Sunday, 19 August 2018

Hornby High School App!

Kia ora everyone!

We have had a very successful start to Term 3. Thank you to all the families who came to our Learning Conferences. It was great to meet with you again and to discuss your student's progress in Year 8. If you have not been able to access your child's report, please let me know and I can email you a PDF copy.

In other exciting news, Hornby High School is now part of SchoolApps. You are able to download this free app and subscribe to notifications straight to your phone about upcoming school events or notices. Please follow the instructions on the poster below.

As always, if you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to reach out to me! 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Reflection: Finding My Feet in My First Year

Here I am on a Sunday night thinking about how fast this term is flying by. We are gearing up to start Week 5 of Term 3, which nearly marks the halfway point of the semester. What is even crazier to me is how comfortable and secure I feel. Don't get me wrong, I still have those moments where I wonder if I am doing enough or doing the right things for my students, but overall, I feel a sense of calmness and ease.

I feel truly grateful for all that I have learned up until this point in the year. The late nights and early mornings putting together a lesson and organizing my planning still happen, but less so. I am able to pinpoint what help my students need quicker than before. I know what websites have helpful videos and resources or where I can find Maths worksheets for all of my levelled groups. Overall, I have built a supportive, trusting and honest relationship with my students and feel as though I can read them now that I know them better. I can intervene and be preventative when I sense a behaviour issue arising, I can tell when a student is feeling down and might need some words of encouragement, I know when they need a break or when we have earned a classroom reward, and I find it so fun to be able to learn and grow alongside my 23 students.

I often think of the end of the year as a bittersweet moment. Yes, I will have one full year of teaching under my belt and be halfway closer to completing my time as a PRT, but I will have to say goodbye to my wonderful group of tamariki. This may be the first year jitters, or the feeling of closeness to this group as I do not have any other classes to compare, but each individual child in my class has a special place in my heart.

I had a conversation with one of my students on Friday and she said, "Miss, do you know that we spend more time with you than our own parents some days?" Yes. I know. She also talked about how we as educators, spend more time with them than we sometimes do with our own children, or partners or friends. I feel like there has been so much in the news and media lately surrounding the Primary Teacher Strike, the pay raise, the workload and on and on, and while I don't devalue these concerns in any way, I feel so genuinely lucky to be doing this job and working with this amazing class that I truly feel like I cannot complain.

Yes, the work is hard and the hours are long, but the time I spend fostering relationships with these unique and inquisitive children make it all worthwhile. I have found my feet in regards to the planning, testing and the administrative behind the scenes of it all, and each day I get to spend in class actually teaching and enjoying my time with my students is feeling more rewarding than before. I am worrying less about 'the perfect lesson' and am realizing that a restorative conversation or an inspirational video and class discussion on resilience is just as meaningful and just as powerful to their learning journey.

I wonder what the rest of the year will bring and how many more amazing memories we will create together as a class. I know each term will bring upon a new challenge or a new triumph, but for now, I am going to enjoy the feeling I have, looking forward to Monday morning, seeing my students ready for a new week and greeting each of them as they enter our learning space. I treasure the time we spend together, and I feel honoured to have them in my care from 8:30-3:00 pm. While that is just a small part of my day, it has a huge impact on me and I hope that they feel the same way.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Reading Plus - A New Initiative

Kia ora koutou,

We have been trialling a new reading programme within the Year 7 and 8 Junior Block called Reading Plus. With this website, each student is given their own log in and an initial set up test which helps gather evidence of their reading speed (fluency) and their comprehension. 

We have discussed at length that a good reading programme will interest students. There should be three parts; independent reading, Reading Plus and teacher led sessions. I am a huge believer in literacy and my students spend a lot of their morning work time doing reading related activities. 

We start each morning with 15-20 minutes of sustained silent reading. Students go fortnightly to the school library to select a book of their choice. My only 'rule' is that it is something of their reading level and something they are interested in. I find many of my boys go for graphic novels, however, more recently this term many of my girls are getting into these type of stories too. We also have a packed bookshelf in the classroom that students can make a selection from. 

