The specialness of 3


In my family, I am one of fours daughters. Here in Auckland three of us we look after mum and dad. In my house we have three people living. They are mum, dad and myself.

In the past my house had three people living. They were my two sons and me.

This Christmas my sons spent Christmas with their dad. However circumstances change and my youngest arrived on boxing day.

I have a new set of ‘kids’ to look after and this year I put up the Christmas tree for them.

Mum helped me decorate the tree and then likes to sit in her chair and watch the lights. On Christmas eve I took her to mass and as usual the best part was singing the carols. That and her coming out to claim kisses from the parish priest. He was so sweet and teased her right back and even responded to her in Samoan.

On Christmas day we celebrated at my older sister’s house. She had her three children with her as they have all been traveling the world.

Also there with mum and dad was my my other sister. So again this Christmas us three sisters were together.

There is no way I can look after mum and dad myself so with their help we are able to have them with us. Yes there are challenges and there is also a lot of laughs and special times. This post is really about my sisters because they do a lot for me and I often need to remind myself that I have come this far through their ongoing support and help.

As soon as school finished I took off to my island of sanctuary Tiritirimatangi while my two sisters took over the evening care of our parents. I usually spend three nights there and this always allows me to feel like I have had a break so I came back refreshed.

Last night I had family arrive from overseas and again the number three popped up as they greeted each of us with three kisses.

I finished the night skyping with my cousin and aunty and took a screen shot of the three of us talking.

This morning mum and dad and I will have breakfast. Just the three of us. Then later on, us three sisters will be together again.

Walking in my learner’s shoes.


Photo ninjaed from Ainslie Whitfield

This year has been an incredible year of personal learning. As I take time to reflect on this year I have much to celebrate.

(Listing is multistructural and I am aware of the ‘I’ however am just dumping information.)

So what does it mean to walk in my learner’s shoes?

This year I learnt a lot about the children I work with. Part of that was due to unpacking the ESOL Data at our school. I understood frustration as I developed foundation proficiency in Mandarin. I struggled to learn to read or even write in my new language. I can recognise just a few characters and celebrate my students who learn to quickly memorise 67 frequency words in English for reading. I understand the embarrassment of being put on the spot to speak in another language and feel my tongue swell up as I struggle to recall basic formulaic sentences. As for the tones, well that is another reflection.

I built strong relationships with my students learning English. Again unpacking their data supported this. I built stronger relationships with parents as I took time to find out more about them and where they came from. Like my learners I pushed myself to the limits of my comfort zone.  I chose to understand China at a greater level and made it a mission to attend events happening in Auckland. I also coordinated a school week focusing on Chinese language and activities.


  • Balancing work, life and family responsibilities.
  • Maintaining my Mandarin.
  • Continue to make connections with people face 2 face.

That work life balance is delicate at the moment.

Soon I will  head out to my place of sanctuary Tiritirimatangi. There my social media choice is instagram. I can practice mindfullness amongst the trees and snorkelling.

Where to next?

In 2017 I have my learning coach and I am excited because I enjoy having learning conversations with her. The last time she worked with me I ended up publishing a book with Pam so I can’t wait to see what happens next. I have chosen my focus word and that is Turangawaewae. This year was whānaungatanga.




Thanks Nelson for the photo.

Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand (Adapted from Te ara)

Tūrangawaewae is one of the most well-known and powerful Māori concepts. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our tūranga, our kura, our akonga, our wānanga.

Key facts about ACCoS

ACCoS stands for the Auckland central community of schools. We are one of several Communities of Learning from around New Zealand. We are made up of 11 schools ranging from several primary schools up to year 6, some full primary schools year 8, two intermediates and one secondary school. We also have one kindergarten in our cluster. We are funded for 9 across school teachers and 43 in school teachers. We have a lead school and lead principal. In addition we have two other sub lead principals and one external facilitator. Together we serve 8, 145 students and their whānau. When we look over our data our ethnic mix highlights that we have a strong Asian student group and a growing number of learners who are ESOL funded.

