PPTA Te Wehengarua Education Conference 2023

During 17-18 April, I attended the premier event for Aotearoa New Zealand secondary education kaiako, Education Conference 2023 held in the Aotea Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

The event was organised by PPTA Te Wehengarua and the focus was to exchange ideas and learn from peers and education leaders. This year’s Conference Convenor was Dr Helen Finn from PPTA Learning and Development Centre.

The conference began with a whakatau and Tainui were the tangata whenua who welcomed the manuhiri into the room.

The speeches highlighted Tāmaki Makaurau and made connections between the four  whānui with the different hapū and iwi.

The manuhiri responded to the welcoming speeches and affirmed the reason for this conference. The conference was officially opened with karakia.

The sessions began with Chris Abercrombe-Acting President of the NZPPTA introducing the conference and the first speaker.

Hon Jan Tinetti

Minister of Education

Jan Tinetti alluded attendees to the education news that would be announced today and this Stuff article was published soon after.

Class sizes to decrease by one for years 4 to 8, requiring an extra 320 teachers.

Honourable Minister Tinetti spoke about  the importance of Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Curriculum Refresh beginning with Mathematics and Literacy.

She reminded us about the recent disruption to learning caused by COVID and that great disruptions provide learning opportunities for us as educators. As educators, we have the responsibility and capacity to make a big difference for our learners.

Tinetti touched on Wicked Issues for learning and not narrowing the curriculum.

Wicked issues are a social or cultural problem that’s difficult or impossible to solve because of complex and interconnected nature.

The Minister for Education alerted us that attendance continues to be an issue for learning because non attendance equals no learning. Our young people need to be engaged in their learning and for us educators to build our school systems to move around and support our young people.

Read more about the Minister’s announcement here.

Rosemary Hipkins

Confessions of a “lifelong learner”

Rose shared about her learning and the markers in her learning life that disrupted her thinking. Some of these included the ‘The great chain of being’ which  is a hierarchical structure of all matter and life, thought by mediaeval Christianity to have been decreed by God. The chain begins with God and descends through angels, humans, animals and plants to minerals.

She also shared about metaphors from biology that created images in our learning.

When she unpacked her formal philosophy she highlighted a big idea from philosophy; Epistemology: how we know what we know.

Rose provided us with an opportunity too to reflect on our own vocational threshold that changed our own thinking.

Dr Hipkins spoke about the parallel between indigenous knowledge and complexity science. How as a textbook author, it was important  to be part of the system by positioning within writing as a learner.

As a researcher she noticed that if resources were not equally shared then there were issues with gender inequalities, social inequalities and a myriad of other inequalities. Life rested on the environment and what happened when resources become unbalanced.

She concluded with: ‘Which set of eyes and heart do I need to teach with?’ Do we teach as if we are outside systems looking in (an ‘objective’ view)? Or as if we are inside systems and complicit in how they are and how they can be?”

Pasi Sahlberg

Left to their own devices: Equity issues in growing up digital in New Zealand

Pasi shared research from the ‘Growing Up Digital Global Project’.


Some interesting numbers.

His session was peppered with discussion questions such as “Should governments ban smartphones in secondary schools?” which generated discussion between us all. Some of the highlights were highlighted at the end of each block of time so that we could hear what the general feeling was from the audience.

“It is easy for governments to issue a blanket ban on smartphones in schools. It is much harder to implement that in practice. It is also problematic because practically all young people use these devices for many useful purposes, including learning.”

Pasi shared his slides with us.

Link to Slides

Rōpata Diamond

Tikanga Māori i te Kura (Tikanga Māori in a School Context)

Rōpata began with making a connection with the audience. He unpacked ‘Whaka whanau tanga’ by breaking up the term into smaller root words. We carried out an activity that clarified the difference between Whakatauki and Whakatauākī.

Rōpata then took us deeper with highlighting Tikanga: The correct way of carrying out cultural protocols.

I loved hearing that Manaakitanga trumps everything EG: if it rains

Rōpata stressed the importance of Kawa: Processes that cannot be changed.

He shared with us the difference between powhiri and whakatau and to be clear which one we were doing in our school.

Tikanga Pōwhiri.

