26 March 2009

Pasifika & PolyFest 2009

As you may have read in a previous post - March is Pasifika month.  I had the pleasure of attending both of these events.  It wasn't till I read NiuZila's blog the other day that I felt compelled to write about both experiences.

Pasifika - Saturday 14th March 2009

It rained and it rained and it rained! My little girl did so well walking around that day, we basically planted the kids with Aunty at the Cook Island Village to watch the performances while we stood in the long lines for the yummy food.  I must say this years performances were off the hook.  The Atiu group did an amazing job at combining the younger members of their group into their performances and man can they shake. I read over on Niuzila's post that the theme of Pasifika this year was the 'frigate bird' and that this may have of had an impact on the weather.  I briefly passed the NiuFM stage where the Honourable Phil Goff cheekily stated that "it never rained at Pasifika under a Labour Government" - I unfortuantely was the only one that laughed.  Well it was funny! Overall a great day (except for the rain).

ASB Polyfest 2009 - Saturday 21st March 2009

Wowzers! Talk about busy busy busy, we live around the corner from the Manukau Sports Bowl where the event was held and the traffic and amount of people walking to the Polyfest was outrageous.  We made our way down just in time for lunch and spent most of our time at the Niuean stage.  I commented over on NiuZila's post about my thoughts on the fact that MaiFM were drowning out the actual cultural performances at the Tongan and Maori stage with the HipHip & RnB music.  Now I'm a fan of RnB and consider myself to be fairly up with the play in terms of music (my 9-year-old son makes sure of that).  But when you go to a PolyFest expecting to hear and see Polynesian Cultural performances you kind of want that to be the highlight.  Some may argue that HipHop and RnB are a 'culture' - I agree - but when your at a Polynesian Cultural Festival - turn the hip hop down and listen to the smooth sounds of Te Whanau o Tupuranga or at the very least play NZ Made music.

All in all a great month for Pasifika and although I didn't see nearly as many performances as I would have liked, there's always next year.

Kia manuia and Blessings

16 March 2009

Belonging - Go the Warriors!

The NZ Warriors played their first game of the season last night against the Paramatta Eels. I won't even try and interpret the game play by play, although I will note that we WON!! My partner and I got season tickets for Christmas and we are very excited about where we are sitting, pretty good seats if I do say so myself:

Check out the view here:

The game started with a minute of silence to honour the life of Sonny Fai who was tragically taken from us while saving his brother, the Warriors wear his name above their heart on their new jerseys and he is listed as player 138 for NRL Season 2009.

What provoked me to write about this topic was not the game or the inspiring tribute to Sonny Fai but the atmosphere the Warriors game creates (excluding the drunkens at the end of the night).  While parking up around the corner we saw types of people in all walks of life making their way to the first game of the season - guys in Warriors everything (even socks), guys in stockings and dresses, young woman, mature woman, children, teenages, people of different ethnicitites...we talked about the impact such an event has for bringing people together and how exciting it was to be a part of it.  We carefully made our way to our newly bought seats checking out the people around us - 6 rows and a bay across from my dad and 3 rows in front of our friends - we watched as people hugged and hi-5'd as they reunited with their Warrior Member colleagues.

After a while, and agreeing that the seats we had were very good, our neighbours nestled into their Warriors season home - a couple with two children.  The father looked around and noted that all the people that should be there were in the right place, (oh yes they're still here, and yep them too) then he turned to us and said - Did you guys buy these seats?  Um, yes we did, apparently we got them because the people before us didn't renew, he explained that it was strange for people not to have renewed these seats  because these were really good seats and he knew because had been coming for 4 years. Pretty happy with our purchase we smiled and continued watching the pre-game entertainment (J.Williams)

As I sat there and soaked in the lights, noises, people, smells, body language and environment, I made my connection to Belonging - these regular season membership holders belonged here, and for a minute or two we didn't, One day we will feel as though we belong, we will learn the names and language of those that sit next to us and feel a sense of comradery (when the Warriors win or lose).  We'll learn that there is a guy who always dresses up, a loyal Cowboys supporter, we will accept the language (cursing and all), and adapt to the ways people talk to the players as if they were close friends.

I made a few connections last night, but the biggest one was that 'belonging' to something is important, it lifts your self-esteen, it makes you feel great and it gives you a sense of connectedness which I believe is vital to living in the 21st Century. I have tried to create this for my son (other than the fact that he has a huge family) I created, manage and coach a basketball team for my son and his friends - he belongs there, I drive to a school where the teachers take the time to know all of the children, the roll is fairly small and there are many families who know me and my son - he belongs there, he goes to karate with his siblings and enjoys the classes - he belongs there, he has a large extended family - he belongs there.  He identifies with being Maori, Cook Island and Tongan - he belongs there, he has been raised to appreciate the richness and diversity of South Auckland - he belongs there. So, in amongst the excitement of the first Warriors game I asked myself, what might it feel like if you didn't belong - to anything, to anyone, to any group. How might that impact on learning and life?

