Linked In


I was a little surprised to curate some of the labels that people have tagged me with on Linkedin. I have just over 600 followers in Linkedin and many have attached labels to me of what they believe I have strengths in. I am pleased to see Educational Leadership start to feature strongly as well as blended learning. I am also pleased to see instructional design begin to be acknowledged. However I am surprised to see that ConnectedEducator, ESOL, BilingualEducation, SOLOTaxonomy or Collaboration yet to come through. I would also like to add Citizenship and CyberSafety into that mix.


So if you have collaborated with me on any of the following online spaces such as TeachMeetNZ, EdBookNZ, EdBlogNZ, Flat Connections are there any positive labels you think I also need to feature? You might have attended an ESOL session or a SOLOTaxonomy session with me and was inspired from the session and can think of some labels.

Maybe too if you are in the Linkedin space and you would like to write a recommendation on my Educator Profile, I would be really grateful. 

Some of you might be wondering how I created the label. I placed each label into a spreadsheet and populated it the number of time featured on Linkedin. Then I copied and pasted the list into wordle. I did not do all the labels because the numbers were too small.


I read a wonderful tribute by Michael Field  to one of the most amazing academics that I met during my teaching career. Reading the tribute brought back a flood of memories.

His name is Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi 

I knew him as Tupua and that is how I addressed him. As a child growing up in Samoa we knew the Tamasese family name because they lived up the road from us. My younger sister went to school with one of the boys. I also knew his name because he became prime minister of Samoa a few years after we emigrated to New Zealand.

As a young teacher I was so fortunate to get to first get to know  him when he agreed to be the plenary for our 2002 Ulimasao Bilingual Education Conference in Auckland.

I set up his webpage and this is what I wrote about him.

“Tupua studied law at Victoria University, New Zealand, before embarking on a long career in Samoan politics that spanned almost four decades to the present.  

He became prime minister twice, during which he had been an influential voice on issues concerning Samoa and the Pacific region. Part of Tupua’s present profile is his active involvement in scholastic learning, in his enormous capacity as an experienced politician and man of letters. Tupua has published three books, two in the Samoan language. Occasionally, Tupua is a guest lecturer in Victoria and Auckland universities respectively. Always in high demand for his views as a prolific bilingual speaker and scholar.”

He was our conference dinner speaker and the title was,  ‘In search of Meaning, Nuance and Metaphor.  I was the one chosen to introduce him when he spoke at another session. I was determined to do it in Samoan and so I did. I had heard the term tama’āiga to describe him and presumed it meant like an esteemed family member. However later on I realised how much more of a title that is.

I believe it was this speech that caught his attention because after that he made a point of making me sit with him and talk when I was serving him tea. As is typical Samoan he asked,  “O ai oe? O ai lou aiga. Fea lou nu’u?” (Who are you? Who are your parents and what is your background?)

When he found out who my mum was, then the stories began. He told me that he did not live far from her in Moto’otua where my mum grew up. We shared names and he told me that he knew my aunty Marina and her family and my cousin Patrick who still lives in Moto’otua. He asked me how come I could speak Samoan and I told him that mum insisted on us speaking le gagana at home even as we grew up in New Zealand. I also shared how I actively look for opportunities to speak and listen to Samoan such as through songs or on the radio. He asked me about church and I said that was more of a challenge because mass was always in palagi. He suggested that I  look for one that has a Samoan mass and even if I attended at least once a month to just listen and so I did.

Whenever I found out he was speaking in Auckland, I would find a way to get a ticket to hear him speak. He is an inspirational orator. I really admire him because of the way he instinctively knew that I wanted to practice my Samoan and would converse with me only in Samoan. My vocabulary exploded every time I heard him speak.

When I was in Samoa for the second Ulimasao conference in 2005, he asked me to introduce him to our travelling New Zealand plenary speaker Professor Stephen May and again it was about making connections. He wanted to learn more about our work with Bilingual Education. My cousin Tanya suggested that we sit in the front bar at Aggie’s Hotel and it was a perfect spot because the two academics had a chance to speak with each other and share their stories and of course I had a chance to just sit and listen.

