My why?

At the end of last term, my parents came to stay. As always, it was great to see them and catch up on a variety of things. It was during one of our chats that my dad dropped a surprising statement… “We [Mum and Dad] were quite surprised when you said you wanted to be a teacher”.  I instantly knew what he was referring to- it was no secret in our house that I hated high school. Something changed between primary school and college where I just wasn’t that into school. The amount of times I got in trouble for not doing classwork or homework at high school is too many to count. I didn’t consider myself a bad student and looking back, I still don’t. Sometimes it was classic teenage laziness but for the most part I just wasn’t interested in what most of my teachers were peddling, not to mention how they were peddling it.

Looking back, it’s no surprise that my parents were confused by my decision to enter teacher training. However, hating school was actually the reason I wanted to be a teacher. Sounds weird, I know. But even as a 7th form/Year 13 student, I could tell that school could be a better experience than what it had been for me. I wanted to make a difference for students much like myself.


The only reasonable school snap I could find tonight

Of the 50+ teachers I had throughout my 13 years of school, there were 3 teachers that really made a difference in my life. The reason- I felt that they genuinely cared. They found out what interested me and they made connections, especially through humour. Because of this, I enjoyed being in their class and made an effort to do my best.

The brief, yet important conversation with my folks couldn’t have been more timely. As teachers, I think most of us have moments where we get bogged down and lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing- it was great to be reminded. To be fair my ‘Why’ is not quite as simple as I’ve made it sound but its core has remained the same.

What is your why?

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Mind Lab Finale (Week 32)

Wow! 32 weeks done and dusted! It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we all started our Mind Lab journey and what a journey it has been. It’s been a challenging year both professionally and personally trying to keep up with everything happening around me. In saying that, I haven’t been alone as the Mind Lab has provided me with a sense of belonging. It’s been great being a part of the online Google+ community but even more than that I have really enjoyed being a part of the Wellington Mind Lab community. What an amazing bunch of educators and friends who are constantly pushing the boundaries both professionally and personally! Many of the assignments have been challenging not only academically but finding the time to sit down and complete them. Despite that, all those assignments were incredibly valuable (even the literature review which definitely caused a few sleepless nights!!!).

Reflecting is an important part of life. It’s embedded within our HPE curriculum and is something we encourage our students to do in order to improve. It’s no different for us- Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) describe reflective practices as a professional development practice. I even chose to look at reflective thinking and the Experiential Learning Cycle as part of my first Mind Lab assignment. As with any NZ teacher, reflecting on the Practicing Teacher Criteria (Ministry of Education, nd) comes with the job. I always find it hard to select one or two to reflect on individually as with most things in education, the interrelationships between the criteria are numerous. The two that go best with my Mind Lab journey would be Criteria 4 (Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice) and Criteria 5 (Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning).

So, how have I demonstrated a commitment to ongoing professional learning. I think it goes without saying but attending the Mind Lab and completing the assignments has made me far more aware of my professional practice and how to think more critically about what I’m doing and why. It has catapulted me into a Innovative Learning Practices committee within my school where it has sometimes felt as though I’m looked to for answers (I definitely don’t always have them!). This has made me very aware of the needs and fears of many people on our staff and because of this I have teamed up with another colleague to plan where we see value and where to next.We are both in it to help make positive change for our learners and teachers- it’s not a short term fix.

I guess this leads in quite nicely to Criteria 5 and showing leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning. We had quite the turnover of staff at the end of last year leading to many Provisionally Certified Teachers (or newbies as I like to call them) joining the ranks. While it has been challenging having many new teachers around, it’s also been inspiring to watch the staff learn from each other- inexperienced and experienced alike. I myself have thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on things but have also been a port of call for our HPE newbies and also the not so newbies. Mind Lab has provided me with knowledge around change leadership and the opportunity/excuse to apply and evaluate it. I found this one of the most useful aspects of the course and have discovered that leadership, specifically leading change, is something I am genuinely interested in.

My next step for the future of my professional learning? Get a small group of teachers from a couple of different departments and get some junior cross curricular units in the pipeline for next year. The only way to learn is to do. I also want to get some student blogs/portfolios going. What has become apparent is that Mind Lab was purely a vehicle to kick start this journey. I don’t need an excuse to evaluate my practice or leadership (although nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing!). The Mind Lab has prepared me with knowledge of where to go, who to ask and some key tools to utilise along the way.



Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

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Using social online networks for teaching/professional learning (Week 30)

Karen Melhuish mentions in her 2013 thesis on social online networking, we are all busy. Teachers and those involved in the education sector seem to be busy all the time- I know that’s how I feel a lot of the time. It always feels like there’s never enough time to get everything done- the to do list is never completed (that might be a blog for another day). Despite this lack of time and the feeling of always being busy Karen also noted that we as teachers need to get involved with (and make time for) social media if we want to experience the opportunity to discuss and debate the ins and outs of what we do- a space to critically reflect on our practice (Melhuish, 2013).

My thoughts on social networks for teaching and professional learning is positive. Sure, there are downsides to using social media such as privacy and blurred boundaries but overall the benefits fall favourably on the positive side. I use Twitter for professional learning and Facebook for personal and professional use. Most groups/organisations I follow use both but as yet there are a few that are still to jump on Twitter. The outdoors community is one such group that favours Facebook over Twitter and I’m yet to see large amounts of OED teachers on Twitter…one day!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been active on Twitter or Facebook lately…life got busy (there’s that word again!). I’m making an effort from next week to get back on board and play a bit of catch up on blogs, podcasts and the usual people I follow. The main reason I like Twitter is that I can tailor it to my own personal wants, needs and goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean I follow people that have the same ideas as me- I’d say it’s about a 50-50 split. I like people that make me think and through their thoughts and ideas, help me to critique what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and why. Twitter chats are an excellent way to do this and I’m feeling the need to get back to my #BFC630NZ whanau as soon as possible.

When it comes to my teaching, I use facebook to communicate with my students but wish I could use social media more like the teacher in this video. She has managed to bring the outside world into her classroom. At this stage, my school is not keen on this happening. We are currently working on social media and privacy policies to allow this to hopefully happen soon. I’m always keen to keep our kids and colleagues safe but it’s a little sad that paperwork is holding up the process.

Why do I use social media? I’m sure we’ve all said to our students something along the lines of two heads are better than one when encouraging co-operative collaborative learning. I feel that we’re no different and if the opportunity presents itself for us to work with educators across the world without leaving the couch, then why not? Since being encouraged by a friend to join Twitter a few years ago and then shown by another friend how to actually use it effectively, I have been blown away by the things I have learned. It also turns out that I can help others learn new things too.

My advice…get on the Twitter train! It has heaps of stops/stations and you can get on and off when and wherever you want (or need!).



Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived from

TVO Parents. (2013). Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved from

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Week 29: Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice- Teachers, students and social media.

The digital world is rapidly changing and I think it’s fair to say some schools are struggling to keep up with the power that social media has in our students lives. As teachers, we often have to call on our ethics with regards to the use of social media with students. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the odd friend request on Facebook from a student but thankfully with a name like “Jo Smith” it doesn’t happen too often.

My school is currently in the draft stage of social media policies and it can’t come soon enough. For most teachers, we didn’t grow up with social media and navigating what, when who and how can sometimes be tricky. I’m sure we’ve all seen that one friend we have that always posts something we see as inappropriate. So what would you do if a student sent you a friend request? I’m talking teenagers here, but imagine if you as a primary or intermediate school teacher was friended by a 10 year old? Or even someone at tertiary level? I previously worked with a teacher back in 2010 (in a very small community) who would send friend requests to students and saw no problem with it…I wonder if they have since changed their mind.

In New Zealand. certificated teachers are required to work within a code of ethics. One of the key points outlines that teachers are to strive to develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners (Education Council New Zealand, n.d.). This becomes very difficult to do if you follow each other on social media and have access to the ins and outs of each other’s private lives: the lines have been blurred and this can no longer be considered a professional relationship. What we are willing to share with our friends might not be the same for sharing with our students or teachers.

I use facebook as part of my teaching and learning programmes. I have closed groups (so we keep out the random people) and parents are informed and invited to join the class pages if they wish (but they never do!). I have a personal policy of not accepting friend requests from students while they are still at school. I will never look for them on social media once they have left school. There are other ways to show your students that you are human and live a normal life without delving into each others online lives.

How do we make these decisions? For me it all comes back to the Education Council’s Code of Ethics regarding professional relationships- this helps to maintain boundaries over what we share and what we don’t.

So, what would you do?



Education Council New Zealand (n.d.). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certficated Teachers. Retrieved from

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Protected: Week 28: indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

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Protected: Education for environmental sustainability. Week 27

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Protected: Issues in my Professional Context. Week 26

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