Before ACCoS

Before ACCoS was formed our local principals met on a regular basis as part of various local principals’ networks.  These networks varied in their work, some focusing on what was happening in their schools at a reasonably surface level, others, like the Learning and Change Networks, Mutukaroa, and ICT Clusters, focused on student learning.  Most of our school leaders had positive experiences of working with each other and had developed strong professional connections.

Since ACCoS

However since ACCoS was launched, our principals are now meeting much more regularly and sharing more than just ‘stories.’ They are learning much more together with and from each other. The connections appear stronger and there seems to be a greater sense of supporting each other. I witnessed this with the arrival of two new principals to the group and the support that they received.  There are stronger links forming between the schools as was recently evidence between our school and a nearby school coming together to share strategic planning.  Other schools in the Community have had a shared parent hui.  And, members of boards from all schools recently met together to gain a greater understanding of the working of ACCoS. Relationships appear to be developing between our schools at a much deeper level.

In addition synergies are happening across the network as our intermediate school and college begin to share ways of providing more relevant and diverse transition information. Primary schools are looking at more effective and consistent ways of passing information to our intermediates, in particular, utilising technology.  We are also fortunate to have a kindergarten in ACCoS as the transition to school is another area of focus.

Why was ACCoS formed?

Our lead principal called a meeting for local principals after the call for community of learning were publicised as part of Improving Education Success (IES). All of the local principals were asked, however a few were against the concept for a variety of reasons. Myself I cannot understand why because of the exciting pathway of where this collective inquiry could lead.

Joining Auckland Central Community of Schools

Recently I presented at Ulearn and my topic was Community of Learners. I have always had a fascination with communities both digital and face to face. I have built several just because I believe sharing and working across schools is important and rather than just talk about learning, I have always created my own. For my current position as an across school teacher in the Auckland Central Community of Schools, I applied for the specific role of building the ACCoS community digitally` and ensuring that learning taking place in our CoL is transparent.

Across School Teachers

The current challenge I experience with our ACCoS Community is the varying levels of experience and skills of our across school teachers.  We have all been chosen for a variety of reasons and as with other new groups we must learn to work together collaboratively and be inclusive of the strengths of all members.  Currently we are settling into our roles, and any rub is positive.  I find it useful to work with others who think quite differently from me as this helps drive my own thinking deeper. I was selected several terms after the initial teachers were selected because of my      recognised and proven ability to utilise technology to build professional learning communities. As well, I have proven ability to use technology to strengthen data analysis and have an online record of building capacity in others through collaboration.

Leading from the middle.

The key message coming through our ACCoS is influenced by the work of Michael Fullan who speaks about leading from the middle. My understanding of leading from the middle rests with the principals within the cluster, and also the lateral leadership of the in school and across school leaders. Principals are in the middle with education policy, which influences the work we do at one end, and learners and community whom we serve at the other end. As across school teachers we support the principals as together we implement our cluster’s vision.  In my new role I have to keep reminding myself of the focus of what I was brought in to do.  As with any new network our work seems messy as we we act, probe and reflect on our actions, iterating ways of working.  Cynefin link.

Build Capacity

Our across school teachers have expertise at capacity building and that is why we were chosen. We are beginning to identify what our roles look like. I am a ‘fix it kind of a gal’ who loves solving problems and streamlining systems and have built a name for myself for building communities in the digital world. For me to hold back and build capacity through listening  is an enormous challenge. I sit in the meetings and try really hard to just listen. I find that challenging because I believe I already know instinctively why we are together and what we need to do. Therefore I have taken to blogging my thoughts to try and make sense of it all.