During the time too of our second conference a group of us were invited to his house. My Aunty Marina schooled me up on etiquette before I went. This visit was where I met his beautiful wife, Filia for the first time. I also found out that she is a writer and orator too. Her work is where I got the inspiration for the header of my blog. (Lookup and you can see it.) From her I learnt all about the importance of service as a leader. Filia put on an incredible spread for us of traditional foods and we sat around talking and sharing stories. Again I was in awe sitting with the academics listening to their stories. However on reflection I can now see the importance of always growing the next generation. Again that is something that I now find myself doing.

What struck me most from that visit was the collection of photos that he had documenting Samoan history and the high balcony around his house.

Soon after that my Grandmother Matala’oa passed away and Tupua wrote a heartwarming tribute for her that we read at her funeral. I was so grateful that he took the time to commemorate our own family treasure. I have included this below.

Matala’oa Thompson    (Tusia e Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese _ Samoa – 16 May 2004)

O le matua o la’u fe’au: o le faiva o le Matala’oa e tiu ma afifi.  Pe atonu o le mafuaaga lea o le suafa o le tama’ita’i;  ona o le muafetalaiga e faasino iā Falealili, o se tasi o nuu o le latou aiga.  Ma e masani ā ona faatūtū i le alofa o le matua e faamaopoopo ma aputi lona faiva aua le fanau ma le aiga, o loo faatali mai i se nuu e mamao i uta.

Sa ou iloa Matala’oa ona e nonofo i ga’uta atu o lo matou aiga.  E masani ona usu mai i le taeao i le Misasa i Mulivai ma toe fo’i i lo latou aiga.  Ae ou te le’i mafuta tele i ai vagana ona ua matua.

O mea nei ou te mātauina.  E tāua iā te ia le gagana Samoa.  E tāua iā te ia, o ia o le Samoa. E ma’eu lana gagana aemaise sa ou manatu, ona e nofo i le papalagi ma e nonofo ā lo latou aiga i Leififi, sa fa’ita e ave le faamuamua i le gagana Peretania. E ola lona mafaufau ma e ma’eu lona taofi o mea sa tutupu, tainane ua matua ona tausaga.

A talanoa mai, e talanoa lava o ia o le tinā faamaoni.  E talanoa fiafia ma sanisani.  O le talanoa a le tinā o loo teu afīfī le faiva e faasoa mai i lana fanau.  E le gata i ē na ifo mai i lona manava, ae soo se tama fanau a Samoa.

Ou te manatua pea ia i lona talanoa mai faale-matua iā te a’u.  Ma ou te manatua fo’i lona igoa ma le muafetalaiga e fai iā Falealili:  O le tiu a le matala’oa, e tiu ma afīfī.  Ou te lagona ma le agaga faafetai, o a’u o se tasi o tama fanau Samoa na ia faasoa mai i ai lona faiva.


When Tupua became Head of States of Samoa in 2007 and Filia his Masiofo. I thought about how appropriate this was because they are keepers of our stories and our history. When you read Michael’s Tribute you can see how far Tupua’s spread is. In keeping with Samoan tradition I also think about Filia because behind every successful man sits a strong woman. I also see their time serving our beautiful island as part of our our Samoan genealogy.

To both Tupua and Filia I wish you all the best in your golden years and I look forward to more of your writing and talks. You have so much to share and we still have a lot to learn from you both.


Respecting our learners.


Photo from our School Facebook Page.

One of my excitements as an educator is when I hear teachers speak passionately about their learners in positive ways especially about their heritage, language, identity, beliefs or culture.  I am even more excited when I hear them make an effort to pronounce their learners home names correctly and notice when their learners have taken on a ‘school name’.  I see some cultures embrace this more than others and do not expect their child to take on a school name when they come to our school. I love it when our teachers make an effort to find out how to greet the parents in their home language. This is not an easy task at our school as we have 37 different languages listed as home languages..

