Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Talking about being smart!

The staff and I shared this article today. We spent time reading it (and who gets time to read in a busy school day?) and discussing. The rest of the day for many of us was spent really thinking about what we are saying when we say things like, "You're a clever girl!"

Even Geniuses Work Hard

PLEASE take the time to read it and let me know what you think. For those curious how this relates to the PYP - it's almost a guide to developing risk takers. Enjoy!

Sunday, 19 September 2010


I just read a brief article in Educational Leadership about a school in New Zealand that is encouraging students to include household chores as part of their homework alloted time. Part of the reasoning is that it teaches children about the importance of participating and contributing (part of the NZ National Curriculum) rather than isolating children from their family life as they work on their assigned homework.

The idea prompted me to think that there are elements of the PYP curriculum that we often neglect when we send out homework, but if we really believe in the philosophy and IB mission, we maybe should be looking at how we can balance homework in terms of the essential elements.

Following that line of thinking, we expect student input into the units of inquiry, we want students to be engaged, active participants in the unit. Do we contradict ourselves when we then assign homework without student input?

Educational Leadership included another excellent piece on homework. See the link:
Look inside >
10 11
Five Hallmarks of Good Homework

or here:

Monday, 6 September 2010

Save the world .. Look after "Nori"

Here's a bit of silliness!
Picture this: Stationery supplies late, no glue sticks, frustrated teachers desperately waiting for supplies of one of the most environmentally unfriendly products ever used to produce an eco-poster! The wretched glue stick (or nori in Japanese)

At last the long awaited supplies arrive. One per child and that's it until January!

Friday's assembly needed to get across the message that we REALLY need to look after this resource.

Introducing Nori, the endangered species that lives in little colonies in various schools but had altogether disappeared from our school. A rare species indeed that never reproduces. A strange species that has a hat much as a turtle has a shell; should that hat be left off the poor stricken creature will simply dry up and die. A delicate, shy species that needs special care as it likes to hide away in dark corners where no-one can find it, but if looked after with tenderness and care, will be a willing little helper.

Would they like to see the creature?? 'Oh yes,' nod the children (and some bamboozled teachers).

Slowly, cautiously, from out of the folds of its little home, peeps the new glue stick, complete with little beady eyes and a broad smile! Much hilarity later, children assured me that their nori had smiled at them as they put the hats back on. Other teachers are going to have the children build little special 'nori' beds for their tables.

I still think the use of bottles of glue and brushes is much more environmentally responsible, but at least if the nori are being looked after properly, I can ease my conscience somewhat!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Learning how to Twitter

I found this very helpful little tutorial on The Educator's PLN - a great site by the way!

Cell phones - a fast, cheap way to access IT in the classroom?

Just going through my Twitter page and came across this gem that is now almost 18 months old. Definitely time to review our cell phone ban!

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Joy of Google Docs

I just have to share this story!

On a lovely Sunday evening, one of the best all summer, I was at home, catching up on the documentation from Mr PYP (our new, enthusiastic coordinator). I thought I'd give Google docs a try, so opened up the Action Plan and started adding my comments. I noticed the share button and thought, 'Ok, I'll share it with him and see how that works.'

Within a few minutes he was commenting on my comments, shifting text, editing, discussing where to place items all in real time ... right before my eyes!

What a way to collaborate! We both were just amazed at the potential ..apart from finding it really great fun! Ahh ... I love web 2.0!

Welcome back to all the staff!

Today was the first day back for staff and it was an exciting, uplifting start!

Putting off some of the administrivia of the new school year, my PYP Coordinator and I got straight into the issues that matter: what are teachers teaching over the course of the year? It was great to see teachers enthused about planning out the year's Math and English goals across the year, embedding content and skills in to the program of inquiry where possible and where sensible, but recognizing that specific skill lessons are sometimes essential.

A positive way to start the school year, with a vibrant collegial atmosphere. Great job, everyone!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Happy New Year to all the Agog Pedagogues!

It's the first day back at school for the 2010 - 2011 new school year. My wish for every pedagogue starting this new school year now (or in the next weeks) is that the year brings you the joy, wonder  and delight of the child. I hope you are agog at the endless possibilities that are open to our young charges. Have a wonderful year!

Brave New world part 2

I have spent a fair amount of these holidays trying to catch up with web 2.0 and all the other gizmos around these days (OK, so 'gizmos' kind of makes me sound old!).

I've met with our new PYP coordinator and together we had little melt downs about the 'overwhelmness' of it all. Where to start, what to focus on, how to make it work to improve student learning, how to make it work to improve teacher learning!!! And in spite of our searches, googles, tweets and blogs, we don't seem to have found any definitive answer. I'm sure it will be out there in the blogs or the Tweets somewhere.

In my quest, I now have a bulging Twitter page, 3 blogs, 2 PLNs, know what a Ning is (that makes me feel  pretty proud), can use Google docs (and can say it is definitely more useful, but serves a slightly different purpose to my MobileMe online cloud) and understand how RSS feeds work. My Facebook page, however,  has remained gloriously private.

