Changes in my Practice

Titiro whakamuri, kokiri whakamua – Look back and reflect, so you can move forward Whakatauki – Mind lab – Week 32

Reflecting on my personal 32 week learning journey...

Winning startsThe Mind Lab journey begins and I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  I suppose I wanted to explore digital, leadership and collaborative practices to help support my teaching.  I reckon this course has certainly done that, so much so, that I plan to continue learning even after this course is done.  I knew some stuff before Mind Lab, but doing this has opened up a whole lot of new learnings for me, things that I would never had explored had I not been a part of this. I find now that the research I do, allows me to explore further. I am fascinated with anything new, unexplained and look to find out more.  My head is filled with places to go and things to search out. Ostermann & Kottkamp (1993) state that an increased awareness creates opportunities for professional growth and development. This has been very true.  I have confidence now to explore 21st century approaches and resources. Having to digest, research, implement and practice everything in 32 weeks doesn’t seem long enough, but perhaps just enough to at least look at key areas that could be used in my current practice.  It has certainly been food for thought, and despite the stresses of work, study, tears, late nights and life in general, the 32 weeks has been well worth it.

So what have been the biggies for me?

Research – This is big business.  The investigation of stuff.  Not just the reading but the unpacking of the reading, the establishing of facts and the evidence that has been collected and realising that it all makes sense, although sometimes not.   

People – realising that we, as teachers, are here for the same reasons.  Willingness to share, to collaborate, to teach, to talk about issues, discuss, laugh, stress and so much more.  Even though it has at times seemed a lonely road (for me), the blog thing has been enlightening, and all the clever things that teachers do have been awesome to read and follow.  Lurking, reading, responding, participating and contributing – it has all been great fun and something I feel much happier being a part of!

Key changes (focus) in my own research informed practice in relation to the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning. 

I include the three criteria listed below as my focus in my Professional and Teaching practice moving forward.  The area of well-being of akonga and responding effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences of individuals and akonga, are very dear to me and an aspect of my practice that I will enhance.  As a middle leader I look forward to contributing to our school’s Professional environment and sharing my learnings from this course and teaching experiences, with all staff at SMC.

  • Criterion 2 : Demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of ākonga.
  • Criterion 5 : Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.                                 Professional knowledge in practice
  • Criterion 9 : Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga

So where to from here?

I will be on a cultural responsiveness journey from November, and since it’s fairly new in our school, it will definitely be an adventure.  I plan to persevere with Year 8 – 150 of them in 2018, with a redesigned learning environment, a more digital friendly programme of learning and interdisciplinary connections with their homeroom teachers and topics in Social Studies, as well as crossing boundaries with Science & Business studies with my Food Technology students.

you will get thereIn doing this I believe that from the Standards for the Teaching Profession, that meeting Professional Learning, Learning focussed Culture, and Teaching will be attained (among other things).

Thank you Mind Lab.

Kia manuia frangipani




Osterman, K. F., & Kottkamp, R. B. (1993). Reflective Practice for Educators Improving Schooling Through Professional Development Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 3711(78). Retrieved from

My Interdisciplinary Connection Map

“Interdisciplinary:  a knowledge view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, topic, issue, problem, or work.”Heidi Hayes Jacobs      Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design and Implementation (1989)

Andrews 1990 states that “when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organisational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998) interdisciplinary connections are made.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 9.04.31 PM
My connections within my school

The kind of learning we want our students to experience is that of authentic, active inquiry, that is connected and student-centred.  Students enjoy challenges and collaboratively are able to connect all the requirements together for a topic, theme or project.  I believe with guidance that students are able to demonstrate problem solving skills and implement their own ideas in solving issues.


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Connections within our departments

Here are some examples of connected learning which happens in our school.

