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Also see the Positive Education page - one of Jude's passions!

5 July 2019

posted 4 Jul 2019, 15:34 by Carolyn Brett

Welcome to the final Newsletter of Term 2. That makes us half way through the year! With so much started, completed, accomplished and plans a-plenty for a fab second half!

We hope that the recent parent/teacher conversations and the interim written communications have given you a good sense of what the first 2 terms of the year have been like for your child. Times have certainly changed…. I remember my parents rocking up in the Holden Kingswood (2 tone, blue) to a mysterious ‘interview’ with the teacher once a year and a ‘report’ being sent home at the end of the year and, if we had a teacher with more of the Character Strength of Kindness dialled up, well, we got to read it before we took it home in our bags. I’m not sure if that was always helpful!

At our school, we have the full smorgasbord available. Goal Setting Meetings (2 formal face-to-face with 2 formal written reports), Student Led Conferences, Seesaw, great Blogs, weekly Newsletters, Parent Workshops, Assemblies, community events, class emails, children sharing their day, whānau days…… et al. 

Yes, it’s all time and a big ask, BUT proactivity is key on both sides of the triangle - parents and teachers (with children being the third side!). If you have connected in all the ways above and still find yourself half way through 2019 not quite sure of what’s what or where and how, then please make an appointment with your child’s base group teacher…... it should not be a mystery to anyone!

We ended Term 1 / started Term 2 by hosting teacher Professional Learning Days for our people and others from a range of schools in the holidays pre-Easter. Then we started back and the upwards trajectory began…... we said we would pace… but, as I am not physically present right at this moment to see if that is the case, I am writing with hope at my fingertips, people!

I came across this the other day: 
“Teaching is the subtle art of shaping young minds without losing your own.” 

Staff: take note - rest up and go easy these holidays!

To you all, have a wonderful break and I am so looking forward to seeing you again in Term 3. 

28 June 2019

posted 27 Jun 2019, 19:14 by Carolyn Brett

I’ve written about one of my favourite subjects ‘GRIT’ often. With a recent Education Office Review (ERO) into GRIT out, I thought it was about time I harped on about it once more.

GRIT - ‘perseverance and passion for long term goals’ is a key indicator for future prosperity and wellbeing. We constantly hear about the need to build resilient children…. and there is a lot of evidence to show that children are becoming less resilient. 

It’s reassuring, but not surprising, that the ERO findings of 2000 NZ children showed that there is a clear link between resilience and how well children do at school. This mirrors what all the international research has concluded and what we have been using as a basis for our curriculum for some time.

Angela Duckworth is a key researcher into GRIT. Caroline Adams Miller’s work is also interesting if you are keen to find out more. In fact, there is also a simple survey of Angela’s with just 10 questions to do for yourself in order to get your ‘GRIT score’. 

Praise - be careful!
So, if we are wanting to develop greater resilience/GRIT in our children, one thing we can do is look at the praise we are giving them, the type of praise makes a big difference. Are we praising the person or are we praising the process? 

This subject of praise is a very interesting one and can be helpful or unhelpful to our cause. To reduce educ-speak, I hunted for a parent voice and came across this article ‘The Ultimate Guide to Praising Your Kids' by parent, Ashley Cullins, in something called the Big Life Journal. I’m pretty sure it’s sound! The messages are on point to what we are aiming to do at school anyway.

We really hold a lot of responsibility in our heads and hearts, don’t we?! We won’t get it right all of the time, but if we aim for most of the time we will be doing well.

21 June 2019

posted 20 Jun 2019, 15:53 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 20 Jun 2019, 20:21 ]

There was a slightly scary but interesting interview with writer David Gillespie on RNZ a while back. Whilst it was focused on teenagers rather than children the age of ours, the content about the addictive behaviours related to screens still resonated.

I’d never thought of the notion of apps being explicitly engineered for addiction and we all know about the issues with controlling access to devices. I imagine it’s much more difficult with teenagers, having so much more independence and time away from parents' eyes for a start.

A great saying is “If only common sense was more common" and I think this is true when it comes to creating boundaries with children. A couple of key things coming through from the interview are to be totally consistent in messaging, ie. no device in the bedroom means no device in the bedroom (ever… not just one even…... no exceptions! Yes, no means no). And although it’s teenagers, I felt that many of his suggested strategies for controlling access would benefit our children. If you are keen for a particular viewpoint, please go to "Why screen time is addictive for teens".

