Sunday, 14 March 2021

Success in School: Down Syndrome

Last week I was given the privilege of attending a Success in School: Down Syndrome Workshop on Monday and Tuesday. It was organised by the Auckland Down Syndrome Association (ADSA). It was in attendance of primary and secondary school educators, as well a few parents and educators from Early Childcare centres. This workshop took place at the Ellerslie Events Centre in Auckland.

Please find the timetable of the presentations here:

All the presenters were great. I really enjoyed hearing from members of the public with Down Syndrome that came to talk and share with us what life was and is like for them. It gave me a better understanding of behaviours, inclusion and friendships for people with Down Syndrome.

On the first day, I learned a lot from the presentation by Phillippa Lilburn. She presented two workshops about Behaviour and Friendships. One of her key ideas was to 'teach functional equivalent behaviour' which meant to do something different especially when what you have planned and trying to deliver is not working. A lot of what she spoke about made me think about my teaching practice and what I can do in and outside the classroom to help learners with Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, this was also Phillippa's last time to present at a workshop as she was moving to another part of the country. I wish her all the best.

On the second day, the presentation on Numeracy and how to adapt the curriculum by Dr Rhonda Faragher (via video - she lives in Brisbane, Australia) followed by Margi Leech. Dr Rhonda Faragher explained that maths is important for everyone. This presentation stood out for me because it is more than number, more than arithmetic, it's the use of maths in the context of everyday life. She also explained that the more children with Down Syndrome learn and develop in their child years, the better they are equipped for their adult life. Learners with Down Syndrome are capable. 

Margi Leech gave us ideas about how to teach maths using Numicon resources. She also explained that these resources can be for all learners in the classroom. I really liked the Numicon shapes and Cuisenaire rods that help children to visualise and talk about their maths learning which embeds understanding and confidence.

All the presentations were amazing and incredibly valuable. There were lots of ideas that I took from the two days. Thank you to the Auckland Down Syndrome Association for organising it. Please take note that World Syndrome Day is Monday 21st March, 2021. If you could participate (wear colourful bright socks) and donate if you can. You can check out more information here.

I was very privileged to have been able to go along to this workshop. It was an eye-opener for myself and to help me teacher learners with Down Syndrome.  

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Polynesian Panthers

This year begins with a new part to my educator journey. I am now teaching at: Weymouth Primary School. Today was the first teacher call back day for Professional Development and it was hosted at James Cook High School in Manurewa.

We were greeted by two (founding) members of the Polynesian Panthers: Dr. Melanie Anae and Alec Toleafoa. Tigilau Ness was absent. They presented us with the "Our Living Room" workshop. Our Living Room is used in the context of how most Polynesian families gather in their living rooms to sing, pray, meet, talk, laugh, present news and build family connections together. To most Polynesian families "our living room" is where decisions and memories are made, and it is an intimate time for family gatherings.

Alec Toleafoa talked about the history of racism and prejudices that he and many others faced back in the 1970s. There was some discussion around what our grandparents, parents faced when they first migrated to New Zealand. He also spoke about the term "black birding in Niue". This resonates with me because I am of Niue descent. To my understanding "black birding", for example is when  people from other countries ie. Peru sailed (hundreds of year ago) and took by coercion or kidnapping, some Niue people back to their countries to work as slaves.

There was some discussion of the Mau Movement in Samoa and how the New Zealand government (at the time) was trying to take over their country by removing the systems and take over what the people of Samoa already had in place. This is an example of where the analogy of the living room makes sense, that the government was trying to take over "our living room".

During the presentation Dr. Melanie Anae spoke about the early migration of Pacific people to New Zealand. Since the 1950s, many Samoans came to New Zealand under the impression that "this was the land of milk and honey" and that "the streets were made of gold". Unbeknown to them they were the ones that would sweep these streets. This then led to the discussions of 'Dawn Raids' in the mid 1970s. Due to the Great Depression world wide, the Dawn Raids were the governments way of deporting Samoan/ Tongan families back. However, our Polynesian people came to fill the labour needs at the time.

The home truths of our young people and how they've had to grow up in a society where they are not New Zealanders because they are Pasifika but not Pasifika because they were born here in New Zealand and cannot speak their languages.

Dr Melanie also explained racism using the text 'a theoretic framework and a gardener's tale' by Camara Jones (2000). Institutionalised racism is unearned privilege, societal norms and initial historic insults to name a few. Personally mediated racism is intentional/ unintentional, maintain structural barriers and condoned by societal norms. Internalised racism which reflects systems of privilege, erodes individual sense of value and undermines collective action.

Questions that we discussed in groups:

* How would you teach the need to annihilate racism?

* What is Pacific empowerment and how would you teach it?

* Why do you want to 'educate to liberate?'

