Monday, 29 June 2020

He Ara Hauora

Children and young people are experiencing an extraordinary period of history. The Ministry of Education recently produced a series of resources, entitled He Ara Hauora, aimed at supporting students in their transition back to school after Covid-19 and time at home learning.

Psychologists at the Ministry of Education have released four booklets for schools to support students at Early Learning Centres, Primary, Intermediate, and Secondary levels. The resources are intended to guide tikanga for schools to move forward with wellbeing, grounded in a shared awareness of the needs of our students.

The Ministry offered funding for schools or Kāhui Ako interested in sharing the resources in He Ara Hauora with their staff and communities. As an ACCoS Across School Leader I was fortunate to attend two training sessions with MInistry of Education psychologists. I created slideshow presentations of the information and resources available from He Ara Hauora for schools that were interested within our Kahui Ako.

The most protective factors identified for emotional wellbeing of children after stressful events are secure and ongoing attachment relationships. Children need support to build self-regulation skills in order to maintain a sense of agency.

The Te whare tapa whā model is a framework for wellbeing that can be used to assess and build protective factors in our classrooms. The model approaches wellbeing with consideration to four dimensions: spiritual, physical, social and emotional. All four dimensions are attended to in the He Ara Hauora resource, with some valuable links to support agencies in our communities.

The He Ara Hauora resource challenges schools to take a phased response to supporting their students, acknowledging that students do not all share the same needs. Although we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Covid-19 has had a different impact on young people, depending on the risk and support factors surrounding them. Whilst the immediate medical threat has settled, the economic fallout is just starting to be felt for some of our families. Therefore ensuring all students have access to stress reducing activities and that those students who require extra support have their needs identified and attended to is critical.

The most striking message, for me personally, was the central thread running through most of the information offered in He Ara Hauora- to support people through stressful situations we need to look carefully at how to decrease the demands placed on them, and increase the support offered. The challenge lies in identifying those that need support the most and how to support all people in the school community.

The He Ara Hauora resources have been shared with representatives of schools within our Kāhui Ako. Their Leadership Teams will decide how best to unpack the information and recommendations with staff. These resources provide our Kāhui Ako with a shared language and framework for moving forward and supporting our students with their wellbeing.

By November of 2020 our Kāhui Ako will identify the most
valuable aspects of the resource and explain how the information has been shared with students and staff.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

A Personal Comment on Wellbeing During COVID-19

The term unprecedented has been loitering in our news reports over the past few weeks. Meaning never done or known before, it is certainly an apt description of what’s occurring globally. With news of Aotearoa increasing our ‘Alert Level’ after only mere days of the models introduction, it was with haste that preparations were made to organise ourselves for working and living in self-isolation.

After a week of confinement in my own home, adjusting to this new normal, and having plenty of time to reflect, the idea of wellbeing has been on my mind. Last year I led the wellbeing initiative, alongside Fe Tomich, for Auckland Central Community of Schools. During this time we attempted to find a robust, research informed definition of what it meant to be well. Many great minds had attempted this task and few stood out above the rest. Throughout the rest of this personal comment, I will be referencing two definitions, both simple yet profound. To be well means/refers to:

feeling good, functioning well and doing good” 
“the balance point between an individual’s resource pool and the challenges faced”

Some of the challenges that I have faced in this last week were surprising. Before the week began, I was genuinely excited about spending more time at home. It meant being around family, as well as the removal of traffic, early wake times, formal attire and some of the more mundane elements of my day-to-day. This gave a sliver of hope among the uncertainty of what was to come. The first few days were interesting and stressful, requiring more from me than I had anticipated.

After a few more days, it became apparent that an undercurrent of anxiousness was present. Though waves of stress, concern and worry weren’t unexpected, especially in this situation, what was unexpected was how it presented itself. Though details of this are unnecessary, the occurrence (and in this case, the persistence) of said stress highlighted my own need to rebalance my resource pool to ensure that I felt good, functioned well and was able to do good.