Team-Teaching (aka co-teaching, collaborative teaching, parallel teaching, teaming).  Students need to develop social skills in being able to work together with a range of their peers, retaining knowledge and analysing information in order to make sound judgements based on their analysis.  These are essential skills students need as they move into Year 9 studies in 2018.  Students worked on a theme titled:  NZ history – Treasure our Heritage.  The topic which the students were to analyse was that of ‘how to read cladograms’.  This process involved 3 classes of year 8 students.  Class 1 developed a lesson, with a unit plan with success criteria.  Once in place, students taught this topic to another class of year 8 students.  These students also taught a third group of year 8 students during another session. It proved very successful.

The station teaching group format was used for the group work based on ‘treasure our heritage’

Two of the classes continued to work together on the given theme and were divided into four groups – Group 1:  Guided reading, Group 2 Disappearing Cloze, Group 3 Videos & questions, Group 4 Making a Korowai*.  Students worked at each station for 20 minutes.  *For the Korowai – I  was brought in to talk about the preparation and construction of

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.28.29 AMScreen Shot 2017-10-23 at 10.29.53 AMthe cloak, introduced some history, talked about the materials with student input, and even though the students were making the cloak from card, they were able to relate their construction to the real thing. An actual Korowai was brought in for students to use as their inspiration.  The students modelled their completed Korowai as a finale to the unit.

When New Zealand was looking at the flag change, a social studies unit was developed that included flag history, flags that had changed in the past (eg Canada), links to civics, and in textiles, the development of what students wanted as a new flag, which was constructed as a pillow cover.  They were able to use skills of planning, collaboration, modelling, testing, learning about the sewing machine, layering and so much more.
IMG_1884It was an enjoyable unit which took a term of 10 weeks to complete.  The school then used the flags during the cultural week in the school.

According to research from Boyer and Bishop (2004, p.1.) they found that interdisciplinary ‘teaming’ not only had a positive effect on students learning, but also inhibited personal growth.  Students learned tolerance for their peers as well as leadership and collaboration skills.

Another example is at Year 13 where students in Food Technology and Business work on a project as part of their business plan and prototype product development.  They use time in Business to set up their business, advertising, work on finances and logistics, the launch, while in Food Technology, students are unpacking the given brief (from the business plan) to develop a final brief from which prototypes and a final product will be developed and implemented at a market day or other opportunities to test the feasibility, sustainability, safety & hygiene and ethical, cultural appropriateness of their product.

We work in much the same way with Textiles Fashion & Design, and Art & Design.  The same also happens with Business and Technology Multi Materials at year 13.  The planning for each of these programmes is carried out in Term 4 the year before, ready for implementation at the start of the following year.  Not all students participate in this interdisciplinary connection, but if they choose to develop a food, fashion, multi-materials or digital outcome, it makes sense to them to take advantage of sharing learning through 2 or 3 curriculum areas while at the same time obtaining their NCEA credits, not only for the content area but for literacy and sometimes numeracy.  Students who participate will have enrolled in Business & Food Tech or Fashion & Art, so that their combination of subject choices plays a role in the interdisciplinary nature of their learning. Team work is paramount, collaboration is the key, and overall students gain confidence, a sense of ownership and an understanding of the key processes involved.  Yes, it takes time to put into place but is well worth it, if students gain knowledge and learnings from it.

Jones (2009) writes that interdisciplinary connections ‘expand student understanding and achievement between all disciplines or enhancing communication skills,’however, ‘it also has disadvantages, such as integration confusion and time-consuming curriculum preparation’.  I agree with the time consuming preparations, however once set in place, it only requires modifications leading into the next year and adapting to a new cohort of students.  Jones (2009) goes on to conclude that interdisciplinary connections, ‘inhibit many favoured skills that are sought by future colleges and employers.’


In times of change, learners shall inherent the earth while the learned are beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer


Boyer, Bishop, 2004. “Young Adolescent Voices: Students’ Perceptions of InterdisciplinaryTeaming,” RMLE, v.1. ef.pdf.

Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from,

L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from


Critically discuss the use of social media in my teaching or professional development.


