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

8 November 2019

posted 7 Nov 2019, 18:33 by Carolyn Brett

"Stomping ground, turf, neck of the woods, hamlet, colony, commonality......." are some of the synonyms associated with the word community via the good ol' thesaurus. It's the minute by minute interactions that can allow a community to thrive or merely survive. Sometimes, it's the small things and not necessarily the grand gestures that can make all the difference.
 
As a child, I was very taken by the insect world and, whenever I could, I managed to swing a project in there about the ant colony or the life of bees or something similar. In some of these worlds, kindness is not always shown and some lower down the 'hierarchy' seem to get a bit of a bad deal! In terms of our school philosophy, we have tried very hard not to have too much of a hierarchical model - used in moderation and when necessary! Similarly, when we work with our children - yes, we have Student Council leaders, big buddies and our seniors are expected to take responsibilities on board and contribute to the life of the school in ways our younger students may not be expected to....... yet! AND there is not an age they get to where it's "Happy Birthday - you can now be a leader"! We try and develop these opportunities from Rising 5s onwards.......
 
Next Sunday at the FAIR, we have the opportunity to witness all of us who call this our 'stomping ground.....' come together and display what being part of a vibrant community is all about. This is where all of us parents, staff and children 'dig in', engage those Character Strengths and go for it!
 
As a big thanks to everyone for helping out in all sorts of ways in 2019 - the FAIR, sizzling sossies, sports teams, Parent Net, pizzas, plant sales, discos, trips, classrooms, gardens, orchestra, ukes.... and many other incidentals along the way - the Board of Trustees would love to see you at the ANNUAL THANK YOU TO THE WBS WHANAU! This is the Friday following the FAIR and I know many of you including the FAIR TEAM will be keen for an unwind and a get together.
  • Chocolate Fish in Shelly Bay - Friday 15 November, 5pm - 6.30pm.
Speaking of the expectations on our children contributing, please remember to come along to the Year 6 Assemblies where the tamariki  will be sharing their memoirs in their 'Year 6 Speech' in groups of 10 on the following dates:
  • Friday 22 November
  • Friday 29 November
  • Friday 6 December
The Metservice says rain for Sunday. We say....... whatever it is, let's give it our best shot and join in the merriment.
 
Onwards!!

1 November 2019

posted 31 Oct 2019, 16:05 by Carolyn Brett

Well, that week went by in a flash! Slow down time, we have a lot more learning to do in 2019 - for the older and younger!

At school I was labelled 'quiet and serious' according to my Primary school reports. (I won't divulge the High School years!) This always makes me giggle and I find myself discussing this with parents who are worried about their children being on the quieter end of the continuum. Now that may indeed change! I think it was more about me always having a strong sense of  responsibility and wanting to 'please the teacher' and always do the right thing. In terms of academic learning, I did well throughout my schooling but I wouldn't say I ever had a major appetite or passion for it until University. It was more about completing the task and handing it in on time and as I got older........ trying to stay out of trouble!

This notion of love of learning is interesting. How do we ignite this passion for learning as evidence shows it's just as important as the learning itself. Neuroscientist Dr Jared Cooney Horvath was recently interviewed on Nine to Noon. I'll give you a bit of a snapshot of some of his main points:
  • Learning comes down to knowledge, context and adaptability
  • Knowledge has become problematic in the age of 'googling'
  • Knowing a fact is different from looking at a fact - if you can't lockdown your fact, you can't use your skill
  • Once a fact is mastered, you can dive into deep learning/contextualisation
  • You then move to adaptability - where you try and adapt your acquired skills to a new situation with practice and effort
  • When skills move from active to automatic, our ability to adapt is harder and harder (think a new innovation + being in a job for a long time)
  • Just as important as this process is one's belief in themselves as a learner (AKA Growth Mindset)
This is the bit that stood out for me - you need to believe that you can learn and you need to know WHY you want to do that
 
"Learning to love learning is one of the most important lessons that can emerge for a student in the education system" says Dr Cooper.

At school, I know that for me there was never a WHY. I just did it. 

Kids really need to engage with the Why, they need to buy into the Why and they need to understand the Why. This isn't always easy and, aIthough I often think we expect children to understand too much too soon and grow up too fast in an adult world, I do think the focus on igniting fire in the bellies, a belief in themselves as a learner, a greater understanding of Why may mean they go to new places in the future. 

When you have your end of year chat with your child's Base Group teacher about progress - I suggest also focusing on the motivation and passion they display for learning. I'm sure it will be in the written report but please don't gloss over this juicy part and just flick to the back page. Please do both. 