Achievement Goals

Our across school role is about collaborative inquiry and in order to carry that out, what we do is promote best practice. These best practices have been highlighted  in our national goals as cultural competency, transition support, community engagement, pedagogy and teaching practice. Our ACCoS group is guided by our achievement challenges set in 2014 which have been taken from our National Standards Data. When we unpack these goals they are underpinned by the low performance we have with our Maori and Pasifika learners. As an ESOL trained teacher who has recently published a book about writing and second language learners, being part of ACCoS is like the stars are aligning. It is like acknowledging what we have done has only worked to an extent but we can do better. By going into something different we want to make a greater difference. What we have always done is no longer good enough.  One of the first things I did in my ‘fix it mode’ was to collate all the schools national standards data in one place and make these transparent across the schools. I then asked for all the ESOL data to be added because I had already predicted that the numbers would impact our longitudinal data. Our achievement goals have been predicted for the next three years, however I know from the research of Thomas and Collier that we really won’t see much change in the data until at least 7 years have passed because it takes 6-8 years for academic proficiency to happen in our children’s second language.

I have often wondered how my learners have achieved after they leave us. For the first time in my teaching career I will have the opportunity to find out. I can also find out if my predictions for the children I taught came true and that they surpassed their peers at secondary school. I always told them that they were race horses and they begin at the rear against first language learners but by the time they get to secondary school they will be up at the front. I always wondered if the grounding we give our primary school learners, the sense of urgency we instill in our teachers about our learners and the close monitoring of data really does pay off by secondary school.

Our in school teachers

The in school teachers are at the coal face, and are a key part of our large community of learners. Our in school teachers are scattered across the community and come together to discuss and identify strategies for learning that will make a difference.  One group I have been involved in has been Year 3-4 writing. Together we have learnt that across the schools our systems at identifying levels are not yet aligned and we are working on that. I recently collated our historic ethnicity data and this shows the fast changing face of our Auckland Central Community of Schools.

We have recently surveyed our in school teachers about how the first ACCoS year has gone for them and one of the ways I have in unpacking written narratives is to wordle what is written and identify any key words that spring out. Straight away I can see that as a cluster we have yet to acknowledge the pivotal role and effects on learning  that families and communities have on our learners. Particularly when making sense of the fact that our learners get 1000 hours with us in school and 5000 with their families and communities.

Pedagogy and Teaching Practice

Because we are working with one of our local secondary schools, this also influences who and what we do. For example their teaching inquiries focuses on strategies that impact on learning.  These include Learning Maps, English Language Learners, G&T, SOLO Taxonomy, scholarship, Wellbeing, Mindfulness and Agency. At the primary level our inquiry is centred around writing as we have noted writing as an area for improvement. Therefore the connections we are making across sectors enable us to see ourselves in a mirror as we see ourselves how they see us. The extra exciting advantage of being an across school teacher allows me to hear the schools narrative from the in school teachers themselves as they share their learning.

Learner Agency

Agency features strongly in our Achievement Goals. The central diagram of our document features Parent Agency, Teacher Agency and Student Agency. The document looks at agency that underpins ownership of learning and has still to address agency as citizenship especially citizenship which focuses on contributing to society and making a difference. But that element of agency is beginning to surface as schools look carefully at experiences for learning for our second year.

Elements of Community

So as my focus is on the digital forms of communications that support our ACCoS again I wonder how I can foster the elements that build our community of learners in a positive way. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • sharing and owning the data builds community;
  • face to face events build community;
  • digital curation of our narrative builds community;
  • transparency builds community;
  • fostering and building connections builds community;
  • blogging builds community;
  • presenting builds community;
  • sharing builds community;
  • sharing photos and videos as highlights builds community;
  • learning who are our members are builds community;
  • broadcasting our FAILs improves community;
  • Celebrating our successes builds community.

Some of the wonders I have in regards to our CoL are:

  • How many of us in our ACCoS schools have second language training? Dip Tessol, TDPL. Even something as basic as CELTA?
  • How many of us are trained in transition between year levels and sectors?
  • How many of us speak an Asian language which are the dominant languages of our learners?
  • How many of us are skilled at utilising communications technology in our pedagogy?
  • How many of us have Google Certification, even at stage 1?

