It has been a little more than seven months since I returned home from my trip to New Zealand as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award grantee. With the exception of a few reminiscing photos, I have not written any reflection pieces on my amazing experience until now. This post will not have the scope and depth I am looking for, but perhaps a future post will peel off another layer of the onion so to speak.
As usual I have written this post may times in my head without writing anything down which is a big mistake. When those deep compelling emotions and ideas are flowing like water out of a faucet they are meant to be caught in a bucket but for some reason, I never seem to have a bucket handy and the water just flows into the gutter and disperses all around instead of into the container. So here are today’s thoughts, which are nowhere near as good as yesterday’s but I have my bucket in hand right now and I have to catch whatever drops of water are left!
On the North Island, the capital city of Wellington and the major city of Auckland are busy, metropolitan places. Just like anywhere else, there are some people that are “way too busy” and there are also people who know how to relax.There is no one type of kiwi. However, overall, there is a more calm, relaxed feeling and it seems that people have more free time to pursue their interests or spend time with their families than we do in the US.
I’d like to point out that in general, people do not shop around the clock the way some of us do here in the US. For one thing, many businesses close by 5 or 6 pm. There are a number of exceptions including grocery stores and the major discount retailer The Warehouse (like Walmart). There is also a retail store (Farmers) that seems to have one or two late nights each week. Nevertheless, in general, if you need something from a store, you need to think ahead and buy it before evening comes around. Ergo, the first reason people have more free time is that they are not running around at all hours of the night picking up last minute supplies for the classroom, birthday gifts at midnight, or ingredients for a last minute recipe because at 11pm because they forgot it was their turn to bring a pot luck meal somewhere the next day.
Despite the somewhat limited shopping hours, there is another factor that influences people. While there are exceptions, kiwis do not have a consumer mentality. They are not trying to constantly buy new stuff. Why is that? Well for one thing, they are a very handy bunch and they often fix stuff that we would just toss in the trash. Why is that? Well it might be out of necessity...it costs a lot to ship items to New Zealand (and also fashion them with the correct electricity on a low volume basis in the case of the next example) so the prices of goods can sometimes be very high. I don’t want to mislead anyone with incorrect figures but for instance a Vitamix at the retailer Harvey Norman is 1,485 NZ dollars which is about $1,040 US dollars and I purchased mine for under $500.
But do not fret, many discount stores are open for business and if you must buy inexpensive novelty items, there are many imports from China, just like we have here. But, there is a certain sensibility about the kiwis and most know how to hold onto their money. This is because salaries are not that high compared to the cost of living such as the prices of housing utilities, and in some cases food (especially organic food).
This post is starting to sound incredibly boring. I am sorry but I am not bored with this topic so let’s keep going. Internet access--While there have been some upgrades to internet speed and also there are now some “unlimited plans” in general, internet can be slow and expensive, especially since the great majority of people have to pay for the amount of data they use and when they run out they run out. Running out of data is very frustrating--You budget for a certain amount and when you go over, it’s like you lost the game and you feel like money is just flowing right out of your pocket into the trash. Of course it’s not trash, you are buying a service but we are so accustomed to our fantastic data plans that we spend a great deal of time on our portable devices chatting, uploading pictures and video, browsing, watching content, creating content etc. We certainly know how to use our unlimited data here. And right now, we are in an unprecedented time for the expansion of unlimited data and the lowering of our cell phone bills!
Well you might start to get the idea that the reason people have more time is they do not shop as much, they have less money to shop, they have more sensibility than to go out literally “looking for stuff to buy” (but everyone likes to shop for deals), and they are not glued to their portable devices because it’s nearly impossible to either afford it, or have a fast enough connection for what you want to do.
With all that being said, the country has been installing free wifi networks in many public places and so it is accessible. However, if you are a power user or simply want to sync your phone to google photos, it’s not really a practical solution (first hand experience)--that’s just not what the free public wifi is intended for. Although again, I hate to generalize because the National Library in Wellington has pretty strong public wifi. People mainly use the internet at work for necessary things and some people rarely turn on their computers when they get home. What? Is this possible? Well I feel certain that many kiwis do use their internet at home but I believe it’s on a more limited basis compared to the number of ours we surf at home.
The comments I have made thus far may be interpreted as problems or “negative factors” about the country. But, on the contrary, I see them as bonuses! Living in New Zealand allowed me to take a step back in time, to a time when people still spoke to each other in person or on the phone(rather than on email or text). A time when the workday was over, free time began. This is not to say that Kiwis do not take their work home. I feel certain that there is a whole cadre of these people. However, I did not meet that many of them.
Even with a more laid back environment, there is pressure on kiwi educators so I do not want to make the NZ experience sound like a walk in the park. -The teachers work very hard trying create solutions for all of their students, looking at them as individuals needing individual plans. There are other lesser known issues that impact education in NZ. But the overall working conditions feel very humane. The students are cared for during the 10:30 tea time (or some look after themselves) while the teachers congregate, chat, and enjoy elaborate snack spreads. The government pays for the tea and hot chocolate for the tea time and it’s a very nice time to catch up with colleagues and do informal collaborations. In one school there were trusted counselors provided and they would float around during tea time to be available to pick up “new cases” although they did not call it that. The counselors would help with anything that was getting in the way of your ability to work. So for instance, if you were helping a sick friend every day and because of that you were exhausted, they would try and get the sick friend some help so you could get a break and be able to focus on your work.
Slight change of subject but still related to school...the most fascinating aspect of the kiwi students is just how self-sufficient they are. They are taught self-management starting at a very young age and each year they learn more and more independent living/social/emotional/coping skills. The students are therefore able to work independently and in groups without a whole lot of fanfare. They are typically challenged through inquiry based learning activities and are able to develop their creative problem solving skills in contrast to many learning environments here in the US where the students are doing seatwork all day and are expected to magically have good group social skills given limited to no practice opportunities in their school careers.
Where are we in this post? I do not think I have hit my stride and this is getting really, really long. I’d like to say that I really miss New Zealand. The people there were so gracious. They opened their hearts and homes to me. They invited me to their schools and shared more than just academics; they shared pieces of their spirits and souls. I was lucky enough to create intimate friendships with people that I had only spent a short amount of time with. The people that passed through my life helped me in many ways and they will always have a special place in my heart.
I am reminded of NZ every day as I wear my NZ charm bracelet given to me by my Victoria University advisor, Brends Chawner, the fish hook necklace I wear every day
(that I got while at a Māori event with Nessa and Mariol), and for vegetarians and animal activists, I apologize but I eat NZ every workday as I get the Silver Fern NZ venison shipped and each 4 ounce medallion is my lunch, I have my bright blue wild kiwi rain jacket that I got on a group trip to the Tongariro Crossing which I wear all the time and the list goes on and on. What’s most special are my walking/hiking shoes. I put many miles on them as I commuted around Wellington on foot, always trying to plan out an efficient route but would always end up with errands on opposite sides of the city. They are now worn out but I got a new pair the other day.
What will do with my new shoes?
Well, as some of you know, I was hearing voices in the shower. It was not like a psychotic episode, (though I have never had one). It was coming from some other place-- I am not sure where but I have been called back to New Zealand for a trip over Spring Break. I have never been called anywhere like this and I find it highly unusual because the idea did not originate from my own thoughts (although there is a theory that all of our thoughts come from elsewhere but that’s another conversation). I never thought I would make a trip of this distance for one week. It takes two days to get there. I will leave on Friday evening and arrive on Sunday morning 2, April and leave the following Sunday 9, April evening. Since you “get home the same day you leave”, at least you don’t lose time on both ends of the trip. So while it may take two days to get to NZ, I don’t have to get on the plane two days early to get home in time to go back to work. So in summary, this was a long post to say that I loved New Zealand and the more time I am away from it, the more I love it. It is not a perfect place--I could write a short post about a few things that are not discussed on general tourist sites and that most people are not aware of, but I still love the place and accept it just the way it is.
Here are some pictures from my photo albums. I am sorry they are not captioned right now.
You provided eating establishments that represent most countries of the world, and weekly international food truck experiences at the night market. I have too many sensitivities to actually eat most of the offerings but just watching the food preparation has been fun!
