Monday, March 18, 2019

Christchurch Terror Attack

I have felt so paralysed by the events of Friday 15thin Christchurch and am still lost and unable to find an adequate response. It is just too difficult to comprehend and I never imagined such violent-fueled bigotry would invade our peaceful country.

It has been a weekend of: Horror
Hurt
Trauma
Pain
Shock
Sorrow
Devastation
Grief
Tears 
Loss of innocence

I felt my body closing down inside the intensity of all that was happening. Tears flowed without warning for families and friends of our Muslim community and our country. All our lives have changed forever. 
The people murdered and hurt were by-and-large migrants and refugees who had chosen NZ as their home, a safe haven away from the horrors of wars and torture that afflict far-away places. It is heart-breaking, because we are a peace loving country and as Jacinda Adern said: This is not us!
How could such hatred be in our midst and no one be aware? How did this happen? For Christchurch, a city still in recovery from the 2011 earthquake, this new assault is not due to nature but to a heinous hate crime. It will take a very long time to recover from this. 
It has certainly been a wakeup call for everyone in Aotearoa, NZ as to just how important it is, in a civilised society, to call out any form of racism. And we must also question the right of anyone to publicly state their bigoted views. Words do matter, especially in today’s media-dominated world. Just as we do not allow physical harm, neither should we allow verbal harm. 

The messages we send in our day-to-day conversations, as well as those we listen to, must at all times be checked to ensure they protectour world and all those who live in it. People have been talking about the pernicious effect of the internet in supporting these horrific events and what part these huge internet platforms are playing in encouraging this form of extremism. 


Gun control is again an issue here, and our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said simply “I can tell you right now, our gun laws will change”. 
We must not forget that at the heart of this is a group of people who will be haunted by this experience for a very long time. Last night, in my hometown of Hamilton we joined thousands of people who came out in support of the Muslim community to show solidarity at an evening vigil. Amongthe many Muslim spokespeople was our local leader Waikato Muslim Association's Dr Asad Moshin who graciously thanked people for the support: "We still don't know how this happened, but we won't let this change New Zealand. A lot of good has come out of this. People didn't know where the mosque was, where the Muslim community was. But we will keep this going. We are so overwhelmed, as a Muslim community, with the support. We are thinking how can we pay back this outpouring of support. Keep us in your prayers.” 
New Zealanders have been meeting all over the nation in their thousands to stand with Muslims in their grief and to show solidarity. They have been gathering outside mosques and in community spaces. Flowers and significant messages have been written in cards, fundraising has skyrocketed, people are talking to each other. As our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and that the victims had chosen to make New Zealand their home. “They are us,” she said. There is a very strong message to all in her words. ‘We are one people”. 
She also said that the person who perpetuated this violence against us is not us. Why not? We must ask ourselves: what happened to this person to generate such bigotry and hate? He stated that as a boy he was not interested in school education, that education had nothing in it for him. Was this the seed that, for him, set him down a path of pure evil? Can we see here the vital importance of engaging children in strength based education from an early age?

I thought it was ironic that we had just posted, last week, on YouTube (third in the series on Learning Stories) a video entitled 'PART 3: A child’s culture cannot enter a classroom before it first enters a teacher’s conscience’. Each of us in our own way through our daily lives can make a difference. Every day as we interact with people, those we agree with and those we do not, we can make sure that hateful racist comments are always challenged and never tolerated. Teachers can write Learning Stories that will make visible what we value in our communities. They are such powerful opportunities to demonstrate our care, compassion and empathy. A Learning Story is alsoa formidable platform to promote the best in everyone. 


Nga mihi nui,
Arohanui,

Wendy

Thank you to Stuff.co.nz for the use of photographs in this blog,  please find all photos at this site. 

In pictures: Christchurch shooting | Stuff.co.nz

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/111343030/in-pictures-christchurch-shooting




Friday, September 21, 2018

Words from Germany


This is a post sent from Germany where five members of the ELP team are working with teachers in 9 German cities and one city in Switzerland. This is a press release from the University of Koblenz, which has been translated via Google translates into English. We are experiencing a tremendous amount of interest in Learning Stories. Many of the teachers have been on this journey with us over several years. We are meeting new teachers and also connecting with many we have worked with in earlier times.