Digital Systems

In ACCoS we have utilised Google Docs, Google+ and Google Calendar to ensure that our systems are transparent.  Not all schools have the same Learning Management System and Google was able to be utilised by all ACCoS members. Not all our schools had Google domains, so that came with some challenges. Some schools have KARAZY wifi systems but somehow or other the schools want things to work and work hard at making it all work. We have now moved fully into online communication because email does not curate information as successfully. This concept comes with mindset challenges as our teachers rethink the way they have usually carried out sharing.

Other exciting developments

Our lead principals have formed connections with other groups of COLs and recently shared some of our success and FAILs. I continually remind them about collecting visual artefacts from these meetings, for example, where are the photos of the recent sharing for our narrative? In the scheme of IES we were one of the original 14 CoLs and therefore we are in a position to share some of our hurdles and some of our highlights.

Overall in our community of learners, the sense of tūrangawaewae is broadened into the Auckland Central Community of Schools and located within Improving Education Success.

To find out more about our journey you can check out our ACCoS across school teacher’s blog. Our blog is a window and lets you have a view of some of what we are doing.

Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL)

‘Another language opens up a whole new window on the world. It might be small and difficult to see through at first, but it gives you a different perspective, and it might make you realise that your first window could do with a bit of polishing and even enlarging.’ 

(Hone Tuwhare, Die Deutsche Sprache und Ich, NZCTE, Goethe Institut, circa 1997)


Newmarket School is committed to their Chinese students retaining their Chinese language skills and (as for all students) developing literacy skills in both Chinese and English, while also valuing the learning of Te Reo Maori.

Wendy Kofoed (Principal) and Virginia Kung (Deputy Principal) have attended Principals Delegations to China with the Confucius Institute previously, and this helped them to understand the contexts that new students from China are coming from. (Virginia herself is a heritage speaker of Cantonese and grew up in New Zealand.) The school has had school delegations from Singapore and is developing a sister-school relationship in Ningbo.

I  am a bi-lingual Samoan and English speaker and have early stage proficiency in Dutch, French, Maori and Japanese. I am a TESOL trained teacher and have led a Samoan Bilingual Team and taught Samoan. I have traveled to China twice in the past three years and this year I took up the challenge to learn Chinese and lead the teaching of Chinese at Newmarket School. Currently I am the ALLiS (Asian Language Learning in Schools programme) Lead Teacher. I am also a learning concierge for the Flat Connections Project, observing how students and teachers between Australia, China and New Zealand are communicating using Wechat, a mobile text and voice messaging communication service, as well as other online forms of communication.

Newmarket School has had Mandarin Language Assistants from the Confucius Institute for five years, and are aiming for continued sustainability with me having a lead role and giving support to the junior classroom teachers as they increasingly take over more of the teaching of Chinese. This year I not only had support from Parent Language Assistants but also community members who taught Mandarin in the middle and senior school. Chinese lessons are run after school and are coordinated by the parent community.

Recently I completed TPDL (Teacher Professional Development Languages), a Ministry-funded one year programme. The programme supports teachers by providing them with Language Study. When I stood up to receive my graduation certificate my principal and deputy principal rushed up with an ‘ula lole’ as an acknowledgment of their support. Now those of you in school know how important it is to have support in the work you do and I have certainly had that this year from Wendy and Virginia. 


As part of the TPDL programme I have been taking a weekly Mandarin class at Unitec Institute of Technology and passed HSK Level 1. I must mention here two amazing year 5 students who gave me 30 minutes of Mandarin practice each week. I listen to my colleagues in my Mandarin class speaking about how challenging it is to find people to practice with and I have had this extra luxury.screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-6-37-32-am

All students and teachers at our school have had  Chinese lessons this year. I teach in the Junior School and during my In-School Support Visits I was observed teaching a New Entrant class and working with their teacher and also teaching a combined large group with a total of 55 junior school students and three teachers. These students were be grouped to learn with me or with the other two teachers with whom we work cooperatively. Within the large group students were grouped into advanced/heritage speakers, a middle group and an emergent group. However with TPDL training this learning has shifted to more across grouping so that students can  also learn with and from each other. Students chant and sing together at the beginning and end of lessons and also break up to work in their groups. After each observation an In-School Support Facilitator discussed my lesson in order to support me in my language teaching. These In-School Support Visits took place each term and I found them valuable for reflection and identifying my next steps. Thank you to Andrea, Sarah, Reubina and the children of Te Ako Kowhai for allowing me to come into your class each week and work with your children. 


