Tataiako – Session 1 with RTLit cluster

Towards the end of last term (Term 1, 2017), I was up early driving to Whanganui for our termly cluster meeting. This is always a nice opportunity to catch up with other RTLits and see how they’re going as, at times, this can be a bit of a lonely job.

The ever-lovely RTLit in Wanganui had organised a wonderful meeting today – so much to talk about and investigate that we ran well over. Exceptional catering too, so much so that there was no need for our usual lunch afterward. But still plenty of time for me to get to Savemart Whanganui for a bit of a rumble through.

The first session was a follow up on Te Tātaiako with Ngahina Transom from Taihape. This document is excellent and really sums up practical ways of working with Māori learners, which are also common sense approaches for all learners. My mind still boggles at the fact that many teachers and schools don’t even know this document exists, let alone use it in their planning and practice. The competencies are now integrated with my appraisal document and I refer to them to support my teaching practice.

As with almost everything in education, Tātaiako comes down mainly to teachers’ relationships and engagement with Māori learners and with their whānauand iwi. Getting to know your students, their backgrounds, their stories, their goals, and aspirations is vital for success in education today.

Today we reviewed the competencies and then reflected on how we are going with one of them in our current practice. Many of the competencies are common sense and good teaching practice (in my humble opinion anyway!), so I often find many of the things one does almost automatically. Obviously, however, there is a particular focus on the Māori learners we teach.

I looked at whanaungatanga small. Something I find so incredibly central to all effective education, but something that can actually be incredibly complex to put into practice in many cases. I find it a bit of a challenge not being in the classroom. As a resource teacher, it is that much harder to develop relationships – partly due to the time constraints and partly because it requires more effort to phone parents or meet parents. Getting to meet parents and whānau for me is not just an informal chat by the school gate or a parent-teacher interview, it is usually a formal meeting organised to discuss progress or strategies.

So first, on someone else’s suggestion, I realised that I should be first identifying my Maori learners. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they connected to their heritage? Showing this visually on my roll is the first step for me to establishing who could benefit most from engaging with their child’s learning and a relationship with myself as their “other teacher”. I have subsequently done this and discovered that around a quarter of my students identify as Māori.

In a horrifying admission, I have not managed to get in contact with any of my Māori students’ families yet (a big yet there!). I have worked hard to establish positive relationships with the students themselves, and feel that I know a lot about who they are and who is in their families at least. I think it is also important to know this from the student. I can chat with them about their brother who plays in a band, or their Dad who had an accident last year, and so on. Sometimes it can be hard to establish contact with the parents or whānau for a variety of reasons (no current phone number for example), so having those kinds of conversations with students can go a long way to whanaungatanga as well (again, in my humble opinion!).

Other RTlits suggested things they have done to establish contact with some success. Many have a meeting before taking a student on to share assessments and plans together. Many also use Google docs or email to send to parents as the intervention progresses. Many spoke of texting as being very successful for many parents. These are all things that I thought I could get underway fairly easily. As a teacher, and also as a parent, I find it really useful, and indeed, imperative to create a “positive bank” with whānau about a student. This helps with a student’s self-image, it helps when you might have to have those “difficult conversations”, and ultimately supports progress in their learning. I would like to try all of these things with all my learners, not just those identifying as Māori.

So, my goal for this term, Term 2 of the year, is to phone my learners’ families and hopefully set up a meeting with them to discuss what I am doing with their children in sessions and possibly ways they can support this at home. The meetings I have had like this have been successful and went a long way to setting up the home/school partnership. I have to say, I’m a wee bit nervous about this. I am of that generation that stopped using the phone and moved to texting quite quickly, so calling people up is never something I do with pleasure. But! I will bite the bullet and set aside some time on my Friday office day to do this, as I know it will benefit my learners, and probably make my job easier and more enjoyable in the long run.

I have added in here a more detailed photo of Whanaungatanga from Tātaiako:

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Here is the cultural competencies Effective teaching profile that Ngahina shared with us. A useful document to have as part of appraisal I feel: Māori Learners

What aspect of Tātaiako are you working towards improving?

 

Tataiako – Session 1 with RTLit cluster

That overwhelmed feeling – a few thought scraps of thoughts on that

You know that feeling where you have a dozen things to do and not enough time to do them? That is the life of a teacher.

At the moment I constantly have thoughts ruminating at the back of my head about what I can do to support and accelerate different students’ learning. It is like a storm back there.

Never underestimate the power of bouncing ideas off others. Talking with others is what I’m missing. That ability to nut something out. I need some time to mull things over, but taking that time feels like cheating. Shouldn’t I just know the answers?

Anyway, today I am going to comfort myself through it with some comforting quotes about literacy that I snapped at a Kay Hancock seminar last week on the new Ready to Read series.

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Note to self with this one – read up on Lawrence Sipe’s work. 

 

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This one has some excellent and simple ideas for engaging readers with texts. 