25 October 2019

posted 24 Oct 2019, 15:52 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 24 Oct 2019, 15:53 ]

A couple of years ago, Nicola Stevenson was awarded our Annual Study Grant as part of Teacher Professional Learning. Her focus was on raising Maths achievement and she opened our eyes and ears to the work of Stanford Professor, Jo Boaler. Ximena Aitken was already a 'convert' and together they have been presenting our work at a National Conference, other schools, online, and many of you were at the Maths Parent Workshop in 2018..... and, well, they have developed a bit of a fan base, much to their amusement!

Recently, Jo Boaler has provided the education world with a new piece of work 'Limitless Mind' - How Collaboration Unlocks Learning and Lessens Student Isolation. This is something I have in our 2020 Plan to get stuck into in terms of teacher learning. Collaboration, of course, is a central theme in our NZ Curriculum in terms of key competencies and also features strongly in our local curriculum. Let's face it - look at the architecture of our place - it demands collaboration - children and adults! 

I was working in the Ministry of Education when this exciting brand new NZ Curriculum Document was developed. It is the focus on key competencies that really upped the anti at the time and was very much driven by the workplace and what skills were going to be required in the future. Economics drives a lot! More work has been completed on the curriculum since this time but the essence remains. 

The key competencies being: Thinking, Relating, Understanding language, symbols and texts, Managing Self, and Participating and Contributing. 
Our learner attributes being: "I am powerful", "I am a goal setter", " I am a thinker", " I am connected".

I look at where many of our alumni travel onto at Intermediate, Secondary and beyond....... although I can't draw a direct line to the expectations and collaborative opportunities they had here, I have a strong feeling it's been a major factor. Well, that's what many of their parents tell us too. I'd certainly like to think so. I often wish we didn't have so many human variables and worked in pure science - I want to draw that line in bold and throw in a bit of glitter for impact!

Although I haven't read the whole book yet, Jo Boaler draws very heavily on neuroscience. She starts her chapter "Why Collaboration is Important?" with a clear statement..... when we connect with other people's ideas there are multiple benefits for our brains and for our lives. She goes on..... part of the reason students give up on learning is because they find it difficult and think they are alone in their struggle. An important change takes place when students work together and discover that everybody finds some of the work difficult. This is a critical moment... and one that helps them know that for everyone learning is a process and that obstacles are common......" And just a snippet about the neuroscience "Research shows that when people collaborate, the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the frontoparietal network are activated, the latter of which aids in the development of executive functions".  Yes, big words - basically, our social brain!

So, we will be looking forward to getting further inside this work and making our own connections to other key areas in our Strategic Plan - Positive Education, Te Ao Māori and Sustainability.

Hope you find some time to engage your social brain over the Long Weekend as we rev up towards our fabulous School Fair! Roll up, roll up and please sign up to help out, if you haven't already.

27 September 2019

posted 26 Sep 2019, 15:50 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 26 Sep 2019, 15:51 ]

We have arrived at the top of the peak! The final school day of Term 3!

I have spent some time recently looking through the Student Blogs, revisiting the Teacher’s Professional Learning Blog, reviewing our Annual Plans and Forecasting for 2020..... and I’m excited!

At this time of year, I find myself pretty much transplanted into the future, but there is plenty of water to flow under that final term bridge before then. Teachers will be full into final report writing over the next wee while. If you have been here for a few years, you will have noticed how much the reporting has changed over time. We now celebrate the whole child in person and on paper...... AND I now need to get my poets to cut to the chase and grow to love bullet points, as the amount of time per report is too extreme. (I hope they follow instructions!)

Term 4 also means sunhats, sunhats, sunhats..... please check out our policy here. We have a responsibility that is difficult to implement if the hat is not packed. There will also be a big focus on getting into nature, lots of out and about and learning outside of the walls, getting sand between the toes and, hopefully, only the hint of a breeze on the face! A habit requires repetition.... so a "pack your hat, pack your hat" mantra may be required!!

The School Fair is knocking on our door....... with all things revving towards Sunday 10 November. Please also diary the following Friday 15 November - this is the ritual following the Fair where the Board of Trustees puts on a few nibbles down at the Chocolate Fish in Shelley Bay to acknowledge all the help the parent community have given over the year. Adults can chat and kids can go off and play = perfect!

Have a great couple of weeks and see you with hats and bells on in Term 4.

20 September 2019

posted 19 Sep 2019, 17:16 by Carolyn Brett

I spent much of the 90s in living in London and South Eastern Turkey. The theme for tonight’s Disco has had me taking a trip down memory lane.... quite some memories! Quite a lot of shoe gazing!

This is the Disco that I could have easily just opened my wardrobe and possibly selected from an array, rather than the “Suuuzaaaaannneee..... what shall I wear?”

I’m sure you will have a great time tonight, also having a spot of reminiscing! Unfortunately, I won’t be boogying down as I’m out of Wellington. Thanks in advance to the host of parents and the staff supporting this to happen.