I recently carried out a survey of my Year 8 students (2 classes) to ask them about social media and devices they use, and access online at school and at home.  Most students made use of Schoology which is our school’s main student portal. Some mentioned Google classroom and the use of one note.  Since the school denies access to Facebook, Twitter and most other social media sites, the students told me they were still able to find ways to access these sites at school .   The home situation is far different from school, although this varies from student to student, with internet access being monitored, or no access at all for a few. The students have access to multiple devices at home, (most use a tablet, Ipad or phone at school) as well as access to social media sites like Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Snapchat, for example.  Students also used a large number of Apps and most of the boys used X-box and other gaming devices.

Since being part of mind lab I have discovered life online and included online tools as part of my students learning (and my own).  This part has been fun but a real learning curve for me.  I am mindful that some students don’t have internet access at home so I provide them with devices to use in the classroom.  We have made use of Aurasma – so students can follow up on instructions of how to do things instead of waiting for me, or they can share ‘how to’ with their peers.  Schoology is ok, but is more like an electronic workbook where instructions are provided, resources, and assignments set up and submitted. Students can view a myriad of resources which have been set up by the subject teacher using this portal or others.  Students enjoy Seesaw, since it is a student driven app, where I am able to sketch and draw examples for them and they can modify or change templates. Instructions are given in my voice (as well as written), so they can review what they have to do online, or whenever they need to reflect.  Previous to Mindlab, when the Ipad was fairly new, my classes did access padlet which was something new at the time.   Students enjoy being hands on, working collaboratively in small groups, sharing ideas and making use of online resources.

I have set up a Twitter account with my year 12 and 13 students, which is used for sharing with other schools in Auckland and overseas.  The students are able to see what is happening in other places, although most of the senior students have independent access to resources, which is different from the access my year 8 students would have.

In my learning environment I feel that one of the main challenges is that of student privacy and student safety.  While we are unable to post to social media sites since access is denied, it may appear that no problems occur, however, students carry their own data on devices and while it is our school policy that devices are not used within certain hours, it is not always easy to monitor.  ‘Social media offers spaces for innovative teaching in classrooms. However they also pose a number of ethical dilemmas for teachers’ (Henderson et al 2014).

In terms of my own Professional development, since jumping on board with Mindlab, and joining along with my students, the learning has been incredible.  There is simply a lot of stuff online.  I feel more confident with using Twitter, Facebook groups and even blogging.  While I am still learning myself, being a part of the VLN, ELN, PBL, N4L Pond groups provides different elements of knowledge which have helped me in my professional learning so that I can learn, share and collaborate with other teachers and my students.  We also use Schoology for professional development and professional learning – a mahi ngatahi  group for teachers within our working environment which enables robust discussions to be had, resources to be shared and thinking to be put into practice.



Education Council New Zealand (n.d.) Guidelines on Ethical Use of Social Media. Retrieved from

Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved from

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from

Legal and Ethical Contexts in my Digital Practice – (school)

The time is always right to do the right thingMartin Luther King

Being a teacher for a few years now, and having worked through a few ‘situations’ over this time, awareness of legal and ethical issues are things we as teachers are always mindful of.  Ensuring what we do is the right thing, is important and often on our minds. Professionally, it is something that we should always be mindful of.  Teaching is a stressful job and naturally teachers can become stressed from the responsibilities and expectations of  what we do and whom we are teaching.  We are always mindful of doing the right thing.  However, combine stress with anxiety, worry, and personal issues, while still trying to do the job, and things can quickly come undone.  Factor into this the use of devices, social media, accessibility online and all the nuances of this digital era and things can become interesting.  Now this is not to condone inappropriate and illegal online behaviour.  That is a very different matter.

A situation (one of several) occurred in my school with Mr J in my faculty.  He was also part of a second faculty.  He was employed in a fixed, one year position.  Joining him was his daughter in her first year of NCEA, year 11.  The family moved to the area from Hamilton, and his wife was able to continue her work travelling to Hamilton each week.  Mr J had a fairly busy family life with the children involved in sports activities and two at university.