You have the best hot chocolate at the Amsterdam Cafe, a little coffee stand outpost adjacent to a paraphernalia store of some kind--interesting location! I cannot consume too much milk or sugar but today you recommended a mint hot chocolate and it was very nice. You remembered me from last night when I brought my anonymous friend along to try the famous chocolate sauce. It kept us warm as we went on a very long walk to Mount Cook on cold windy night--thank you.
You have provided me with entertainment such as the “statue man’ in a white outfit who alternates his location from Cuba to Lambton Quay.I have never had any gold coins or cash to give when you when I passed you by. All I had to give you was a smile. However, I have all of my gold coins organized in a plastic bag and in the next couple of days I will come looking for you and give you all that I have in that coveted bag of $1.00 and $2.00 coins as I have been pondering what I would do with them.
You also gave me the relaxing, beautiful chanting of the Hari Krishna group and you have given me their beautiful, delicious $5.00 vegetarian lunches at their cafe located in the Victoria University law school on Bunny Street. I have not made it to your yoga + dinner program http://bhaktilounge.org.nz/programmes/yoga-dinner/ but it looks wonderful and maybe I can squeeze it in. You guys bring a lot of contagious love and peace to Wellington at a time when it is needed most.
You have provided me with “office space” at the George Bar on Willis and Manners. It’s great to know I can just come in, order some hot chocolate and set up my computer all night at a great table in the back next to a wall outlet. I have met some great people in the bar, especially a fascinating guy whose father did a translation of the first adventure novel (17th Century) from German to English --if you want a link to the ebook just let me know. I also made a new friend, a young guy Dominic, who works in the bar and has aspirations to come to the US in the near future. The music at the George is great and on Monday and Tuesday you can get 2 for 1 mains, though they are sort of small--but still.
Above the George Bar is my first residence, the St George Hotel, the same place the Beatles used to stay, only a much shabbier version than what it used to be, though they are currently renovating. St George, you were just ok--Yong and Marron were very good to me but in general your business practices were not so good and you did not embrace my presence, which was sad. You treated some residents better than others and provided some with better situations. You did not show any concern over my issues such as my lack of internet on the 4th floor and instead you joked about wiring the 3rd floor next. Also there is no excuse for providing the very poor cooking facilities with a few broken hotplates when you have hundreds of people in the building trying to prepare food.
Nevertheless, I stayed with you long enough to make lifelong international friends, which was my initial goal. And, despite you being “fine” with me moving out early, I stayed until I was ready to leave and left on my own terms. You have a gem of guy there who is keeping the place running for you and I am not sure you appreciate him but I appreciate him. Sadly, you lost your best employee and I am sure you managed to move on but she made it tolerable for me to live there and she is loved by so many people. Just read the internet reviews over the past many years and you can see the number of people she helped out. I wish you the best and will send you good vibes for self improvement.
Wellington, I am so sorry for the negative digression--You have been kind to me and have taken back my returns at various unnamed stores. I apologize for bringing this seemingly unfavorable un-kiwi trait to your fair city. You guys put up a good fight, but in the end, I prevailed with my persistence. I apologize--it seems that I just could not help myself, but I will work on it when I get home.
You are witness to the revealing outfits and secrets people disclose to one another while waiting for the light to change in order to cross the street. You are kind and non judgemental. You are ok with everybody dressing in their own way and doing their own things and whispering things that would shock the general public. You have also been kind to the many trans people walking around the city. You are loving and held a vigil recently for the Orlando atrocity in a local Wellingtonpark.http://www4.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/81007767/Florida-shootings-New-Zealanders-mourn-with-Orlando
Speaking of politics, you were kind to let us get into the Parliament tour upon our arrival, knowing that right after you ushered us in, you would be shutting the place down due to the TPPA protesters who felt they had not been consulted by this major trade agreement http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/76574941/Protesters-in-Wellington-join-calls-against-TPPA-signing. However, the Wellingtonians are a really talented bunch because on exit, I heard what sounded like a rock concert with amazing covers to listen closer and hear that the lyrics had been customized for the protest. As they say, “good on you!
Wellington, you are home to Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor’s dream, the WETA workshop. They do “creative development, publishing, weapons, props, creatures, makeup, miniatures, public art, merchandise for films such as The Lord of the Rings” and zillions more. They probably do work on more movies than you realize and create a lot of special projects for personal ownership. You can read about their movie projects here http://wetaworkshop.com/projects/gallery No photographs are allowed, but each piece (originals from movies) have elaborate backstories. This group is a major employer in the region having tons of contract employees with highly specialized skills.
Speaking of special skills, you allowed me to meet many amazing educators at the schools I visited, and your #WellyEd #GAFE Wellington professional development events. Wellington is filled with very modest movers and shakers working creatively with and on behalf of their students.I am so inspired after meeting so many forward thinking educators, thank you for hosting me and teaching me!
You host a beautiful, peaceful yet active waterfront, where kids jump off a high metal bar and high school students practice their rowing. You have a lot of restaurants (albeit too expensive for me to eat it) though you are home to Wagamama, a casual “restaurant” chain that has the best view of the waterfront via the huge glass floor to ceiling windows. And, with your juice, small plate, and regular entree selections, there is truly something for everyone.
You have giant table with bench seating that can even accommodate complete strangers (who wind up being Fulbright alums) joining you at a moment’s notice. Your wait staff and manager do everything possible to make sure the customer has things the way they need them. But truly you need to do something with your tacky overpriced dessert menu--especially those tiny apple wonton things for about ten bucks guaranteed to leave someone poor and starving. Still though you get credit for offering to customize your soups, juices, and other foods and you have lots of personality the way you write the order on the placemat. Some of my fondest memories have been made in your place, so thank you!
Oh and what about some of your best kept secrets? Don’t do that! Don’t keep the awesome Home Cafe at the National Library to yourself. And while you are at it, don’t keep the most pleasant, well lit, multi purpose public space at the National Library a secret either. I could spend my life with you. You are comfortable, contemporary, welcoming and you have an adjacent cafe and a 3D printer staffed by a facilitator. You have a great vibe and are only a few blocks away from a magical new world grocery store. I wish I had chosen to live near you. I could have sat on the many public lawns by the nearby government buildings, and done by work every day with you. You are lovely area only a short bus ride to the active CBD (as long as one stays on the flat portion of your area in Thorndon).
And what about the Space place accessible by cable car or bus?! Half price rides on the cable car with your student ID. I loved looking at the stars that night and I am sorry that I messed with the focus of your telescope! Whoops, I did not mean to throw off your presentation when you could not get it back into focus and I am sorry that Nessa and I laughed like 11 year olds--it was just one of those things that made us crack up!
And Wellington Zoo! Bless you for all of the work you have been saving the vulnerable creatures. Thank you for taking care of 1 legged kiwi, the one armed blue penguin and the formerly exploited sun bears. You guys are noble doing great work with education and outreach. Keep up your good work!
Zealandia!Thanks for the personal tour. I have no idea what you said because it was so much specialized knowledge of local birds and other wildlife issues. But have no fear. Emily Stanley can explain it all to me, she is an expert. You are wonderful and I loved learning about the plants, especially the silver fern.
Thank you to the Wellington helpers such as the Apex Car rental guy who is amazing and gave me directions and information for my entire stay,
Thank you to the Wellington city council street ambassadors who were always there to give me directions and help with my packages.
Thank you to the guy who found my phone (the first time I lost it) and made sure I got it back, you rock!
Thank you to Air New Zealand who have amazing customer service both on the phone and in the air. Hopefully one day you will improve your cancellation policy, especially for the poor uni students trying to go home but have sudden changes of plans (and for the rest of us). You are a class act and I made the mistake of flying another airline one time but never made that mistake again. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to donate my airpoints to a school in need for their club travel.
This is the Fulbright New Zealand program staff during our orientation. They did a beautiful job and enabled us to meet amazing people who helped us understand the culture and history of New Zealand!
Wellington! I am sorry that I left some stuff out, but you get the idea right? You are mainly helpful, kind, generous, interesting and caring. Keep up the good work and please give next year’s Fulbrighters nice places to stay, good internet and a break on the rent. #Thxybye
After a wonderful evening at the home of Dave Winter and his lovely wife Jude O'neal, it was time to go the SLAZNA Workshop. I wanted to get a picture of Jude but she was still in her pajamas and did not feel she was camera ready so she took this picture of Dave and me before the drive to Hamilton Boys' Hight School where the conference was being held.