Neuseeländische Erziehungswissenschaftlerin Wendy Lee begeisterte mit ihrem Vortrag über Lerngeschichten




Mit einem enthusiastischen und inspirierenden Vortrag über die „Philosophie der Learning Stories“ zog Wendy Lee, Direktorin des neuseeländischen „Educational Leadership Project“, die Zuhörerinnen und Zuhörer an der Hochschule Koblenz in ihren Bann. Rund 300 Personen waren der Einladung des Fachbereichs Sozialwissenschaften und des Instituts für Bildung, Erziehung und Betreuung in der Kindheit|Rheinlad-Pfalz (IBEB) gefolgt, um an diesem Abend von Neuseeland lernen zu können.

Der Präsident der Hochschule, Prof. Dr. Kristian Bosselmann-Cyran, begrüßte die international renommierte Referentin, die gemeinsam mit vier weiteren Mitarbeiterinnen des „Educational Leadership Project“ angereist war, um am Folgetag gemeinsam mit Studierenden der Hochschule in fünf Workshops arbeiten zu können. „Lerngeschichten sind ein ganz zentrales Element der Qualitätsentwicklung und Evaluation“, betonte Prof. Dr. Armin Schneider, Direktor des IBEB und Prodekan des Fachbereichs Sozialwissenschaften, in seinem Grußwort, „es ist wichtig, dass wir wesentliche Merkmale der Lerngeschichten wie Haltung, Diskurs, Familien- und Sozialraumorientierung in eigenen Ansätzen der Qualitätsentwicklung aufgreifen und weiter denken.“

Wie bedeutsam eine respektvolle, ressourcenorientierte und auf Austausch fokussierte Haltung für den Erfolg von Lerngeschichten ist, stellte Wendy Lee in ihrem Vortrag eindrücklich dar. Zahlreiche Foto- und Videoaufnahmen zeigten anschaulich, wie sehr Kinder und ihre Familien davon profitieren, wenn häufig und vor allem auf wertschätzende Art und Weise Geschichten über besondere Momente und wichtige Lernerlebnisse von Kindern aufgeschrieben werden. Für Kinder und Eltern ist es ein besonderer Gewinn, diese Geschichten immer wieder anschauen und lesen zu können. Durch die Dokumentation von Lerngeschichten erfahren Kinder und Eltern eine hohe Wertschätzung und sie können gemeinsam mit den Fachkräften über das Lernen von Kindern sprechen. Dass es hierfür hilfreich sein kann, die Familien der Kinder auch zuhause zu besuchen, wurde von Wendy Lee besonders betont. Notwendig sei es, die kulturelle Vielfalt von Familien zu berücksichtigen und die Teilhabe von Familien zu gewährleisten. Hierfür braucht es in den Augen der neuseeländischen Referentin nicht nur die Öffnung der Kindertageseinrichtungen, sondern durchaus auch neue Wege der Kommunikation mit Familien. Manchmal könne es hilfreich sein, bedeutsame Lernerlebnisse der Kinder telefonisch oder sogar per Email zu übermitteln. „Das Schreiben von Lerngeschichten ist eine besondere Verantwortung, um Kinder und deren Familien mit offenem Herzen und Verstand zu begleiten, um neugierig und engagiert als Gemeinschaft von Lernenden zu wachsen und schließlich auch, um die eigene Professionalität beständig weiter entwickeln zu können“, so Wendy Lee.




Dass es in deutschen Kindertageseinrichtungen jedoch gar nicht so leicht ist, regelmäßig Lerngeschichten von Kindern zu dokumentieren, die auch die Lernschritte eines Kindes transparent machen, zeigte die rege Diskussion am Ende des Vortrags. Pädagogische Fachkräfte kämpfen hierzulande mit unzureichenden strukturellen Rahmenbedingungen, die es fast unmöglich machen, mehr als eine Lerngeschichte im Jahr zu verfassen. „Hier muss einfach investiert werden“, so Prof. Dr. Schneider. Dem stimmte Prof. Dr. Regina Remsperger-Kehm zu, die selbst Mitarbeiterin im Projekt „Bildungs- und Lerngeschichten“ des Deutschen Jugendinstituts war und die als Professorin des Fachbereichs Sozialwissenschaften die Vortragsveranstaltung geplant und konzipiert hat: „Wenn wir es ermöglichen wollen, dass Kinder ihren Interessen vertieft nachgehen können und wenn wir für Kinder eine Lernumgebung schaffen wollen, in der sich Kinder wohlfühlen und sich voll Vertrauen auf das einlassen können, was sie interessiert, dann müssen wir auch für pädagogische Fachkräfte Rahmenbedingungen schaffen, in denen sie die Lernprozesse von Kindern achtsam begleiten können“. Im Gespräch zu bleiben und den Dialog mit Fachkräften, Eltern, Kindern und Verantwortlichen aus Politik und Wissenschaft fortführen, um von Neuseeland lernen zu können, lautet der deutliche Appell der Wissenschaftlerin.