There was a general consensus with the ideas that were shared around the room. A few that stood out for me were: breaking down barriers so our children are empowered and their culture valued. Changing mindsets and misconceptions that  children of Maori/ Pasifika descent are able to achieve and aim for more than societal expectations. Encouraging our children to be critical thinkers and challenging/ researching what they are being told by educators and other outside influences.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session with Polynesian Panthers. I would also like to acknowledge all those groups that came before and are still working for the good of Polynesian people here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. They have helped to shape and highlight matters of importance to us as Maori/ Pasifika people. I am inspired to learn more about these movements and it has made me reflect on what I can do to help our children of tomorrow.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Sports and Cultural Co-ordinator

Fakalofa lahi atu everyone. This is my first post for 2020.
This year I have a new role here at Ormiston Primary School and that is the Sports and Cultural Coordinator. I also release learning coaches for PCT and help relieve across the school when needed. My focus is to get as many learners and teams involved in sporting competitions within the Howick Pakuranga Primary Association.

In term one, our Year 5 and 6 Boys cricket team participated in the HPPA competition. We began training in Week 2. This year I decided to have all boys that were interested in playing that showed some capabilities in the game. I kept two teams: a school team and a development team. The development team allowed for boys to develop their skills and a carry over of Year 5s for next year. The school team were the boys that showed capabilities with bowling because all boys had to bowl an over in the competition. The boys won 2 out of 6 games and showed promise in all games but lost out through fielding.

We also had Rip Rugby sessions run by Marist Eastern Rugby Club. This took place every Wednesday after school from 3.15-4.15pm. Most sessions had up to 40 learners from Year 1-6 boys and girls. Coaches were provided and our learners had so much fun. Parents were grateful to have their child/ren taking part and we also had some sign their kids up to play during the terms on Saturday.

For Culture we had a Samoan group practice for Samoan Language Week in Term 2. We also have Kapa Haka in collaboration with Ormiston Junior and Senior College. Because of the levels in Covid-19 our Samoan group made a movie of their items to share with the school and community. The children of Samoan descent dressed up in their Samoa shirts and dresses and wore them to school on Friday. Kapa Haka with the junior and senior college kids have helped spark interest amongst our learners especially those that are not of Maori heritage.

Here are links for our Samoan Cultural Movies:
Introduction to Samoan Language Weeks
Samoa Girls
Samoa Boys

It has been busy so far! But we are looking forward to more Sporting opportunities in Term 3 and celebrating our Cultural Language Weeks and maintaining Kapa Haka.

Friday, 30 August 2019

TESSOL: Undergraduate Diploma

This year I have been very fortunate to have been awarded one of the TESSOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) scholarships through the University of Auckland. My application was supported by my leader of learning Heath McNeil and Karyn Patterson (head of ESSOL). 

Currently, I have Tuesday night classes at the University of Auckland, Epsom Campus. I have successfully completed the course EDPROFST227: TESSOL Language Learning Need in Semester One. I have learned quite a few activities and tasks to practice with my learners. This course also helped me to reflect on my teaching practice and pedagogy not just with English Second Language learners but with all my learners. At the moment, I am in Semester Two currently working on EDPROF372: TESSOL: Language Learning through Tasks.

I will blog more about some of the tasks, activities and assignments that I have done later on.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Spiral of Inquiry Reflection: Digital Technologies in iDevelop

How did you make a difference to your iDevelop workshops?

Did it make an impact? How do you know?

What do you still need to work on?
This term our Spiral of Inquiry focused on using digital technology in the habitat. This was carried out with a Professional Learning Group that had other learning coaches focusing on the same iDevelop area. My focus was to use Google classroom effectively with my learners in iDevelop (literacy or maths). I thought best to use Google classroom with my literacy group and small micro-teaching groups.

I used Google classroom to share google documents and presentations with my learners. The difference it has made has been minimal so far. I am still learning to how to use it with my small reading groups as devices are limited. Using google classroom has made a slight impact because learners are enjoying using devices to complete activities online. From observations, learners have enjoyed using Google classroom and are able to help others.

I have learned with the help of Donna Golightly, how to assign documents to learners without them having to make copies of it and to use. She has also helped me to assign documents in classwork rather than  on stream. I am currently learning to how to best use and manage google classroom with twelve devices for my group. 

Thank Claudine and Raman for leading the Spiral of Inquiry for us.

Please find my personal spiral of inquiry document here.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Flatbush 7 2019

Today was our Teachers Only Day. And Flatbush 7 has come around again. Flatbush 7 schools are: Ormiston Primary School, Ormiston Junior College, Ormiston Senior College, Baverstock Oaks Primary, Mission Heights Primary School and Junior College and Te Uho o te Nikau. Flatbush 7 in it's second year, but this time held across Mission Heights Primary and Mission Heights Junior College campus.
Our keynote speakers were: Chris Clay in the morning, and Peter O'Connor in the afternoon.

There were four workshops across the day and introduction speakers before each. These speakers were: Chris Clay, Melinda Webber, Grant Rix and Peter O'Connor. The four workshop categories: Cultural Responsiveness, Connections, Well-being and Inquiry.