  • Wero
  • Karanga
  • Whakaeke
  • Waerea/ Karanga Whakahoki
  • Hongi/ Harirū
  • Whaikōrero
  • Waiata
  • Koha
  • Kai

Tikanga Whakatau

  • Whakaeke
  • Hongi/ Harirū
  • Whaikōrero
  • Waiata
  • Kai

If we were unsure then to return to the protocols of the hapū and iwi of the area.

Be cautious about ‘Dialling a Māori Expert’ versus developing relationships with a critical friend.

When Māori protocols take place – then the space becomes tapu: sacred. As schools: What have we put in place when we ask our children and kaiako to step up and take the lead in protocols.

He questioned us changing our school name to Māori, but do we understand the why. He stressed the importance of being compassionate to hapū and iwi and understanding capacity issues. EG: we are one school in Tāmaki Makaurau out of how many who want the same support from our local hapū and iwi.

Rōpata repeated the importance of “Understand the why.”

A clear understanding was needed when requesting translation and reminded us that translating a four page document takes more than five minutes. He stressed that not all Māori are experts in Te Ao Māori.

Moeke thanked Rōpata and shared how it was also important  as educators we have the power to raise Mana or lower it .

Dr Paul Wood

From Adversity to Advantage

Paul shared his life story and decisions he made that affected him as a human. He drew on his own journey from adversity to excellence.

He asked us to continually reflect on:

  • Am I present?
  • Am I open?
  • Am I doing what matters?

Paul shared about ‘Post Traumatic Growth’. Personal Growth is when something positive comes from adversity with having learnt from the experience and moving on.

Rome wasn’t built in a day but bricks were laid every hour. He reminded us that doing what matters is making space for discomfort and still sharing our story.”

What is your prison and what is holding you back from having the life you want?

Welby Ings

Professor filmmaker, author and disobedient thinker

Disobedient Thinking: Intelligences that dance beyond assessment criteria

As an educator I found Welby’s session question some of my beliefs around learning. For example Mathematics and Literacy is not learning because the thought process through reading and writing and calculation is not enough. Classroom planning with the focus on Literacy and Mathematics is redundant to life learning.

We need educators who are courageous enough to think differently to the system.

The freedom to think creatively and to encourage creative thinking.

The internet is the world’s most magical library surrounded by the world’s toxic dump.

Our current testing does not test the ability to solve wicked problems and as educators we must lead away from this narrow method of determining intelligence. 

He reminded us about the ‘The Myth of Learning Styles’ -that took a hold in our systems and yet how research showed weak research design.

Ings showed us some Artificial Intelligence examples using ‘Deepfake Image’. How the images seemed real until further investigation highlighted how fake they truly were.

Welby questioned the current debate around pausing ‘Artificial Intelligence (AI)’ development. Then reminded us  AI is not the ethical tool but the human beings behind it. Education as it currently is continues to appear surface and probed how we were teaching deep and critical thinking.

Welby asked us about truth and how we verify what we see and read.

He stated that sophistication thinking happens in an embodied context and It does not happen in planning or report writing.

He asked us ‘What don’t we reward?’ and that we do not reward the space that grows around learners.

He reiterated that tests measure some isolated skills which are the least significant aspects of learning. Our system of measuring understanding learning, fails our children. Most of our learners have skills that are not measured. The gift we as teachers give to our students is the freedom to think, and to be courageous enough to think differently from you.”

Current school measurement is an illusion of success. He challenged us to push back on comparison and diagnosis. That time and space are the two great elements in the room. He commented that testing forces schools and teachers to be morally corrupt. Ultimately our learners pay the price. As educators we must celebrate failure because it is part of the thinking process. We must celebrate our Non Linear Thinkers by seeking ways to fill the spaces between is the essence of our programmes.

Unfortunately our assessment system assesses and rewards  linear thinkers

Welby Ings (Part2)

Invisible Leadership

A leader is someone who influences change

They support others around them to influence change.

Welby asked us to highlight what three traits that a negative leader would look like for someone like me. Everyone was asked to do this activity.

  • Micromanage and continually checks to see if I am following through (trust)
  • Does not appreciate my pathway of doing my job my way
  • Under anticipates requests on my time

Reverse of this would be

  • Trusts that tasks will be completed (respect)
  • Trusts that there is not one way of doing something (supporting)
  • Gives me reflecting time and affirmation (mana enhancing)

All ideas that came from the audience discussion are about growing humans.

