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Updates from Jude

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

9 July 2021

posted 8 Jul 2021, 20:09 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 8 Jul 2021, 20:09 ]

It feels like I blinked and we are at the end of the term. In reality, it was a 10 week blink but it truly feels like it’s flashed past. Someone is likely to tell me it goes faster the older you are, but I’m not listening!

It’s been a relatively smooth sea the Worser Bay School waka has sailed on this term. Weather starts to change, colours change, children are in the groove and it’s when school life tends to calm, calm in a good way. Different terms have a different feeling. In Term 2, for most of you, it’s Interim Reporting, the one-one with the Base Group teacher and the chance for a stocktake of where things are at. These meetings take some arriving at. All of the ‘data’ is pulled, discussed, moderated, reports are drafted, proofed, edited, reproofed…… which means the judgment made is from April - not exactly hot off the press! It’s a complex web we weave! In saying this, if teachers have any big concerns, you will know…. and, likewise, we are hoping this is reciprocal. I quite often hear “No! I don’t want to bother the teacher/s!” No - you are not a nuisance and we hope we aren’t either! So, please keep conversations flowing.

One of the highlights has to be the Kapa Haka Dress Rehearsal…. roll on attempt # 2 of the Celebration sometime in Term 3. Each year we have an Arts Celebration in Term 3. This year picking up more the Visual Arts learning. It’s always a highlight…. it’s looking like a term of Celebration alright! Along with this, we also have the Group Student Led Conferences. You will be hearing more about these over the term.

Next term will also be missing Scott! Scott has had a long association with our school as both teacher and parent. It is always a game of 2 halves when we farewell staff members. We are grateful for what they have contributed to the community, we are supportive in that they are moving on to something or somewhere they really want to do or be, we are hopeful that they leave ‘richer‘ than when they arrived and we are ….. going to pack a piece of Worser Bay in their bags!

Scott - I wholeheartedly thank you for your commitment over many years, your friendship and your mainly acceptable music tastes! May you keep building your strengths in all of those lovely ‘people’ qualities as you move onwards.

Må te huruhuru ka rere te manu
Adorn the bird with feathers so it may soar

To you all - thank you for your care for your tamariki and our place. Have a wonderful change of pace and soon it will be kia ora to Term 3 and all it brings.

As we head into the holidays some of you will be trying to work as well. I came across this earlier this week that may give you a fresh idea....

2 July 2021

posted 1 Jul 2021, 15:44 by Carolyn Brett

Twenty plus years ago, I was part of  a small team who worked with primary, intermediate and secondary schools across the country on what was known as the 'Exemplar Project'. Our focus was on Writing achievement. Our aim over this two year project was to be able to build up a national picture where we would be able to say 'this piece of writing is a Level #' and 'this piece of writing is a level #'. It was hard work. Before the Ministry of Education embarked on this project, we didn't really have a clear idea of what constitutes a great piece of writing at Curriculum Level 2, for example. Working with approximately 40 schools across Wellington at this time I learnt a lot...

Fast forward and I can say it's still hard work and I am still learning a lot! (Plus the Writing Exemplars have had longevity and are still a useful tool!)

Writing is one of those things that can be so subjective. Even if you are recommending a book to a friend, you can never be too sure whether it will be their thing or resonate with them in any way shape or form. We tend to bring our histories, our prior experiences and our biases to the party. The same is true for the teachers when we are looking at levelling pieces of writing. "I love this piece.... look at the way they have shown us about the character through their actions, not told us." "But look at the spelling........ it lets it down." "Yes, but #### has come so far and their attitude to their writing has done a complete 360!" 

Yes - the conversations are rich! This is why, when we look at moderating pieces of writing across the school, we do so on a no name, no age basis and just look at the raw material that is in front of us. Black and white and blunt!

However, when we make a judgment about how a child is progressing in Writing, their levelled pieces are just part of the picture. Pieces that had teacher intervention/conferencing/feedback for improvement, pieces that were purely written by the child, pieces that were part of collaborative writing, responses to something that has been read, reflections on art or music, punctuation, grammar, spelling... it's all in the mix.