My current strategies have heightened my sense of wellness and though we’re not out of the woods, I am certainly feeling more equipped for the coming weeks. Having conversed with colleagues, friends and family, it’s apparent that my experience was not uncommon. With that in mind, I wanted to offer a few thoughts and a couple of questions that may help to motivate and clarify actions you could take in order to rebalance your own resource pool and improve your own sense of wellbeing.

In a meta analysis of research investigating wellbeing, one of the greatest findings was that ‘it’ is highly unique to an individual.  Shin and Johnson (1978) defined wellbeing as a “global assessment of a person’s quality of life according to (their) own chosen criteria.” Following on from this, the world health organisation defined quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.” Additionally, wellbeing is not a single entity, rather it is a web of interconnected facets that all contribute to your resource pool. Autonomy, environmental mastery, positive relationships with others, purpose in life, realisation of potential, self-acceptance, ability to fulfil goals and life satisfaction are all at play when creating wellbeing. Essentially, the result (of feeling well) we’re hoping to achieve is the same but the path travelled to get there will differ from individual to individual.

What this means for us, is that we are charged with the responsibility to identify what being well looks like for us and take the appropriate action to achieve this. How exactly can we do this? One way is to identify elements of wellbeing that stand out to you e.g. environmental mastery. From here,  think about their importance to you and what it would look like / feel like in your current circumstance e.g. environmental mastery might mean taking control over the physical space you’re working in:
  • Could you set-up an office space that is filled with natural light or a breeze of fresh air? 
  • Could you adjust the hours in which you work and the length of breaks? 
  • Could you spend time practising and exploring online tools that you’re needing to use in the coming weeks?

Once you’ve ascertained specifics, make a plan to put these in place. Start with something small and allow the momentum to build. 

Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet or quick fix to wellness. This will take time, grace and grit. Remember though, while our current circumstances are out of our control, when it comes to your wellbeing, you’re in charge. Within you is the capacity to enact what it takes to feel good, function well and do good. Some encouragement for you over the coming weeks:

Mai i te kōpae ki te urupa, tātou ako tonu ai
From the cradle to the grave, we are forever learning

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Reflection on the first ECE-NE/Year one teachers’ meeting for 2020

ECE in our Kāhui Ako area 

The first meeting for our ACCoS ECE-NE/Year 1 teachers recently took place on Tuesday the 10th of March at 6:30pm. This first event was hosted by Newmarket School. My name is Sarah Morrison and I am the In School Leader coordinating connections between the schools in our Auckland Central Community of Schools and our local Early Childhood Centres and Kindergartens. In order to ensure all the ECEs from within our Kāhui Ako area were invited, I sent out eighty invitations to centre managers and leaders of junior school teams in our schools. There were fifty respondents from twenty schools and Early Childhood Centres. I received some excited responses from centres that had not attended any of our events before. I decided to start the meeting earlier than last year so people had time to look around the junior classrooms, have a drink and something to eat before the meeting began. Many people came early to look around the classrooms and luckily the fabulous Te Ako Kowhai (Junior team) teachers from Newmarket School were available to show them around and answer questions.

The session started at 7pm. Lynne Keesing, a Resource Teacher of Literacy, was our guest speaker. At our school we have found that many children are starting school without the phonological awareness skills expected of a 5 year old and I thought that this was an area that would be of interest to all the schools and centres in our cluster.  Lynne has worked with our junior team previously and we have found her ideas and activities to be helpful and to have a big impact on the children’s learning. Lynne discussed the different stages of Phonological awareness and the expectations of children when they start school. She provided resources for each school or centre to use and showed several examples of activities that could be carried out with many different age groups. Every time Lynne runs a session, she provides different ideas and resources so even though she has worked with our team at Newmarket before it was great to get some more ideas and activities to add to what we do in class already.

After the meeting I was able to speak to some of the teachers from our local Early Childhood Centers. I found it valuable to continue building these connections and I hope to visit some of the centres in our area in the next little while. There were people that I was looking forward to meeting. However, we had little time to chat and there were so many people there that I didn’t get to connect with everyone. People wore name tags saying where they were from and this was important for making connections over shared children and colleagues. Several people who had not RSVPed came and that there were a few name tags that did not get picked up. Next time I will organise a sign in list so that I am clear on who attended.