One more week of the term and then a chance to have a wee refresh before we put the pedal down flat for the final term of the year. The Fair is looming close on the horizon now and it’s a fantastic time to mix and mingle, contribute and maybe undertake some ‘service learning’ (as we call it within our curriculum).

For those of you who could make the Parent Workshop on Wednesday evening, you would have had a very brief introduction to our Flourish Model. When you say "yes" to the call for the Sausage roster, Pizza crew, Disco helpers, ParentNet team, Board, Fair team and helpers, School Trips, Sports Coaches/Managers, Team Ukulele and Orchestra, helping in class, gardens... whatever it is.... you are right in there ticking off some Positive Purpose, Positive Engagement, Positive Relationships, hopefully Positive Emotions (!)..... and maybe even Positive Health. When things get a bit much, time is tight and it’s another thing on the list, maybe a reframe and a reminder of the personal benefits, the opportunity to dial up your own wellbeing may win out.
So, to all our many parent volunteers, on behalf of myself and the staff, we wholeheartedly thank you. As I said at the mihi whakatau last week, there is beauty in the AND. You AND Us = we.

Give an extra hip jiggle for me tonight, please!

13 September 2019

posted 12 Sep 2019, 15:54 by Carolyn Brett

With 2 weeks now until the end of Term 3, I am starting to compile my reading list. I often can be found carting piles of heavy books around from A to B and back again. The recent goodies range from strengths-based parenting to creating fantastic workplaces and a few in between. If I aim high, I may get at least 2 fully read cover to cover.

A few years ago, I read "How kids succeed" by Paul Tough. (What a surname!) Different themes emerge around learned optimism, character strengths, curiosity, grit, self control, willpower and the like. Angela's Duckworth's study into self control is really interesting. As is the fabulous NZ-based project  'The Dunedin Study'. If you haven't heard of it, this article gives a good overview.

This huge piece of work gave us the very clear line between childhood self control and adult outcomes. Now - I will be unlikely to be the Principal of WBS when our children hit 35 (possibly?!) and for many I may not know where their adult lives take them. But, I would like to think that over their time with us, we have deliberately and thoughtfully planned for and taught them techniques to have that bit more self control. Part of this means not rescuing or preventing mistakes from happening. Brain wiring requires repetition and opportunities to practice, practice, practice. There is also quite a bit of research around the link between self control and academic outcomes. I guess that makes sense.

At the Parent Workshop on Wednesday next week, I'm pretty sure the teachers will be including some simple techniques for helping children (and us!) calm those impulses - you will no doubt have plenty of ideas too - so come and chat!

He waka eke noa! We are all in it together! 

6 September 2019

posted 5 Sep 2019, 15:13 by Carolyn Brett

Awe.... it's an interesting word!

I have some writing from some of our senior students on the wall in my office describing what they think awe is. I was impressed by it as it can be one of those difficult concepts to get your head around. It's interesting though as it's come up in a number of readings and different learning I've been doing recently. This word - small - but seemingly powerful!

Awe is so very closely related to inspiration and happens when you come across something so much greater than yourself. It makes you feel small and humble in comparison. Often, it’s connected to nature. How lucky are we then to be able to witness this every day we enter the gates of Whetukairangi! I’m trying my hardest to get the children to notice and breathe in what’s surrounding them...... it’s a mission!

According to Barbara Frederickson, one of the leading researchers on positivity, awe is one of the big 10 forms of positivity along with joy, gratitude, serenity, inspiration, hope, pride, amusement and love. Positivity opens us..... our hearts and our minds.... and it’s good for our health. We have to be realistic and we can’t run around in Pollyanna-ville but we can certainly have power to grow all of these qualities within ourself and our children. 

At the Parent Workshop on 18 September at 6.45pm, we will give you a snapshot of the type of learning that happens  in our Wellbeing/Positive Education programmes. The main focus will be on positive health, positive relationships and positive emotions......... will be great to hear what you already might do at home, too, to support the social and emotional side of learning.

Now, speaking of inspiration....., did you see this in the paper recently?



Should we bring it back?!

30 August 2019

posted 29 Aug 2019, 19:45 by Carolyn Brett

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." Voltaire

Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle, in his wisdom, provided a guiding principle known as the 'golden mean'. Simply, this is the mid point between either extreme. 

This is so very essential when we come to raising and educating children! Children are often under immense pressure to achieve, but is about getting the balance of over involvement and under involvement as right as we can. We can't be laissez-faire with a 'she'll be right' demeanour, nor can we constantly critique, observe, evaluate, provide feedback at every step of life's journey. The perfect path doesn't exist.

Parents and teachers do their best to provide clear directions and point out right from wrong, but too much guidance can be too much of a good thing. We need to be brave to allow children to explore the unknown, the uncharted and run into cul-de-sacs every now and again. As long as they feel safe, we need to allow them to make imperfect decisions and make mistakes and learn as they go. 

