Tuesday 12 June 2018

Culturally Responsive and Relational Pedagogy in practice

The research is out there; Māori learners are not performing as well as European / pākehā, leading to headlines like these, all relatively recent:

As a teacher in New Zealand, this hurts my heart. How has it got so bad? Why are these students falling by the wayside? How can we change things and make our classrooms more inclusive so this stops being a problem?

We have been discussing Culturally Responsive and Relational Pedagogy (CRRP) as a school for a few years in differing formats, and have constructed cross-curricular groups to carry out appraisal and internal PLD (the process has been given the title Kokiri). 

I am a Kokiri leader, responsible for checking in with my group of five colleagues and ensuring they are working on an inquiry, and that they are recording evidence for the Code and Standards for the teaching profession, as well as signing off their final annual appraisal. Part of the process is classroom observations. Having come from a #Manaiakalani school, I was happy to have happen (we used to get every visitor passed through our classrooms on a regular basis; it makes you a lot less nervous about casual drop-ins!). We have also been through the Rongohia te Hau observations, so are partially used to the process. 

I will put my hand up here, and state that I have felt somewhat confused (maybe nervous?) about carrying out observations and conversations with peers - what gives me the right to critique colleagues abilities to teach? How can I make judgments about whether they are meeting the standards as a practicing professional? 

In 2018, we have been working with Robbie Lamont from Poutama Pounamu, and have been trialing an observation tool that moves from making a judgment to being a mirror of practice for our colleagues. This has required a level of "unlearning" to happen - it has always felt like observations in the classroom are looking at how well the teacher works with the class, often with hours of (panicked...) preparation from the observed teacher to ensure the lesson runs smoothly and shows how brilliant at their craft they actually are. The refreshing difference here, is that we are actually acting as a mirror, being held up so the observed teacher gets a snapshot view of what was happening over a 20 minute slice of the lesson. This is difficult for the amateur observer, but provides the opportunity for the teacher to reflect upon what was happening in their class, and what they and their students were doing.

The tool (found here) has been gifted to the Kokiri leaders, and we have been trying it out on one another. It takes a bit of getting used to. It is done over 20 minutes, and is a hand-killer! As I mentioned previously, the intention is to move away from the observer / observee (is that even a word?) relationship towards a culture of reflective practice where we constantly evaluate whether we are doing the best for ALL of our learners, and think of ways to be more inclusive; where everyone is part of the learning process. I fully understand that by focusing on our Māori learners, no one is disadvantaged, and everyone benefits, and by going through this kind of observation, we can see the gaps that exist in our practice.

This process has already got me thinking about my classroom practice and my interactions with my ākonga. I have already moved towards more co-construction of the learning with my students, getting their voice as a valuable part of my planning and course development. Observing others has made me consider aspects of my own practices, and having others observe me in a non-judgmental way, just mirroring, has really got me thinking. Robbie told us that one of the hard parts was unlearning, and I feel I am trying to do this, but there is always room for improvement.

I welcome the idea of being observed; how can I be a better teacher if I don't reflect and revise? I look forward to continuing this journey, and feel I know where we are heading as a school and some of the confusion I alluded to earlier has started clearing. I feel that we ARE on a journey to make learning more inclusive for ALL of our learners, and that we are doing something positive (as are many other schools / kura around NZ) to lessen the cultural divide. 

Today was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me, so I sat and wrote this immediately as I was reflecting on what I have learned (and unlearned!). I hope to write additional posts on this process as we move forward on this journey.

Ka kite anō au i a koutou.

Sunday 13 May 2018

I wanna rock!!


**This post was originally made in Wordpress on March 13th 2018**

Back to the song titles for posts, with thanks to Twisted Sister for this one!
Now to explain the relevance of the post title. This year I have started an Earth and Space Course at Level 2 (Year 12). This is something of a passion that I have had the privilege to indulge this year. The course includes a geological study of the rocks of a locality in NZ, and we are spoiled for choice in Northland, an investigation into an aspect of ESS that most interests the students, a socio-scientific report, topic yet to be decided, the formation of stars and planets and an extreme Earth event in NZ, of which there are plenty to choose from. Throughout the year I hope to come back into this and leave some more reflections.
One of the learning experiences I have managed to organise for our students is a seismometer, which has been connected to the NZ Ru Network (after Rūaumoko - the Māori god of volcanoes, earthquakes and seasons) and is situated in the library at the school. The unit itself is a spring connected to magnets in a coil and a piece of copper piping (Lens' law for the physics fans out there!), fed through to an Arduino device which talks to a Raspberry Pi.
Within 24 hours of connecting, we picked up the rolling ground waves of a 6+ aftershock from the Papua New Guinea earthquake, which rolled on for nearly an hour. This was confirmed by other seismometers in the network, including the 'home' device in the University of Auckland. This picture shows the two traces one above the other. The top is ours, the lower is the UoA trace, and the highlighted yellow sections are the corresponding records of the shake.
Our first quake!.png
The live images from the network can all be seen on this website.
We have also taken a couple of field trips, one to the Kawiti Glow-worm caves and Waro reserve to see karst limestone formations (incidentally,  the limestone that makes up these formations is part of the Te Kuiti group and are a long way from where they were layed down as sediments (25-30 million years ago). This photo shows the entrance to the caves, sadly no pics inside as it is firstly tapū (sacred) and secondly because it upsets the glow-worm (Arachnocampa luminosa in case you were wondering).

The limestone has been eroded into these fantastic shapes by acidified water gradually eroding the rock.
We were also welcomed onto the marae (Māori meeting grounds) as one of our students was related to the kaitiaki (guardians) of the caves. This was a welcome break from the rain, and a wonderful cultural experience.
The Waro Reserve also has good examples of fluted limestone / karst formations, as well as being an ex-marble mine (now flooded) and aboe the coal seams that run through into Kamo (Waro is coal in te Reo). Some of the karst is horizontal with erosion caused by water dripping from the branches of trees over time.
[gallery ids="172,173,174" type="rectangular"]
The second field trip was out along the Whangarei Heads Rd, and will be covered in the next post. This topic has certainly fired my imagination, and hopefully my students also have an appreciation of the forces at work to change these ancient landscapes that are so beautiful and striking. They certainly appreciate my passion for this fascinating topic!

Saturday 12 May 2018

Student blogging

**This is not a new post, but I have reposted it from my Wordpress account.**

This is a new thing for me; my year 13 Environmental Biology class are carrying out an action plan this year, around the local environment. As a change from keeping a paper logbook and submitting this at the end of the unit, they are recording their work in a blog.
We are using Blogger as the platform, mainly as we are now a Google school; it makes sense for the girls to use the single sign on afforded by having G Suite. I feel that this is an authentic way to collect information and also reflect upon what they are doing - all part of the action plan. They may even inspire me to update MY blog more regularly... Certainly as they are going to get an hour per week to update their work, I should maybe use the time for the same purpose.
Today we have set the blogs up, and now there are conversations around me about themes and plug-ins etc, so they are actually quite keen on getting started, and a letter has already been sent to the principal about one of the issues! Progress and authentic learning.
I need to find out a way of keeping an eye on each of the blogs, preferably without being too invasive, so I can ensure that there is work getting done. Currently, I am thinking of following each of the blogs so I get to read their updates. Any ideas from the rest of the world are greatly appreciated!