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

10 August 2018

posted 9 Aug 2018, 17:52 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 9 Aug 2018, 17:56 ]

"What will our children do in the morning if they do not see us fly?" Rumi

I always remember my start in the teaching world. I had a very scary senior teacher who said to me on Day 1 "I hope you know you have the power to make or break a child's day."

We are human, we make mistakes and don't always get it right, but the quote above from my favourite, Rumi, really speaks volumes to me.

As the adults in a child's life, we have a massive responsibility. We need to model that mistakes are OK and that challenges are worth the risk. We need to support our children to be kind to themselves, to get over the blips in the road and pick themselves up and try, try, try again. We need them to feel secure in the knowledge that perfection does not exist and kindness trumps all.

When a child follows the example of any adult, they will pick up habits and perspectives that could last a lifetime. Many of you will be aware that we have a strong focus on language use at WBS. I have many favoured quotes but the one I use the most is by Hafiz: "The words you speak become the house you live in".

I know that the staff will remind me if I am not a positive model for them, just as I will remind the staff if I'm not hearing or seeing what I would like to in their interactions.

If it's true that "it takes a village to raise a child", I would like to think that all adults within the WBS community take this responsibility seriously and recognise the importance of positive role models and how they can use their 'power' for good.

We want our children to fly, we need to show them that we can.

3 August 2018

posted 9 Aug 2018, 14:53 by Carolyn Brett

My musical journey started with the recorder, as it often does! From here I moved onto a fancy melodica - the small 'piano' with a windy tube that you blow through - so 1970s! Then I upgraded to the violin - this was an instrument that I never bonded with. It may have had something to do with having to leave the house at 7.15 am on cold winter mornings with the violin strapped to the carrier of my imitation Raleigh Twenty (that's another story!) to get to the lessons at the Intermediate I went to...... and I do vividly recall accidentally banging into many parked cars.... often.... on the way - the violin case was wider than I was used to!

These were all of the instruments I played over my career in the school orchestra. The violin managed to get me on an exchange trip to the big city of Wellington. I also have a vivid memory of knocking more than one music stand down and papers flying everywhere at the final concert of the trip at Raroa Intermediate and getting a complete dressing down - yes, in public!  Oh, the humiliation of it all!

Then there was the piano. I started piano lessons at primary school and learned all the way through to finishing high school. A stint of guitar lessons over this time with the neighbour was relatively short lived - he was pretty stuck on the House of the Rising Sun and anything by Neil Diamond!

I started relearning the piano a few years ago. I hadn't touched it really since high school. I find it the perfect balance of being challenging but not too hard, it gets the positive emotions rolling and I think I really am in that state of flow and can't think of anything else at that time. 

I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to be introduced to music young.

How great it was to meet with an enthusiastic and passionate parent last week who is very keen to get a few other musical parents together and help us to get a school orchestra, in some shape or form, off the ground. 

Drumming lessons are in full swing as we lead up to our Arts Celebration the evenings of 22 and 23 August and music is most certainly in the air (daily!) Music is also something your community feedback for the strategic plan came through loud and clear as wanting "more of, please". 

The time is nigh. Let's do something about this and expose all of our children to the beauty that music can provide. We know about the link to Maths achievement, emotional wellbeing and....... many positive outcomes.

"Let the wild rumpus begin!" (Where the Wild Things are!)

27 July 2018

posted 26 Jul 2018, 21:17 by Carolyn Brett

Welcome to a rollicking Term 3 and I hope that the break treated you all well and that you had ample opportunity to have a more relaxed pace. 

Many years ago now, I read Martin Seligman's book 'Flourish'. This spurred a passion for me which saw me then spending a couple of years studying towards a Certificate in Positive Psychology, which manifests itself in school as 'Positive Education' - the science of wellbeing combined with best practice teaching.

This really has been quite a journey for our staff and many of our parents who are also interested in this work. Then there are our smaller people who I'm sure are benefitting in many ways, shapes and forms.

My topic for the final part of my study was based on the language we use and the ability it has to completely change a conversation. We often use the quote "words create worlds" in our work here. When we are conversing with colleagues and children - what are we focussing on? Where is that language leading? We know that human beings are wired for what went wrong rather than what went right, we know it's easy to ruminate and dwell on mishaps. 