This year I have been super excited to see the team I am currently a part of fostering a learning culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion through using a social media ‘WeChat.’ The exciting part of wechat is the simplicity our families have of easily translating what the teacher has written into their own languages. I recently sat Google Educator Level 1 exam and passed. However during my study time, I discovered how easily our families can translate the newsletters into their own language if we also offered a Doc option and not just a PDF. Therefore I will highlight this important feature to my school.

One key strategy I use when I teach is providing opportunities to build on a learner’s home language and culture in the learning setting. You can read more about these strategies in mine and Pam’s Book, SOLO Taxaonomy and English Language Learners.

I also allow our learners the ability to access their home language when using their chrome books. We have just updated our device management system and I noticed that this feature was locked down so I will be unlocking this again for our learners.

One of our support staff takes a group of senior students who are literate in their first language and she creates Duality maps with them. This ensures that heritage, language, identity, beliefs and culture is shared in both languages so that the students can celebrate who they are with their class mates and teachers. This is such an important learning activity that I ensure that time is given to this on a regular basis. You can see some samples here in our newsletter. Check out: 3 July 2017.

I myself model learning about histories, heritage, language, identity, beliefs and culture of my learners and what is important to them by continually learning. I am reminded of my TeachNZ sabbatical where I visited 13 countries in 11 targeting the countries where most of our learners come from.  

Recently I have been learning Chinese so that again I can feel what it is like to be in our learners shoes. Learning Chinese has taken me to China on three visits and my recent visit was highlighted on the International Exchange and Pathways portal (ILEP). This journey helps me understand that my world views are different from those of my learners and that I am willing to learn what it must be  like for them to learn in New Zealand.

I am an Across School Leader for ACCoS Kāhui Ako and I use this opportunity in my leadership to affirm and draw on the cultural capital that all learners bring with them to their learning experience by giving teachers in our Across Sector Groups the opportunity of sharing about their diverse learners and families in their schools. I believe in this so much that I have recently invited an ESOL Verifier to come and share to our Kāhui Ako so that this adds voice to the work that I believe in.    

I really like this video from Rae Siilata speaking about the importance of teachers to recognise learner’s differences and have shared this with some of our staff and remind them that language is central to culture, identity and heritage and that the right to use your own language in learning is an internationally recognised human right.

If you want to know more about our professional responsibilities to our learners then you must read the updated Code of Professional Responsibility.  This blog was inspired by section 2.3 on Page 13.


Not Self But Service.


Our Newmarket School’s historic school moto is ‘Not Self But Service.‘ Citizenship taught as a value empowers our learners for life. With two of our student leaders we have been curating evidence of our Travelwise activities. Last year I found the group particularly interesting because our group consisted of mostly year five students. We meet every Friday for 30 minutes and basically reflect on our progress of where we are up to with our student projects. Each term we back map what we do using Google Docs.

From a piece of writing around Citizenship I decided that last year I would focus on students as participatory oriented citizens as framed by Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) conceptions of citizenship. The Newmarket School Travelwise student leaders would unpack what this meant by identifying responsibilities such as:

  • taking skilled and active role in groups that work for the common good
  • knowing effective strategies for collaborative action

The students have worked tirelessly with several events. Some of them can be tedious such as the Back to School Campaign but diligently the children would turn up each morning on the first week of each term and hold placards and wave to the traffic.

Last year we claimed Gold for our school and I felt excited because as a student leader group we grew in understanding of our contributions and meaning of service.

This year most of the group is year 6 and again plans need to be in place to second the next generation of student leaders as this group move off to intermediate.

This year the students have continued to take a skilled and active role with their group projects that work for the common good and again what I really like seeing is when they plan using effective strategies for collaborative action for the whole school.

This years examples included Wheels day in term 1, Brake week in term 2. and in term 3 it is encouraging healthy children by walking to and from school.

We work closely with our Auckland Community Transport Coordinator and our local community officer. I have seen the students grow in confidence from public speaking, organising school events, to writing and tracking our narrative.