Overall this first session for 2020 was well received. I think people took away lots of learning ideas. I look forward to continuing meeting more people in our cluster and developing relationships especially with our local ECE centres.

I will continue to advertise events in order to ensure strong attendance for the rest of the year.  Our next meeting will take place in term 2, week 6, on Tuesday 2nd of June.  Maungawhau School will be hosting the event and the focus for the session will be Transition to School. Different schools and centres have been asked to share what they do around transitioning children and what they find to work well. Discussion time will be scheduled so that people have a chance to share what they do. There will be an opportunity to discuss in groups and connect with staff from the different centres and schools. 


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Teacher Agency end of year wrap-up

As we wrap up another year, the Auckland Central Community of Schools Teacher Agency website has just been updated with our end of year overview. After 2 years of leading the Teacher Agency initiative for the #ACCoS1 Kahui Ako, I am pleased to see the progress we have made building a shared language and shared understanding of this nebulous concept across a number of different schools. If you have not had a look at our interactive matrix or our teacher inquiry database I invite you to take a peek. Link to our site is below.
Many thanks to all the schools who have been part of this initiative and so willingly opened their minds to the work we have undertaken in this initiative.
* Remuera Intermediate School
* Remuera Primary School
* Victoria Avenue School
* Kohia Terrace School
* Meadowbank School
* Epsom Girls Grammar School


Goals for 2019 were tailored to suit the strategic direction of each school, in collaboration with senior leadership teams. 

Remuera Intermediate School
Increase teacher agency via appraisal/inquiry work with PALs
Build collaborative practice as a cultural norm
Broaden collaborative network using Teacher Agency website database tool

Kohia Terrace School
To continue the culture of Teacher Agency so that it becomes ingrained in school culture so that every child benefits from teacher’s steady professional development

Meadowbank School
To clearly link team collaborative inquiries with the Teacher Agency Matrix
To use teacher agency to implement the Meadowbank Language of Learning thereby increasing learner agency

Remuera Primary School
Our Goal was to promote understanding of Teacher Agency as a concept with our PLG group and begin to interact with the Teacher Agency Matrix

Epsom Girls Grammar School
ISLs to gain an understanding of Teacher Agency and to use this to develop their Leadership Goals in relation to working with the members of their PLGs



Start with the why


Finding the words for your why

Hattie & Donohoo: 

Collective Teacher Efficacy

Goddard et. al: 

Collective teacher Efficacy

Learning Forward: 

Moving from compliance to Agency


The power of Teacher Agency 

Riveros et. al. 

A situated account of Teacher Agency and Learning

Priestley et. al: 

Teacher Agency: What is it and why does it matter


Leading inquiry at a teacher level


Collaborative Teaching


Teacher Beliefs: 
No change in mean score or quartile scores over the course of the year. One outlier value in T4 introduces long tail.

Capacity to Act: 
Slight increase in mean score, 1 whole value increase in upper quartile from 6 to 7 (proficiently to highly agentic)

Professional Learning: 
Slight increase in mean score, 1 whole value increase in tail, 1 whole value increase in upper quartile from 6 to 7 (proficiently to highly agentic)

Slight increase in mean values. 

Reflective Practice: 
Slight increase in mean score, 1 whole value increase in upper quartile from 6 to 7 (proficiently to highly agentic)

Wellbeing and Resilience: 
Half-value increase in mean score, 1 whole value increase in lower quartile from 4 to 5 (developing to proficiently agentic), 1 whole value increase in upper quartile from 6 to 7 (proficiently to highly agentic). Highest increasing element overall.

Additionally, qualitative data was collected (teacher voice) and excerpts from this are recorded below.

What did our Teachers have to say?

Teacher agency has shown me how I can keep improving and adapting the way I teacher with the support of other teachers.

Using the matrix has raised many questions and resulted in robust discussion at the school.  We are using it to discuss what teacher agency means at our school.
It's more in the front of my thinking now where as previously I've focused only on the student having agency

My understanding has developed more through using the matrix to self assess.

