Professional Reading: May / June 2015

My blogging has slowed but my reading hasn’t. This is what I have been reading recently.



Professional reading February 2015

This is what I am currently wading through / have recently read/ re-reading old favourites. Lots of this is to do with the PLD leadership and assessment contract that I’m lucky enough to be facilitating this year or part of my leadership role at HPSS.

Clarity in the classroom by Michael Absolum
Formative assessment in the secondary classroom by Shirley Clarke
Weaving Evidence, inquiry and standards to build better schools ed. By Helen Timperley and Judy Parr
Student-centred leadership by Viviane Robinson
Problem-based methodology by Vivane Robinson
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence synthesis
Lead with Wisdom by Mark Strom
Theory in Practice: improving professional effectivenessh by Chris Argyris and Donald Schön
Assessment for Learning: putting it into practice by Paul Black, Christine Harrison, Clare Lee, Bethan Marshall, Dylan Wiliam

I love seeing the overlap between these texts. Will blog more shortly.

Thinking About Mindset

The post gives great ideas on how to promote a growth mindset. Am going to try to integrate some of these at Hobsonville Point Secondary as soon as the term is back!

Class Teaching

mindset brainIn a previous post, I stated why I think developing a growth mindset with students is so important.  It makes students:

  • Have high expectations of what they can achieve and be inspired by the success of others.
  • Accept that hard work and effort is needed to master new ideas and achieve excellence.
  • Accept that they need to be resilient and so keep going when things get tough.

Whilst it is obviously important to develop this culture with staff, through their teaching and interactions with students, if it’s going to be embedded across a school, we need to get students thinking about mindset.  By getting them to think about mindset, we will encourage them to reflect on themselves as learners and then hopefully change their approach to learning.  There’s no quick fix here, but I think there are opportunities all around us in schools, that can be exploited for this purpose.

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A new man in my life…

Last night I did something that I hadn’t done for age. It reminded me of my youth, my hey-day, back before I had to actually get up for work and function as an adult. I gave in to my guilty pleasure… I stayed up half the night and read a book. Cover to cover. To be honest, I didn’t want it to end.

I was reading Dennis Littky’s Big Picture book – The Big Picture: Education is Everything. I was enthralled. All of the professional reading I have done over the last few years, months and weeks have shaped my thinking about learning, education and teaching. Yet Littky’s recount of his journey to set up The Met School and the other Big Picture schools was the funnel which pulled all of my thinking together. I felt like I was listening to an old friend explain why our goals for Hobsonville Point Secondary are not only valid but should be the goals of all educators worldwide.

I know that this sounds evangelical. I think for me it was. I finished reading around 3.30am and fought the urge to jump on a plane and head to Rhode Island. I normally have such a disciplined approach to academic reading (taking notes, writing questions for myself to consider, linking and cross-referencing ideas etc.) but I did none of that.

LicenseAttributionShare Alike by Kris Krug

License Attribution Share Alike by Kris Krug

I think for me it is the idea of education working for each kid, allowing them to be masters of their own learning and to really find their passions and work on them is the key. For me, as a student, I was totally into academic subjects (Classics is still my fave) but I consider so many others I know – friends who struggled at school and have now found their niche as hairdressers, artists, mechanics, data analysts, IT people who do jobs I don’t really understand, to my son who has extreme successes in the subjects he loves at school and simply goes through the motions for the rest of the day – those of whom would have thrived in an environment such as The Met School.

So this time, I have no notes to share. I don’t even feel inclined to make any.  Buy this book. Read this book. It should be a must for all teachers and those involved in education.

Here is link to Littky and Grabelle’s text on Amazon

This is a link to the school itself –

Leading, Leadership and Learning

Last week at HPSS was great. Hard, but great. I realised that I forgot to blog last week and I cannot be sure if it is tiredness, laziness or that I haven’t really nailed down my thoughts yet. With all of those in mind, I feel the urge to write now, even if it is just a summary of what we did so I can keep track of my ideas over time.

Our focus last week was leadership and learning.


The highlight for me was working with Daniel Birch, the Principal of Hobsonville Point Primary School, where he ran a session about learning. He placed us firmly in the role of the learner to make us thoughtfully consider how it feels to be a learner. Some of the activities were easy for me (such as working in a pair to alternate counting aloud) , some were more difficult (alternating counting, clapping and clicking). Then we moved onto an activity to justify why learners should not be placed in their age group only where we placed ourselves on a continuum in our confidence with Te Reo. While I know some words, I still consider myself a novice in this area. As a staff we spread across the continuum, despite age, which was proof that people do not learn at the same pace. I really liked some of the strategies that Daniel used to explain learning – especially the use of photos to allow people to create their own metaphors. I chose a mosaic (not the one below but I really like the Silchester Mosaic – Classics teacher in me!) to describe the connectedness of learning; each piece by itself does not really create anything or lacks value, but when there are connections made, it is a really powerful collaboration.


Silchester Mosaic


Leadership. Management. Those two terms were discussed, dissected and debated. We were asked to divvy up some descriptors under these two headings. For some, they saw management as a bit of a ‘dirty’ word. It had really negative connotations and while I could agree that poor management justifies such extremes, good management is so powerful. I have experienced ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leaders – those who micro-managed, those who planned big but did not not follow through – but am so grateful for those experiences. I was really aware that I had great leadership at Northcote College, leaders who also managed effectively, and will continue to be grateful for the examples set for me to emulate.

We moved onto our ‘Julia Circles’ to focus on leadership using the Leading from the Middle model to link our values, beliefs, principles and practices. It felt as if we really made headway in solidifying our collective thinking, our vision and our agreed practices. I left for home on Tuesday with a sense of achievement.