Aristotle describes things well in that the key is to be involved at the right time, at the right degree, with the right motive and in the right way. As I am writing, I'm thinking, yes, well that's certainly easier said than done, but I think if we are really mindful of this and we have this as an intention, we may get it just that little bit more 'right'.

This is timely as we head towards group Student Led Conferences next week for most. As the parents and teachers, I wonder how we can get our involvement, prompting and feedback around the golden mean! Let's make an effort to be 'good enough' and, unfortunately, there aren't any shortcuts when it comes to child development. Let's enjoy what they want to share and what they are proud of. 

Leading up to SLCs, it's also a  good time to reflect on the research around praise that I discussed in a June Newsletter.

23 August 2019

posted 22 Aug 2019, 17:42 by Carolyn Brett

We are very fortunate to have a resident collector. Some people collect ceramics, others records... our teacher John collects 2 main things in my opinion - that being pieces of wood and people! It’s not surprising as John has connector and other strengths within the ‘humanity’ area as some of his key attributes.

So, people, young and not so young, artists, scientists, inventors, historians, political machines, trappers, sports people, conservationists, artists, leaders in Te Ao Māori, writers, film makers..... the list goes on and on. Oh, and now also astronomers as you would’ve witnessed a couple of weeks ago!

A teacher’s knowledge certainly isn’t endless, but being able to tap into experts and potential mentors from outside the school is so important if we want to give our children something a little different within a rich local curriculum. 

So, whilst we are very fortunate to have our own people collector, I’m sure many of you relate and have your own networks and ‘collections’. This is evident when it's the biggest community event of the Year - our Fabulous  Annual School Fair! Here, we witness the shoulder tapping, the combining of talents, the collective idea-brewing sessions, the “I've got a friend" or "my neighbour knows........” 

Please don’t stop making suggestions of people you know who may be able to provide our children with something new, some different thinking or open their eyes to something profound!  And please don’t worry if a suggestion doesn’t fit right there and then. Like we say to the children - don’t give up - try again! We always need perspectives and ideas that may ignite minds! Maybe you had something ignited this week at the Arts Celebration! You may have also noticed John’s pieces of wood!

This whakatauki is so well used but totally on my mind right now.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He Tāngata, he Tāngata, he Tāngata!!

What’s the greatest thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people!

People - please get your Fair Volunteer Forms sorted so that our children get the best.

16 August 2019

posted 15 Aug 2019, 15:55 by Carolyn Brett

Over the first holidays this year, we hosted a Positive Education Conference here. Obviously, this wasn't enough to satisfy the holiday break appetite of some of our staff .... as last holidays we hosted a Maths Workshop. This was a big success and was attended by over 30 Principals and teachers. The 'we' instigating and leading our Math's world go by the names of Ximena and Nicola! 

Four years ago, Ximena undertook some professional learning around 'Mathematical Mindsets' and it has revolutionised her practice. She found a like minded learner in Nicola and from there these 2 have led workshops at National Conferences, are always inundated by teachers from other schools requesting visits to observe and learn, are taking Professional Learning sessions at our own and other schools. The commitment is huge and the passion big. When I chatted to Ximena, she explained that she wished to celebrate the 4th anniversary of her 'wow' moment by giving back to others as part of living the Positive Education principle of 'Positive Purpose'.

Why Positive Purpose? 
People will flourish when they believe and serve things greater than themselves and when they frequently engage in behaviours that help others. All of you that work hard behind the scenes, whether it be in class, fundraising, governance, communication/linking/networking, are certainly demonstrating this altruism and kindness. We want to help our children to engage in these behaviours too.... and, in fact, this service to others may help them develop lifelong patterns of making positive contributions to the community. It's more than feeling good...... it's about others.

So we can see how the work that Ximena and Nicola are doing is helping our children, our staff, our colleagues, their schools, their children and allowing them with a chance to grasp a bit of the 'flourish'! It's a nice reframing exercise next time the schedule all seems a little too much - this contributing - I think!

Not too far away now, teachers will be collating school-wide Maths data, analysing this and reporting against the annual targets by year end. This will be informing the where to next in 2020.  Based on 2018 end of year data, the Maths targets in 2019 are:
  • To accelerate the progress of all children at risk of underachievement in Maths against curriculum expectations.
  • To maintain the rate of progress for students already meeting or exceeding curriculum expectations.
Below these big targets, there are groups and names and graphs and plans and conversations and more plans and assessment and... and... and... all in the name of 'shift'!

Thanks, Ximena and Nicola, for leading the Maths charge with such verve! It's a beautiful thing as "The book of nature is written in the language of Mathematic” -Galileo

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