I have been attempting to have students use Reading Plus for at least 30 minutes per day as well. When they are not working with me for reading groups or during writing time, the expectation is that they are independently self-managing and using Reading Plus. 

After seeing some of our initial results, I have wanted to make this programme a priority. Below you can see where the majority of my class is sitting. 

Ideally, we want to be sitting in the green box. Red dots indicate that the student needs significant intervention and teacher support. The red diamond indicates that this programme is too hard, or too complex for the student at this time. This is my Week 4 graph, and we started this programme in Week 2 of the term. I can already say that many of my blue dots in the 'red zone' were much lower when we started. 

What I love about this programme and why I have changed my Literacy plan to suit it is that students have choice in which articles they want to read and the programme is levelled based on their scores and achievements. They can also work at their own pace and I am able to track their progress on the teacher end. If students use this programme 10 hours per week, they will increase their reading level by 1-2 whole years after a span of 10 weeks. At first I was worried about having a digital programme being seen as a 'cop out', by telling the kids "go onto Reading Plus" but I found that 1) the results are speaking for themselves; this stuff works 2) the majority of students actually are excited for when this part of the day comes around and 3) by lightening my teacher load for even 30 minutes a day, I can focus on planning even more meaningful lessons in other subject areas. It's working smarter, not harder. 

I always push for students to do 'their personal best', but these results are showing me that we need to be moving reading and writing to the forefront. My students will be entering Year 9 next year and into the 'mainstream' high school system where they will have 5 classes a day with 5 different teachers. I want to ensure they are prepared and have the skills not only to succeed, but excel in their learning. 

I am interested to see their results at the end of the term and how many of them have moved up in the 'red zone' or maybe even entered into the idyllic green area. I will post another reflection on the programme in time and look forward to seeing the way my students will improve.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Reflection: Dances for Schools Workshop

Earlier today I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Ezra from Dances For School. As you know, I spent last term organising and running a Year 7 and 8 dance group. Growing up I taught dance to girls aged 4-9 at my local dance studio, so I felt I had the experience to facilitate a dance group for our students.

What I quickly realised is that dancing at a studio and dancing at school are two very different things. I felt a little bit out of my element in my teacher clothes and with my teacher reputation letting loose and creating movement with my students, it wasn't natural. Whereas 10 years ago as Miss Chelsea, in my ballet skirt and tights, I had a different persona. The students were younger and they were all there for their 1 hour ballet lesson; I felt in my element.

I met Ezra on Instagram and we had been in contact earlier in the year to organise some school-wide dance lessons, and while this did not pan out, he invited me to attend his workshop in Christchurch. I am so glad he did. I got the chance to work alongside about 30 teachers in a practical and focused workshop aimed at teaching dance through the New Zealand Curriculum to students who have any level of experience.

We collaboratively choreographed a dance within the 2 hour workshop and had the chance to ask questions and get some great reading material on how to successfully teach dance in schools. We have an upcoming hip hop competition being held at our school and I have been asked to work with a group to represent our school in the competition. I was panicking with the added element of a competition over my head, not simply spending a term choreographing a short routine like last term.

These are the take aways from the PLD session that I know will benefit me as I take on this new challenge:
picking music in 4:4 beat 
- vocalizing what we are actually doing, and cutting out 'dance teacher speak' ex) less counting, less random sounds (if you have taken a dance class you will know dance teachers are notorious for making up their own jargon or sounds for steps. For example you may hear your instructor shouting, "and one two GA GA, pose, and BOOM hit hit hit")
- keeping spacing simple and effective
- using an invisible clock as a frame of reference and have each student dancing around their own clock so that the angles are the same for the entire group 
- keep steps simple and fun so that students can genuinely enjoy the dancing they are doing

With these take aways, I feel more confident in my own ability to choreograph an awesome dance routine for this competition and take on another term of Year 7 and 8 dance group as well!