Teachers share practice at PLD Expo

Issue: Volume 100, Number 7

Posted: 10 June 2021
Reference #: 1HALgW

Around 400 teachers and school staff took part in a dynamic professional learning and development (PLD) event in Wellington in April, which included a kōrero from psychologist Nigel Latta about managing stress and workload.

Kuda Paradza and Jody Plummer from Onslow College at a teaching dance workshop.

Kuda Paradza and Jody Plummer from Onslow College at a teaching dance workshop.

Te Kāhui Ako o Tarikākā is a cluster that covers schools from Crofton Downs to Churton Park in Wellington’s northern suburbs.

Rāroa Intermediate teacher Abby de Groot-McKenzie is one of the organisers and an across-school leader for the Kāhui Ako. She says while there have been professional groups within their cluster before, one of the main focuses of the Kāhui Ako is having the opportunity to build relationships and share teacher practice across a pathway with a future focus.

“Most of the primary schools in the cluster feed into Rāroa Intermediate and many students then go across the road to Onslow College, so to be able to share our skills and talents across our cluster is going to benefit all the kids,” explains Abby.

The Expo was held at Rāroa Intermediate and Onslow College on a teacher-only day. Abby describes the atmosphere as ‘phenomenal’.

Brayden Ward, a teacher aide at Rāroa Intermediate, enjoyed the activities during the Expo.

Brayden Ward, a teacher aide at Rāroa Intermediate, enjoyed the activities during the Expo.

“There were people, sunshine, and singing – we started with a powhiri. I think people felt valued and that it was done in a way that had that importance placed on it – there was a lot of thought put behind it to really make it a special day for everyone.

“On the day, you saw people making new connections, swapping email addresses and phone numbers. There was lots of smiles and laughter. I’ve heard that people are already contacting other teachers at schools around points of interest,” says Abby.

Sharing passions

Teachers were invited to run workshops on teaching and learning practices they are passionate about.

Workshops included unpacking the new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum, laser cutting basics, engaging students in maths and teaching through a te ao Māori lens.

“Because we didn’t put parameters on experience and didn’t frame what they had to look like, there were definitely a variety of sessions. There were some experts that had been doing things for many years and that was their passion; there were some beginning teachers at the start of their journey and they wanted to share things that worked for them,” says Abby.

Barry Clarke and Jeremy Coenen from West Park School got hands-on during one of the workshops.

Barry Clarke and Jeremy Coenen from West Park School got hands-on during one of the workshops.

People participated with open eyes and fresh minds, and found plenty to reflect on.

“What was really good was the buzz afterwards – it helped a lot of people rethink what they do and why they do it. It was quite a reflective task in that it either affirmed what they were doing – ‘yup I’m on a similar track, this is really good’, or ‘this person showed me a different avenue, I wonder how I could integrate that into my practice, or my teaching’.

“Teachers are time-poor. We’re pretty loaded with things happening in our own schools so it’s such a good opportunity being in a Kāhui Ako to be able to have that allocated time to connect with other teachers and other schools. It’s almost a privilege to have that time set aside to professionally grow in a different way,” she says.

Inclusive environment

Anybody who worked at a school in Te Kāhui Ako o Tarikākā was invited to attend – this included support staff, office staff and teacher aides.

Michelle Tietjens from Johnsonville School.

Michelle Tietjens from Johnsonville School.

“It was a really inclusive environment. I think teacher aides got a real buzz out of connecting with other teacher aides, and being part of professional development where they can be in a classroom and feel they know a bit more of the background behind something, or they can take something away and give it a go.

“It put the lens on them as professionals as well because they work with some of our most gifted and challenging students, so they deserve that time and energy put into them,” says Abby.

Shared achievement objectives

Abby was most inspired by people’s openness and willingness to build relationships and share and reflect on their practice.

“There was positivity and motivation from everyone I spoke to. It really gave me hope moving forward when we get into community of practice groups around being able to hit some targets of the achievement challenges that we’re working on,” she says.

Abby is hopeful the Expo will strengthen relationships across the cluster as a community of practice, working towards four achievement challenges: strong and secure cultural identities and sense of belonging; wellbeing; empowered, confident and capable learners; and equitable outcomes for all.

“It’s really building that hub of support and relationships around those four cluster objectives, which will help strengthen us as children transition through the different schools from new entrants to Year 13 students,” she says.

Jess Maurice from Cashmere Avenue School.

Jess Maurice from Cashmere Avenue School.

Tips and tricks

The day ended with a presentation by Nigel Latta.