New Zealand educationalist Wendy Lee enthused with her talk about learning stories

09/18/2018


RheinMoselCampus Koblenz TOP University of Social Sciences

Wendy Lee, director of the New Zealand Educational Leadership Project, cast a spell over the audience at Koblenz University of Applied Sciences with an enthusiastic and inspiring presentation on the "Philosophy of Learning Stories". Around 300 people accepted the invitation from the Department of Social Sciences and the Institute for Education, Childhood Care and Support | Rheinlad-Pfalz (IBEB) to learn about New Zealand that evening.

The President of the University, Prof. dr. Kristian Bosselmann-Cyran, welcomed the internationally renowned speaker, who had traveled with four other employees of the "Educational Leadership Project", in order to work together with students of the university in five workshops the following day. "Learning stories are a very central element of quality development and evaluation," emphasized Prof. Dr. med. Armin Schneider, Director of the IBEB and Vice Dean of the Department of Social Sciences, in his welcome address, "it is important that we take up and continue to think essential characteristics of the learning stories such as attitude, discourse, family and social space orientation in our own approaches to quality development."

How significant a respectful, resource-oriented and exchange-focused attitude is for the success of learning stories was impressively demonstrated by Wendy Lee in her presentation. Numerous photo and video recordings clearly showed how much children and their families benefit from it, if and often Appreciative way stories are written down about special moments and important child learning experiences. For children and parents it is a special benefit to be able to watch and read these stories over and over again. By documenting learning stories, children and parents are highly valued and they can talk to the professionals about learning to be a child. That it can be helpful to visit the families of the children at home was emphasized by Wendy Lee. It is necessary to consider the cultural diversity of families and to ensure the participation of families. In the eyes of the New Zealand representative, this not only requires the opening up of day-care centers, but also new ways of communicating with families. Sometimes it can be helpful to convey meaningful children's learning experiences by phone or even email. "Writing learning stories is a special responsibility to accompany children and their families with open hearts and minds, to grow inquisitively and committedly as a community of learners, and ultimately to continue to develop their own professionalism," said Wendy Lee.



However, the fact that it is not so easy in German daycare facilities to regularly document learning stories of children, which also make the learning steps of a child transparent, was shown by the lively discussion at the end of the lecture. Educational specialists are struggling in this country with insufficient structural conditions that make it almost impossible to write more than one learning story a year. "It simply has to be invested here", says Prof. Dr. med. Cutter. Prof. Dr. Regina Remsperger-Kehm, who was herself a member of the project "Bildungs- und Lerngeschichten" of the German Youth Institute and who, as a professor of the Department of Social Sciences, planned and planned the lecture: "If we want to enable children to pursue their interests in depth and if we want to create a learning environment for children in which children can feel at home and confidently embrace what they are interested in, then we also have to create framework conditions for educational professionals in which they can mindfully accompany children's learning processes ". To stay in the conversation and continue the dialogue with professionals, parents, children and political and scientific leaders to learn from New Zealand, is the clear appeal of the scientist.




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The role of intuition in learning and teaching



Guy Claxton has always been one of my go to learning hero’s, and teachers who know me well will tell you that “the ability to hang out in the fog, and to tolerate confusion” is one of my favourite quotes.  Recently I have been reflecting on something I read, implying that intuition will only take a leader so far, that it is knowledge and skills that will determine success.  One of the successful attributes of a great leader in my eyes, is their ability to develop, and nurture community.  In such a community everybody is valued as leaderful and are aware of the strengths that they contribute to make a community thrive.  While knowledge and skills are important, Claxton believes that “you either..enable people to harness and develop their intuition, or..neglect it, and so allow it to waste away” (p. 50), What does achieving this balance mean in practice?