Upon arriving to the conference, I was greeted by Gerri Judkins at the registration table. Gerri is just one of those people that makes everyone feel so cared for and welcome. It was nice to see Gerri again. I was a bit worn out from my whirlwind tour of the schools by the time I got to SLANZA so Gerri may have thought I did not remember her from the last conference but of course I did! The awesome thing is that there were many people that I knew from my last SLANZA conference!!! I love this bunch!!
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty SLANZA workshop is entitled: “The librarian as Mentor”--this is a topic that is talked about infrequently but we know it’s happening all the time. The librarian is uniquely positioned to identify and observe students who may be in need of some sort of support (typically emotional but needs run the gamut). Guidance Counselor Betty Diprose gave some great tips on how to connect with and respond to students in situations that require careful attention.
One tip she gave was to “look for exceptions” if/when a student is giving an account of a problematic situation. This means that when you hear something pleasant or positive weaved into the generally troublesome storyline, you take the time to focus on that element and perhaps probe it a bit further. This may seem like “just a distraction” but in reality, it enables the student to focus on this protective feature/strength and build on a new conversation. From this micro focus on the positive, the student may begin to build a new narrative that focuses on other positive aspects of their life, which then builds coping skills and moves the conversation out of the dark/negative/problematic place and allows for new possibilities. There were other great tips and ideas. A popular favorite was “Talk to Ted”--If someone comes in really upset, they can hold the giant plush “Ted” and confide in him while the librarian or teacher or counselor leaves the room. A great time was had by all in this timely and informative session. As usual, all of the librarians generously shared their experiences and insights!
Dave stayed to take some pictures (at my request as he really needed to get home to get ready for educamp)! From L->R Glenys Bichan, Cambridge HS Library Manager, Cathy Baine, Hamilton East Library Manager, Hamilton East Library staff (sorry I cannot remember your name), me, and Jan Mathews, Melville HS Library Manager
A few other event photos
Today was the first day of the three day of Hamilton Schools, set up my lovely host Linda, a retired librarian and active SLANZA member, hosted me in her Cambridge home. I woke up with bells on my feet as the sun decided to make a showing this morning after the non stop torrential downpours here. This is a view from my bedroom window. I love the green grass, the flowers, the apple tree, the pool...I love it all! I just love this gorgeous house and backyard.
At around 10:30 am during teatime, Glenys Bichan, the librarian at Cambridge HS came to pick me up and bring me to her nearby school. Since Linda my host Linda has a broken hand at the moment and could not drive me, it has been sweet of others to take me around!
I was very eager to spend time with Glenys as I had seen her present at a SLANZA meeting a few months ago and I know how passionate she is about serving her students, Visiting Glenys at her school library has been on my school visit bucket list since my arrival due to her outstanding reputation.
When we arrived, it was support staff tea time. Support staff include office workers which here are called administrators by the way. In other words, you would not walk into a NZ school and ask to see the administrator if you are trying to meet with the principal. Thanks to Jessie Scovill, I learned that one during our DC Fulbright orientation! Here in NZ, the librarian is considered to be in the “support staff” category as opposed to being considered with the teaching group. Along with the office administrators, I met the building IT person and the campus caretaker (who I guess is sort of like a groundskeeper/handyman/all around go to person). There was also a staff pastoral care person at tea. The school contracts with her to come once a week to tend to any staff members that that have outside life issues that they need support on. Even staff members who need support as they are trying to help others in need can use this service! I am told that if you have a problem that is interfering with your ability to do your job (because it is distracting or time consuming etc) it’s good to see the pastoral care person. I did not ask about the qualifications for the people in the position but I am thinking they have probably have actual counseling backgrounds.
I was shocked to hear about pastoral care for staff because sadly, I have had many conversations about how many schools in the US do not care for their staff members who have illnesses, injuries, losses, and other stressful events. I feel that in many schools, the focus remains on ticking boxes and “getting things done” and if there is a staff member who is not present or is struggling in some way, they are simply seen as an annoyance, inconvenience, and barrier to “getting the boxes ticked.” I have told many people in the past that I think the school should be a place that shows care to its staff. I am really happy and very shocked to hear that this model exists here in NZ (at least in this one school).
I would not know where to start with talking about my day; it was a very inspiring day and I got to learn the lengths this librarian goes to in order to serve her students with heart. She has created a warm, inclusive environment where all students feel welcome and at home. Perhaps I can elaborate when I have time to process things a little more.
I had a great chat with “the librarians” and by that, I mean “student librarians” who are called librarians. They are a very wonderful group of students that come from a variety of backgrounds and have a broad range of interests. I could write a book about this group of kids, and actually I think maybe Glenys should do just that! There are 40 “librarians” this year and they constitute an informal family. There is a “Head Librarian” which is a leadership position. She creates programs for the “librarians” such as social events, work incentive programs etc. This type of participatory engagement is fun and refreshing.
Jeanette is the library assistant and does all of the cataloguing. The books come in unprocessed and the first step is to cover the books in plastic, which Jeannette also takes care of. After they are covered, they go onto a shelf where Glenys attaches the bar code labels that she creates after entering the books into the library cataloguing system. Once the books are shelf ready, there is one last step---Glenys creates a blog post about most of new books as a way of communicating with the school and encouraging the students to come check the books out.
The school has a wide variety of books magazines, databases and also DVDs. The DVDs are often used by students for the english level assessments (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3)--each level requires a slightly different type of written analysis. A combination of books and films can be used as the basis of the content for the students’ written responses.The librarian saw the demand for the DVDs and took the opportunity to make purchases of select titles but she also had the chance to buy up a lot of DVDs from a store that was going out of business and they even gave her the awesome shelf!
I informally interviewed students, who said they really like the physical layout of the library while others said that they liked how comfortable the vibe is and they love the social atmosphere. I saw about 25-30 kids deep into online games during tea time (where students get a 30 minute break). In general, a number of BYOD schools in NZ have students coming into the libraries to use the wifi to play games. The librarians are also seeing the usage statistics going down in some cases. There are a few contributing factors for this: 1. The students playing games are changing the vibe in the library and the students looking for a book loving sanctuary are turned off and are coming in and checking out less, 2. The students playing games used to check out books but now they mainly play games, 3. More students may be starting to read books online and/or electronically. Either way, I have been to several school libraries where the students are buried in their devices and they will tell me “the best part of the library is the wifi.” As much as I think students should have freedom, I have a sense that some students are losing their sense of balance.
This is a complicated issue because the librarians cannot “police” the students on portable devices so there is no sense in setting up a “school work only” policy if is not enforceable. And then there is the issue of the student having the right to “relax” with their device during tea time and lunch. This seems like the same issue we discussed years ago regarding “playing games” on computers during lunch in HS libraries at the GLMA meetings and on the listserv. I remember hearing great cases for allowing the kids to decompress and play, and others for keeping the computers for research and academics only. But in that scenario, there were a limited number of computers in library whereas now, everyone walks in with a device and there is frenetic energy going on in the midst of other students reading or studying. It’s all rather informal since it’s break time...students pretty much plop down anywhere and at this time, most libraries do not have a device zone.
Glenys and her team created a PEACE theme this year and I just love this display. It says "Can you fix the world Piece by Peace- Heal the World! Simply fabulous! The velcro puzzle pieces get taken apart and put back together by students so it's very interactive and encourage the students to think about the world.
You never know what’s going to happen when you leave in the morning, or in my case, the afternoon. Today I went to visit the Wellington High School Library... on my way to the library, I ran into THE Tony Cairns, who I met at Educamp Welly back in February! He’s a really outgoing guy that makes people feel instantly welcome as if they are all his closest friends...True to form, within seconds of us reconnecting from three months ago, he invited me to a a regional PD event taking place in a couple of weeks at Wellington HS. Not only that, but I mentioned that I was hoping to go to another #WellyEd event EduIgnite Term 2 Pukera Bay School (June 2nd) which is actually the night before this PD event he invited and he offered to drive me before I could tell him I had been looking for a ride to this fairly far away evening event!!! I was so happy--my problem was solved just like that! Just by leaving my room and coming to WHS, a problem was solved. It's important to remember that when we get out there in the world, we may find solutions to our problems, you just never know. :)
It’s SO fun to meet people that are on the exact same wavelength as you. And, aside from being fun, it is a reminder that even if not everyone “gets you”, there is always someone “out there” that will “get you.” I feel really fortunate because it takes a lot of time and energy to organize meetings, events and transportation so whenever I catch a small break and learn about new opportunities, it really propels me forward, so I could not be more excited about these upcoming events.