The first workshop was called Learning a Language through Passion Projects with Alicia Tauiliili from OJC (Ormiston Junior College). One key idea I took from this session was that Languages and Culture are so important for learners identity in the classroom. I like the idea of learners using a Glory Box to share who they are.

The second workshop was called Real World Science with Science teachers from Ormiston Senior College. One key idea I took from this session is that Science needs to be taught through and with real life scenarios. For example: Physics class went to Rainbows End and looked at the rides and how they worked and the forces that were involved in the topic.

The third workshop was called Student Well-being through Whanau Ora and Hauora run by Ashley Sio and Mike Mansell from Ormiston Junior College. A key idea I took from this session was the models that they used to plan both Whanau Ora and Hauora, and ensuring that they are both linked throughout the programmes they focus on.

The final workshop for was called Leading without Knowing with Jenny and Jane from Ormiston Junior College. A key idea I took from this was how I see myself with my learners and wider world that included: agency, inquiry and well-being. Another key thought that was presented was to look after beginning teachers and how valuable they are.

I gained a lot of ideas from the four workshops and from all presenters and experts today. I need some time to reflect over and put into practice the ideas that interested me today.

Thank you to all organisers, speakers and MHPS, MHJC for a great day of Flatbush 7 Workshops.

Naku te rourou, nau to rourou ka ora ai te iwi
- With your basket and with my basket, the people will live
Other translations I've hear are: With your basket and with my basket, the people will thrive. Maori Proverb. Today was a prime example of teachers across schools sharing their basket of knowledge with others so that our learners can thrive.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Learning Differences Workshop 2018

Today I was fortunate enough to attend the "Learning Differences Workshop" at the The University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research department. Hosted by Bronwen Connor, Kate de Groot, Marie Kelly and Emma Ratcliffe.

Bronwen Connor spoke and stated that approximately 6-10% of children have some form or a form of: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dycalculia, Dysgraphia, ADD or Auditory Process Disorder. The question was asked, 'Are teachers trained and prepared to assist these children? Bronwen continued that children have learning differences not learning difficulties and that all children learn differently and as educators, how do we tap into that?

Kate de Groot from Grow my mind spoke from 'The Parents Perspective'. She asked the question, how can we change our practices to help support our learners? Kate had five main points. The following is what I took from her main points.

1. What drives our communication and surfacing beliefs?
As educators we should be working alongside parents of children with learning differences, the learner themselves and any other agency that will help the child. Kate summarised this as the "Shared Need" that helps our kids realise their potential. She continued to talk about beliefs above and below the line. Examples of Above the line are: every child has potential, behaviours are for a reason and Below the line: it's the parent/s fault, some kids are naughty, the kids just need to do as they're told. This point made me think about learners that I teach and realise that for some, there could be more to why they behave the way that they behave.

2. Communication opportunities
Children with learning differences need more time. Liaise with parents, email and send them photos, their writing and videos of their child is doing at school. Kate pointed out that 'the small stuff' matters. 

Our next speaker was Marie Kelly who focused on 'Strategies for the Classroom'. The main focus of her presentation was around Dyslexia. Marie stated that Dyslexia is inherited and 1:4 in males. There was a genetic factor also that 40% of those with Dyslexia have glue ear. 'What does Dyslexia look like?' in which Marie described as a Disorder of Processing. Some things that help to help identify children with Dyslexia is: early intervention - trying to catch it early in a child, a 6 year net, an Education Psychiatrist report of similar help and instruction in good language models and Phonological awareness Pseudoword which is a decoding test. Up until today, I did not know much about Dyslexia only that some people saw and read words as jumbled or scrambled letters.

Some resources and sites that were useful that Marie suggested to us was: Call Scotland for iPads, Reading Rulers, iWordQ, Keeble, Clickerdocs, DocsPlus and others. Websites included:, and other sites.

Our final speaker was Emma Ratcliffe who is an Occupational Therapist. She spoke about Dyspraxia, a Developmental 
Co-ordination disorder that affects planning and organising. The point was made that children with this disorder can be good at sports and have Dyspraxia. Emma stated and showed us using a picture of the brain and where the connections were not being made. Hence why children with Dyspraxia may have learned something really well one day but then it is forgotten the next day. It is the planning and organising that is the difference ie. Dyspraxia. 

The causes Emma states can occur at an early age and that there are no real obvious causes for Dyspraxia. It could be a number of reasons known or unknown. She used the illustration of the brain and the connections of neurons in the brain and how each is different. Emma stated that 'Dyspraxia is a hidden disability disorder'.

What can we do as teachers and educators? Adjust expectations, allow more time, adjust quantity of work (each speaker pointed out the irrelevance of homework for these children), listen to parents, breaking all instructions down clearly, encourage and develop the strengths of these children and acknowledge the effort of work these children have put into their tasks.

I found this workshop beneficial to my teaching practices as an Educator. It has helped me to be more aware of children with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia and how best I can help them. These speakers had such a vast knowledge between them that I hope they will run more of these workshops in future.