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Sunday, 30 March 2014

What IS "Team Teaching?"

On Friday, Greg and I were observed by Anne Sinclair (recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award, 2004) from the University of Auckland, who is currently researching and assisting teachers involved with the MDTA (Manaiakalani Digital Teachers Academy).  After the usual hour long observation, of which Greg and I were involved with our Maths groups, we left the class to carry on with their work (supervised, of course) and sat in the staff room with our coffees, ready for our follow up discussion.

Prior to the observation, Greg and I were nervous.  We are both venturing into this 'team teaching' thing together for the first time, so had no idea what kind of feedback or feedforward we would receive.  We made the decision not to do anything 'special' for the lesson - but to just carry on with the usual routine and see where to from there.

It turned out that we weren't so bad after all.  Anne gave us such positive feedback.  Greg left the room with an new air of confidence that every PRT gains when being told that what they're doing is great.  I left the room feeling affirmed and overwhelmed because, as mentioned, Greg and I really are kind of making this whole thing up as we go along!  Neither of us had experienced this type of teaching before.

The conversation was lead by Anne's questions.  I am trying to remember everything we shared, which I will bullet point.

What is the one most important thing you need to establish at the beginning of the MDTA programme?

  • Building relationships with the students
  • Establishing the MDTA teacher as a teacher who is in equal partnership with the mentor teacher and not in a secondary teacher/student teacher/teacher aide type role.
  • Mentor teacher letting go of control and trusting the MDTA teacher with classroom responsibilities and listening to their ideas.
  •  The first thing any effective teacher has to do, is simple - LIKE THE STUDENTS YOU TEACH.  Kids know when you don't like them.  And like, any other human being - you act differently towards people that like you, compared to people you know don't like you.
What are your next steps for next term?
  • (Greg) to become more familiar with assessment analysis protocols at TPS.
  • (Greg) improve on behaviour management strategies to promote better cognitive engagement.
  • (Kyla) continue to help Greg strengthen his teacher practice.
  • (Kyla) take risks that wouldn't usually be taken with only one teacher in the room e.g. messy science lessons!
I left the room feeling less awkward than I had been working with Greg - not because of personal reasons - but simply because as a 'mentor,' I didn't really know what I was doing - but using my instincts and drawing from my experiences as an associate teacher.  I left feeling excited.  I left feeling affirmed.  It has been a challenge, but now we know we're on a positive pathway, we are excited to build on this and strengthen our practice, together.  Of course - this will all benefit the most important people of all - the children. 

Co-Teaching Models

 Here is an interesting info-graphic, which aims to illustrate the different types of 'team teaching' models.  It's funny because I don't feel that two teachers up the front of the class lecturing is effective - much the same as if it were one teacher up the front.  I think that Greg and I are currently practicing the 'Parallel Teaching' approach.  Especially during instructional group times like Reading and Maths.  Other parts of the day, I think we practice the 'Alternative Teaching' approach.  What are your experiences with team teaching?  What principles underline your approach, if different to ours?  

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Beliefs about Bilingual Education

Those who have had the pleasure of taking part in one of John McCaffery's courses at the University of Auckland, will understand when I say that I leave his classes feeling ready to change the world.  His view on Bilingual Education is exciting, passionate and for some - controversial, but always, they are views that are informed by years of research, literature, theory and experience - both personal and professional.

I left tonight, thinking - as usual - about my hopes for my own son, who, was born to a Maori/German-Samoan Mother and a Tongan Father.  How at 6 months old, has a mother who is already searching for Tongan Language Immersion Early Childhood Centre to send him to.  Who is searching for schools that promote and value languages other than English for when he turns 5.  Practicing in my mind, the things I will say to his Dad to convince him that these are all good decisions, when I get home after my 20 minute drive home.

I left thinking about my hopes for the students in my class.  That I hope that I am doing everything I can to engage them and make them feel valued.  That I am doing everything I can to help progress and in some cases accelerate their learning.  That I am doing everything I can to ensure that they enjoy school and achieve success in school.

Considering the two most motivating parts of my life - my future bilingual child and the bilingual children in my class - I thought I would post about why this stuff matters to me so much.  Why I believe it's important to promote it so passionately...


In the 1960s - this was the view taken by most academics and from personal experience, many professionals in education and in the general public - this view still exists.  Basically - you can't learn another language without shrinking the first language - two languages can not co-exist as equal languages in the brain.  Or that to achieve well in mainstream education settings that use English as the language of instruction and assessment, you must forego your first language as it hinders your chances of fully understanding the English content.

This has now been shown by many Bilingual Education Theorists to be untrue.