I frequently teach through songs and chants.  I have aimed for the students to replace words in songs to change the meaning of the sentence. This year I presented several times in order to share my learning and to help with reflection.

First of all I presented at the NZALT (New Zealand Association of Language Teachers) conference in Nelson in July. Here is a link to my presentation. Then I presented at  the Chinese Language Teacher’s Conference. Next I presented to the Auckland Ningbo sister school principals conference. After that I was invited by Julie Lindsay to share on a Global Education Panel Discussion during the 12online conference.  Finally I shared my inquiry in front of my colleagues as part of the TPDL assignments inquiry to the TPDL.

The whole school has Chinese lessons and recently more and more responsibility now rests with class teachers as they take over teaching Mandarin in class. I have created a chinese blog and use it to highlight my lessons. While our teachers have great heart in teaching languages they have had some anxieties about teaching Mandarin as non-native speakers, they feel that this is specialist work. They are more competent and capable of ensuring students have cultural competencies in Mandarin. Myself? I can totally empathise with this and for this year have the TPDL team to thank for supporting me in my journey of knowing first hand what it is like to walk in my learners shoes by learning and teaching a new language.

I am beginning to utilise across school connections from lead teacher observations. For example I learnt a lot from Cornwall Park School and Meadowbank School by observing how their teachers teach Mandarin. 

Some of the highlights for me this year have been

Chinese Language Week link to photos and videos.

  • Confucius – sent in artists
  • Asia New Zealand (applied for and won funding)
  • Having Lily Lee share with us.

Hosting our sister school and when the Children returned to China we continued communication via wechat. Then I was asked to present at theNingbo-Auckland Education Association (NAEA) conference. This years conference theme was“Connecting Learners” and the aim was to further strengthen existing ties between sister schools in Ningbo, China and Auckland, New Zealand.


Passing HSK level1.


Learning to use WeChat for making connections with external agencies and some of our parents.

Some of the unexpected spinoffs have been forming closer relationships with parents and children. 

Overall taking part in the TPDL programme has allowed me to reflect on myself as a learner and as a teacher. The year is nearly over and I am so looking forward to some quiet time. I have learnt a lot about myself and I have learnt a lot about the children and their families that I work with. Learning other languages enables our children to practice the key competencies of “relating to others” and “managing self” while developing a strong sense of their cultural identity.

Finally I must mention here our own Ministry of Education who fund this  in-service year-long professional development programme. The programme combines language study, second language acquisition pedagogy, and in-school support to enable effective language teaching. I believe that all teachers who teach children learning English should apply for TPDL. The papers can count towards the Graduate Diploma of TESSOL.  I really liked the course because it reminded me how hard the journey is for our learners and reminded me that language learning is all about Whanaungatanga. 


edbooknzEdbookNZ has just been published. Again I thank the educators who accepted the challenge of writing approximately 1000 words to unpack current educator jargon.

This is the third year that this project has taken place as part of October’s Connected Educator month.

So in total we have had over 30 educators take part in writing a 1000 word blog post. I want to give a shout out to them for sharing their learning with the education community.