So, if we are wanting to limit screen time, what can we suggest children fill their lives with? Here comes the word……..  exercise. Harvard Psychiatry Professor, John Ratey, says:

"Exercise is the top thing to do [for your brain]. All the hard-edge neuroscience people say number one is exercise, number two is socialisation, number three is getting enough sleep as well as having the right diet."

Movement does indeed wake up the brain and it’s something we are committed to making sure we do regularly. In a school like ours, children naturally move a lot. They move between teachers and groups, they are encouraged to dance, they have structured brain breaks and a variety of ‘wake up your brain’ activities. If it’s good for the children to optimise learning, it must also be good for the adults learning and teaching with them.

It’s a trap to think that a child sitting silently with their head down for long hours may be learning. Active children are more focused and have faster cognitive processing. Above that, it’s natural for children to want to move………. and, move they shall.

How might it look with 10% less screen time and 10% more exercise at your place? Maybe you are already all over this ‘modern day issue’. But if not, please give it a whirl.

14 June 2019

posted 13 Jun 2019, 19:02 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 13 Jun 2019, 19:03 ]

We say the ‘whole child’ is at the heart of our curriculum. We write that the ‘whole child is at the heart of our curriculum”. Often these are empty promises… Not at our place, that I can guarantee.

I think that the child must have always been at the core of WBS philosophy, well before my time. We sit proudly on the very front cover of ‘Open School House’ - Environments for children in New Zealand, published in 1980, where it was all about open spaces, open hearts and open minds. The architect, Gerald Melling, deliberately created a school for small(er) people. Try taking anyone much over 6 foot around the school and this will be easily proven. They duck and they dive. Yes - our school was built for children.

We hope that in the recent ‘reports’ this focus on the whole child is magnified. Although feedback from the previous template in 2018 was overwhelmingly positive and you, the parent community, felt that we celebrated the whole child well in writing…. the staff feedback was that we wanted to be even more explicit in our communication with you about progress in all areas Social/Emotional, Academic and Physical. Sharing our Positive Education and Inquiry models in graphic form may also hopefully help with context.

As you can imagine, it’s quite a task for the teachers and Carolyn Brett, who supports with styling/editing during this process. This happens twice a year. It takes weeks and weeks of discussion, sharing, moderating teacher judgments in Reading, Writing and Maths and really getting into thinking deeply about each child as an individual….. what strengths they bring, what next steps they have.

So, in gratitude to our teachers and Carolyn, .... it’s been big and bold but the word ‘mediocre’ isn’t in our WBS dictionary. In saying that, we really need to appreciate what sits inside and behind the final ‘piece of paper’. 

7 June 2019

posted 6 Jun 2019, 20:13 by Carolyn Brett

When I started out in this career 30 something years ago, I had very limited knowledge about how a brain works and what supports learning from a neuroscience perspective. Oh, such simple times! But now, thanks to advances in Science and Technology and Research a plenty, we can understand more and aim to create environments and connections to optimise learning for ourselves as the bigger learners and our tamariki - the reason schools exist!

“We are what we repeatedly do” said Aristotle. The mind-body connection knowledge isn’t new. Ancient wisdom was all over this stuff! I have become increasingly interested in emotion, language and the brain in recent times and am undertaking more learning in this area at the moment. About 6 years ago, I studied Positive Psychology for a couple of years, this then presented as Positive Education at school. I know we talk about it a lot to all who will listen, it's because it has really made such a terrific impact on our culture - for staff and children alike. When I asked the Board to comment on what they are most proud of/found the most interesting during their term - good ol’ “Pos Ed” was once again highlighted. Although a born optimist, I don’t wear rose tinted glasses in any way, shape or form, so I also know this work is ongoing and nowhere near finished. I’m also really pleased that some other schools in Wellington are now discovering the benefits, so it’s not just WBS children who are advantaged.