But, it's also easy to reflect on what we are saying and change it up. A simple "What was the best thing about # today?" or a "What did you enjoy most about the #?" rather than a "What did you do today?" or "Was the lesson in # too hard?" can alter an after school conversation and evoke positive emotion...... or not. It's interesting when we reflect on our own language.

In saying this though, we also want our children to experience the whole range of emotions - they need to feel sad, angry, frustrated and all of the others in that list! This is about being human and building coping mechanisms and increased resilience. If we are forever saving them from the full range of emotions/feelings, it's not in their best interests, even though we would like to protect and think it's better for them. 

Martin Seligman has a new book out 'The Hope Circuit'. I came across a couple of sessions with him in the break on the Australian Radio station - ABC - All in the Mind series (scroll down a few!). The First on Positive Psychology in general and the second on Optimism and Hope where he discusses Positive Education. 

If you are interested in our work in this area, I think you will enjoy these sessions. 

At our last Positive Education Whanau Day, the children (with many of our parents helping out) created images of the character strengths for our very own personalised WBS Character Strengths poster. I've had a peek at the freshly produced finished product and it's gorgeous and need to share immediately!

06 July 2018

posted 5 Jul 2018, 19:36 by Stephanie Williams

Kia ora e te Whānau o Whetūkairangi

It won't be a surprise to you that I rate Sir Ken Robinson. I mention his name often enough! 

Recently Sir Ken made a trip down under. Unfortunately the Conference was slightly unreachable but all isn't lost as there is a very good article in the latest Metro Magazine.  This is timely for many of you who are thinking about Intermediate School and then the move onto Secondary School and where and what and how....?

In the article titled "How to choose the right school" - Education expert Sir Ken Robinson lays out the priorities to keep in mind when picking a school - and explains why learning dance is as important as mastering maths and can be found here:  How to choose the right school

The key idea from the article being that the quality of education is how curriculum, teaching, assessment, schedule/ timetable, environment and culture combine together- the balance needs to be right. When I reflect on these last 10 weeks of this term- there is not one of these elements that have been left untouched nor will be.... Every aspect requires attention and ongoing review and improvement. Mediocrity is a banned concept! There is some very interesting material in the article- it's a good short read I encourage you to give it a go.

What a great way to start Wednesday. ....wrapped up, fire burning, singing, listening to stories and a bit of a walk along the beach and up (and down!) the hill. The reflection aspect of Matariki is very special and what an opportunity to show gratitude for where we are and whom we are with and also remember those who are no longer here. Special thanks to John and Suz for the momentum and the staff for the early alarm.... the positive energy and leading a fabulous day of whānau learning. It was also lovely to have parents and friends in helping out and of course the support of Dean and Xavier from Heritage NZ and the formation of a new link that stretches across the water to Muritai School.

Half way through the school year is also a time for reflection and to review the progress against the annual goals, where we are against our targets in reading, writing and maths, what movement we have made towards our strategic direction and where the emphasis needs to go in the second half of the year. If I'm completely honest around this time my head is well into 2019. Better than living in the past I guess!

As we pull this information together I congratulate our teaching and support staff on the systems they have created and the incredible amount of learning they have done in 2 terms. When 3 pm comes the study, the planning, the analysis, the moderation, the other 'major brain power required' part of the job starts.

So to our staff - the next 2 weeks are a time for a refresh and a reboot please. We will be full on into gathering student voice for the upcoming Arts Celebration in Term 3 - 2 evenings the 22 and 23 August - before the Mid Term break on Friday 24 August. This is always a terrific experience and wouldn't Sir Ken be thrilled that the humanities are kept alive and well at WBS?! 

Find some time for a spot of dancing these holidays and see you all full of beans on Monday 23 July rearing to get into Term 3.

Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti
Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work

29 June 2018

posted 28 Jun 2018, 16:37 by Stephanie Williams   [ updated 28 Jun 2018, 16:37 ]

Next week we will be having our Matariki celebrations to celebrate 'Maori New Year'. For those of you more recent arrivals to the country you may not be familiar with this annual event. In fact it seems to have become a much larger event, nationally, over the last 10 years or so, than ever.