Teachers in our school are not able to access files from other departments, however, anything on the shared drive, is accessible to teaching staff.  I believe this to be fairly standard practice in most schools.  Mr J obtained access to files since working in two departments.  At the end of term 1, Mr J accidentally spilled coffee on his computer which required checking by the school IT team.  For some reason, it was after this that Mr J was called into the Principal’s office to discuss a personal matter.  As HOD I had no idea of what was going on.  Mr J had been accused of inappropriate access to online files to advantage his daughter.  The school believed Mr J had purposely damaged the laptop.

I later learned that Mr J had downloaded tests and revision papers , from other subject areas and these had been placed on his computer in a folder with his daughter’s name on it.  The school decided to take further action, and asked Mr J was given leave as the matter was being investigated.  Mr J sought union help, but in discussions with the school, and even after the evidence of no wrong doing by Mr J, he took ‘stress’ leave until the end of term 2.  Mr J then decided he needed to move away from the school and resigned his position during term 3.  The school was to continue its investigation and was informed that a hearing would be scheduled in the near future.

Meanwhile, Mr J in term 4 of the same year (while on leave) applied for another teaching position out of Auckland and was successful. He had not informed his new school of the proceedings against him, but prior to the hearing (held in term 2 of this year), did inform the Principal of the matter.  The Principal was very understanding and supportive of Mr J’s situation.  By the end of term 2, Mr J had been cleared of all allegations of misconduct.  He was fined.  Mr J’s children were unaware of the actions against him.

Personal statement from Mr J:  After visits to a psychiatrist it was established that due to the stresses of a shift to Auckland, three moves of home, being in a new school, teaching in two different departments and adjusting to a new environment, that these contributing factors resulted in the unlikely behaviour of downloading online resources without realising the implications of him doing so.  He admitted to the fact that it had been done, and what was copied was not actual examinations and tests, but rather revision worksheets.  The school maintained that it was a deliberate breech of professionalism.  Fortunately Mr J’s teacher registration was not affected.

In reflecting on why this all happened and how much of a big deal it became, Mr J is still working full time at the same school he applied to this year.  He has also been given an MOE study leave award for 2018.

What to consider?  The key stakeholders:  Mr J, the HODs, the IT team, The Principal, SLT, Union Rep(s).  Why was this incident investigated in the first place and had the school suspicions of inappropriate behaviour?  Was Mr J targeted?

Were students affected?  No, since the documentation was never used once the laptop was removed.  Students of Mr J had to have a new teacher for the remainder of the year.  Students of Mr J also questioned what happened to him and why he had left so suddenly?

Impact on stakeholders:  Mr J – on leave, resignation, meetings with union, meetings with school key stakeholders, time with medical professionals, worry and stress due to his actions and those of the school.  Heads of Department – myself – I talked with Mr J and he explained his situation, which was provided to the union in support of Mr J during investigation.  The other Head of Department – matter of files downloaded was out in the open so that action could be taken against Mr J.

Despite the fact that this may seem a not so serious event, it impacted on Mr J a great deal.  Now that it is history, Mr J has overcome the shame and blame for this incident and despite few people knowing what went on, he is happy to still be practicing in a profession he is very passionate about.






Indigenous and Cultural Responsiveness in my practice (school)

“In order to teach me you must know me”   Dr Chris Edmin – Columbia University, NY.

If you do not view a student as having the ability to be academically successful, they will not be able to realise their full potential.  If you view a student through a deficit lens, they will never be fully actualised.  (Alby Fitisemanu – MIT Lecturer)

Indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness is about acknowledging who people are in terms of ‘culture and belonging’, and educators can respond to this in an inclusive and caring way.  In terms of educational practice, indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness is about ‘learning among learners’ (Bishop, 2009),  rejecting deficit theorising (Bishop 2005) and instead growing and empowering individuals to stand tall and be proud of who they are, knowing their identity and their culture.  As educators our role is to foster relationship based learning so that success can be achieved by all. In fact it is much more than that, it is about being agents of change, for example, helping Maori students learn as Maori, having high expectations and caring that Maori students are learning.