I haven't really gotten to the library visit but just reflecting on the meetup with Tony for a minute--it makes me so happy when I see people that I have already met. It makes feel that I have been here long enough to start building a network, and the makes the thought of leaving just that much harder. Coming to a new city in a new country is like giving a kid a brand new “toy” that they have never seen before. They may have seen something similar, but this one is slightly different. The kid will spend time trying to figure out how it works and what it can do, and maybe even what they can make with it.Eventually the kid will begin to get some satisfaction out of learning how to slowly master this toy. But what inevitably happens next is it’s bedtime, the holiday break ends, it’s time to go visit the relatives, or some other interruption at which point the kid whines something to effect of “do I have tooo?
Now, onto the library! It’s fabulous and felt very familiar, like it could have been located anywhere, but in a good way. There are tall windows with sweeping views of the city, since the school is located in a pretty high altitude up a big hill. The first two words that come out of my mouth are welcoming and productive-There are lots of different spaces being used for various purposes in different locations, along with a very large collection of print materials and tons of student art work adorning the walls.
I met with Jane the school librarian who functions in the role of the Teacher-Librarian as we know it in the US, Christine, the assistant librarian who handles crucial behind the scenes operations issues that keep the library running, and Finn the part time library assistant and playwright. I loved finding out that Finn has a highly acclaimed play opening in a few days right here in Wellington! https://www.bats.co.nz/whats-on/my-dads-boy
Wellington High school has a well stocked library via the support of the school which provides an appropriate budget to get the needs of the library met. In addition, the decision makers are open to Jane’s opinion as to enhancements or improvements to the library program, services, equipment, furniture, and so on. It should be noted that not all school librarians are able to have input--in some cases, decisions about the library are made without their consultation.
The library is seen as an integral part of the school and teachers contact Jane to help organize units of inquiry. By including the librarian in the process, these teachers will receive the benefit of learning about the print, digital and other resources she can acquire through various sources to maximize student learning and engagement. In addition, Jane spends a good amount of time trying to teach students about citations, electronic resources, research skills and more. The staff at Wellington High School *know* the value of a good school librarian and therefore, she is able to continually *bring* those value added services.
As a side note oration, It is my opinion that hiring a school librarian is the most cost effective investment a school can make, since this person supports the teaching and learning of every single person in the building. Yet, for some reason, many schools in NZ (and in other places around the world) go without anybody in the library (if there is a library).
Just like in the US, many students are leaving high school and showing up at Universities without an understanding of some very basic rules of research. When I taught the “Research Skills and Applied Technology” course at Georgia Perimeter College (for more than ten years), I too found that the concepts of citing sources, analyzing articles (rather than copying and pasting them) or evaluating websites were novel ideas for students!
This problem (or knowledge gap) happens because each year, many teachers, starting with primary school teachers say “they don’t need to know that right now” or “that’s not in our standards” or “they learn that in x grade.”--So every year, many teachers think the next person is going to be teaching the students these critical skills. My commentary is not meant to *ding* the busy teachers who have to focus on curriculum and assessment in these harsh school climates.
Teachers have a heavy burden of things that “must be done” But, the issue is real and the problem is HUGE. The solution is very simple. Every school needs to have a well trained school librarian. This is the information age but the only thing many students know how to do is google then copy and paste. The only thing that will make students more informed is information. This information can come from their teachers, OR it can come from the school librarian.
As I heard someone once say, knowing how to swipe a device, does not mean someone really knows what to do with it. Since swiping should not be mistaken for real knowledge this digital native term that keeps being handed to children is a bit misleading and gives students way too much credit when it comes to area of research. They may be born having an intuition on how to use a touch screen, but now more than ever, they need strong guidance on how to stay safe safe online, how to be kind online, how to work collaboratively, how to think about what makes a *good* website, and very importantly, how to analyze text for bias and falsehoods! The school librarian when partnered with the content area teacher form a powerful superhero duo that can grant magical research skills to students!!
I have lost track of this post and it’s become so long, that even I do not want to read it...it is way too long. So I will summarize by saying that I met three people who are running a well oiled machine known as the library. There were students everywhere, and they looked happy and comfortable. Some were working independently on computers, others were working at tables, mostly with their own devices as this is a BYOD school. I listened to some of their chit chat and thought it was refreshing for kids to be able to share a few social words. There is tons of student art work in the library. Art selections are made via course instructor recommendations and students are paid $100.00 for their work to be places in the library. Some items are sculptures, some are various drawings and paintings, others are tapestry--It’s highly variable and really gives the space an “at home” feel. Jane uses her projection system every day to show students a database or other resource. Like Dekalb County School District and probably other districts in the US, NZ schools are privileged to now have access to some outstanding databases. But, it’s a real struggle getting the information out to all of the teachers and students.
On a much lighter note, and one that makes me very happy, this vibrant school actively seeks out and gets amazing guests to visit the library for talks and presentations. I am not talking about that once or twice per semester--I am saying that the librarian, and many clubs and groups find speakers so that the students can learn about the world around them and become curious. The guests are often very high profile people (celebrities actually) from their industries. An event calendar is posted and if a student wants to come, they come. Thirty might come or 300 might come!! The concept of bringing people into the library has been one of my special interests for a while now. When some Georgia librarians started doing it, I was fascinated...it was such a new and exciting concept to me and it makes so much sense. While applying for the Fulbright, I found a school near Dunedin that brings workshops to the library during lunchtime (1 lunchtime for the school, and for many schools here in NZ). I contacted them last year and they invited me but never got a chance to visit in person, although I did go take a picture near their sign when I was nearby during a school holiday. Dunedin is very away, but I was there two, maybe three times, all during a school holiday.
I’ve done it again...I have gotten off the topic of the WHS library. Perhaps I found the visit so stimulating and invigorating that it has gotten me thinking about lots of *library things* Thanks for going with me on this winding road of a post.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting library manager Jenny Carroll and librarian Vhairi Miles at Wellington Girls College. (WGC)--These two ladies make a perfect team! When I arrived, the library was flooded with girls who quickly found spaces for themselves wherever and everywhere. Some worked on computers, while others sat at tables chatting and eating, while others sat on bean bags on the floor.
The girls are allowed to eat their lunch in the library and those that I spoke to said they love coming to the library during lunch. It was raining today so I asked them if, on a sunny day they would be eating outside and they said no, they love coming to the library and eating there! They said they like being able to eat their lunch and work at the same time. There was a very casual, yet respectful culture and while there was no whispering, the students have good self management so it did not get very noisy despite the fact that there looked to be around 100 or 200 students in there at one time.
This is a BYOD school and many students carry devices. There are no restrictions as to when they can use these devices. It was refreshing to see that the girls were social (with each other in person), despite their proximity to their devices. In some schools, the students (more often I have noticed it with boys), they choose to place their attention on the device and not on the other nearby students.
This special library has a library cat, Talullah who is very loving and helps the girls study for tests as well as be available for hugs and cuddles on demand (lol) . I can tell that she really has a great home here and is a great fit as the WGC libary cat. Apparently, she voluntarily left her last home when the family got a dog and she adopted the girls at this library to be her new family.
The librarians provide sessions that cover research skills, evaluation, curation, digital citizenship, along with monthly displays/promotions and periodic special programs and projects. This library is often host to professional development sessions for other librarians. In addition, the librarians gather materials and resources for teachers to support them in their teaching of the curriculum.
At the WGC library, relationship building is a priority and everyone is made to feel very welcome. This is an inclusive space that provides a room for the clubs to meet, a quiet space for students who need to focus, a place for the learning support specialist/guidance counselor to meet with students, and where student voice is valued. When the library was rebuilt the Māori students named the library He Kohinga Maramatanga or the Place of Knowledge. The land where the library sits used to be a beach and the local fish gathered there. Now, the space is a gathering place for knowledge instead. The Pacifica culture is represented in beautiful artwork at the stunning library entrance where students from all cultures represented at WGC can read the word "Welcome" in their respective language.