This year our Travelwise group featured in ‘Nurturing citizenship: road safety as a rich context for learning’ written by Rosemary Hipkins. I felt really proud because the children do work really hard for the school.

I was nominated for a Megastar Award and attended the recent celebration evening. I did not win as I know that our major next step is the walking school bus. However this year I have Hannah working with me so maybe this year we can begin to implement effective strategies to shift thinking towards healthy students rather than just being safe road users.


The children with Delia Walking School Bus Coordinator and Robyn our AT Community Transport Coordinator





Titiro Whakamuri. Kokiri whakamua.

Look back and reflect so that you can move forward.

Every year I try and learn something new about Matariki and this year was no different. I also noted the fog that rolled in several times in June so can now add this to the signs around Newmarket of Matariki. Next year I hope to climb Maungawhau early enough in June to catch a sight of the seven sisters just before dawn.

Last year I was surprised to see that I was not using as much Reo as I thought I was. So I made it a goal to include it wherever I could. For example I included a whakatauki every time I presented. 

This week at school as part of celebrating Matariki we had TuRongo collective for our students lead by Matua Karena, Matua Puriri and Whaea Millie.

They shared with us Pakiaka, Mau rakau and haka and spiritual learnings within waiata.

​Puriri led the students in Pakiaki where they learnt games such as Poutahi, Pourua and Poutoru. I heard expressions such as step into the spaces with feet like a horse not a bunny. Side step like a crab.

We then rotated to Mau rakau with Karena where our students learnt about Maui and Matau or left and right. They had fun learning how to trust their friends with the Mau rakau.

Finally the students learnt about spiritual learnings within waiata. I liked the analogies that whaea Millie used with the Tuatara and the birds. The way she explained about wiri and pukana. How she incorporated stories in the learning. Finally the students learnt the Matariki song that told about the sisters and again she painted a picture using words so that the children could see the song.

What I liked about the sessions was the simplicity of delivery yet the learning was deep.


We finished celebrating Matariki at our school with our annual Matariki disco. To borrow a quote from Katie, one of my student writers. “Overall I think the Matariki disco is important because it was the Maori new year and a chance for everyone to get together.”


Hànzì 汉字 simplified Chinese characters.

I have often said that I would never ask a teacher or a student to do something that I was not prepared to do myself. I am a trained ESOL teacher and I also believe that it is important to develop empathy with my learners by learning a language myself as a teacher.

This year is a huge year for me as I undertake my 2017 goal of preparing for and sitting HSK level 2. Those of you who know my language learning journey will know that Chinese is my seventh language. Four of my languages have been learnt over two years. Most of the languages I have learnt I am still very much at basic level except for Samoan. However when I am in the language it does not take long to reactivate vocabulary.

I learnt Maori at teacher’s college and found it similar to Samoan so was able to pick up vocabulary quite easily. 

I learnt Dutch for two years and my best way of learning vocabulary was listening to a Berlize tape on my way to school. The journey took 30 minutes so for an hour each day I listened to the same tape over and over again. By the time I arrived in Holland I could understand basic conversations.

I then hosted Japanese students and so undertook to learn Japanese. My goal was to learn Kanji. I learnt Japanese at night school for two years and could hold a basic conversation. However Kanji just evaded me. Learning to recognise characters was too hard. I could see no patterns in the script and gave up.

Last year I agreed to teach and learn Chinese. Through teaching Chinese my vocabulary exploded. I also attended night school at Unitec and sat HSK level 1 and passed. However the Hànzì 汉字 or simplified Chinese script was again so very difficult. I practiced and practiced and learnt to recognise numbers but again could not make any sense out of the characters. I downloaded a tile app and practiced that with some success but could not seem to commit the character to memory. 

This week something exciting happened to me and again I am so grateful to my student teachers. I have had two girls go over with me my vocabulary and my phrases each week so that I had a booster of what I do in night classes. This week, they showed me how to read simplified Chinese characters.   For example pretty 漂亮 Piàoliang

They said see the pretty leg hanging off, that is how to remember. For 下雨 Xià yǔ, to rain, they said, “See the raindrops in the window, see the slope on the left, it is like water falling down.” Guess what? What they said works because I can now see something. 