If you want to read the series they can be found

21st Century Learning Dr Wendy Kofoed –
Adaptive technologies Dr Michael Harves
Connected Educators/Learners Sonya Van Schaijik –
Cover Design & Explanation 2016 Terry Beach
Cover Design & Explanation 2015 Tristan Pang
Cover Design & Introduction 2014 Pam Hook
Cultural responsiveness Annemarie Hyde
Cyber/Digital Citizenship Monika Kern –
Data driven pedagogy Stuart Kelly
Digital Collaboration Craig Kemp –
Digital Communities Karen Melhuish Spencer –
Digital Learning Tools Richard Wells –
Disruptive learning Philippa Nicoll Antipas –
Effective schools Dr Wendy Kofoed –
Flipped Learning Nathaniel Louwrens
Future Focused Pedagogy Philippa Nicoll Antipas –
Innovative Learning Sonya Van Schaijik
Learner Agency – more than just a buzzword! Claire Amos
Learner efficacy – Leonie Bennett
Learners as creators James Anderson
Manaakitanga Te Mihinga Komene
Mindfulness Sonya Van Schaijik –
Modern Learning Environments Annemarie Hyde
On sharing the same space and good intentions Pam Hook
On teaching agriculture in our schools Christine Fernyhough
Steam: What is STEAM or STEAM Education? Kat Gilbert-Tunney
Teacherpreneurs, Twitter and Transformation Sandra Jenkins
The Collaborative Classroom Al Ingham
Ubiquitous learning Kerri Thompson
Wānanga Nichole Gully
Whanaungatanga Tahu Paki –




My contribution for #EdBookNZ 2016.

Listen with your heart to what your mind is telling you.

  • Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga o ō tïpuna hei tikitiki mō tō māhunga.
  • Turn your heart to the treasures of your ancestors as a crown for your head.

I have chosen to undertake understanding mindfulness because at our school our personal focus is on well being. I am also an across school teacher for the Auckland Central Community of Schools and understanding how mindfulness affects learning is one of our underlying concepts to unpack.

What is Mindfulness?

I believe mindfulness is about training of self to be more aware. It is about focussing and resting the mind so it has time to relax. The benefits of understanding mindfulness as a skill is reduced stress, effective emotional regularity and an improved working memory. Mindfulness nurtures positive mind states like kindness and compassion.

Psychology today defines ‘Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you are  mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.’

However I have recently uncovered this definition from Mindful Schools where children explain what mindfulness means titled ‘Just Breathe.’

As I read about mindfulness I identified components to understand the interplay of mind and body feelings such as:

  • Taking care of the soul through outdoor activities such as exercise or just being outdoors enjoying the natural environment;
  • Taking care of the body through nutrition, hydration and sleep;
  • Taking care of the mind by allowing it to rest, daydream and imagine;

In addition there appears to be a ripple effect of steps when experiencing mindfulness. Mindfulness stresses the importance of loving self, loving others and loving the environment. These all have an effect on mind because all are intertwined. I was recently reminded about the importance of mindfulness in indigenous cultures and how closely mindfulness is linked to our place in our environment. From my Samoan side I am reminded of the term Fa’alupega which is a part of Samoan culture and custom.  Knowing Fa’alupega allows you to connect individuals to families and to land and origins of their past. I was taught, ‘O ai a’u?’ Who am I? If we, as educators, teach the whole student, then shouldn’t we be providing them with the skills to harness their mental, emotional, social, intellectual potential and make links to their place in the community via mindfulness?

The opposite of mindfulness is: self destructive behaviour; stress and burnout problems; under-achieving; lack of self-respect; substance abuse and other self harm behaviour.

Let me unpack the steps to develop mindfulness for teaching and learning further. In schools we often focus on exercise and activity for our learners. We teach about the importance of nutrition and hydration for well being. We work with families to reduce the appearance of processed food and sugary drinks at our schools. We stress if our learners appear to be tired from lack of sleep. In this day and age we have the added stress of being permanently connected to devices which brings both benefits and challenges. However when do we give our learners time to rest their minds? How do we take this non-judgmental approach to observing our thoughts and feelings during mindfulness into how we exist in the world? How different would the world be if we could observe without judgement?