I hope I have covered the highlights from my visit today. The library has a beautiful collection of books, many flexible spaces, beautiful paint colors, fantastic lighting, wonderful student librarians Most, if not all secondary schools have librarians with qualifications and they seem to feel like familiar high school libraries. There is much more variation on the funding for libraries at the primary school level. Walking into any properly funded and well functioning library is always a breath of fresh air.
People who really know the impact of a school librarian, understand the enormous impact this special person can have on the lives of students. Kylie Parry @ParryKylie is one such very special librarian who works tirelessly to reach the hearts of her students at the Seatoun School, (located in a Wellington, NZ suburb).
I first met Kylie on a group visit to the school which was arranged by Fulbright NZ director Colin Kennedy. I felt instantly drawn to Kylie and really wanted to get to know her better. Yesterday I went back to her school to spend the day in the Seatoun library. When I visit a school library in NZ, I never know what nuggets I will take away so I do not ever try to guess what my experience will be that day.
Anyone who has ever worked in a library (or even a school) knows that it can be a very lively, organic place that takes a different shape each day, based on the energy, needs, and desires of its 'customers.' This day was no different...Kylie sat me down to ask me what some of my goals for the visit were. I was doing my best to explain (which is to learn what types of inclusive practices she has to make all students feel welcome) when in walked the administrator who handles the library budget. Oooh "library budget, that's music to my ears but I am digressing. I could see this lovely woman was holding a craft supply list. She had come to double check that the order was correct and in the process, Kyle demonstrated what all of the supplies would be used for. I was fascinated at her ability to find cool craft activities that would appear to 5-13 year olds and do-able for 30 minutes lunch sessions.
Crafts? Well yes, crafts. There are many readers that probably did not raise an eyebrow when I mentioned crafts supplies. But there are other readers that might be a bit surprised such as people who have their own fixed notion about what they think a school library is or should be and it's one that does not include crafts in their minds.
Like many kiwis I think Kylie is a "maker" at heart. People here have a lot of creativity and ingenuity. I think it has its roots in the scarcity of resources from war time, where there was a huge emphasis on conserving all resources, which in turn has evolved into a very practical minded, no waste mentality. In addition there is a strong environmental conservation ideal here which also calls for not using anything you don't need (such as bags in a store, receipts etc). When you couple this mindset with the high price of imported goods (although there is a significant amount of "cheap" import stuff here in Wellington similar to the Dollar Tree), I think the result is people that think creatively and try making their own stuff.
But back to my conversation about Kylie! She is not planning crafts activities with the notion of turning the kids into "makers" by having a maker space in the library. Kylie is planning these fun, creative ventures as a way to encourage the students to visit the library during their lunch period. This awesome librarian wants the all of the kiddos to think of the library as "a fun and safe place." Relationship building is a key component to Kylie's strategy to improve the students' love of reading, especially for those who might not be very keen on checking books out (beyond their weekly class visit checkouts).
Lunch time in NZ schools presents a unique opportunity to the school staff members who want to participate in offering a program to students. While I cannot vouch for all the schools in the country, I can say that all of the primary schools I have seen have one lunch period for approximately one hour each day! This gives the students time to eat their lunch, chat, play, and still have 30 minutes to do a planned activity. Different schools have different ways of planning for lunch programs and it would probably make a great inquiry project. But at Seatoun, the students who chose to come to the library during lunch, come from 1:00-1:30 pm (they eat from 12:30-12:45).
I never intended on writing and endless post and it breaks "all rules" of blogging but I suppose I am in the habit of explaining everything. The people of NZ are very patient and they are very good at explaining things to me and I suppose maybe I am becoming an explainer, or maybe I already was an explainer, I am not sure!
At any rate, the students waited eagerly outside for us to enter the library then Kyle gave a "senior student" the job of holding up an "OPEN" sign and inviting the excited students in! On this day, the students made metal creations using rainbow floral sticks, (that can be turned into just about anything with some creative twisting). My job was to give out the string as the young artists proudly finished their creations and "made them into necklaces and bracelets". As the students came to me, the each looked so proud of what they made and they explained what it was, and how they made it. They were simply filled with glee and pride.
This was a very fast moving half hour and there must have been nearly 100 kids in the library! Kylie's mission is very successful. Her customers are extremely happy and leave the library feeling good about themselves. And tomorrow, if all of the same students want to come again and do the same thing, they are invited! Kylie knows that with practice the students gain confidence and become leaders the next day by helping newcomers to the activity. Sorry about no pictures of kids, I do not have permission to photograph them.
This morning, I had a meeting with Katrina Drew-Young, a Facilitator for the National Library, services to Schools division at the Home Cafe at the National Library. I fell in love with the idea that a National Library has involvement with school libraries from while I was creating my Fulbright application! National Library! Come on, that is very impressive!! They are even listed in my objectives section: "....Identify how the Services to Schools division of the National Library of New Zealand supports and guides school libraries."
I was very fortunate meet Katrina at a library conference on South Island! Even though she works ten minutes away from me, I am so happy that my first introduction was in a more relaxed setting. It makes it so much easier to connect later on in terms of feeling comfortable talking to someone. We talked about making an appointment for the school holiday time, (which is now in its second and last week). She was kind enough to reschedule me, as I got a last minute invite to GAFESummit Wellington on our appointment day yesterday!
As a Fulbrighter, I am able to feel relaxed before a meeting because I get to plan my schedule for the day. This means, that people who are work, are carving time out of their busy day to talk to me, so it's important to remember that they are in work mode and have other things to do as well. I wish it were different...I wish the amazing people I meet had hours and hours, but this is not always practical or possible. In the case of Katrina, I could listen to her speak about library service for hours. She is a former library manager and knows what it is like to work in a school library so she is ideally suited for her role in this agency.
Keeping in mind that schools have libraries staffed with people from a variety of backgrounds (if they are staffed at all), Katrina and other team members see many opportunities to provide schools with information and resources that can help them to positively impact their school community. In her work within the National Library Services to Schools, she and other team members assist schools in various ways depending on the need, plan professional development (in person, and online), participate in partnerships with other agencies that can support school literacy, and more. As an example of a program to support literacy from the National Library Services to Schools, here is an example of a beautiful program called "Reading Together" ( to teach families how to nurture literacy through spending time with their children, encouraging and bonding with them). http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/community-readers/reading-together-programme
National Library Services to Schools reminds me a lot of the awesome Educational Media Dept in my school district--they do many things at once...they provide new ideas and resources to us, they are a sounding board for library staff and principals alike, they provide information to the other district offices about the expected role of the teacher librarian and how an effective TL can help create a positive impact on student achievement, they talk with the Curriculum and Instruction Department about ways the TLs can specifically support the curriculum, and the list goes on and on. Many people do not know all of the different roles the Ed Media department plays behind the scenes.
If you are ever in Wellington, please come to the Home Cafe at the National Library on Molesworth, near the Parliament building (railway bus stop). You will fall in love with this MOST amazing public space that you can sit and relax in while having your treats from the cafe, or you can sit and enjoy the cafe which is adjacent to the library. If you have any 3D print files, bring them with you. There are staff appointed to assist with getting things printed and the price is very reasonable...I think it is $3.00 per print but then might incur an hourly charge for big prints.
Sometimes you just never know what you are going to be doing the next day. Yesterday I turned on Facebook to notice something that looked suspiciously like a GAFESummit in a nearby school. Needless to say I was shocked. How could I, @staffdevjnkie have missed this?! It could be that I am on information overload--Maybe I once knew and forgot!
I checked the bus schedule and realized that the first bus of the morning 7:03 am would get me there on time and drop me off practically across from the beautiful host school, Ambesbury. This school was built in 2012 is a Modern Learning Environment (MLE) school which boasts flexible, collaborative spaces. This is a bright, purpose built school that clearly has students in mind. Everything from the variety, size, shape, and color of the furniture, to the cute, kid height sinks in the open spaces outside the classrooms shout "This place is good for kids" and "We love kids and they love us."