If emotions influence our thinking more than thinking influences our emotions, we can have a big influence on children’s success. We have to try and figure out how they ‘tick’ and put supports in place for them to fall over, muck up, get it wrong…. and then pick themselves up and give it another go. (I want the same for our staff too.) Life is one big learning opportunity! We will be having our next Parent Workshop on Wellbeing/Positive Education in Term 3, on Wednesday 18 September, so please come along and get involved. 6 years ago my project was entitled “Encouraging a Community to Flourish”, community meaning all of us - children, whānau, staff and beyond…... I’m still sticking to my goal!

24 May 2019

posted 23 May 2019, 16:45 by Carolyn Brett

When we asked for our parent whānau to feed into our strategic direction a while ago, your response was pretty much a keep doing what you are doing, people, BUT we want more Music, please! Music is one of the 4 elements of a vibrant Arts Curriculum - along with Visual Arts, Dance and Drama.

We are intent on keeping The Arts alive and well at WBS and will not let anything stop us. One of our thought leaders, Sir Ken Robinson, would be proud. In his work on 'Finding Your Element', he often laments that schools have become lacklustre and unable to allow for freedom of expression or creativity to flourish. I know it takes careful planning, energy and an innate desire to provide an exciting learning programme for our tamariki. I know that The Arts can also push boundaries for some of our staff and take them out of their comfort zones, so I am impressed with the Growth Mindset they often model in their own learning and also the support for each other. 

So, when we look at Music, we have made some serious movement in 2019 thanks to our teacher learners and passionate parents. This year, due to your fundraising efforts, we have employed Henare, our fab Kapa Haka expert tutor for weekly sessions of waiata, actions and recently new moves with tī rākau. Thanks to committed parents, we now have our very own Orchestra (who are sounding so good!) and our Kiwilele/Ukelele group has started this week. All of these happen on a Thursday! So, for some of our children, they must certainly wish every day was Thursday.... and why not?!

Our Matariki Celebration will be upon us before we know it and this year we have a focus on Music Making. Watch this space - you will find out more soon. Now this is a bit of a taster to what we will be revving up to in Term 3 - yes, the annual Arts Celebration for 2 evenings of merriment. Please diary Wednesday 21 August - Thursday 22 August.

We have a very full on Professional Learning and Development programme for our teachers (PLD). That's what they are doing in the staffroom every Monday after school and every Thursday before school. After a day with the children on the Monday or rushing to get to work early on the Thursday, we need to be able to shut aspects of our professional and personal lives off and others on. To help us to get in the zone for learning, we often start the sessions with what we call a Positive Education (Pos Ed) starter.

This can be anything from a game to a breathing exercise, singing, some yoga moves or a time for a written reflection and the like. Often there is a Music theme - linking to positive emotion. Teachers can then use some of these simple techniques back in the spaces with the children. Some of these PLD sessions lately have also been Music orientated - with our teachers learning how to compose music using GarageBand. 

Here is a little about what the New Zealand Curriculum says about The Arts:

Arts education explores, challenges, affirms, and celebrates unique artistic expressions of self, community, and culture. It embraces toi Māori, valuing the forms and practices of customary and contemporary Māori performing, musical, and visual arts.

Learning in, through, and about the arts stimulates creative action and response by engaging and connecting thinking, imagination, senses, and feelings. By participating in the arts, students’ personal well-being is enhanced. As students express and interpret ideas within creative, aesthetic, and technological frameworks, their confidence to take risks is increased. 

My feeling is, if The Arts has the ability to do all this for our younger learners, then it must certainly be good for our older learners too. I want our staff having plenty of opportunities to get creative, take risks and enhance their personal wellbeing - it's a no brainer!

So here's to keeping The Arts alive and our staff and community volunteers also learning and growing alongside the children. Here's also to keeping our eyes and ears open as we don't want to overlook anyone. This is a funny anecdote from a radio interview with Sir Ken Robinson last year:

“But anybody who knows anything about education knows the real key to improving education is teaching.”

Contrast his experience with that of Paul McCartney, whose music with the Beatles was avidly followed by the young Sir Ken in Liverpool.

“I can remember ‘Love Me Do’ exploding into the airwaves of Radio Luxembourg which is what we used to listen to at the time in Britain. I couldn’t believe how great this record was. I’d never heard anything like it.”