14 March 2009

This is why I became an early childhood teacher, in a nut shell - I got to play all day and got paid to do it.  Every day was different and each I had the honour of getting to know each and every child, their personalities, their interests, their families.

Inspirational Movie Q

13 March 2009

Life Balance - Family is more important than work.

This video came second in the AARP U@50 Challenge .The contest, launched in August 2007 on YouTube, and gave people between the ages of 18 and 30 the chance to submit short videos on the subject of what they expect their lives to be like at age 50. The video itself is quite innovative and clever. And a timely reminder as we lead our busy lives that 'family is more important than work'.

I'm off to shoot hoops with my kids! :)

11 March 2009

Change our ways...

Thanks to Garr for bringing this to my attention.

'...I am here to speak for all generations to come...' Severn Cullis-Suzuki's moving speech at only 9-years of age is still just as powerful 16-years later.  But how much has changed since then? and what are we in early childhood doing to create a better future for our children?

Lucknow Kindergarten are leading the way in teaching our young tamariki about sustainability in a meaningful way, some of things they are doing include -

• the children recycle old paper to make new paper in the big barrels located outside
• storage containers are made of flax – the kindergarten now grows enough flax to make their own baskets when they need replacing
• a large inside area is dedicated to collections of natural materials that children can explore
• ongoing development of the outdoor environment includes many native plants providing homes for birds and insects
• produce (eggs, fruit and vegetables) is collected and used in baking and food preparation.

For those with access to the ECE ICT PL Site you can see more here

What are you doing in your context to encourage our children to be thoughtful citizens of the future?

Shape Collage

Oooh found this neat little app over at Educational Oragami.  The Shape Collage is a very easy tool that creates mosaic shapes out of your own images, the shapes can be customized, or you can use rectangles, circles, hearts and letters. It takes less than a couple of minutes to download and get started. I'm looking forward to using this application to spice up some flyers/newsletters and reports.

Here are a few images from my Photo-A-Day Blog.

06 March 2009

Sudoku Troubles

I often get teased by a few family members for having a Masters Degree and still having no clue about so many things in this world - the most recent experiences include a visit to the Paint Shop with my Dad - did you know there are exterior type paints and interior type paints...seriously...I did not know that - Dad's well-earned outburst - "I thought you had a Masters".  And on the way out of the shop the door is clearly labelled PULL, so what do I do - push, push, PUSH...Dad responds..."I thought you had a Masters".  Now its all light hearted fun but I pride myself on being curious - a problem solver and enjoying a challenge.  And obtaining a Masters does not excuse you from continually having to be curious and learn - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

So when my son bought his homework home and presented us with his 9x9 Sudoku puzzle I was keen to help him unpack the mysteries of Sudoku, for him and for me.  Of course our first step was to 'Google' sites, we found instructions here, here and here.

It was obvious that a 9x9 was not going to work for a beginning sudoku player.  And I certainly had no clue what I was doing...so to the 4x4 sudoku puzzles it was till we were confident enough to take on the 6x6.  Big ups to his teacher for encouraging parents to be involved...anyway so over the past 3 nights we have stayed at the 6x6 puzzles unabble to decipher the 9x9.  His homework is due tomorrow, and we have encouraged my son to paste his 6x6 puzzles into his homework book to show that he (and I) have made an effort.  Below is the puzzle my 9-year-old got.  If you have any great tips to help us decipher the mysteries of 9x9 Sudoku puzzles, please feel free to leave a comment. Note: A Masters Degree does not mean you will be good at Sudoku.

03 March 2009

Celebrate Pasifika

March is Pasifika Month, in Auckland we take the opportunity to celebrate this with fabulous flair, armed with an array of powerful performances across a number of genres - dance, music, art etc. Perhaps the most common events are the ASB Polyfest, Pasifika - previously blogged about here. And in recent years an uproar of awesome plays from - Laughing Samoans, Diana Fuemana, Kila Kokonut Krew.

To find out what else is on in Auckland check out the Celebrate Pasifika site for more information, or download this brochure.  Stay Fresh!

The Art of Facilitation...



Its been over 10 months since I attended the Art of Facilitation course with Joan Dalton & David Anderson. The high-quality professional learning opportunity has made a significant impact on my facilitation and teaching craft over the past several months.  I would dearly love to attend another one. So for those of you haven't I urge  you to email Mel Stopford to register for upcoming 2009 workshops.

So what changed?

  • Intentions - Joan and David talk lots about 'purpose',   Before organising anything with teachers I think about the purpose...J & D used the analogy of a parrot sitting on your shoulder asking "What's your purpose?" (I have the same little sticky they gave us at the course stuck to my whiteboard right next to my desk). Always asking myself "what's my purpose?" has really challenged me in some situations.  Yes it would be cool to run a movie making workshop - but what's the purpose?  Answer: To extend on their digital storytelling concept even further etc...I am continually having a conversation with myself when designing workshops and centre visits so that I am consciously checking the rationale and articulating my thoughts, consequently this then leads to me being able to justify why I do what I do.  So with my intentions or purpose in check designing workshops to cater for teachers has been very worthwhile and rewarding.