Matariki is the cluster of stars that can be seen at this time of year - These stars signify reflection, a sense of hope, our connection to the environment and the wellbeing and of people and community.

Having our school positioned on such a significant pā site - that of Whetūkairangi - means we have a very special and authentic connection to the stars. We often use the analogy of our children travelling through our celestial heavens of Autahi, Tautoru, Māhutonga and Matariki, gathering their 'baskets' of knowledge' just like the story of Tane-te-wānanga-ā-rangi (Tāne, bringer of knowledge from the sky)  

This can also be found in our local curriculum documentation.   

Our strategic direction also provides great scope for giving Matariki prominence in the wintery calendar and highlighting the opportunities for great learning it brings. There is the connectedness, the cultural responsiveness, the sustainability of language, people and place, there is the wellbeing aspects, there is the desire for learning to be a social activity......and it's all coming to a place near you next week!

As well as our own celebrations you will find many free events going on across the city. Check them out.  
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage website has good background information too. 
We have plenty of lovely Matariki books to read available through our library.

Thanks so much for the feedback around the recent progress meetings and the overall reporting picture. We will be pulling all of this together and feeding this into our review and planning cycle for 2019 reporting practices.

Wednesday evening was a double whammy with the Autahi mindfulness and storytime evening. A lovely opportunity to learn together and from each other about simple tools that different teachers and parents use to turn the dial down before bedtime. These sorts of practices happen across the school regularly and as part of our learn it, live it, teach it, embed it Positive Education model, the staff also practice these techniques throughout the day. So if you drop your children off on a Thursday meeting morning and see us sitting in the staffroom with our eyes closed, please don't be alarmed!  The teachers shared how children knowing different ways to calm themselves forms part of their 'I am Powerful Plan'.  

Later Wednesday evening the Fair team had a meeting to share progress and next steps. Here's a team of people who certainly are demonstrating both personal and collective power. In terms of giving them the help required as they need it, as a whole community we can be part of ensuring the load is spread, manaakitanga is alive and well and they too have a chance to relax that wee bit more often also. 

Then of course we have the lovely opportunity to get together again next Wednesday at 7am for Matariki. The idea, with the weather gods smiling we can go on a bit of a midwinter mindful beachwalk and be grateful for what an amazing place we learn in, work in, many live in and community we belong to.

Have a lovely weekend

Ngā manaakitanga

22 June 2018

posted 21 Jun 2018, 16:58 by Stephanie Williams

"New Zealanders know little about Asia" was the conclusion of a ‘recent perceptions about Asia’ survey conducted by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. 

This was quite a news item as the Foundation has been working with schools "helping to equip young New Zealanders to  to thrive in Asia" 

To read more about the survey - follow the link:  Perceptions of Asia Survey

With our programmes we try and find opportunities to connect learning to other peoples and places. This may be at a local, regional, national or global level. Asia being one of the focal areas. 

This also aligns with our big strategic goals of:
  • Educating for the future
  • Providing rich and powerful learning opportunities
  • Connecting learners
.......along with the cultural responsiveness, sustainability of people and place and our inquiry based approach to learning aspects of school direction.

Some years ago I went with a Principal's Delegation to China through the Confucius Institute, more recently Nicola was supported by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to travel to Singapore on a study tour with other NZ educators. It's been a deliberate choice on our part to be connected and current with this work as when we look at the statistics and where our young people are working and living, it is highly likely that Asia will feature in some way shape or form. 

Like the recent survey, a NZ Herald article in 2017 headlined " Nine in 10 Kiwi school leavers are not equipped to engage with Asia".

This massive chunk of the of the world, Asia, is something we must keep relevant and alive for our children so that it won't be a mystery here on our island at the bottom of the world and we won't be closing any doors to opportunity.

Any ideas please chat with your child's base group teacher, let's keep moving forward.

15 June 18

posted 14 Jun 2018, 13:42 by Stephanie Williams   [ updated 21 Jun 2018, 16:59 ]

Each year we set annual achievement targets based on our student achievement data. This previously was against the National Standards and is now against Curriculum Levels.