Acknowledging indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness in my school has just begun. We are on a journey of cultural responsiveness, ‘awareness and discovery’ and have the initial steps planned, with the support of an academic mentor, to weave indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness through our special character belief:  Faith is our Compass – Ko te whakapono ko to tatou piriti. 

We have formed a ‘lead group’ and through 2017 have been working on a whole staff plan, which will begin in term 4 and continue through 2018.  The group have acknowledged the need for change and have reviewed ways of becoming more inclusive through the school’s strategic and action plans.  Based on Tataiako which provides a guide into the development of cultural competence for teachers, developed to guide teachers in ways of thinking about what it takes to successfully teach Maori learners.  For our Pasifika learners the PEP Pasifika Education Plan (2003-2017), is the focus for our school.  We have a Maori population of 3.93% and Pasifika of 10.8%, with the two next highest percentages being NZ European of 30.4% and Filipino of 22%.  Our Asian and SE Asian students total 18.2%.  There are 23 ethnicity groups in our college.  Overall, results show positive trends across all ethnicity groups in line with national standards and like schools.  The college closely monitors at risk students, so effort is put into ensuring success for all our students from the start of the year.

In critiquing indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness based on the Mauri Model, I would place our school at the Te Taunga o te Mauri Moe state, being of Mauri Oho stage, where actions and expressions are proactive having been awoken (kua oho), with participation and engagement beginning (kua maranga). There is also some interaction beginning (kua whakawiti) with senior and middle leaders particularly in planning our direction ahead.

The school has in the past implemented ‘cultural’ initiatives, including Maori and Pasifika student leaders who have worked with, and mentored other Maori and Pasifika students in the college.  Meetings with the Principal every month for discussion of needs of Maori and Pacifika students, with the agenda directed by the student leaders themselves.  Kapahaka involvement, which welcomes all ethnicity groups and inclusion for all.  Having a dedicated mentor teacher, who is one of several agentic teachers at the college, and who shares an awareness of and responds well to students of other cultures has had its benefits.

One of the areas that the school needs to review is that of strategies and activities to guide teachers, remembering that teachers themselves need to think about what influences their practice as a teacher in the Aotearoa, New Zealand setting, and ways that high expectations can be maintained for Maori learners to succeed as Maori, and in fact,  for all students.  The final aspect I feel needs to be considered is that of developing respectful relationships not only with Maori (and Pacifika) learners, but also with whanau, hapu and iwi.  It is about the student’s past, where they have come from, what they know and having an understanding of their present, so that their future can become one of many successes.



Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009).Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education

Edtalks. (2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from

Potahu, T. W. (2011). Mauri – Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from…

Click to access Tataiako.pdf




A Contemporary Trend in New Zealand (and Internationally)

A trend that is captivating my interest is that of  Learning Environments.  While this is not necessarily a new thing to New Zealand primary and junior classes (I remember the 70’s when it was referred to as ‘open plan’ classrooms) some still struggle with the concept.  Termed learning spaces, modern learning spaces, open learning environments, flexible spaces, open space classrooms – it is believed to add flexibility, comfort and openness to the learning space.  So is this a trend?

Internationally, Flexible learning environments are a trend since it provides a more 21st century learning environment allowing for ‘open communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking’.  Gone are the days of rows of desks, sitting on plastic chairs and being still.

A paper presented by Matthew T. Mahar, et al (PDF) finds that:

Simple in-class activities can boost performance. Studies suggest that children who participate in short bouts of physical activity within the classroom have more on-task behaviour, with the best improvement seen in students who are least on-task initially.