Looking after self by resting the mind

There are three steps to follow that focus on mental stillness and attention to the present moment. All three can be used to rest mind or can be used individually.

  1. Anchoring which is when attention is anchored to a chosen object by staying close to the object despite mental activity.
  2. Resting allows the mind to relax by resting gently on breathing.
  3. Being which is just sitting and experiencing the present moment.

We can teach our ourselves and our children the importance of having digital detox. We can create comparisons with junk food and media junk and look for the effects of both on our well being. We can take care of our minds by practicing dreaming and imagining and just giving our minds a chance to rest and be still. You can explore Chade-Meng Tan’s ideas for settling the mind here. You can have a quiet chuckle here. Deep breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety. Deep, slow and even breaths can be a powerful calm-down tool.

Giving service to others

Another idea of mindfulness is about kindness, compassion and about looking after others in our community. In our curriculum how can we acknowledged the importance of service to others? That is the giving of self to community so that we can develop the sense of purpose and contribution of our place in the community. Our older children do some of this via leadership activities. They choose an area where they give time such as looking after the library or looking after younger classes during wet lunchtimes. They commit to activities that benefit the school such as taking part in Travelwise or sports. But how can we foster this idea further so they can move this out into the community?

What other opportunities for our community of learners can we develop so that they can make connections with each other? We already do this with camps and productions and school wide activities. But I wonder if we can be doing even more especially now that we are part of a greater community of learners in the Auckland Central Community of Schools? How can we develop further the ideas of nurturing and sharing across our community of learners so that kindness and compassion develops?

Loving the environment

As educators we focus predominantly on environmental studies and in the case of my school we pride ourselves on our Green Gold Enviro status and our silver status for Travelwise. Yet how often do we focus on using the environment for us and our well being. We know that breathing fresh clean air and feeling the sun on our skin can be rejuvenating. However exposure to sunlight and fresh air actually offers our body health benefits that can last a lifetime. Exposure to the sun gives vitamin D benefits that fosters bone growth and improves general overall health. Exposure to sunlight at the same time each day reduces a chemical in our bodies called melatonin and this helps us sleep better. Walking through trees exposes us to phytoncides which reduces the stress hormone cortisol. You can read more about the effects of being outdoors here.

The benefits of mindfulness

How can we be of genuine service to others and create lasting connections within our communities if our mind is a busy whirlpool of fleeting and ruminating thoughts? Being aware of and practising mindfulness with our learners brings several benefits including decreased negative effects of depression and anxiety. Learners become more self regulated and compassionate. They become more focussed and stronger academically. Being aware of and practising mindfulness improves the working memory. Practicing mindfulness is a powerful antidote for stress, distraction and selfishness in the world. Most important of all mindfulness lays a powerful foundation for all other learning skills.

Mindfulness and learning

I have listed and described the  steps that develop mindfulness and explained how and why mindfulness helps learning and by making my learning visible. I can teach others to explain why mindfulness helps learning. However I have finished with even more questions to explore and a greater sense of calm as I put into practice some of what I have learnt about mindfulness.

Acknowledgements and Sources:

I give a shout out to Kim Mackrell ‎who took some time to give me some fabulous feedback and more questions for me to to think about.

Alton, L. (2014). Deep breathing skills to lower anxiety and blood pressure. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from

Hess, E. (2014) Get-U-Fit. Get out and smell the roses. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from

Mindful Schools. (2015). “Just Breathe” by Julie Bayer Salzman & Josh Salzman (Wavecrest Films). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

Stosny, P. B., (n.d.). Psychology Today. What is Mindfulness? Retrieved October 2, 2016, from

Tan, C. (2016). How to Settle the Mind – Mindful. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from

Treaty of Waitangi Principle

Ko te manu e kai āna i te miro nona te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai āna i te mātauranga, nona te ao.

The bird that consumes the berry his is the forest. The bird that consumes knowledge his is the world.

An Education Review Office report (2011) stated that ‘many school leaders and teachers found the Treaty of Waitangi principle challenging to implement.