Then I came across this little wonder with over 1,000, 000 views and had an epiphany! I 'll never have the answer! All I can do is keep looking and see what comes along next, hopefully enjoying the ride, making new friends and learning an awful lot as I go. Think I'll just go relax with a good Kindle!

Friday, 6 August 2010

RSS Feed

Learnt something else today about RSS, subscribe and following - not all the same thing! Yes, call me a little slow, but there is just so much to learn.

OK .. if you subscribe you will have to choose the program that you will access the updates from. I'm using Google reader bookmarked and I check every now and then to see what new articles there are on sites I have subscribed to. I don't need to check that often because most of them are usually Tweeted (?) as well and come up  on my Twitter account - one of the reasons I am so hooked on Twitter.

Choosing 'follow' means you need to use Google Friend connect or the BlogSpot site. I hope that helps those who like me didn't really know where to find the updates once you choose to subscribe or follow!

This background knowledge needed to access the technology is a source of constant amazement and enlightenment for me. AND it's all so available! But the little issues I'm facing are really helping me to plan for supporting busy teachers in getting started on using web 2.0.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Brave New World

I'm meeting today with our new PYP coordinator to prioritize initiatives and actions for the coming year. It seems both of us have a developing passion for the use of web 2.0 in the classroom. This video is an outstanding example of the potential!

PS to this blog: I have solved the problem of the video not fitting in the screen properly, but I have to admit to being unsure about referencing protocols!

Summer School Thoughts

I just read an article at

It made me think - can we compare a Tom Sawyer version of summer break, to what many children experience over summer now - being baby sat electronically, unable to 'go play' because of the dangers and often little interaction with the natural environment?

As a teacher I was always against summer camps/schools for our students, but then my experience of summer was somewhat Tom Sawyer-like. Days spent exploring rock pools, learning to swim in the ocean, or enjoying 'playing' in the backyard, learning about the chickens, building cubby houses, digging tunnels provided the sort of education not available in schools in those days.

But that's not the world that most of our students find themselves in. With parents working and the ease and availability of IT to keep children gainfully employed, students often don't have the opportunities for exploration of the real world around them that I took for granted as a child.

The summer holiday period at my international school is considerably longer than the local schools' break, a difficulty which can be very stressful to the parents. So this year for the first time we provided a summer school for two weeks after school finished. It has been such a huge success that I am now planning ahead for the coming summer, extending our summer school to cover more of the difference between the local system and our school.

What made the summer school so successful? It was not an academic focussed programme, but a true 'holiday camp'. The staff were enthusiastic, flexible but also passionate about developing inquiring minds, independence and social responsibility. The atmosphere was quite unique - totally different to the normal school routines. The focus on learning through experience is an appropriate focus in this school - this is Norway and a practical,  hands on approach in most cases matches the parents' perceptions of what the children should be doing in a summer camp.

Next year we will also look at providing an academic element for the older children (this year the group attending summer school consisted of 60% early childhood students).

Perhaps we'll plan along the lines of a "Tom Sawyer in Norway" type of camp!!

Love to hear other's experiences in providing summer schools and camps for elementary and early childhood students in international schools.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

ADHD (ADministrator Hyperactive Disorder)

 It's the time of year when the idea-generating section of my brain goes into hyperdrive and I churn out possible initiatives like popping corn! Fortunately for my staff, I have learnt to try and curb that irrational enthusiasm to a less frightening level, but .. boy! It's hard!

So .. I take a deep breath, I go back to my goals for the year, take a look at the school's strategic plan and use the important/urgent matrix (below)

Crisis of confidence in me as a responsible leader - hopefully averted!
Focus on what's important - restored!

Phew! That was close! Thank you Stephen Covey!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Interactive whiteboards

I admit to living in a technological black hole for a while - especially when it comes to classroom use of technology. That's one of the great things about combining admin with teaching - I get to keep in touch with the real world and am obliged to use technology well and wisely as a school leader!! The question of what to do with an interactive whiteboard is about to come up for me so I'm looking for ways that I can use one to enhance learning in the visual arts program.

There's definitely food for thought for me here about what NOT to do:

Friday, 30 July 2010

Winding up, winding down

Don't we all know that end of holiday feeling? Holding on to the last shreds of the holiday, trying not to check the school email for just a few more days but all the while feeling in two minds - secretly getting a little excited at the promise of a new school year and all the possibilities, but dreading the administrivia that is always lurking to sabotage the chance to do the great stuff!

New school year resolutions. I come up with dozens of these over the holidays, develop some into fully fledged projects, while placing others on the back burner to stew for awhile before I take any action. This year I'm going to record the successes and challenges and hopefully along the way, learn something that's worth sharing:

For me personally:
  • Know how to use the technology, be a leader in its use
  • Develop the Visual Arts program using the new Primary Years Programme Scope and Sequence - think I'll try to Ning this! 
  • Perfect the art of prioritizing! 
For the Lower School:
  • Improve the communication throughout the school and its groups (This is where my new tech skills will come into action!)
  • Develop teacher reflection, leadership and collaboration ... ahhh that would be enough!
Now to make a plan .......