It's still hard! What constitutes 'magic' or that 'x-factor' in a piece of writing still remains rather subjective regardless of how many rubrics, checklists or progressions we use. Teaching combines often the heart first with the head second... being 100% objective, hmmmmmm, tricky!

We are aiming to have all of our writers meet or exceed their curriculum expectations by year end. Their interim progress was measured in April, so a few months into the school year. For some, this doesn't come easy for a whole lot of reasons. I read an opinion piece last week that talked about 'The windy road' - the author said, "well, if you are in Wellington that could have two completely different meanings". How true - the English language is complicated! Please work with us to help our writers. More writing and less gaming on screens, I say. After all, "Writing floats on a sea of talk". So, plenty of good conversation too. If it's a wet weekend - give it a whirl!

25 June 2021

posted 24 Jun 2021, 20:33 by Carolyn Brett

In our annual targets for 2021, we are aspiring to increase achievement in the foundations of Reading, Writing and Mathematics and, alongside these constants, we have a focus on whole person/school wellbeing and cultural and environmental sustainability. Wellbeing and these aspects of sustainability are intertwined and weave together in so many ways. When we think of our Kapa Haka celebration and all of the learning that has led to this, we can identify Character Strengths, Positive Relationships, Health, Engagement, Accomplishment, Emotions... it is all there on the menu!

Our fantastic new Kapa Haka T-shirts have the image of our kuaha proudly displayed on the front. (Please see the full meaning of the kuaha below.) Sadly, it spends a lot of its life hidden away under a 'vandal proof' metal cover. This will soon change as the funding we have received from The Lion Foundation grant was also to get a perspex cover custom-made so the visibility of this beautiful carving is constant.
This kuaha was designed and carved by the talented Dean Whiting, who was also a parent at Worser Bay, his wife, Maria, also a teacher here in earlier days. I was thrilled to read an article on their son, Tama, in the Sunday Times last week..... it touched on many things we are aspiring to here now, "How te ao Māori has helped bring backyard NZ to the Big Apple". It's a lovely read which really resonated with our curriculum in many ways. (I also wondered if the Uncle referenced is our teacher John... I think so!)
These are very different times to my primary years. I grew up in New Plymouth, not far from Parihaka, and had never heard anything about the history of the place apart from some vague mentions at home.... certainly not at school. I'm currently reading a wonderful little book - an author's personal story of Parihaka "Ko Taranaki te Maunga" by Rachel Buchanan.... I wish I'd been introduced to these concepts 45+ years ago! 
As part of the NZ Curriculum Refresh which is taking place over the next 5 years, New Zealand Histories is the first area in the national curriculum to be redeveloped. You can find out more here. We  are immersed with a lot of this learning already being a key element in our curriculum. My memory may not be bang on but, in my senior primary years, I recall the stand outs being sent to the library alone for hours to read, making multiple macrame planters and crocheting dolls' clothes. (I was pretty bad at this as I've never liked details much.) 
Anyway - our children hopefully will leave not only curious, connected, creative thinkers... but also well informed so they can make sound judgments in the future.

Back to the stunning T Shirts... We have great news - you can pre-order navy blue versions via Online Payments for $25 (Kids' T-shirts) or $28 (Adult T-shirts). Orders will close on Friday 9 July.
Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain

18 June 2021

posted 17 Jun 2021, 16:12 by Carolyn Brett

My partner came home a couple of weeks ago and said, "I was listening to an interview on the radio about education and it was about educating the whole child which has big benefits."

"Yes, I know that." (A typical end of the day, not totally pleasant response when I reflect!) But, all the same, I looked it up. "Holistic Education is good for everyone." This interview was about new research that has come out of the University of Canterbury. Sadly, compared to other countries our children don't seem to be doing so well on social and emotional learning, especially our Māori and Pasifika youth. In fact, Aotearoa came in 35 out of 41 countries (based on a UNESCO study).