We have a range of targets that cover reading, writing, maths and both stretch/ excellence targets and those more focused on raising achievement for our children who aren’t achieving at expected levels for their age.

Within these annual targets teachers are engaged in what are called ‘cycles of inquiry’. This means that they all have identified groups of students within these big targets that they design for, track progress and delve into what’s working and what else they may require. It’s pretty much a scientific approach, but involving both the heart and mind as relationships are key.

A few weeks ago the staff celebrated what progress we had made against the targets in 3 months, this included ‘the summer effect’ which is known as the summer holiday ‘dip’.

You can be rest assured tight, very tight processes are in place and the teaching team know these individuals and groups of children very well.

The word ‘design’ is an exciting one as teaching really is a dynamic, creative process- based on research. And…….we have never known so much about how children learn. What we need to keep in mind is what progress looks like…..and how it will look different for different people. The famous quote “Children are like popcorn, they pop at different times...some pop early, some pop late” I have used many times. I first heard this when I heard Professor Zhao speak at a Conference many years ago. He says a lot of great ‘stuff’ in fact! 

Try http://zhaolearning.com/ - if you want to delve more deeply.

Whilst many things have changed in the world of teaching and learning and become more complex in many ways it’s also exciting times. It is going to be very interesting to see what comes out of the Government’s 3 year Education Work Programme. The aim is to

develop an education system that meets the needs of the 21st century from early learning through tertiary and beyond”.

The work programme includes:

·         the NCEA review

·         a review of Tomorrow’s Schools

·         developing a future-focused Education Workforce Strategy

·         a continuous focus on raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners

·         development of a strategic pathway for Māori-medium education

·         an action plan for learning support

·         an early learning strategic plan

·         a comprehensive review of school property

·         a programme of change for vocational education

·         a full review of the Performance Based Research Fund

·         better support for the research aspirations of our tertiary sector

One of our parents was fortunate to attend the Education Summit in Christchurch recently. It certainly sounded like an uplifting and powerful event. If you are interested in keeping up to date with changes in education check out the Ministry of Education’s link.


8 June 2018

posted 7 Jun 2018, 18:08 by Carolyn Brett

I came across an interesting article recently about what’s going on in your child’s brain when you read them a story. There are so many options these days too - whether this storytelling is with physical books, audio books, online books….. and on we go!

A recently published study by Dr John Hutton at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital discusses an apparent ‘Goldilocks effect’. Some types of storytelling may be too cold, some too hot and some - actually just right! In this study, the 27 children underwent brain scanning whilst the different types of stories were shared. The MRI scanned for activation within certain brain networks and the connectivity between the networks. Although this is one study and a class size of children, I do think it’s interesting to see what the researchers found:

Audio only - too cold
Animation - too hot
Illustration - Just right!

The children’s understanding was ‘scaffolded’ by having the images as clues. 

There is also the emotional bonding that happens when you are reading a book, especially a picture book with young and not so young children. We have a great range of what is known as ‘sophisticated' picture books for older children available in our Library too.

If you can’t find the time to read with your child/ren as often as you would like and if you are relying on electronic devices for young children, this research suggests moving toward a more minimal version of a narrated, illustrated ebook as opposed to audio only or animation. So, a small study - but interesting food for thought all the same!

This week some of you will have attended the Progress Meeting with your child’s base group teacher. At this meeting, you will have been asked to provide some feedback as to how the 4 different sessions (1 Goal Setting and 1 Student Led Conference, 1 Interim Progress Meeting and 1 Final Progress Meeting + ongoing Seesaw) over the year give you a good well rounded picture of whole child progress and achievement and if there is anything else you would like us to consider. We will collate this information and feed it back into our review cycle. 

If you are going for a jig at the Ceilidh this weekend, have fun and you will be guaranteed a warm glow on the inside and the out! Thank you so much to the organising team who are keen for our parent community and friends to have some fun and fun-d-raise at the same time!

31 May 2018

posted 29 May 2018, 19:39 by Carolyn Brett

We often hear about how technology is taking over the world and many jobs have been, or are at risk of being, automated in the future. This is true when we look at the evidence even over our lifetime. Whilst technology can support so much learning and advancement, it's the human skills that machines will never have that are more important than ever.