 

That overwhelmed feeling – a few thought scraps of thoughts on that

First #bedsidebook off the rank

So, for my first read of my Mother’s #bedsidebooks, I chose what I thought would be the easiest one to get through. Short answer, it wasn’t easy. The first third was a real struggle. But, there were gems in amongst the struggle and I could see how it was wonderful really, just not quite me. The next two thirds I found less taxing, and I ended the book having overall enjoyed it.

I read The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.

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It is a work of historical research into the author’s own family history through a collection of Japanese 19th century (or older) netsuke. I remember it being a very popular book club read when it came out and had had it on my Amazon Wishlist for some time.

We had three or four ivory netsuke in our family growing up (still have I guess) and what charmed me about them was always the size. They seemed so perfect for playing with as a child. I therefore found the part of the story where they did similar to this particularly enjoyable.

The book had a vast amount of references to pieces of art and people who actually exist. I read it as a physical book, but actually think that it requires you to have Google to hand so that you can search up the paintings or pieces being referred to so that you can have a picture in your head. Perhaps there is a more illustrated edition already in print. I’m sure many more learned people than I would know what the art was without this, but I didn’t. Edmund de Waal assumes a certain amount of prior knowledge from the reader, and it is this that I think may intimidate readers out of reading the book.

One thing I also lacked from reading it in physical form was the handy ability to press on a word to get the dictionary definition. I like to think myself fairly knowledgeable of the English language, but this book sure had some doozies of random words I’d never heard of! Maybe I’m alone here in my ignorance. Some examples I found notably incomprehensible till googled were:

vitrine

bibelots

putti

feuilleton

glaucous

sclerotic

elegiac

plebiscite

peroration

Strangely enough, I don’t think any of these words will be making it into my everyday vocabulary anytime soon.

I was pleased (and ashamed I hadn’t really known already as well) that I learnt the true meaning of the Anschluss in Europe in 1938. A word I’d heard and vaguely, but not fully, comprehended. The delicate and clever interweaving of the history of such a tumultuous time period in Europe was quite gripping. The story of the netsukes’ life is heartwarming and heartbreaking in turns.

I feel good that I read this book. Sometimes we have to “read harder” than we do usually, and what I learnt about in this book and the intriguing story was worth it in the end.

One #bedside book down, 15 to go! Thanks, Mum.

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First #bedsidebook off the rank

Love is all you need? #oneword2017

I wasn’t going to have a #oneword this year. Last year’s word was “afresh”, and while I did reflect on that during the year (and in actual fact, it was a year of many fresh starts!), it didn’t impassion me as much as I had hoped.

Having said that, my word for this year came to me without even thinking it over. It just popped up when I briefly turned my mind to the question. And then it wouldn’t leave.

Love.

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Simple right? And yet also exceedingly complex. Even my three-year-old daughter is learning the complexities of love. She will tell us she “lubbs” us, yet she can also say “I love this song” fittingly when her jam comes on the radio. Two quite differing loves, but both important.

My Mother left us with the wisdom that “what survives of us is love”. This comes from a poem by Phillip Larkin called An Arundel Tomb. She also quoted the Beatles – all you need is love. Mum knew that she would remain alive in our hearts through our love for her and her love for us. So, love was on my mind, and that’s probably why it popped up for me.

So, what am I thinking here? Am I planning on falling in love during the school year? Do I feel like I need to love all my students? Ummm, no.

I’m going here on the meaning of love more as “caring for”, doing things “with love”. Care is a very important concept in education. Students all need their teachers to care for them and care about them. Care also has an element of empathy, and I think my students need that especially.

That term “with love” is what I’m going for. I was interested to google and discover it stems from the bible . Mother Teresa even said something cool about it.

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This year I will try to have passion, love, for what I do. I will try to care for my students and show empathy for the difficulties that they may face. I will try to show love towards myself when things don’t go as expected or when I fail, mindful that that is all a part of learning and living.

We’ll see how it goes!

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Love is all you need? #oneword2017

Books from my Mother’s Bedside (#bedsidebooks)

My Mother’s death just before Christmas was a shock and has left a gaping hole in my life. Grief is a funny beast, and I am just now starting to feel the reality of this situation nagging at the sides of that hole as I settle back down into “real life” again.

The hole will never be filled, but I have developed a small tribute to Mum that I will try to patch part of it with in 2017.

My Mother was a voracious reader, as I am myself. She was a fast reader, devouring books in very short time frames. We shared a love for Jane Austen and Jamie Fraser in particular. I remember a very happy trip together to Jane Austen sites; Bath, Chawton, Winchester…I also remember my Mother saying there wasn’t much that couldn’t be cured by “a week in bed with Jamie Fraser”!

When I was with my Mother in her last weeks, I planned having her read poems and tell stories and record them for us to listen back to. Unfortunately, time got away on us, and all went too fast at the end. She did say that she should talk about her “bedside books”. My parents house has many books in it, but these ones by her bedside seemed to be special in some way, or possibly have been useful for her, or meant something to her in recent times.