In 2019, the "Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy" was launched by the Government. The University of Canterbury is developing recommendations for schools in order to help teachers understand the components of socio-emotional learning and how they may adapt what they currently do. I'm keen to see it.

As you will know, this is an area very dear to our hearts here and whole person wellbeing for the whole community is the quest! It's complex, it's mucky and this learning certainly doesn't move along a smooth, straight road. We have been learning, living, teaching and embedding wellbeing as the foundation of life at Worser Bay School since 2016. In your Progress Meetings recently, you will have seen strengths used, child voice, a focus on what they can do first and what skills they have to improve the areas that aren't there.... yet. You may have seen Character Strengths, Goal Setting, Relationships or Grit referenced. You may have had a conversation about self-talk, self-regulation, about positive emotion...... Somewhere in the reporting process, the elements of our wellbeing 'Flourish' model would have been referred to... "I know that!"

On Thursday 5 August, we will be holding a Parent Workshop 7.00pm - 8.30pm exploring aspects of whole person wellbeing/positive education and how these elements are transferred into the classroom. So, come along and work with us to make some further moves with community wellbeing!

11 June 2021

posted 10 Jun 2021, 19:37 by Carolyn Brett

I want to talk about screen time. I often hark back to the middle ages of the 1980s in my Social Psychology classes when I became fascinated by Pavlov's dogs and behaviourist theory. I'm not a believer in experiments with our furry friends at all but it's something I think of when I reach for my phone... to check.... to check what? Half the time, I don't need to check anything. Surely if something was urgent I'd hear a ring right? There have been moments when I have 'hidden' my phone under a cushion... (didn't work - wonder why!) Over time, my self-regulation around the habitual phone scroll has improved, I'm pleased.... but I wouldn't say I'm completely functioning at mastery level...... yet!

Now to our children. I certainly have a "no phone on the table and don't try and hide it on your knee!" rule. It drives me crazy in social or work settings. At school, we also deal with some of the issues many of you will no doubt experience at home. The genie is well out of the bottle when it comes to the use of digital technologies for aspects of learning and will no doubt continue the trajectory. There are many benefits for learning, and I don't know where we would've been over lockdown if the use of technology wasn't so prevalent, however we need to be on top of supporting our children's digital lives as best we might. I'm sure many of you, like us at school, have noticed indicators of excessive screen time. The following indicate if a child is spending too much time online or even starting to develop a screen addiction:
  • They become agitated or anxious when they cannot get online.
  • They can be aggressive or agitated when they come offline.
  • Their sleep is adversely affected by their screen use.
  • School learning is suffering.
  • They cannot stop using their device, even when it is appropriate, ie. when talking to people or at the dinner table.
  • They start to neglect things they previously loved such as reading, sports, etc.
(from Principals Today magazine)
We work on a balance at school and the use of digital devices slowly grows over the 6 years here. Along with this, there needs to be firm lines in the sand, boundaries, agreements and education, and, importantly, the use of the word "no!" (and mean it!) 

Please let us help each other by not giving in and allowing too much screen time at home. These growing brains are too precious.

(To summarize, the Pavlov's Dogs experiment - it's all about classical conditioning which involves learning to associate an unconditioned stimulus that already brings about a particular response (ie. a reflex) with a new (conditioned) stimulus, so that the new stimulus brings about the same response.)

3 June 2021

posted 10 Jun 2021, 19:32 by Carolyn Brett

I've been thinking about the concept of awe. It just happens to come up in some of the things I've been reading into lately and also we have been discussing this concept as a staff as we delve into highlighting The Arts learning and teaching.
Each year, we have a big focus on The Arts, mainly over Term 3, which culminates in what is known as the Arts Celebration. This is a celebration of learning, that arises directly from the learning programmes that the children have been experiencing. We tend to change the focus from Music/Drama/Dance and Visual in alternate years so that there is a nice balance. 
Our Year 6 Leavers' profile states that children leave Worser Bay School as connected, confident, creative thinkers. What does this mean for our programmes? What does this mean for our Junior School? Our Senior School? These are questions we keep in our prefrontal cortex!
This concept awe fascinates me. It's such a powerful emotion that has such an impact on our body and mind, on our wellbeing. Awe can be triggered by different things. For some, it may be nature, feeling connected to others, remarkable human accomplishments, amazing works of art or scientific discoveries (I'm thinking dinosaurs and space here for many!).