Educational Leadership Model


Wednesday was an overview from the three Deputy-Principals (Claire, Lea and Di) on their areas of responsibility in the school as a lead into the LOLs breaking off into our leadership roles.  I loved this. I knew that they were amazing educators, practitioners and leaders but I feel so privileged to be working with such a strong leadership team.  Nuff said.

Claire Amos

Claire Amos

Lea Vellenoweth

Lea Vellenoweth

Di Cavallo

Di Cavallo


LOLs broke up into the teams of LTLs (Learning Team Leaders), SLLs (Specialist Learning Leaders) and LPL (Learning Partnership Leader). Sally, Yasmin (the other LTLs) and I went to work with Lea. I must admit this was the first time we had worked in a small group and it was amazing how quick we were to jump into the practices of the learning communities and learning hubs, without considering the values, beliefs and principles – sheesh, had we learnt nothing!!!


We came together in the morning for some shared PD with the HPPS staff – the secondary staff discussed an object which revealed something new about us. I love these getting to know each other activities but am so aware that Lea is running us like a learning hub – great way to experience hubs in an authentic way.  After a celebration for Tally at morning tea, we were back in our leadership teams. The LTLs what we each think we bring to the table in terms of the role, which Lea kindly documented for us and,after yesterday when things jumped to practices, we were able to articulate both the practices we bring as well as the underpinning principles.  I love learning about people. I love knowing more and more about what makes them tick and this was a great way to allow us to consider where to next.


I was lucky enough to have a meeting in the weekend with other amazing Classical Studies teachers for the annual meeting of the New Zealand Association of Classical Teachers executive council – what a mouthful! My role on the council has a leadership aspect and I felt well equipped to lead in that two day meeting – I was armed with my ‘Julia Circles’ and upon reflection, realised how imperative it is to have a mix of leadership and management.  Mark Obsorne’s words from earlier in the month bounced around in my brain a few times over the weekend, ‘vision without implementation is just hallucination‘ (I actually think that this is Thomas Edison’s quote but as Mark said it, I now attribute it to him). I am so thrilled to be working with such amazing visionaries who are also able to implement the plan and I have high hopes for Classics teaching in New Zealand.

Visitations, urban racing and d.sign

Visiting two schools in a modern learning environment (MLE) was a real eye-opener last week.  We were fortunate enough to spend a morning at Albany Senior High School and an afternoon at Ormiston Senior College. Each school had their own approach to how they were utilising a MLE to work for their students. I really appreciated being able to see a normal school day – especially the tutorial time at Albany Senior.  After working in a bubble, away from senior school students, it was a dose of reality to see both schools at work. The staff took time to answer our questions, which ranged from far-reaching vision statements to mundane, pedantic matters, and the sense of collegiality and networking beyond their school hubs was apparent.

Friday morning was spent with Mark Osborne, HPSS’s critical friend, who challenged us on the work we had done so far. Poor Mark couldn’t get a word in edge ways, the LOLs are quite loud, but he did challenge us to make sure that we were living the vision we all feel so passionately about.  He had a few pearls of wisdom to share, my fave was ‘vision without implementation is hallucination‘. I am determined to do my bit to get the vision working in practice and to be brave enough to say that if we are ever just hallucinating, we need to get real (again).

We spent Monday moseying around the city on an urban team building adventure. The course that Lea (and whanau) laid out for us opened my eyes to parts of my city I overlook. I really love getting to know all of the SLT and LOLs in more detail and in greater depth. We explored the Auckland city sculpture trail and had the mission of taking ‘creative’ photos of our team at each sculpture. There were two clear highlights for me – one was when I managed to wangle our way onto a super yacht by asking (you’ve got to be in it to win it) and the other was Sally expertly calling over some Japanese youths with impeccable – to my ears – Japanese. Our team is full of surprises!

After a delicious Mexican lunch, we were whisked away by Di to a design thinking workshop. Even though my tummy was full and my brain feeling sluggish, I really enjoyed this.  Once we started on our design thinking course at NZ Trade and Enterprise (based on the Stanford model) I was in like Flynn!  I worked with Maurie on finding a more innovative way of solving our very specific ‘gift-giving’ issues. What I enjoyed most, aside from Maurie’s brilliant solution to my problem, was that we are going to embed this approach at Hobsonville Point Secondary. How exciting for all learners, students and teachers, to move beyond the obvious, staid means of problem solving into something which is a more creative process and where the skills can be applied to so many situations.

Today was back to business as usual at HPSS.  We spent time as a team (ukuleles, shared stories and shared pictures from yesterday) and also had time to complete our own work. I was pleased to complete one of my my professional readings – on supporting future focused learning and teaching . I have documented my thoughts in another page on my blog which I am hoping to update frequently. I really enjoyed this reading and came back to it on more than one occasion.  I found the executive summary the most useful but was repeatedly reminded when reading how the ‘future-focused’ part is really just common sense.  I took great stead in the fact that I thought this too. However, upon completion of my notes on the reading I realised that while it is common sense, I can imagine that it would be much easier to implement these recommendations when starting a school from scratch.

Currently I am reading Ken Robinson’s ‘The Element’ which is proving to be too hard to put down. I knew that I was in my element when I woke up this morning, after a fairly terrible sleep, and immediately picked up where I left off.  I feel so inspired to be working somewhere where we will encourage students to find, develop and extend their passions – to work in their element.

My thoughts this week:

  • Having time to read and think is so important – what a luxury!
  • there are so many exciting people / ideas to tap into to help shape what is going to be a brilliant school
  • Mark’s quote rings true – vision without implementation is hallucination