I gain a greater understanding each time I re-assess myself

I have enjoyed making connections with others to develop my professional practice. I have been able to use my agency to come up with goals that I want to work on.

At first I thought I was agentic but realised that this was not the case at all times at work.

I have appreciated being given the opportunity to contribute ideas/options/test out my theories/enhance my practice.

I have seen the children stop and think when I coach them rather than just listen to something I might be saying.

I have become increasingly aware of my own practice (using the matrix) and am trying to implement and embed strategies to increase my agency

I am now reflecting more on what I need to work on, and areas I usually avoid. I have a better understanding of what it means to be agentic.

At the start of this year, I had never even heard the words "teacher agency" before and had no idea about what it was or how to be an agentic teacher. I have come to understand that teacher agency is about being in charge of your own professional learning and actively seeking opportunities to reflect and make  positive changes to practice. Over the year I have also come to understand that being an agentic teacher can involve taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone. I have learnt that I won't ever get to a place in my career where I will say to myself "I am consistently and highly agentic, there's nothing more I can do." Reflection and being agentic is an on-going learning process throughout our whole careers that we need to think about and be aware of. 

Haven't scored as highly this time as my understanding has grown and I realise that some things are a bit more complex than I first believed.

As my understanding of Teacher Agency has grown I believe I have been able to develop further as a practitioner.

My understanding of teacher agency has remained the same throughout the year.

Last year we regularly talked about agentic practice. This year although we've focused on inquiries we haven't actively discussed and built teacher agency. It would have been useful to keep up the mini sessions in staff meetings to raise awareness - especially for new staff (RI)

There are aspects that have changed over the year such as collaboration and wellbeing. This has been helped by a network of people who are also interested in the topics.

My understanding around the concept and elements of Teacher Agency have remained the same. The change has been the way that I have used the elements in my practice. I have really pushed the well being and collaboration element in my practice.

After considering the meaning of this concept, I have come to realise that this is of huge importance to me being a happy and successful practitioner. Being free to make decisions in the best interests of my students (and indeed myself) invigorates my classroom behaviour and attention to what is happening for the students. I am always overly reflective, but tend to struggle with self care and as I am generally quite critical of my own practice, struggle with seeking constructive criticism.

As an individual in charge of a subject area I have found my understanding of being agentic has been useful in terms of taking action to solve my own problems or working to find solutions that will help systems and processes within the cluster of schools. 

I see teacher agency becoming increasingly important to focus on as education is continually changing and this requires teachers who can adapt and be agentic.

I feel I am growing in my ability to identify areas for growth, seek advice and implement change with greater confidence than ever before. Seeking guidance and support from other teachers in regards to what is working for them in their practice has been incredibly supportive of my own growth and development

As the year has progressed my understanding of what makes a truly agentic teacher has evolved. As I have put some of the ideas from our PLG into practice as a teacher, a learner and as a leader of a team it has reminded me of what is effective about my teaching practice and my strengths (this has been validating) It has given me direction and sparked my interest in areas of my teaching where I could learn from others and progress professionally. Thank you!!

Alaric Nicholls, 

Across Schools Leader

Thursday, 5 December 2019

End of Year Review 2019

On Monday all the Across School Leaders shared with the ACCoS principals their year's review. This year we agreed to create a Plan on a Page Doc with hyperlinks to the years work. As a group we agreed on criteria and a set size. However how this was created was left to the ASL to decide. All that was asked that the final product would be added to a Google Slide.
Below you can check out each individual plan.

ASL Initiative Leads
Topic & link to slide
Andy Lawrence
Felecia Tomich
Delanee Dale  
Alaric Nicholls
Catherine Palmer 
Sonya Van Schaijik
Virginia Kung
Erin Hooper
Janice Adamson
Lisa Murphy
Sue Spence
Tric Milner
Suzanne Parkinson
Janine Irvine & 
Steve King
When we finished our session, the principals welcomed our two new ASL who are joining the team in 2020. They are Abby Cavanagh and Ajita Goh.
We also farewelled Erin Hooper who is moving further North.