This feeling of awe can broaden our minds, make us more curious, expand our creativity and, in a nutshell, can make us healthier. I'm hoping that we can weave plenty of opportunities for our children to experience awe especially in our Arts and Sciences programmes.
Here are some thoughts for whānau on how to help children with this:
  • Awe thrives in an environment of questioning and inquisitiveness. 
  • How about a visit to a range of natural environments - bush walks, beach, waterfalls, clear skies, gardens, sunrise/sunsets.
  • There are plenty of indoor environments too - galleries, museums, performances, aquariums, planetariums, etc.
  • A range of listening and viewing of the weird and the wonderful!
A lot of this takes more time than money.
So awe is a difficult concept for many of us to describe but something to definitely wonder about and encourage at home base. Maybe our Arts Celebration may even create an awe-(some) moment for you too... (let's aim for that anyway!)

28 May 2021

posted 27 May 2021, 16:13 by Carolyn Brett

Each year we analyse our data against the set targets. This informs the following year's focus areas that link to the more higher level Strategic Plan. The targets for this year are in the diagram above. They consist of targets for Reading, Writing and Maths alongside Cultural and Environmental Sustainability and Wellbeing/Positive Education.

Over the year, teachers are tracking shifts for individual children and groups of children. If they are looking like they are a little 'static', questions are then asked - what else is going on for the child (whole child); what's been their pattern of achievement over time; what are their strengths and how might we apply these to a different learning area? It's important that we don't just take the shifts on face value but get inside it - the whats, hows, whens and possible whys. This is also why we need to take a collaborative approach to the puzzle with teams of teachers working together - with yourselves. In our world, it's called a 'puzzle of practice' (just a bit more jargon for you!).

You have Progress Meetings coming up soon with teachers. Some of you meet with teachers more frequently as the puzzle can be complex. "Children are like popcorn, they pop at different times" - we know this is true and we also know it can't be used as a barrier to not delving more deeply into the life and learning behaviours of a child.

Recently, I attended a meeting where Min. Chris Hipkins spoke about the refresh of the NZ Curriculum which is occurring over the next few years. He reminded us that we focused narrowly on Reading, Writing and Maths a number of years ago (National Standards) our national data actually went backwards. Yes, as a country we need to ensure the national curriculum is still relevant and expectations are high - but the basics (Reading, Writing and Maths) must be taught through a rich and varied curriculum framework as the evidence shows that this is what works best. 

This is why our targets have this wider lens. It can be a bit tricky setting a target but, as long as we have something to strive for and a clear direction, the Worser Bay School waka can move forwards, not always in a straight line.... but forwards.

21 May 2021

posted 23 May 2021, 13:40 by Carolyn Brett

I have a friend with two teenagers, one of whom is incredibly naturally talented on the football field and one who would be regarded as not having quite the flair as their sibling. However, it is the second child that puts 110 % into training, into attending extra coaching sessions, who does the hard work of practice, practice, practice, and it is this child who is really going places in the sport. 

Interesting. Not everyone can compete at a high level and 'success' may look quite different for each child. The old quote "You don't have to be the best you just need to be better than you were yesterday" and all that..... and what a child can learn from playing a team sport is incredible:
  • They can learn about hard work.
  • They can learn about being a team member, the give and the take.
  • They can learn about what it feels like to win and to lose (and how to do both well!).
  • They can learn to listen hard to their coaches and managers.
  • They can learn to share.
  • They can learn to accept responsibility.
  • They can learn about self-regulation.
  • They can....
The list goes on but a stand out for me is that they can learn about persevering, about sticking with it, about what their responsibilities are when they sign up to be on a team. They can learn about sheer GRIT! This concept of GRIT comes up time and time again. This is why we would love you to support your child through the emotional ups and downs of being on a team and not let them bow out too quickly if it gets hard.... especially as we start this winter sports season.