“It was mostly about stress after Covid-19 and how it affects us as teachers, and our students and a few tips and tricks around that. It was more of a light-hearted reconfirming of wellbeing to send everybody off with.

“It was a great day – it was great that it was on a teacher-only day, so it wasn’t an add-on. It was a great social catch-up too because people knew people from other schools,” concludes Abby.

Teacher kōrero

Tessa Hope, English teacher and Year 13 dean, Onslow College

Why did you decide to do a presentation on LGBTQ+ inclusivity at Onslow?

I chose to focus on our ‘Wellbeing Achievement Challenge’, one of the overall goals for the Kāhui Ako. I thought about what was important to me in my practice regarding wellbeing. To me, nurturing and elevating the Rainbow student community is one of my top priorities. Even though I am by no means an expert, Onslow College is a proudly inclusive school and I thought I could offer some experience and guidance for other teachers on how to support LGBTQ+ youth.

Was running a workshop a valuable experience for you?

Firstly, I always find it valuable to take a step back from my own practice and take a critical look at how and why I do things. As teachers I think it’s so easy to feel ‘siloed’ in our classrooms, and we so rarely have the opportunity to share our day-to-day practice. I find it empowering to share what I do in my classes with other teachers; it’s like it gives me reassurance that what I’m doing is worth sharing.

Secondly, it was so enlightening to hear perspectives from teachers in primary kura about the different kinds of challenges they face with younger ākonga who may be exploring their own identities. It reminded me that rangatahi have a whole world of experience in totally different environments before they come to us at college, which of course I am aware of, but I hadn’t considered this influence on children’s developing identities in this much depth before.

Kyra Basabas, Rāroa Intermediate

What was your workshop about and why did you decide to run it?

With a blessing from the Deaf community, I ran a workshop on ‘Why you should learn New Zealand Sign Language’. I decided to run this because, especially in teaching placements, I felt useless that I couldn’t connect with the deaf students in my class. During those placements I made an effort to learn NZSL as I wanted to connect with all the students in my class. I figure that, we as educators, just like honouring Te Tiriti, need to also honour the third official language of Aotearoa. 

Was running a workshop a valuable experience for you?

I think it was a very valuable experience running a workshop. These were ideas, feelings and thoughts I always wanted to share with others, I wanted them to know of the humbling personal achievements I have had through learning New Zealand Sign Language and how those specific deaf kids reacted with joy when I made those efforts. I would love to see more people learning basic sign so that these students feel valued.

What was the feedback to your workshop?

I was so humbled when people approached me after my workshop saying they were so excited to learn about the different resources there were online and how easy they were to access. A lot of the participants were excited they could now sign their own name and ask someone for theirs!

Gillian Goldring and Bronwyn O’Halloran, both from Ngaio School shared a laugh during the PLD Expo.

Gillian Goldring and Bronwyn O’Halloran, both from Ngaio School shared a laugh during the PLD Expo.

Charmaine Carlaw, Year 3-4 teacher, Churton Park School 

Which workshops did you attend and what were the key takeaways of the PLD for you?

‘The LAUNCH cycle – a design thinking process for children’. I chose to attend this session because we were planning to start a new Inquiry at the beginning of term 2. The new Inquiry is a strengths-based programme where the children choose which area they consider to be their strength/area of interest. After I attended this session, I decided to introduce the children to the LAUNCH cycle with the view that they will be able to use this framework independently for future inquiries.

 ‘A journey to normalising Te Ao Māori’ – I chose this session because our school is at the beginning of its journey. As the cultural unit holder for our school, I found it really useful. I learnt how and where Rāroa Intermediate staff started their journey, how they are tracking, monitoring their progress, and where they are heading.

What do you think are the benefits of a large PLD event like this for teachers/school staff?

There was a fantastic range of topics covered in the sessions. Teachers were able to choose sessions that were relevant and/or interesting to them and could identify and target their own professional and educational needs.

Professional development offered at schools is often dictated by school-wide goals, limited by budget constraints and doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of the teachers. When we returned to school, we were able to share what we had learnt with our colleagues and have robust conversations on a variety of topics.

Having primary school, intermediate and high school teachers learning together reinforced the fact we are a team working together to grow functioning and successful members of society. We were able to see the whole educational picture.

The PLD Expo was organised by Across School Leads: Abby de Groot-McKenzie, Thomas Johnson, Mitch Neilson, Lisa Bengtsson, Liz Martindale and Tania Horton.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:50 am, 10 June 2021

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