I was a little shocked to uncover my own lack of visible evidence for this practising teacher criteria or PTC 10. This is when practising  teachers work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand. Key indicators are highlighted as:

  • Practise and develop the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context.
  • Specifically and effectively address the educational aspirations of ākonga Māori, displaying high expectations for their learning.

Don’t get me wrong. I can get by with many formulaic expressions in te reo Māori in context. I understand key vocabulary that most teachers have learnt as part of our professional journey such as whānaungatanga, manaakitanga and tino rangatiratanga. Last year I carried out an online project where I managed nearly 40 educators as part of a Connected Educator activity where they formed groups and unpacked Tataiako, cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners.

Then when I tried to find evidence of me as an educator developing the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context. I was a little disappointed in myself. As for specifically and effectively addressing the educational aspirations of ākonga Māori, displaying high expectations for their learning I can only touch on a small amount. This is the work I carry out with EdBookNZ where I ask for a chapter in the project and want it written in Te Reo. I do this because I know from personal experience that challenge I have when I need to write something in Samoan or give a presentation in Samoan or run a workshop in Samoan how challenged I am as a learner.

So I contacted my mentor @ginnynz01 and asked if she had seen any evidence of me living this criteria and together we discussed what this looked like from her perspective. She reminded me of my work with data and how I collated and unpack the data school wide. One key time was digging deeper with our data and tracking how it changes from year to year and what this looks like across all our groups. I have started doing this too across our ACCoS community school data. This across school data has been shared with the principals and lead teachers across our cluster.

I was reminded too about our school infrastructure that I helped build and maintain that enables teachers to provide a digital learning space for our learners. I can go in and see how effective the structure is between the students and across the teams.

Then we discussed ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context and what this looks like at our school. Yes I can confirm that I work hard at making connections with our parents and families in the specific work that I do. I learn how to greet parents and children in their own language and usually carry out research of where they have come from. I generally connect new families with same language families at our school and ask our experienced families to look out for and make the new families feel welcome. I have encouraged our children to introduce themselves. My recent English Language Learners verification report confirms this and I was extremely proud of the feedback we received as a school.

I can even make links in the work I do with our English Language Learners. I share with them our local stories and identify readers that they can read with an Aotearoa focus. In addition I set writing tasks that are influenced by school happenings. For example our up and coming Marae visit. With our teachers I am always sharing information about our learners and their cultures and backgrounds to support them in furthering their own connections with their learners.

With our Maori learners I already know who they are and can identify which class they are in, what their progress is like and who their whānau and iwi are. When I see them I have learnt to keep them central in my student connections because this then heightens awareness for all our learners.

When I check out Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success identify the importance of supporting Māori students during times of transition in their educational journey I am clear about the role that I have by ensuring that data and progress is shared with our learners, whānau, our teachers and our feeder schools.


So where to next. How do I consciously practise and develop the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context? PCT 10 is not that big of an ask. I can easily do this for every presentation I deliver or every time I lead a meeting, run a workshop. I can easily begin with my pepeha and with a whakataukī like I did with my recent Ulearn presentation.I am already really conscious of the macrons and can now see when they are missing. When I write words in te reo Māori I check to ensure that I have them correct.

This week we are visiting Orakei Marae as part of our bi annual trip to make connections with our local iwi and marae. Therefore I can easily put me ngā tikanga-a-iwi in context.

In addition I am project leading for Flat Connections and our junior school is involved. We have discussed making connections between the indigenous people of the three countries involved. That could be another pathway for me to consciously focus on practising and working effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand.

This week I am presenting at the Asia New Zealand Ningbo conference so will begin with Kia Ora to the delegates.

Finally I refer to our Newmarket Plan on a page created by our principal and deputy principal as part of their learning with Schools@Heart . They consulted and had input from our Board of Trustees our parents and our wider community. I can see our school wide goals, how I adhere to them and how I am culturally sensitive to these.