Then they both told me that next week they would test me on my character reading. They said that 10 characters is a good start. Maybe that was the push I needed because little do they know how motivated I am and that this weekend I have memorised 30. In addition there are no numbers in my list. I feel so excited because I can now tell which way up the characters should be, I can see little characters in bigger characters and I have had heaps of fun with my 88 year old mother as she has called out the word in Pinyin or English and I recognised the characters. My mum is a shorthand typist and she helped me look for patterns in the words. For example 睡觉 shuìjiào, to sleep. Mum said, “see the man under the blankets.” and I can.

So I took all the double characters from HSK level 1 and created groups of them and printed them off in different colours and chunked them in groups of 10. They are blue tacked to my cupboards so before I go to sleep, I can see them and when I wake up I can see them.

I have also recently discovered the HSK vocabulary lists on youtube and speed them up so that I can hear the words and practice memorising the characters.

In all I am feeling quite positive about my language learning. I believe I have gone over a hump that has been holding me back. I can see the way forward for learning script that just was not there before. 

So do you know any other languages with a different script? What strategies do you use to learn vocabulary? In my list above, can you recognise Ni Hao? Just one simple greeting that your Chinese children can read and that you expect to move up in PM levels in English.




Part 2- Influences and Effect Sizes on Writing

“Without data you are just another person with an opinion.”

W.Edwards Deming

Last term I reflected on the process of teaching writing. I wanted to be really clear of what I did so I stepped through the process of what I do. This piece of writing is a follow on of a reflection I carried out in March.



Effect Size

My year 4s sat the written asTTle test and I followed through the process of marking and moderating alongside their team. I compared my targeted group’s data with their historic data and could identify that the first term intervention made a difference. Hattie cautions when calculating an effect size and especially when using less that 30 students. He highlights the  usefulness of  ensuring that all students are tested and that scores from the same group of students are compared.

I have studied all the year 4 data. Currently we have 34 students over three classes. Of that number,  25 year year 4 students at our school have data carried over from last year into this year. Therefore we have 9 new year 4 students at our school. Of that 25 original group, 11 made progress of 1 sub level and 5 of that 11 worked with me. The ongoing challenge is sustainability. I believe that the students I worked with will continue to make progress and I know they will maintain what they have learnt with me.

Soon their class teachers will be contacting families as part of three way conversations and I will be part of this.

My learning about data from unpacking the process.

I believe it is really important for teachers to track the historic data and I have taught the team I am working with how to do this. They looked at the same period of testing results and compared them across 12 months. When teachers only look at their interim March data and compare it to their October data, this gives a lulled sense of achievement. I now know that the focus needs to shift from March to March data. Then a clearer picture of learning is formed. Like reading, there is definitely a summer slide happening in writing. I can see this when I look at the October data and compare it with March. The holiday slide can be slowed down and I have achieved this when I targeted a group of older children and gave them a school chromebook to write with over the holidays. I will write about that strategy next.

My other learning is to focus more on the oral language before writing. Sometimes I believe that as teachers we can be so focussed on written output that other literacies are pushed aside.

Just to recap with strategies I used that went well.

  • Start with the data. Show the children their results. Identify the gaps and plan strategies that will support the learner.
  • Provide language based experience and use common school events or shared experiences to write about.
  • Track how many words are written in a session and build a graph of the number over a week’s writing.
  • Craft, craft and recraft. Using SOLO Taxonomy highlight key words that can help lift writing.
  • Help the children reflect on what they have learnt about how to make their writing better.
  • Show the children their progress and celebrate writing milestones with families.


Where to next

This term I have reset a goal. By the end of term 2 I will video the process of using a SOLO Taxonomy Describe Map to make a difference to Learner Outcomes so this can be used as a resource to build teacher capability.