Decades later, interviewed for a book, McCartney told him he hadn’t enjoyed music at school and his music teacher didn’t think he had any talent. Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison was in the same music programme a couple of years later and the teacher didn’t think he had any talent either, McCartney said.

“I said, well look would it be reasonable to say this, that there was this one music teacher in Liverpool in the 1950s who had half the Beatles in his class and he missed it? And he said ‘yes’.”

Sir Ken points out talent doesn’t always show itself.

“Human talent is like the world’s natural resources, it’s often hidden from view.”

Food for thought! Here is the full interview.

17 May 2019

posted 16 May 2019, 17:30 by Carolyn Brett

Feedback from the parents who made it to the Parent Workshop on Inquiry Learning was really positive. They experienced an almost 'painful to watch' short clip of Toto the Turtle attempting to turn themselves over. We were all so tempted to jump into the screen and just flip it to get the agonising wait out of the way. Such is the frantic pace of our lives, so we can go 'tick' and onto the next task so often. Well at the evening, dear ol' Toto was likened to what we often experience with children.... it takes time, it can be frustrating but, with some perseverance and patience, we can witness Toto doing things for himself or herself!

Kath Murdoch is a well known Inquiry 'guru' with many of us looking at her material for inspiration, research and  away forward. Kath wrote a piece about the 'Art of Inquiry'. In this, she illustrates 10 practices of the Inquiry teacher and let's think of a 'teacher' at home too.
  1. Cultivate curiosity - provoke, model and value curiosity
  2. Question - good questions are at the heart of Inquiry
  3. Connect - help children see connections across learning areas and between school and outside of school
  4. Release - Learners have to do most of the work!
  5. Keep it real - keep purpose and authenticity at the forefront 
  6. Notice - Observe, notice, reflect, respond
  7. Grow learning assets - value the process of learning - be a researcher, a thinker, a self manager, a communicator and a collaborator
  8. Play - understand the power of purposeful play
  9. Think big - keep your eye on the bigger picture
  10. Get personal - get inside the lives and passions of the learners
As I said at the start of the Parent Evening, this approach just seems so much more complex and interesting than my many elaborate cover pages and copied words from the blackboard in days past! You can find out a lot more information from the Blogs. If you look hard enough in one of the presentations, you will even see poor Toto!

When you have your Progress Meetings with your child's base teacher later this term, you will also hear more about Inquiry and how your child/ren is/are responding to the learning. This will also be a great opportunity to ask any further questions about that area that really encapsulates all the competencies, links strongly to Reading, Writing, Maths achievement and Positive Education. But, first, I really recommend you digest the Blogs if you couldn't make the evening and are keen to support at home.

Hope you have your outfit sorted for the Slumber Party Disco tonight! Thanks in advance to our Mr Disco Maker and the staff and parents there working to make it happen.

10 May 2019

posted 9 May 2019, 20:18 by Carolyn Brett

In the holidays, we hosted two days of Positive Education aka Wellbeing workshops with educators from other schools here at WBS. The trainer, Jessica Taylor, from the Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School, Australia, brought joie de vivre, wisdom and skill over to our shores.

This isn't a new journey for us here, but it was a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge our progress, to reinforce our understandings but also very importantly take the understanding, the research, the science to a new level. She left us with a strong message about placing a wellbeing lens over everything we do.... even if we could do this 10% more, what would this look like and what could the benefits for our children (and staff/whānau) be? 

A new report from the Office of the Children's Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki identified that a third of the 6000 children and young people who contributed to the "What makes a good life?" report indicated they faced challenges, whilst 1 in 10 faced multiple challenges.

"New Zealand should be a place where all children and young people are able to develop and flourish. From what we heard, a significant number of children and young people face challenges. Children and young people have valuable ideas based on their everyday experiences and hopes for the future. We undertook this work so that their views can inform the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, designed to drive government action on child wellbeing, but could also be used to inform practitioners and communities who want to make a difference for children and young people."

