the track

Uru Mānuka Cluster ( 7 schools including high school) has been in The Manaiakalani Programme (TMP) for the past 4.5 years and has been providing student achievement data to Woolf Fisher Research Centre (WFRC) for analysis for 3.5 years. So how are things looking, are we making a difference to student outcomes?

Last Thursday Marshlands School hosted our Manaiakalani Convenors' meeting - thank you Jacqui! Hannah from WFRC presented an analysis of individual clusters and overall TMP student achievement data.

The following graphs provide 7-point data for matched Uru Mānuka students - these students were in each data set from Term 1 2016 through until Term 1 2019.  In other words, they have had 3.5 years of 'Manaiakalani  medicine'.

Anything above zero in the MNormdiff Gain column indicates accelerated progress in comparison to the norm. What did we find, how are we going?

PAT Maths Results: although still below the norm at Term 1 2019 in terms of achievement (-4.59), Uru Mānuka has accelerated progress for the 263 students tracked from Term 1 2016 through to Term 1 2019.
2.67 points equates approximately to 1.5 terms of accelerated progress.

PAT Reading Results: accelerated progress for the 255 students of approximately 1.25 terms.

e-asTTle Writing Results: accelerated progress for the 232 students of approximately 5 terms.

So what does all of this mean? Are we achieving at the norms in Reading, Writing and Maths? No! But are we on the 'right track'? Absolutely!

Overall, Uru Mānuka is clearly accelerating progress in all 3 areas, this is wonderful news but it is still not enough. We need to do better for our learners in terms of overall achievement. We need to leverage off our positive writing achievement results and raise achievement in Reading and Maths. What are the successful teacher practices we can learn from in Writing that we can transfer to Reading and Maths. Watch this space!

A big thank you to the following, we would not be where we are today without your unrelenting support

  • Manaiakalani Education Trust (MET)
  • Woolf Fisher Research Centre (WFRC)
  • Manaiakalani Outreach colleagues
  • Russell Burt, Dorothy Burt and Pat Snedden

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Otaki Convenors' Meeting

On Thursday 16 May Convenors met in Ōtaki and were hosted by the Te Reanga Ipurangi Ōtaki Education Trust. We had a warm greeting from Rachel and Jim (trustees) and it was interesting to see the great work the Trust is doing to support the local community

  • Trust established under the mana of Ngāti Raukawa to serve the Ōtaki community - the Trust also sponsor the Central Pulse netball team.
  • promote and lift educational achievement.
  • contribute to the survival and prosperity of Māori as Māori.
  • promote educational development of all people.
  • promote the learning infrastructure for kura, schools and home learning.
I was impressed with Rachel's passion for the local community, and the infrastructure and opportunities the Trust is providing for all learners.

Takeaways from the day

  • this kaupapa is about sharing PLD across schools and clusters. No one is telling us to do this, we have all agreed this is what we want to do.
  • Blogger is the best platform for teaching Cybersmart. It enables us to engage outside of the community, for example, Summer Learning Journey. It enables children to make connections in a supported way and teach Digital Citizenship.

Data Collection

  • important to include all children in data set. 
  • we can advocate for them if we know who they are.
  • once we have the evidence, we can advocate for these children ... difficult to do this if we only have anecdotal evidence. It requires visibility.

Junior Data
Why PM and not Ready to Read
  • no one has figured out how to use Ready to Rewad consistently.
  • PM is a better assessment tool - greater consistency.
  • Why do we gather Junior data? Important to know if we are making a difference and we want to share good practice.

Board Forums
Russell also discussed the value of engaging our boards and holding board forums once a term. Some suggestions
  • Get NZSTA to run a session
  • Ministry of Education
  • Other social agences; Police, OT, CDHB, ...

Another valuable opportunity to connect, collaborate and problem solve!