Chris Bradbeer presents learning spaces as one of the CORE Ed trends in education, where he talks about the specific shifts in pedagogy, in digital technologies, in how classrooms now need to work to cater to the teacher-student partnerships allowing for more inquiry and a shift in the way teaching and learning happens today.  The single teacher classroom becomes a team teaching environment, with multiple teachers collaborating together.

Further research has been gathered by Jill Blackmore et al, based on research into the connection between built learning spaces and student outcomes.  This is a worthwhile read which points to the fact that there is no real correlation of learning spaces impacting on student outcomes, although New Zealand needs to begin gathering the data and reflecting on what happens in newly designed learning environments, to find out if there is a correlation.

Over the past five years in my school, the middle school environments have changed to incorporate more open learning spaces, using conventional furniture as well as comfort seating, easily movable furniture for ease of collaboration, discussions, team work and independent study.  Access to digital devices and learning resources is also part of the open spaces plan. Walls can be moved, doors opened out, allowing for the space to grow. The students like the way the classrooms are spaced.  They agree that it is more flexible and movement of furniture is easy.  The way in which the room is planned means that the children can move furniture more easily themselves, to suit their needs.  With regard to their learning, most have said that it does work, but agree that some students can become off task.  Our school has just recently completed the building of an open learning space for senior students.  Teachers are still working on how to make this space work so that it benefits all who use it including the teachers.

Our Principal is very much for the recommended Innovated Learning Environments (ILE) by the Ministry of Education, and the impact of Flexible Learning Spaces on helping student achievement.

I teach in a conventional classroom that has been converted to suit a sewing room.  The plan of the room was poor from the start.  A specialist room cannot be made into a specialist room from a classroom design.  Even during early 2000 the designers and planners still got things wrong.  A sewing room needs space (if it is to take 30+) year 7 or year 8 students.  It needs specialist equipment, which needs dedicated bench and storage spaces for cutting out, for planning and designing, for inquiry, for digital applications and use of devices.  Had the space been designed to be flexible, I believe students would be more motivated, more participative, and there would be evidence of further student engagement and achievement.  It has worked somewhat this year since making changes myself to the space.  Students can get into their work more quickly, have a sense of independence and are able to collaborate, discuss and be more creative within the spaces dedicated to them.

This identified trend is happening, if only gradually in some areas of Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Although it hasn’t suited everyone, yet, and tends to be practiced more at primary and intermediate (middle school) levels, it is a modern learning concept that with time will become more than a trend.  Further research is ongoing.



Week 27 – Mindlab Readings

Current Issues in my Professional Context


I am tasked to critically analyse issues of socio economic factors, school culture and professional environments in relation to my practice.

My school has a 2017 population of 1043. It is decile 6.  It has 136 staff which includes teaching staff of 121. There are 5 senior management leaders,  5 deans and 29 Middle leaders.  The school is an integrated co educational special character College, with students from years 7 through 13.

Socio-economics – Our students are enrolled from 3 feeder primary schools.  These students, if they are Catholic, have first priority enrolling at year 7. When the school opened in 2004, students travelled outside the ‘zone’ as the school filled the gap needed of a catholic co-ed school in South Auckland. Today, There is a change to that model, with families most unhappy that younger siblings are not able to enrol. Constraints on numbers has impacted on 2018 enrolments.  Families have and still do come from South and East Auckland.  The immediate area surrounding the college draws in families from the lower socio economic groups of Otara, Flatbush, with Pasifika and Maori families, while on the opposite side we have the new housing  developments of Mission Heights and Dannemora. We also have a large percentage of Filipino Families in the area who are Catholic.

While there appears to be a socio economic gap, the special character of the school is able to support those in need, and while this does not fix the issues, like housing, uniform, relationships, finances, even though it is hard for some families, the school charities is able to offer support. The learning for these groups is not overly affected with results from last 3 years showing steady improvements when compared nationally and with similar schools.