It was amazing to be able to hug one of the top ten sweetest guys on the plant, Ken Shelton, who is here on tour with EdTechTeam, the group that delivers high quality, relevant professional development every time! I was so happy that Ken welcomed me to DAY 2 of the Summit. He did a remarkable job in the opening keynote --After going through some digital nightmares that people have created for themselves, he said "There are no digital footprints, there are digital tattoos." We all gasped as we realized how true this is as he reminded us how many people take screen shots of deleted content. Tattoos..they are there forever and will take severe scrubbing and even then will not be completely gone. This is such a great point, I am kind of sorry I never thought of this before.
It was a great all around day! Everyone was super friendly, the food was plentiful and delicious, and the presenters were amazing! I had a blast in the session by Kimberly Hall @kehall16 -It was like she was reading my mind. She gave all of these situations and I was like "that's me, that's me"- She is very cute and hilarious to watch and listen to. She has just enough humor to keep you laughing but has no trouble sticking to what it is she plans on talking about.
I spent a good deal of time with Greg O'Connor and Barbara Landsberg from TextHelp--Long story short, if you have struggling readers, the stuff he can show you does much more than read the screen so give him a shoutout @texthelp if you want some help finding a way to create some sane solutions!
I met many new people and saw some people I met in other classes or conferences. There is a significant group of "conference goers" just like in the US so it is not uncommon for me to see people I know at different events! It's really a lot of fun when that happens! Another great professional learning day in the books. Thanks for an awesome day #EdTechTeam!
The past two days were informative and inspirational. I listened and learned from Kiwi library staff from public and school libraries. During this time, I got to peek through a small window of what is important to the local library staff. Everyone is in agreement that students (and even adults) need support in digital literacy and digital citizenship.
Sally Pewhairangi @sallyheroes developed a free assessment tool so that library staff can self-evaluate and figure out where their digital competencies are and what needs to be strengthened. For those who wish to grow in this area, a self paced course is offered for a small fee. Just click the hot link above to see whatś offered!
For students, Library Manager Saskia Hill teaches a curriculum that she developed through a trial and error process. She now has a digital citizenship curriculum that she rolls out to specific grade levels. She went into great detail about what the students learn in each lesson, which everyone found extremely helpful. Saskia also mentioned that all of the feeder schools are teaching the students digital citizenship as well, for continuity. Therefore, she knows what her students should know when they come to her High School. Itś nice to hear that students will be coming to high school with some background knowledge.
Other Conference Highlights- PIctures with Captions Due to Limited Time
Today is the March 15, 2016, the day after pi day or 3.14 but there was not a peep about it since the dates in other parts of the world the date is written 14.3. I am on a plane reflecting on what what has been going on inside my head --but before I can even finish this post, my short trip to Christchurch is over--”Please store all laptops and other large electronic devices under your seat.”
After boarding the bus from the airport and dropping my bags off at the YHA Rolleston House, [yay, only $2.25 with a Metro Card] I went back off in search of the bus stop to visit the principal in a school about 30 minutes away. Paula Eskett @librarypaula had recommended I meet him due to his awesomeness! Since I had plenty of time, I treated myself a visit to they city art gallery. It was spectacular--the art spans from various time periods and styles. One room is dedicated to the 2011 earthquake where you can find these paint cans serving as a pillar of strength. I do not have a card reader or cord with me to get the pix off my camera but here is the outside of the building!
After an hour long debacle ( walking around the city in circles) which was related to finding the bus stop due to bus stops being relocated due to the construction, and the actual construction blocking the path to the central bus station (where all buses can be found) I eventually got on the bus which then sat in the station for another 15 minutes but I was glad to at least be sitting on the bus. [long sentence!]
I got off the bus with a woman near the primary school I was visiting and realized she too was going to the school! She brings her child to this school which is not the closest school to her home due to the diversity at this school. She raved about the principal and tried to give me a tour--she was awesome and introduced me to other PTA members. By then, the principal heard the ruckus and knew that I had arrived. In true fashion, I recommend that we all take a selfie together.
As for the principal, there are no words to describe the biggest gift he gave me today. I cannnot begin to explain the scope and depth of the programs that are offered to his students at this school all due to his vision and leadership!
He is a very special man and the students at this diverse school with 40 nations represented are very lucky but they may not know it yet! Too much to write about in this post! This man was fun and warm, and I feel like I have known him all my life. He was eager, energetic, and well spoken in the way he presented the school programs and activities; He was proud to share his vision, accomplishments and school with me. This is the sort of school that other schools should be modeled. I hope to elaborate more on the school programs in a later post or in my final project.
This tremendous #SLANZA workshop was hosted at Melville HS by librarian Jan Mathews
Acknowledgement: I am so grateful for Paula Eskett @libraryPaula of CoreEducation for sending me the notice about today’s SLANZA conference which took place in the Hamilton NZ area at Melville HS. Paula has given me tremendous help in lighting my path to what I believe will be a successful project!
Today was filled with fellowship, joy, and learning as I joined an fun, friendly, and inspiring group of library educators. This special day was moderated by Linda McCullough, Secretary, Waikato/BoP SLANZA.
Whakamana Te Tamaiti - Early Years Last Forever
The first presenter, Wendy Nelson from the Brainwave Trust @brainwavetrust conducted a fascinating, dynamic, interactive presentation about brain development and how it ties into the ability to learn to read. One of the important highlights of her talk addressed the massive number of dendritic connections that are made by the brain of a baby when they are spoken to. With those connections comes a white matter sheath that facilitates information transmission rate from one part of the brain to the other.
As a comparison, she noted that if a baby is not spoken very often and therefore hears very few words they have “a dial up connection” while the child that hears lots of words develops a “broadband” connection. It is easy to see how her explanation makes sense in our practice as we get to know our students and their varying homelife situations/opportunities. Understanding the causes of the struggles of our students is an important first step in being able to provide the right sorts of interventions for them. In addition, due to the plasticity of the brain in the younger years, interventions should be made as early as possible. It was unanimous that Wendy did an outstanding job teach non scientists about brain development as it relates to reading. Her delivery was flawlessly executed, thank you Wendy!
Wendy stayed true to her agenda and I would like to share the other points she discussed, explained, and demonstrated:
1 How early experiences shape brain architecture.
2. How early experiences can help or hinder brain development.
3. The importance of loving relationships and attachment.
4. Understanding stress and why children are particularly vulnerable to stress.
Why reading is so important and how we can help
The next presentation was delivered by Miriam Tuhoy, Librarian at Palmerston North Girl’s HIgh School and Current SLANZA president. Miriam did an engaging and moving presentation on the importance of getting books into the hands of kids. She stressed the importance of offloading tasks that can be done by a student or teacher (such as issuing books) so that the library staff can assist each student with finding the “right book.” It takes time, but it is crucial to have conversations with each student so that you can effectively match them up with the right books. Miriam also reminded us to show our books off in book displays, book lists, newsletter messages, blog posts etc. Often the teachers will not know what books are in the library and how those materials complement the curriculum unless they are informed and/or shown by the library staff. She recommends annotating the book lists so that the teachers can have an idea of how each item can be used since it may not be obvious from the book titles.
My takeaways are:
Selection Criteria-choosing books for maximum effect
There were great two simultaneous breakout sessions-
1. Secondary: Choosing books that are appropriate for NCEA levels:Chaired by Margaret Black, HOD of English, Melville HS- This was an interactive discussion about the criteria needed to target books to the student - age - levels; reading ability; interests etc.
2. Pre-School/Primary/Intermediate: Choosing books that stimulate: Chaired by Helen Le Heron, from Books for Kids, Hamilton East. This was a fun and interactive session where the attendees visited with some very fun and clever books designed to ignite and inspire the imaginations of young people!
Vicki Stephens, Services to Schools, National Library Updates in Transformation
Vicki gave some wonderful updates on the transformation that is taking place at the National Library with regard to digital resources for schools and other services. She also spent a few minutes explaining how to maximize the requests to receive 100% of the allowable number of books.
Closing remarks by Glenys Bichan, Cambridge HS, and Waikato/BoP Slanza Chair
Glenys spoke of the many effective programs that are consistently deployed by SLANZA. She also mentioned the many ways how SLANZA has helped her in practice over the years. She also noted that there are some volunteer openings right now and more urgently, SLANZA is in immediate need of a Treasurer. Please get in contact with anyone from SLANZA if you wish to make a difference by helping this fine organization.