It is the brain of the bilingual learner shown in this image that depicts what research now suggests.  That two languages can co-exist.  That if students are proficient in two languages (speaking, reading, writing) they have more to draw on when making sense of new learning.  Being bilingual does not inhibit students from achieving academic success.  Rather, if approached in the right way, being bilingual can mean not only academic success, but academic excellence.


Here is another good analogy.  Above the water (what we can physically see and hear) is a student speaking two languages.  Under the water is the cognitive processing and conceptual understandings that the child can draw from in order to make sense of the new learning.  This shows that bilingual students - if they have two full languages (not two broken languages - which is different), have much more to offer than the mainstream education setting suggests they do.

I feel that this will be an ongoing topic that you will see - my thoughts about this are everywhere because there is so much to consider.  However, I am loving sorting through my thoughts and would love to discuss it further if you have any thoughts or opinions.

I will definitely be fighting to ensure that my son gets every opportunity to learn and use Tongan as well as English.  I will also be actively trying to implement the heritage languages of those students in my classroom into our daily programme.  That's where I'm going to start.  Where will you?

Bilingual Education: Possible Activity Ideas


This year, I am aiming to complete my Post Graduate Diploma in TESSOL (Teaching English in Schools with Speakers of Other Languages).  It is an area of study that I am quite passionate about.  I would strongly recommend this course to any teacher/support worker/principal/other to take up the opportunity to complete this if the course is ever offered to you.  It is practical and VERY worthwhile.  I believe my practice has 

Tonight, as part of the EDPROFST 376 paper:  Bilingual Education:  Models and Theories, we were asked to brainstorm and sort on a continuum of 'the least you could do as a school' to 'the most you could do as a school' - activities that would help to acknowledge, empower and promote bilingual learners in your school.  This is the continuum that the group I was a part of created.  Can you suggest any other ideas?  Are there things you are doing in your school that you could share?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Myth Busters: Whanau Conferences

There is a misconception about Decile 1 communities lack of interest and attendance when it comes to Whanau Conferences.  In a class of 29 Year 7 and 8 students, I had 23 families attend.  Thats 79%.

All whanau members that I met and talked with had these things in common:

  • They all loved their children
  • They all wanted the best for their children
  • They wanted to know how they could help
  • They wanted to know how to keep in contact in the future
I left, that evening, after 7 hours of back to back interviews, feeling incredibly excited for the possible shifts that we could make together, now everyone was on the same page; the students, their families and the teachers.  I left feeling motivated to better my teaching practice, knowing I had such wonderful families who supported me.  I left feeling satisfied that every student that I saw knew where they were in their levels, knew where they wanted to get to and had some sort of idea of what they might do to help themselves to get there.

We had a wonderful night with full whanau engagement.  How lucky we are as a school to have such amazing support from our families.

Maths Observation

Today I was fortunate enough to observe Aireen Ah-Kui model a maths lesson for me.  The lesson focussed on subtraction in parts with a group of students transitioning from Stage 5 to Stage 6 in Add/Sub.


There were many things that I took away from this lesson.  Some things that I noted down in my observation notes were:
  • The structure of the lesson:
    • Knowledge Check
    • Diagnostic Question
    • Strategy Teaching
    • Practice
    • Reflection
  • The Reflection time at the end was most significant because it was in this time that students articulated the WALT and from this, as a teacher, you could see clearly who learnt what and who would need extra support for the next lesson.
  • I really enjoyed the way Aireen used student names and fun items that were ‘bought’ in the written questions. 
  • I liked the way Aireen got the students involved in writing their strategy in the modelling book. A really good thing is to notice the student having a hard time, and getting them to draw the strategy to see where exactly they are having the problems. 
  •  A really interesting thing I noticed was the way students were correcting where others went wrong, but in a way that was respectful and the discussion was learning based - no one felt shamed. 
  •  I liked the way you monitored which students would need support and with what through recording simple 'codes' in the modelling book.  Also, the recording of student responses using the 'Answer Balloon.'
  • A really great strategy was printing off the questions and sticking them in the modelling book - saving time from writing the questions.
We are so fortunate to be in a school environment that allows for us to have modelling/peer coaching sessions such as these.  No matter how good you are at teaching, there is always something to take away when you see a fellow colleague in action.  

Achieving Work-Life Balance


Finding balance between work and life is for many teachers, the hardest part of the job.  We want to do the best we can at work because the lives of children depend on it.  On the other hand, the children, partners, family and friends in our own homes need us too.  How do you ensure the best programme for your class, while maintaining positive relationships at home?  How do I ensure, as a first time mum, that my bubba gets to know my face, rather than the apple logo on the back of my mac book pro?  For us to achieve Hauora (total wellbeing), we need to ensure we keep all four walls of our selves healthy.  Socially, spiritually, physically and mentally.  I know I have some improving to do for my physical self, but right now, I understand what an achievement it is for me to work, study and contribute to the upbringing of my baby with my partner.  It's taken some years to develop and it's a conscious decision to work this way every day, but...