Thinking back to my friend's children - it really is the perseverance and determination that is really paying off for one of them.... certainly not talent alone. Even though the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something has been flouted as untrue... good things generally do take time (and plenty of effort!)

Let's try hard to help our sporting young Worser Bay School folk find the joy in small improvements as well as bigger and give them every chance to learn more about themselves.

Here's to a fantastic term of team sports and a wholehearted thank you to our coaches, managers and parent supporters. This too takes some perseverance and GRIT!

If you are interested in taking the GRIT Test for yourself to kick off Term 2, here it is, it's only 10 simple questions.

14 May 2021

posted 13 May 2021, 16:11 by Carolyn Brett

Let's talk about bullying.

Next week is the official Bully Free NZ week. Bullying is a word that can be misused, it's also a form of behaviour that can be one of the most frustrating things teachers, parents (and children) have to deal with. Bullying, unfortunately, exists in every school to larger and smaller degrees and, sadly, in many workplaces where human beings exist!

Sometimes, it's obvious, overt, and this makes sorting it out more straightforward..... but in my 35 years of dealing with it in schools, it is always the more subtle forms that are so difficult and complex to deal with.

It is useful to also be mindful of the use of the term ‘bullying’ and be very clear as to what it is. It has 4 defining characteristics:
  • Bullying is deliberate
  • Bullying involves a power imbalance
  • Bullying has an element of repetition
  • Bullying is harmful
In a nutshell, it is not a word to be thrown around lightly!

Developing resilience in our children, supporting them to have the ability to bounce back, to stand up for themselves, to be flexible, to show courage and make good decisions, to deal with things for themselves, to really understand who they are and what they value can never be underestimated.

Ultimately, we have one value = one rule and that is of respect.

I really like the visual from the official Bully Free material:

Our foundation in Positive Education/Wellbeing serves us well but we can't do it alone. Please - we need your help in bullying prevention. Teachers need to know if you have a hunch something is simmering....... although we have many eyes and ears and experience between us, we can never know everything!

Let's put energy and action into keeping bullying behaviour well outside our WBS gates.

Bully Free NZ has some great resources for parents and whānau too.

7 May 2021

posted 6 May 2021, 18:52 by Carolyn Brett

I love this whakatauki and its emphasis on listening, understanding and wisdom supporting wellbeing. It reminds me of one of my favoured sayings "We have 2 ears to listen and one mouth to speak".

I also recognise how listening to each other - whether it's parent/child/staff or any combination of the 'people' - can sometimes be challenging, especially when we are on the hop and the 'to do' list is growing exponentially.

Active listening is not easy but it's a constant and considered staff goal that is never fully achieved it seems. I shared this short TED TALK with the staff last year - Julian Treasure (great name!) is a bit of an expert at sound/listening. He believes we are losing our ability to listen. In his Talk, "5 ways to listen better", he shares five techniques to help people improve their listening skills.  

SILENCE:  Spending three minutes a day in absolute silence in order to recalibrate the mind.
THE MIXER:  Paying attention to the different sounds you can hear in any situation.
SAVOURING:  Enjoying mundane sounds, such as the tumble dryer.
LISTENING POSITIONS:  Consciously listening through different ‘filters’. 
RASA:  A Sanskrit word for "essence" or "juice" and I think it's a helpful little tool


Teachers have been studiously tapping away over the holiday break writing your child's Interim Progress Report based on their first term's progress and achievement. (This cycle looks a little different for Autahi.) 

Progress and Achievement Meetings will occur early June, so please look out in following Newsletters for when the interview booking system opens.

But, back to the listening - these meetings are 15 minutes max. They are rather swift. If teachers or parents have bigger questions to ask and answer, then please contact each other and make an appointment outside of the usual calendar of reporting.  

We are so looking forward to a new term of learning together. Each school term has a particular flavour. I always feel that Term 2 is about energy and grit and building up our reservoirs, and we take steps up that mighty maunga!

Forwards we go....

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