PHOTOS From the Day!
I was so excited about #EduCampWelly that I did not sleep much last night. I was up until 3:30 am! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE EDCAMP and all other PD like DEN (Discovery Educators Network) events!! When I found out about #EduCampWelly on twitter, I could not contain my excitement!
I was set to meet Nessa, my Fulbrighter friend and sister in all things silly at a nearby bus stop at 8am but I got there are 7:50!! The air was breezy and a little cool, but not too cold. I felt alive and refreshed even with very little sleep. I was running on adrenaline with the anticipation of meeting and connecting with other forward thinking likeminded educators---
Below is a picture of me "killing time" with selfies. Behind me is Unity Books an independent book store, and TANK, a good place to get high quality smoothies. And as an aside, Wellington has a lot of independent bookstores) which is very nice to see!
Nessa arrived at 8:00 am and we got on the #3 Bus near New World grocery store on Willis Street and we only had to wait a few minutes for our Snapper Chariot to arrive.
It took us right to the doorstop of our destination, the Karori Normal School in under twenty minutes. You might be chuckling thinking what does the word “Normal” mean? Great question! I will explain that another day!
At the school, each classroom is an individual building, unlike many schools in the US where all rooms are often in one building, especially at the primary school level (with the exception of overcrowded buildings and the use of portable classrooms aka trailers).
The first place we started in was the registration area which featured the “pimp your name badge activity!
I have never seen such a huge name badge decorating spread! There were glue guns plugged in, stickers, and many other materials to personalize the name badges!
There was even a young lady instructing us on how to use some of the materials. Because I have the attention of a fruit fly when I see so many new and shiny things, I asked her to please make me something for my badge--
She made me this butterfly for the back of my badge :) Thank you, Elizabeth I will always treasure this because you made it for specially for me. I love all of the effort you put into my butterfly and you used pretty colors!
When we moved to a meeting space, we were greeted by a very friendly, outgoing, hospitable school principal, Conrad Kelly. He “spoke our language” and hit all the high notes on the importance of educators empowering themselves to take charge of their professional development. Despite his many years in education, he was full of ideas and vitality. I immediately felt energized and knew the day was going to be great given its strong start!
Here is a little background about the first general session—The organizers sent out a google slide “Smackdown” presentation template so that anyone could add a resource to the preso.— Each person who chose to contribute had about one minute to show and explain their website/app/resource during the Smackdown and discuss its utility.
In general terms, for those not familiar with a Smackdown as the term relates to edu conferences--someone gets up and has to talk pretty fast and persuasively about the resource they are presenting in a limited amount of time. If they run over, the buzzer goes off. At the end, in some cases, people vote on what the best presentation was (usually based on how much they like the resource but sometimes based on the actual performance of the presenter). There are many slight variations but it always involves the presentation of resources and usually by different people. I chose to share information on two of my favorite tools, Smore online flyers and the Green Screen app by Doink.
While in the US we typically do the “Smackdown" as a “closing session” at an edcamp or conference, I saw the benefit of doing it early on. By showcasing ideas and resources at the start, people had the opportunity to catch up with one another, to make inquires, or to discuss the area of interest further. This is very logical since 100+ great minds are in one place and available to share what they know in real time throughout the day!
Next, we wrote down topics of interest on sticky notes, which were later sorted by a group of educators by topic strand—Then, teachers volunteered to facilitate those topics—Each session was very well attended and in all cases that I was a part of, each facilitator empowered the group by seeking input and interactivity in their session (versus strict Sit and Get) format that can be typical in a “more traditional” PD setting in a US school. Everyone was involved and everyone’s voice was heard. Here is how the board looked when the topic strands were selected:
The first session I attended was a “Socratic Smackdown”-My understanding of what I saw: In this session, brave volunteers modeled what a student debate would like look using a socratic method of discussion. There are scorers that keep track of the various communication and social skills that are used by the students. They are encouraged to locate and cite evidence for their positions which is standard that we have been focusing on in my state over the past few year in my state (GA). Students also learn to engage in typical discussion patterns such as turn taking as we do as adults- raising hands is not what we do in “real life”—I agree that we need to prepare our students for the world they actually live in and I thoroughly enjoyed this demonstration.
In this picture, Rachel Bolstad (white polka dots) from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research is talking about game based learning. The fellow next to her is the developer of gamefroot.com
In the third session, I learned about the ways educators are using SeeSaw to communicate with families and share student work. I know many people that use this program but I have never actually logged into an account and taken a look at it. We had a great walkthrough of all of the functionality today! I appreciated this very much since most people in the room were already familiar with the application. I left understanding the ins and outs of the program and will definitely put it to use when the opportunity arises. Being a Teacher-Librarian, it seems a bit daunting to try and communicate with 450 families but perhaps I can use it with the families of students in school clubs I sponsor.
During the fourth session, I went over the makerspace room and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I watched Rachel demonstrate the game “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes!” Even though this is not “an educational game” I could see instantly that students could learn a lot from it. Try it for yourself but it is a multiplayer game—your friends have to read you instructions so go grab a friend or two and head over to this site http://www.keeptalkinggame.com/
The beautiful and stimulating day wrapped up with complimentary pizza provided by one of the lovely sponsors and some final networking opportunities. This event went off without a hitch! Thank you #EduCampWelly @Welly_ed and all sponsors including the Karori Normal School.
I am sorry I left out names and twitter handles. There was a lot of new info for me to process and I am trying to complete this post in a reasonable amount of time. Please feel free to flick me a message if you are featured in this post and I will add your name/handle! Thank you to everyone for giving Nessa and Me a big Kiwi Welcome today at #EduCampWelly- We are very grateful to you!
Ka kite anō (see you again) @staffdevjnkie
Some snaps from today-Everyone is so awesome!!!!
Thus far, I am pretty much organized in the day to day life of living in a new city--Living in Wellington is not much different than living in any pedestrian city only it's a lot nicer (just kidding but maybe not). I live in a location that is just couple of minutes from a library, grocery store, waterfront, restaurants, banks etc so these aspects of life are pretty simple.
But... I am not here to merely go shopping, sit by the harbor, or top up my Snapper bus card. I am part of a group of 8 grantees from the USA that have identified inquiry projects we want to conduct in this country. This means we have an area of interest in education that we want to find out more about. We are looking for similarities, differences, new ideas and familiar ideas that we can share along the way. We are self directed in our work, but have the guidance and assistance of our Victoria University advisors and anyone that we are introduced to or people that are already in our PLN.
To that end, tactical serendipity, a term coined by the change-maker @AngelaMaiers can be traced back to my two meetings with NZ library maven Paula Eskett - @librarypaula. Paula was in the role of amazing school librarian when CORE Education scooped her up to do a myriad of awesome things that allow her to spread her awesomeness across this great country in support of schools and library programs. Paula has intimate knowledge of the many wonderful things happening in school and community libraries across the country; she is offering her insights to me in the form of recommendations on potential contacts so that I can quickly identify the programs that match my project goals! I cannot believe I am lucky enough to have Paula share her brain with me!!!
Today I would like you learn a little more about Paula-she has outstanding ideas and works to make real change for people and communities! This is @librarypaula talking about reimagining the library space in schools. In a future post, I will be highlighting how Gemma Stewart @gemstew83 helps effect positive social change by raising awareness about the Māori language and culture.
Today someone suggested I go see Diamond Bay while I am in Christchurch so I walked to the bus station to catch the correct bus to get me to the ferry. I have been on a few buses since arriving and should have gotten a Metro Card because it provides you with discounted fares. The trouble is, it takes a wee bit of investigation to figure out how to buy a Metro Card. Therefore, I have been paying full price for the bus but it still cheaper than the huge amounts the taxis charge here. About the bus discount cards, we use "Snapper" cards in Wellington and those are available in many retail outlets so it's easy to start saving money on buses in Wellington! I can see now that I could have actually gotten a metro card yesterday while visiting the information desk at the bus station, or on my arrival from the airport into this bus station but I never got one and now it is a bit too late since I am leaving soon!