So, what I have decided is to try and read all of those books this year. I had intended to try and do the Read Harder Challenge 2017, but I think this is more fitting for me in the circumstances. This will not be an easy challenge for me, as many of Mum’s books are non-fiction, something I am not enamoured of usually. I’d also like to try and read them in physical form, hopefully without them costing the earth (please have some local library!).

I will write about each of them as I finish reading them. If I get it done in the year, awesome, if it takes me longer, that’s all good too. Getting myself away from reading YA fantasies will be a hard task…particularly as that is my comfort reading, and I think this year will require some comfort from time to time.

So, what do you reckon? Do you have your own reading challenge this year? Have you read any of my bunch?

The 16 books I will be reading are:

Thanks Mum for the challenge…x

Books from my Mother’s Bedside (#bedsidebooks)

Collaboration, Connection & Reflection – 2016 Global Read Aloud in hindsight

It has been a funny old 6 weeks of Term 4. A lot seems to have happened, and at the same time, nothing much at all seems to have been achieved.

This year I tried the Global Read Aloud in my new position as Resource Teacher of Literacy in the Horowhenua. A strange choice perhaps, as I no longer have a class of students at my disposal, and only see my students for small periods of a time each week. But, I love the Global Read Aloud and believe that it can benefit lower level learners just as much as those who are more able in literacy.

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Read Alouds for me have been a way to get students more engaged with literacy, to make it more authentic for them, and to build comprehension and vocabulary in a deliberate and scaffolded way. It is also fun to connect with others around the country or the world, and also just to know that others are reading the same book as us. In this case, I think it was 1,000,000 students involved this year! What a powerful way to know you are not alone.

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My set up was 4 or 5 students in 3 different schools. I decided on the BFG because I thought it had opportunities for aspects of decoding as well as comprehension, due to all the funny BFG-isms in it. Also, I thought it was a simple enough story, good to read aloud and easy enough that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get through and be understood.

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I found a collaborator in America – Mrs Hodges in North Carolina. It sounded like she was in a similar role to myself and it was good to spark further interest with my students by having students to connect with across the world. I would have been happy to do it alone, but it was nice to have someone else on board with us as well.

Along the way, I have had plenty of little bumps in the Read Aloud road, however, and, in actual fact, I have to confess, I have not been able to finish the book, and due to unexpected illness in my family, and not going to be able to! I’m planning on passing the text on to my students so they can read it themselves.

In spite of the hiccups, I felt it was a good experience for my students and one which I would repeat with some changes.

My issues were:

  • As I only see my students at best for three 30 minute sessions every week, it was hard to get through as much as we needed to each week. Interruptions and absences made this very difficult for even a book with relatively short and sharp chapters like The BFG.
  • Developing relationships with students is so important, especially in my job. This is hard when all you have time for is one chapter of a book. It is difficult to get into anything in depth with these time constraints. Students also got a bit restless when this was all we had time to do.
  • Connecting with other areas, or extending the authentic situation into other investigations was quite hard, even into a writing project. More time and flexibility with programmes is really useful with a Read Aloud as it does (and should) become very much a BIG part of your literacy programme.
  • Not all students had equal access to devices and some had not even used devices much, so that made connecting and collaborating together difficult.
  • I did not always have access to things that would make things easy for a Read Aloud. A projector would have been awesome, but I’m slightly unlikely to get that everywhere. A big whiteboard would have been really useful, and when I had this, it was an easier experience.
  • Unexpected events – elections, sicknesses, earthquakes, travel – you name it – we seem to have had it happen! This put even more pressure on what was already a short amount of time to finish our book and collaborate online.

That seems like a lot of issues! Why would I even think of doing this again?! Well, I believe strongly in the power of a good Read Aloud, and even more in the power of the connection between students. So, I am already thinking of how I can adjust things slightly to make them work better for myself and my students at GRA 2017 and the NZReadalouds prior to them.

So, what would I change? Time seems to make up the bulk of my issues. I just don’t get the luxury of every day with students. Next time I’m hoping to do the Read Aloud in the picture book category, or definitely shorter texts anyway. That would allow for more time to go in depth, as we could get through the book easily. It would also mean we could focus on aspects of the text better, yet not linger too long on it in our sessions.

In terms of devices, I may be able to get Edmodo up and running on my ipads (when I get the codes sorted out!), which would mean we could collaborate and connect with those hopefully. I know that the Year 1 & 2 section in the NZReadaloud put work on a blog, which would be fairly easy to achieve in my sessions.

Unexpected events can’t be planned for of course, and I appreciate how flexible my students were and how understanding Mrs Hodges in America was. This wasn’t an awesomely “successful” Read Aloud, but that is life, and that is teaching. We learn from the failures just as much as the successes.

I will simply…

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Collaboration, Connection & Reflection – 2016 Global Read Aloud in hindsight