Claxton, in his book “The intuitive practitioner” discusses the intuitive “ways of knowing” as expertise, implicit learning, judgement, sensitivity, creativity/problem solving and rumination. (pg. 40).
Let’s look at these “ways of knowing” and what they mean for leaders:
Expertise– the ability to truly be present and responsive to people in the moment, with your mind open to the possibilities; without having to think about ticking off boxes.  Weaving local curriculum, unpacking key documents to make sense of them through the lens of your unique community, your interpretation based on your ways of being. Expertise is about people not accountability to knowledge and skills.
Implicit Learning– always being open to learning, alongside the children, the teachers, your immediate and wider community in ways that you would never image;
Judgement – during the ELP lecture series titled Who said Good is Good  my reflective colleague Lynn Rupe discussed who says good is good? What is right in this moment, for this child, for this family?  Do you make decisions as a collective to ensure synergy?
Sensitivity– listening with your heart, your tummy and your head; what does this look like, feel like, sound like?  Deeply reflective relationships, where everyone is seen as an individual, and responded to as such;
Creativity– developing a ‘yes’ culture, how can we do this?  Let’s push the boundaries of our practice, be innovative and divergent. It is ok to make mistakes, as it is through our mistakes that we learn.  Sometimes the best ideas come in those times of quiet, when we are least expecting them.
Rumination– Claxton refers to “the process of ‘chewing the cud’ of experience in order to extract its meanings and implications”.  I wonder if this could be the new catch phrase for Internal Evaluation?

Claxton’s description of a teacher going about their day “adjusting or even abandoning their actions and intentions as they go, without being conscious of much reasoning, and without being able to say why or how they made the decisions they did, or to what clues they were responding” (pg. 35), resonates with me, and I am reminded of this video clip that was recently shared with me.  

In this now moment where are you?

Is your logical rational brain (left brain) dominant?  When faced with a making a decision do you write down the pro’s and con’s, analyse, think your way to a conclusion?  What you are doing when you think your way to a decision is that you are putting an old vinyl record on, with all your old beliefs, everything that Aunty said to you when you were three years old, and all the things that you thought about yourself when you were 18 months old.  When you think your way to a decision you are replaying everything that has happened to you in your past.  The alternative is to go into that quiet space, it does not matter how you create it, shut down your left brain, step out of your habits of thinking your way through life, and allow the knowing, your intuition to have some space.  

Guy Claxton suggests that judgement is predominantly intuitive.  In his book “Intelligence in the Flesh, why your mind needs your body much more than you think” Claxton also suggests that the human body is “a massive seething, streaming collection of interconnected communication systems that bind the muscles, the stomach, the heart, the sense and the brain so tightly together that no part – especially the brain – can be seen as functionally separate from, or senior to, any other part”.  We know that children are incredibly intuitive. They have a natural ability to engage in the world as it presents itself without limitation.   They have not judged things as being wrong yet.  The implications for us as teacher is that when children express their thoughts feelings intuitively, we need to listen and acknowledge how children are feeling in that moment.  If children, are getting negative approval e.g. don’t be silly that doesn’t exist.   What we are teaching children, is not to trust their instinct.

I wonder then if intuition could be seen as a teacher disposition?  This facet of the disposition towards resilience is built from respectful listening, environments that insist on justice, and adults who are interested in uncertainty and multiple perspectives.    Does intuition flourish in an open to possibilities learning culture, opening up different opportunities and looking holistically for the answers – which result in more natural solutions and answers, found through relationships.  I would suggest that this comes second nature as we acknowledge the importance of attachment relationships through ‘key teaching’ and ‘learning companions’.  “Whanaungatanga goes beyond what we see, but rather what others are trying to tell us” (Vanessa Paki in keynote, 2015).

References:

Atkinson, T., & Claxton, G. (Eds).  (2000). The intuitive practitioner: on the value of not always knowing what one is doing. UK: Open University Press.
Lucas, B., & Claxton, G. (2010).  New kinds of smart: how the science of learnable intelligence is changing education.  UK: Open University Press.
Paki, V.  (2017, July).  Kaupapa transition: The intersections of pedagogial beliefs, practices and philosophies of educators and whanau in educational transitions.  In The Early Years Research Centre Conference: Children in the early years: Pedagogy, policy and community connectedness.

The Conscious Leadership Group.  (15 November, 2014).  Locating Yourself - A Key to Conscious Leadership.  Retrieved 11 September 2018 from http:/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLqzYDZAqCI

Monday, September 10, 2018

Where Has The Carpentry Area Gone?


Harriet O’Sullivan - September 2018




As I spend more and more time in various ECE settings throughout Auckland it strikes me how often ‘the carpentry area’ is missing. The blocks are always there and often there is a table or shelf designated for art resources, although this may be another area for further exploration. I see wonderful Whānau areas and spaces designated for books and reading. However, continuous provision of the carpentry area seems to have been put on the back burner, or perhaps it was never there?

In my work with children I would put trust at the heart of everything that I do. Trust for children to allow them to develop and unfold in their own unique way and be able to lead the way in their own physical and emotional development. This trust evolves as I continue to trust them as learners. Through child-led play opportunities I strive to allow autonomy for the children over their tasks, time, tools and the team that they work with. 