These my tips for achieving the illusion that I have work/life balance as a teacher:
  • I put the 'hard yards' in at the beginning of the term - often planning out 10 weeks ahead so that the rest of the term becomes a 'cut and paste' exercise.  Here is an example.
  • Share everything you do.  If you do this, most times, people share the things that they create back with you in return.  Double the resources in half the time.
  • Foster 'self management' in your classroom.  If you can achieve this, learning becomes student lead, and your planning becomes less about what you think they would enjoy - and actually about what they enjoy.  Students also start suggesting activities to do - voila!  Next week's plan.
  • Delegate!  Do you really need to spend 4 hours cutting and laminating letters after school?  Or can that heading be a project for the students who love art and creating?
  • Work at work.  If you have to work through a lunch hour so that you can have an hour with family or friends when you get home - do it.
  • Plan.  You can handle any other interruptions that come up as they happen if you have a solid plan.
  • Learning in cycles.  Don't plan lessons in isolation from each other.  Where is the learning going?  How can what I plan on Monday, effect the lesson on Tuesday?
  • Use assessment data wisely!  Share it with the students and let THEM identify their next learning steps!  Their learning goals, informed by their data, become your learning intentions for the term.  Why do extra when you have capable young people in your class to do the analysis for you?
  • QUESTION.  When new 'pieces of paper' or 'ways of recording' and 'accountability' ideas are introduced, critically question their purpose.  Are you doubling up anywhere?  If we add this new one, can we get rid of something else?  I have a professional colleague who spends 500 HOURS every year working on Portfolios.  Is 500 hours of your time really worth it for clear files of tick charts and worksheets you made your students do in the last two weeks of term?

I will keep adding to this list as other ideas come to me!  If fellow teachers are reading this - please add your own tips for efficiency in the comments!  Sharing is caring!

Monday, 17 March 2014

First Time Mentor


(Me and Greg)

This year, I have been fortunate to join the Manaiakalani Digital Teachers Academy as a Mentor.  I was excited to take part in this new initiative offered by the Manaiakalani Trust because I am passionate about equity through quality teaching and I have witnessed first hand what ineffective teaching can do to impact on student achievement.  Therefore, having been identified as a teacher who has positive impacts on student achievement, I was eager to help to mentor another teacher - to 'pay it forward' and ensure that the impacts that are made in Room 8 today, can impact another classroom tomorrow.  Another 30 students can make progress and achieve their goals.

So, in Week 7 of Term 1, I welcomed Greg Wong into Room 8.  We are so excited to work together and to raise the achievement of the students in our class.  The students are very lucky.  Greg comes with many strengths and new perspectives on learning tasks that might engage the students I miss.

My biggest challenge, as a teacher who has created her own little world, controlled the routines in her own class and been a solo teacher (apart from the one year I had a teacher aide - 2010) is how will I be able to share what I love to do?  Share the students that I love to teach?

Also, how can I be an effective mentor?  Do I let Greg dive into the deep end?  Do I carefully scaffold and go too slowly and not entrust too much in him and in turn make him feel like 'less than' a classroom teacher?

How will the students welcome Greg?  Will they think of him as a teacher?  Or will we have trouble establishing him as a teacher figure in the classroom?

If you have had experience as a mentor teacher, please leave your tips about how we can best form a professional relationship with each other and with the students while raising achievement in a digital environment.  My aim  is that Greg will eventually have his own classroom and feel confident to teach students with the Manaiakalani ethos.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Second Language Acquisition through Digital Environments

Over the last four years I have been completing my Post-Graduate studies in Teaching English in Schools with Speakers of Other Languages - or - TESSOL.  Not to be confused with TESOL.  The small difference being, that this course is based on the context of teaching in Aotearoa, in Mainstream Schools.  Not teaching English overseas in one off English classes.

As part of this course, we were asked to show how we had been 'agents of change' in our schools, in response to the learning of the course.  I worked together with a fellow colleague and close friend Aireen Ah-Kui to create this clip about how we cater for English Language Learners through our digital environments.  Enjoy.


Hi there...

In 2011, I was invited by Ema Tavola to take part in Pecha Kucha Night Auckland #28, at Fresh Gallery in Otara, Auckland.  I have never listened to it since, because I hate the sound of my own voice but I know that what I said was important to say and the feedback I received from members of the audience was positive so I think it might be worth sharing.  You can learn more about what Pecha Kucha  is here.  This was my presentation.