As an addendum to this post about the metro card, I did manage to purchase one on my way out of town in anticipation of my next visit. With this card, the bus fare from the airport into town will be $2.10 instead of $8.00 from the airport bus stop as one example of a good savings. I completed a brief application and they collected ID from me. It only took less than a minute, but for some reason, the person behind the information desk was afraid I might not have enough time to apply for the card with my bus five minutes away from arrival. The application simply asks for your name, address, and phone number along with an email address. It costs $5.00 for some sort of mini metro card but I was charged $10.00 for the larger metro card without being asked which one I would prefer. I just assumed I would be given the less expensive one since the information desk person knew I would be visiting infrequently so that transaction left me with a little bit of question mark in my head.
This station is very elaborately organized (says a person who has not been in a bus station in 30 years). It is set up by platform and door numbers. Once you know what platform you need to go to (A, B, C, or D) you just listen for your door number to be called as the bus pulls in. There is an electronic sign that indicates each route and its estimated time of arrival. The station is very attractive and modern the Route 28 but to Lyttelton is the bus to the ferry. It did a pull in and turnaround up the hill at the gondola but nobody got off so I am not sure what that's about but I guess that's how the route works.
This is the beautiful Diamond Harbour Ferry Boat. It runs on a pretty regular schedule because people use it to commute from Christchurch to Lyttelton (its destination). You can use a metro card (if you have one) for a discounted rate so it appears to be part of the public transport system here.
Once I got on the ferry, I savored the sun and warm breeze and stood outside while many sat down inside. I took a took a bunch of selfies while the boat was was moving steadily in the beautiful water!
My new friend Rachel who you will see later in this post took this picture of me. I was in a great mood because my day started out "not so great" and I really needed to turn it around and this ferry ride did the trick!
When I got off the boat there were some kids in the water and they tried to get their dog to join them. The poor little guy really tried hard but he was too scared.
This was the view of Christchurch as the ferry pulled away. I am not sure what those white tanks are use for though.
Here is the tranquil view of boats on the bay. "Boats on Bay" is one of my favorite scenes.
Here is another one of my favorite types of pictures "Peeking Through Trees"
After I walked up a whole bunch of steps, I cam upon ....
...this fascinating piece. I was so hot I could not think clearly but in hindsight, I should have turned out the panoramic feature so I could see the 360 in the photo. I think there is a child on the side but it's pretty unclear in the picture.
This is the other side. I took this picture fast on my way back to the ferry so it's not so good.
This post is getting a bit too long for me to manage so I will cut to the ending. On the ferry ride back to ChristChurch, my new friend Rachel and I continued to chat and at the end, she offered to drive me back to the Jail Accommodation , where I was staying.
I immediately jumped at the offer and as she bid farewell to a friend she was on an outing with, we proceeded to drive all around town and she brought me to more views and sights! She even brought me to her mother's house so I could use the facilities! While there, her mom recalled the events of the big earthquake and she showed me where she was standing, which is an easy to find place since there is gaping crack in the concrete in that very same spot! She had been standing right there--right where that crack was --before she fell down into bushes.
We went back out on the road after the pit stop at mom's and I saw some more interesting sites like the Sign of the Kiwi. Here is a link to some primary source photos on how this landmark was used in the past!
Next we saw this pop up party place in the spot of what I imagine used to be a structure. How nice that people repurpose the available space! I guess someone decided to bring the furniture for small gatherings?
And then there was the heartbreaking, gut wrenching Chair Memorial (shown below) from the big earthquake that took 185 lives. There is one chair for each person lost. The car carrier and high chair will move you to tears. It is uncertain if the chairs will remain indefinitely as another memorial is being constructed elsewhere.
The names of all those who were lost in the Feb 22, 2011 are posted on a board near the chair memorial. Today is the five year anniversary of the quake (I am editing on Feb 22nd)-Read about the memorial events other touching displays of affection on this five year anniversary date here.
Views from Above!
My feet have been taking me on some life changing learning adventures! I am grateful to those who have invited me into their lives here in this great country, even if but only for moment or an hour! Kia kaha Christchurch!
This morning I arrived at 9:00 at CORE Education in ChristChurch. I was so thrilled to visit this awesome bunch of people in this beautiful, modern building! Also though, I was equally excited to start my Te Reo Puāwai Māori course taught by the amazing facilitator Gemma Stewart!
Below is the introductory slide from our course- "Te Reo Māori" means the Māori lanuage. Puāwai means to blossom or flourish. I think the title might mean something like "Let's flourish learning the Māori language". This course will teach us about this indigenous language and also encourage us to practice good teaching methods so that we can teach the reo (the language) to tamariki (children).
Below, Gemma Stewart is teaching us a Waiata. This one in a non denominational blessing and has a couple of hard words for me but I will be practicing it over the next several weeks! I think a Waiata is a song that has been written by someone from the Māori culture to share an experience or purpose. The practice of singing or chanting a Waiata helps to pass on important and meaningful Māori knowledge and traditions.
We practiced simple conversations in Te Reo Māori (the Māori language). I struggled quite a bit. I know the vowel sounds and some other sounds and when we practiced as a group I thought I was fine. When I was asked to speak I suddenly froze up and could not think. I also had trouble keeping up wit the Waiata
My classmates are all very sweet and patient. They work in a variety of school settings and positions and all of them are working towards more inclusive school practices. A number of the students have been exposed to some reo (language) but a couple of the students were also struggling like me so while I hate to see the struggle, it was nice to not feel alone. I love my classmates and we will continue this course in a synchronous online setting with a final hui (meeting) on April 22nd to celebrate what we have learned!
After class, I was lucky enough to steal some time from the very busy Paula Eskett @librarypaula. Paula is a rock star librarian who now works with CORE Education, supporting schools. She has generously agreed to assist me in identifying contacts for my Fulbright Inquiry project. Paula has already been a tremendous help; I love the way librarians are always willing to share what they know! I know I am going on and on about it but meeting up with Paula today will be a big boost for my project. She understands what I am trying to accomplish and has intimate knowledge of the people, networks, and schools that can provide information, support, and guidance on my journey!
I got very comfortable at CORE and did not really want to leave when it was time to go home because I felt like I was already home. I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!!!!
Now that I have great internet in my office at Victoria University of Wellington, I am going to try and catch up on my blog posts. I am sitting in my chair with my feet up on the wide windowsill with a view of the Parliament building aka the "Beehive."
Earlier today, I have had a great orientation to "health and safety" --That's the orientation one is given when they arrive in a new building for the first time. A review of earthquake procedures and other emergency information such as how to call our "911" --here it is "111" but from inside my office I will need to dial 1 first so it will be "1111.' People are encouraged to call 111 during an incident, even if they believe someone else has called. I am told that there is a log kept of the number of callers from each incident and that it is a good thing to have more people call it in. To call it in, one just needs to dial the number 111 and hang up, or at least this is my understanding of it.
The Fulbright program is sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) (http://eca.state.gov/fulbright/fulbright-programs) to promote mutual understanding between countries. In my opinion, a Fulbrighter serves as "an ambassador" from their respective country. When people from different nations form friendships and working relationships, it helps break down barriers such as generalizations and stereotypes and forms bridges to peace and cooperation for future endeavors. Here is the quote from the mission statement of the ECA: "The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly and peaceful relations. We accomplish this mission through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges that engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries"- See more at: http://eca.state.gov/
I was ECSTATIC to receive my office space along with my name on the door today! I got a key to 'my office' which is located in the School of Information Management at Victoria University of Wellington. FINALLY I will have good internet and maybe, just maybe, I can put together the blog! As you can see, I brought my coveted Leslie Fisher @lesliefisher lanyard to NZ and it holds my school ID card! Sometimes when you read posts, you do not know if they are 'real.' Let me tell you this, Wellington in the summer is amazing weather wise, landscpae wise, and culturally. It is spectacular!! So whoever said I am "living the dream" is correct. I have to pinch myself and cannot believe I am being afforded this amazing opportunity to collaborate with Kiwi educators. My ride has barely begun but I think soon it will feel like a runaway train so I need to brace myself for the connections and adventure. Right now the motor is just starting to rev up! Oh and more great news, I found an edcamp coming up soon in Wellington!!!!
Sue is a teacher and school librarian living in Atlanta, GA, USA. She was in NZ as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher from Feb-June 2016.