  • My actions match my beliefs - Confession time! When I first started this position as facilitator I was mostly absorbed by the 'seductive ICT'.  Yep. It was all about the bling baby.  J & D challenged us to Credit to: csessumthink about our role as facilitators, what I realised over the week with them was that what I was actually doing was soothing my own ego.  I liked having the answers and seducing teachers with the ICT.  In reality this is perfect for shallow lifeless learning - not suitable for vibrant, deep, life-long learning.  I was stuck in a "Guru Loop" (a term I learned from Julia Atkin), and I was the Guru not letting go of the loop".  I believe that teachers should be life-long learners - my actions did not say that.  So as a result, overnight I magically changed - NOT! I have continually worked hard over the past several months to stop being the answer machine, to work with teachers from where they are at, challenge, provoke, inspire and encourage them to take risks and learn through mistakes.

  • Listening - The first thing that pops into my head is Beyonce's song - Listen. No seriously, Listen...so simple yet so complex.  I'm not going to pretend that I was totally ignorant before this workshop but I certainly learned how to fine tune the little skill I had in listening - the activities based around paraphrasing, active listening and probing and clarifying were exactly what I needed to really get my head around the importance of truly listening to people.  This led me on to further research into Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott (suggested reading by J & D). Great little journey with lots of though provoking and oh-my-goodness-I-so-do that moments, my journey will never be over and I'm learning so much on the way.

  • 1%'ers - a huge mix of little 1%'ers that will complement purposeful workshops! My fav's are stickies, lightning round, quotes and remembering to greet people at the door (to some this may be common practice and many of these I have used previously but it its affirming to know that every little action counts - especially when you have a purpose...), personal information disclaimer - not that I ask for this much but it really does set the tone in the environment as safe. Ones that I am working on getting right are: sway the disequilibrium - change the environment or seating position after lunch to kind of kick start the afternoon, the power of pause (seriously I am trying) and 1 was easy 5 was hard -want to try that hand game but haven't yet had the opportunity.

  • Feedback - this one was instantly a hit on my return to work, I came back from this course to some work that required me to respond with my 'professional facilitator hat on', and instead of responding directly to the key points (as i might normally do) I took note of the Feedback notes that J&D had talked us through during the week.  There are 3 types of providing feedback I used the second one for the written feedback I was providing but may use the first one when I am trying to encourage someone along.- Positive feedback: to appreciate and empower
    - Constructive feedback: to help improve skills/practices
    - Feedback to evaluate performance against standards, agreements or criteria

Overall, an amazing experience - one which I would highly reccommend to absolutely anybody who wants to take the lead in ensuring they contribute to an efficient, proactive and thoughtful environment - even though it is called Art of Facilitation it is totally relevant to teachers in early childhood and I have suggested several of our ECE ICT PL teachers attend as a way of extending them further.  I hear some have enrolled or are on the waiting list.

And the best part for last - the website resource PLOT is a priceless tool that I use just about every day to support my planning of workshops, centre visits, meetings, conversations.  Loads of well thought out plans, musings, suggested books and reading, links, theories all on one site. My absolute fav strategies to date 3,2,1; Final Word Strategy and the Placemat Process.

Thanks again Joan and David (J&D).  Truly life-changing and inspiring.

If you want to find out more about  things I have mentioned here be sure to enrol ASAP.

Choosing your passion..

I have been struggling for the past few years with finding a particular passion in my teaching career. Not because I don't have 'any passion' but because I have a passion for lots of things.  This has impacted on my studies so much that when it came to writing a thesis for my Masters of Education (Early Years) I struggled to pick 'a topic'.  So I played it safe and completed 7 papers and a research report.

Now as I ponder enrolling in an Educational Doctorate I am struggling to make a decision on a particular topic to explore further.  Here are my thoughts so far:

- Something to do with engaging families in the suburb of Otara, researched over a number of contexts i.e. early childhood, primary and secondary.

- The impact blogging has on children's ability to engage in global dialogue (from Otara of course) and what difference does this have on their learning.

- Digital Storytelling that brings communities together...

- The impact of ICT on infant and toddler interactions...(needs to be unpacked further).

Off the top of my head my passions in the context of my work life are: Otara, South Auckland, early childhood education, Pasifika/Māori education, arts, drama, music; ICT, engaging families, community sustainability and raising expectations for all children and families.

Below are the points identified by Randy Komisar that resonated with me.

What are my values what do I care about?

What are my opportunities facing that direction?  How do they sync up with my passion?

My career makes no sense in the windshield, it only makes sense in the rear view.

Hmmm...lots of thinking to do...it was interesting to hear that he suggests that our perpectives of the situation impact on our decisions.  When I choose one particular passion it does not mean that I have lost the other 7 rather I have opened at least another ten.  Great now Imm off to look at my horizons.

For further Academic Earth videos visit: http://academicearth.org