The main make up of students in the school to date stands at:  NZ European 30.3%; Filipino 22%; Chinese 12.8%; Samoan 5.8%; Indian 5.7; Maori 4%; South East Asian, 3.1%; South African / other African.

School Culture – ‘Faith is our Compass‘.  The word culture within the secondary school setting is a way of life  that answers the question of ‘Why we do this thing?’  Culture is based on values which thereby enables ‘the way we do things’ to be considered.  Culture tells us what we should celebrate, leave along or anticipate.  The culture of a school according to Smith and Stolp (1995) believes that Principals must encourage a positive level of contentment so that stakeholders of the school community will be committed to achieving excellence.  Leithwood (2001) contends that a school Principal must first understand the school’s culture before implementing change, and this is reiterated by Bulach (1999) who adds,  that a leader must identify a schools existing culture before attempting to change it.  At my school there is change on the cards.  What that change might look like is yet to be realised.  It is work in progress.

We are working on cultural responsiveness and combining that with our special character.

Professional Environment

Our school has a strong professional environment. We are all well supported, from senior leadership, middle leaders, teachers through to support staff. The school encourages collaboration, participation and sharing of knowledge. Professional learning is open to everyone, and teachers may do as little or as much as they feel they need to support their teaching or their professional knowledge. Teachers may be involved in: Professional learning groups, eLearning, the Eastern Learning network (mentoring and coaching), appraisal – interlead connector, coaching, SCT group, departments, and boys education, to name a few.   The school also supports further study and PD applications. The school does have a very positive and supportive approach to the professional environment of its staff.



Bulach, C R (2001) A 4-step process fir identifying and reshaping school culture. Principal leadership, 1 (8), 48-51

Leithwood B A (1991) Cultural Leaders in effective schools: The builders and birders of excellence. NASSP Bulletin

Smith, S C and Stolp, S (1995) Transforming a school’s culture through shared vision. Oregon School Study Council, 35 (3), p1-6



More on Communities of Practice

My introductory post briefly defined Communities of Practice (CoP) and over the past few days I’ve had time to reflect on a specific CoP.  A CoP is not just a community, it involves a group of people who share an interest, a passion – and who interact, learning how to do things better.  The purpose of the CoP is to create, expand and exchange knowledge. It provides a forum to develop individual capabilities.  The Community enables shared inquiry and knowledge.  The Domain provides a sense of belonging and the development of relationships.  Practice encompasses the body of knowledge, where learning together takes place.

Identifying my Community of Practice

I hadn’t realised just how many communities I belong to.  As posted earlier I had thought of the cultural responsiveness community which has just begun in our school.  I then thought about the Technology Learning area which I lead.  However, I realised that there is another group of passionate teachers who belong to HETTANZ (Home Economics and Technology Teachers of New Zealand).  This group has history and has been active since January 1985, with an executive, regional representatives, corporate members, life members and association members.  HETTANZ is a subject association to which I have been a member since 2003.  Within this group the three elements include:

The Community, which consists of teachers who teach under the multi layers of Home Economics and Technology, as well as hospitality and early childhood education. The community is a national organisation with over 600 paid members (as individuals or school members, corporate members or non-fee paying life members).  There are five regional groups, each with its own chairperson, secretary and treasurer, along with its members.  The organisation is led by an executive group which consists of the President, the five regional representatives, Pasifika and Maori representatives and the past-president.  I am on executive as the past-president.  From time to time, teachers are seconded onto executive when an expert might be required.

The Domain encompasses the shared interests of teacher members who have a passion for Home Economics and Technology.  We also include in this domain ECE, Health and Hospitality.  We link together through google groups, through the HETTANZ Website  , and email, with a weekly newsletter going out to members each week.

The Practice of our community is on-going.  We share weekly, we correspond often, we have several means of contacting one another with our regions, branches, executive and nationally.  This CoP is all about sharing, supporting and learning.