This is what they had to say about "What makes a good school?"
  • Young people spend a lot of time at school and generally believe education is important for future opportunities. Schools and communities can have a major impact on their wellbeing.
  • Young people want kind, helpful teachers who care about them. They say teachers who are the same ethnicity as them are more likely to connect and talk with them.
  • Young people with disabilities want teachers to be more patient in order to help them learn.
  • Respondents want to learn content which is relevant to them and would like to do more preparation at school for the career they wish to pursue. Some want more Te Reo Māori classes in school. One young person said education should include going to the marae and learning from elders about how to be a leader.
  • Some young people talked about the culture of their school and said it needs to be okay to fail. They want schools to be more accepting and respectful.
  • A child with a disability said it was important to be able to go to a school they liked and that they were supported to stay in a mainstream school.
  • Young people from a refugee background talked about how important language was to them and their families. They see getting good at English as crucial to having a good life.
  • Young people talked about needing support to learn ‘life skills’. They saw this as an important part of helping them to become an adult and getting a job. They wanted to learn more about interpersonal skills, budgeting, making good choices, managing their anger and knowing how to access housing.
  • Although some young people had had negative education experiences, the vast majority were still enthusiastic about learning.

We have a lot of responsibility as parents and educators, don't we? But, hey, what opportunity to help our younger people flourish in life.

7 years ago I began my real learning into the depths of wellbeing and my certification project was all about words.... language....how we speak and what we say......after all:

             "The words we speak become the house we live in." (Hafiz)

Whilst we can't be expected to get it right all the time (sorry, folks), it's one thing we can be really conscious about when communicating with our children and each other and, most importantly, first we have to listen!

So, here's to listening, here's to speaking and here's to increasing the lens by at least 10%.

3 May 2019

posted 2 May 2019, 20:17 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 2 May 2019, 20:18 ]

Welcome to the first Newsletter of Term 2, 2019.
Board of Trustees elections are coming up fast. Some of you will be very familiar with the role of the Board in NZ schools, others won’t be at all and many will fall in the inbetween. We are really keen to gather momentum as we head towards election date 7 June. That's only 5 weeks away. Nominations close 24 May - now that's only 3 weeks away!
So firstly, what is the role of the WBS Board?
"The Worser Bay School Board of Trustees (The Board) is entrusted to work on behalf of the community and government and is accountable for the school’s performance. It emphasises strategic leadership, sets the vision for the School and ensures that it complies with legal and policy requirements."
To find out more detail, a good place to look is the New Zealand School Trustees Association website.
We rely heavily on our parent community. Not a day goes by when there isn't parent help in the classroom, on trips, coaching/managing sports/orchestra/fundraising meetings and organisation, food preparation, Parent Net rallying troops and on and on it goes. A lot of these roles we understand the parameters, they seem fairly black and white. The Board always feels like more of a mystery, but it really isn't! A trustee is a role where you can contribute in a different way and, in doing so, deepen your understanding of education as a whole.
I would love to talk with you more about what it's like to be a Board trustee if you are thinking about putting yourself forward or I can put you in touch with another board member if you have a particular interest in an area they take leadership in. The best thing to do is contact Steph Williams ASAP and we can go from there. 

12 April 2019

posted 11 Apr 2019, 22:46 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 11 Apr 2019, 22:47 ]

Welcome to the last Newsletter of Term 1 and, wow, it's gone fast! I'm reminded of the saying about don't ever waste a day as you never get it back.... these 10 weeks have certainly not been wasted! They have been packed full of learning for the small, medium sized and bigger - or should that be older!? There has been a bit of everything. When we say we are educating the 'whole' the evidence shows that is not simply lip service!

We have a conference here the first 2 days of the holidays when a trainer from the Institute of Positive Education in Geelong, Australia, will be coming to work with us and other keen educators around student wellbeing. After these 2 days, I am hoping our staff will have plenty of off switch time, focussing on their own wellbeing, before revving into Term 2. Likewise, our children..... what would holidays be like with 20% less screen time and a 20% increase in reading good ol' books? I came across this letter from Rebecca Solnit, an American writer to readers recently which is a great thought as we go into the break:

Dear Readers,

Nearly every book has the same architecture — cover, spine, pages — but you open them onto worlds and gifts far beyond what paper and ink are, and on the inside they are every shape and power. Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything...... They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.

And I grew up to write books, as I’d hoped, so I know that each of them is a gift a writer made for strangers, a gift I’ve given a few times and received so many times, every day since I was six.

Have a gorgeous break and thanks for a great term of partnership.

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