In this short 11 minute documentary, 'An Adaptable Mind' describes what it takes to make the world a better place. The list of vital skills for our modern world contains five qualities that - you guessed it - machines can never have:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Creativity – in the sense of liberating human energy
  3. Initiative
  4. Multi-disciplinary thinking – not multi-tasking but multi-asking
  5. Empathy
I recommend a viewing, it's really beautifully created. 

When we reflect on the Character Strengths Whānau Day last Friday, I witnessed many of these skills for the 'modern world' in action. Schools, as both academic and social organisations, have a big job to do in helping parents out in their quest to develop great citizens of the future. I can't stress the importance of this 'whole person' learning enough. 

It doesn't stop with children!

I have been so heartened by the feedback from many of you that the work we are doing is impacting on you personally as well. For me, it's not just about the little darlings (as much as they would like it to be!), it's about being part of a flourishing community, where we all help each other out.

For the parents, grandparents and friends who were helping out and who joined us in the staffroom last Friday for morning tea (and the 10 minute quiz... 8/10 at a push!) ...that just felt great. There really was this sense of being in it together - making the most of the human qualities that makes this school community such a privilege to lead and belong to.

PS. How much screen time do your children really need this very long weekend? I'll be limiting mine!

25 May 2018

posted 24 May 2018, 19:50 by Carolyn Brett

Today we had our Positive Education Character Strengths Day. Character Strengths are a foundation of our wellbeing programme and they don't stop there! You will often hear them referred to when we are talking about 'academic learning' and also social learning, being part of a team, on the Miniball court, working with buddies, building resilience when things don't go your way...... the list is endless! 

You will hear them referred to in many written reports about progress and achievement, on Seesaw, on Blogs and in Newsletter pieces, in Assembly and Student Led Conferences. Soon all children will have created an "I am Powerful Plan". This plan will be what the child, teachers and, also hopefully, yourselves can refer to when they need some help to get over a hump. The more small humps they can learn to get over at primary, the better prepared they will be to get over the bigger humps, twists and turns (and wonders!) that life brings.
How wonderful it has also been to have some of you also opt to take the Character Strengths Online Assessment. How exciting it is when you talk to me about how you are deliberately using your strengths in the workplace or even leading sessions with teams around their character strengths.

For the past couple of years I have been asking potential employees to complete these assessments and come to interviews ready to discuss - always really interesting! As a staff, we refer to our strengths a lot and plan for ways to utilise them. Likewise, Board members strengths are recognised and referred to.

Go on - if you haven't given it a shot yet, you may be more curious now. This is the only free psychometrically valid, online test measuring the 24 Character Strengths https://www.viacharacter.org/Survey/Account/Register.

Please find a snapshot, taken from Ryan Niemiec's new book, quoted as the GO-TO book for building character, about why these signature strengths are important.

"The case can quickly be made for the significance of signature strengths from not only the science that has emerged over the last couple of decades but also from the perspective of the problem of chronic disengagement across organisations, relationships, and individuals.

Disengagement of individuals - A lack of flourishing
Less than 25% of the US population is flourishing and similar results found in New Zealand (Hone, Jarden, Duncan and Schofield, 2015)
This means people aren't functioning at a high level of wellbeing socially or psychologically
Support for strengths
Studies found that people who use their strengths a lot are over 18 more times likely to flourish than those who do not. 
Each of the core elements of flourishing - positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships and achievement (Seligman, 2011) are significantly linked to character strengths.

Disengagement of individuals - A general unawareness of strengths
Survey research has shown that 2/3 of people are unaware of their strengths. (Linley, 2008)
Support for strengths
A representative sample of New Zealand workers found that those who were highly aware of their strengths were nine times more likely to be flourishing than those who were unaware (Hone et. al, 2015)
Character strengths have been connected to engagement in numerous studies.

Similar patterns in personal relationships and disengagement of employees.

Signature strengths are emerging across domains as not only as an important source of engagement but also as a central pathway...." 

Today you witnessed strengths in action! What fab support from our parent crew - thank you! It was a fine display of the 'village' in action.

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