Within the regions, branches organise meetings (at least once a term), visits to schools to support teachers, speakers, link from industry and other activities as suggested and available by its members.  Every two years there is a Professional Learning Programme and is organised by one of the main branches and is open to local, national and international Home Economics members.  Often there are reciprocal visits between New Zealand and Australia as well as further abroad for attendance at International Home Economics run conferences.  We also offer teacher scholarships each year to ensure there is also support to our members who want to research, up-skill and improve their learning.

The shared repertoire culminates in the development of resources which are shared with teachers, or have a small price to cover cost of publication, reference materials or classroom resources that are sold at a lower retail price, visits to schools as required, conference, seminar days and PD sessions with experts, discussions of the latest developments and trends in our learning area and teaching practice.

As immediate past-president I support the current executive and provide historical knowledge should it be required as the group move forward.  Looking at where we have been so we may move forward.  Changes are inevitable and this is a good thing, so we ensure that links to the constitution and the culture of the organisation are maintained.  HETTANZ seeks to be a professional and supportive organisation to its members, to provide a sense of belonging and affirming the fantastic work our teachers are doing.  HETTANZ can do this by allowing teachers to have a voice (and vice versa) so that ultimately we are able to support their teaching practice to enable student successes.

Nga mihi nui

…let’s begin

This has been nerve wracking this blog thing but it is done now, set up and ready to go.  I look forward to researching, sharing, networking and most of all, using this portal to develop and improve my classroom practice and 21st century knowledge and understanding of learning and teaching in a digital and collaborative environment.

As a teacher I am involved in several teacher groups, including those set by our school to which we volunteer and dedicate much of our time to.  Within our communities of practice we collaborate for the good of each other so we may improve our practice in order to enhance student engagement and agency.  We work with our Senior Leadership team, Deans, Homeroom teachers, Department staff and support staff.  We also have our Professional Development groups and Network groups.  Currently I am a member The Premium Team PLG group.  We share our journey on Schoology and have covered such topics as Teacher Inquiry, Spiral of Inquiry, Growth Mindset, the flipped classroom and Self and Peer Assessment, to name a few.  We meet every fortnight for an hour and have been doing this over the past two years.

There is also the e-learning group which meets each week for an hour, where plans are made for ways to ensure access is available to all and resources are made known to teachers and students.  We have put together the eLearning policy and linked this to the school strategic and action plans.  We also have lead groups set up to work together on Cultural Responsiveness, Mentoring and Coaching (which is also part of the Eastern Learning Network and is combined with other East schools),

Outside of school there are subject association groups, HETTANZ, TENZ, TESAC, The Chefs Association, Regional and Local cluster groups, with each enabling communities of practice to flourish.   As immediate Past President of HETTANZ the google group forum allows for this community to share ideas and resources and to answer questions relating to teaching practice.

I am currently part of the Cultural Responsiveness Lead group and as a recent initiative for the school, following our 2017 ERO Report, it was one of the areas that needed attention.  While we are still in the planning stages (since start of 2017), student and whanau voice will be actioned in term 4 with implementation of the actions from the strategic plan in Term one, 2018.  Surveys will be delivered electronically and once results and data are collated and analysed, a hui will be planned to meet whanau, the wider community our students and teachers, together informally.

So what is Communities of Practice (CoP)?

When people engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain , where there is a passion for something they do and want to learn how to do it better as they interact, this may be termed a CoP.  However, three characteristics are important to a CoP, specifically – the domain (shared identity and competence), the community (relationships built pursuing the identified interest and engage in joint activities and discussions) and the practice (practitioners who share a repertoire of resources which we shall call shared practice).  These CoPs have existed for some time now, whether it be clubs, schools, organisations, tech groups or learning networks there exists a commonality of passion, of learning and of sharing, and holding the characteristics outlined in parallel of the domain, community and practice, that a community of practice develops.

Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. 
By Etienne Wenger, Cambridge University Press, 1998.