  • Growth and value.

The general school leader is a heroic leader.  (The current school leader role- sucks the oxygen from the environment)

Curent traits

  • Singular visionary
  • Problem solver
  • Fearless
  • All knowing task assigner
  • Command- control- coerce

Yet wounded hierarchy happens when there is no growing Humans.

  • High levels of reporting happens and there is a fear of doing wrong. This becomes a toxic work environment and one sign is high staff turnover.
  • As educators we develop the Protege Model when guiding new teachers.
    • I will guide you
  • Developmental model is the better guiding model.
    • What can I do to help
    • What can I take away to make your job better
    • Asks and listens

Communities are relational.

Watch the children -which adults do they trust in the school?

Welby finished his session with a quote from Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

He reminded us that it does not matter how many badges are pinned on the blazer, it does not make you a leader. It does not matter what your title is, it does not make you a leader.

Jacinta Grice

Guidelines on “How to write an ORS application”

Grice, J. (2023) How to write an ORS Application PPTA PPTA Conference Auckland April 2023.

Jacinta shared some of her learning with filling in ORS applications.I was proud of how she planned for and delivered this session.

I learnt about the challenges of completing an ORS application and I learnt that the most important part of the application was the skill of the writers to paint a picture of the child.

Jay Pressnell

THE TIAKI PROJECT – An interactive audio-visual project aimed at preserving and archiving local narratives and histories

I chose this session because I have an interest in preserving local stories.

I was awed by the motion specialist effects using overlays of art to create a story. I was fascinated with the multimodal approach to this project.

Creativity happens before assessment and then assessment is highlighted in the completed project.

There were interactive ways of story telling and sharing of people’s history and Turangawaewae Narratives

100 voices project 2021


Ngati Tamaoho


https://www.trnio.com/ an app that allows 3 dimensional creativity to be used.

Metaverse- virtual version of the world, similar to second life, or minecraft

Jay challenged us to know our history, know our whakapapa.

Stephanie Tawha, Machelle DK, Davika Wilson

Nga Oho ake: Nga Mokopuna, Tamariki, Rangatahi, Whanau and kura. To awaken and re-engage ‘Mokopuna, Tamariki, Rangatahi and whanau in education

For a child to be successful they must have a 90% attendance rate that equates to one day per fortnight or twenty days per year.

Jehan Casinader

The power of stories

We are the main character and author of our own stories. The people who tell hopeful or redemptive stories don’t necessarily have easier lives, but find a way to tell the story in a way that facilitates hope and change. Ask yourself: How can I tell a different story with the same facts?”

School have narrative poverty meaning that there is a lack of the story that reflects the students lives.

TikTok is not your therapist: the rise of self-diagnosis among youth

Jehan shared that “What happens in life is less important than the story we tell about it.”  How can I tell a different story with the same set of facts?

Finally Te Aomihia Taua-Glassie, the Māori Vice President shared her personal story about the people who shaped her life as an educator. I particularly made connections with this story because of the number of strong women who helped shape her journey.

The conference finished with a karakia and a waiata.

This reflection are from my notes taken during the two days. I had a really good time learning and have missed networking with colleagues. Several years have passed since I have attended a national conference. I especially thank my friend Jacinta Grice who encouraged me to join her at the conference and her PPTA colleagues who made me feel welcome. I felt honoured to make connections with colleagues in the secondary sector. I was particularly interested in Te Ao Māori  workshops to continue growing my personal understanding. I was humbled to hear such inspirational speakers and Rosemary and Pasi continue to inspire me in my own learning. All the other keynotes and workshop presenters were new to me and enabled me to reflect on what was happening in my own school. Yes I took heaps of photos and have only shared a few here. Jacinta and I had the opportunity too of catching up with Penny Ashton, conference MC, and reminise about our first school where we taught together, St Joseph’s Papanui.

Thanks to Rose for this final quote that sums up my experience. “Professional learning that makes sense of the complex changes that are happening all around us transforms our *being* in the world.”

A special mention here of Johnny who helped me phrase my introduction.

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