I often find that one of the hardest aspects of learning to truly trust children is first being able to trust ourselves as teachers. Do we trust ourselves to truly let the children take the lead? Yes, we need to spend time connecting and building relationships, we need to be a role-model and use the language of learning to wonder alongside the children that we work with. It is through these everyday aspects of our teaching practice that children are able to build trust in us that, in turn, enables them to fly alone, chose their own course and make their own discoveries. 


In this way, the carpentry area, is one that is filled with trust. Tools and resources are provided for children to use. We need strong relationships with children so that we are able to set up the expectations and boundaries around the use of this area. They trust us to work alongside them during their exploration of the materials and know that we will value their contribution. We, as teachers, are there to model the respect for the tools and the safety precautions that we may need to take as well as ponder, tinker and experiment with the available resources. 

The carpentry area is not about the finished product but about the process. It is learning how to handle the tools, it is about designing and bringing to life something that has been visualised and grown inside our heads. It is about making three-dimensional forms and expressing creativity. It is enabling our children to be able to think about and assess the risks and make a plan to stay safe and approach a project from a different angle. It is about offering countless opportunities for problem solving...’Hmmm is this nail going to fit in this hole? How do I make this wheel move? Is this stick going to be long enough? Which screwdriver fits this screw? Which way does the drill bit turn? Why is this important? If I push harder will the hole get bigger?’ All of these questions and wonderings are encouraging our children’s mathematical and scientific development; their comprehension of length, size, balance and force. They are able to observe, predict and experiment. They are able to tinker with ideas and build a positive view of themselves as a learner; someone who tries hard, takes a chance, gives something new a go, doesn’t give up and plays around with ideas until they reach a satisfactory conclusion. 

Above all it is wonderful to hear the conversations unfolding at the carpentry table. As the children decide and discuss the best course of action. The fabulous examples of the tuakana teina displayed when older children remind, explain and work with the younger ones. 
Collaborating in this way, with each other, on projects in the carpentry area requires intense cooperation. Ideas need to be explained and plans made. All of these interactions are continually developing language skills and when a plan is seen all the way through to completion the sense of pride and achievement is clear from the beaming smiles on the faces before us.

So then, if all of this is true, why are carpentry areas and tables so few and far between? It seems to me, from conversations that I have had with colleagues and teachers, that often it is down to parent perceptions and even teacher perceptions of the space. To this I would say, start talking about it! Take some time to write learning stories about everything that goes on in this area of the curriculum. Start small, have the screwdrivers and screws out, add the hammers and nails a little while later, add the saws after that and keep adding nuts, bolts, hinges, corks, fabric, pegs, buttons, bottle tops, lolly-sticks, stirrers and other loose parts that can be used to add to or decorate the creations and projects.

Be present and help model the expectations of the space but remember to trust the children. They are innately careful and often it is us jumping in and ‘over -rescuing’ them that leads to them not learning to be able to assess and take reasonable risks. It’s amazing what can be achieved when we set the environment both physically and emotionally, the children will know if we trust them or not and the depth of our relationship and connection with them will be reflected in their use of the space. 

Let’s start a revolution and get a carpentry table back into all of our ECE settings. Let’s start with a table and move to an area and soon there will be tinkering sheds galore and the makers, doers and inventors of the future will be inspired to go forth and create. 
  

‘Logic takes you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere’ 

- Albert Einstein




Thursday, August 16, 2018

Big Rocks

Recently I as I flicked through my registration portfolio I was reminded of Stephen Covey's analogy "Big Rocks",  as presented by Wendy Lee in a thought provoking keynote  “Savouring the moment, what does the slow movement mean for early childhood education?” In his analogy Stephen Covey explains that we need to do our big rocks first, back to the basics, prioritise and do those big things (rocks) well - the others will fit in around (the sand).  Want to know more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV3gMTOEWt8

In recently times I have had many conversations with teachers who are conflicted in their priorities around assessing children’s learning.  I would like to suggest that going back to basics, by writing thoughtful Learning Stories, where the analysis of learning is robust, and shows continuity of learning, is a big rock priority.  Are you putting sand and pebbles in your jar first by minimalising assessment practices?   Learning Stories are the meaningful individual plans that children revisit in their paper-based portfolios each day, they are evidence of your responsiveness to the uniqueness of every child.  

Learning Stories should also be used as evidence of a teachers practice and the growing and stretching of practice in their Inquiry Research, which if we are working smarter not harder, will feed into the Centre Internal Evaluation question. They can also be evidence of the big picture thinking around the Education Council’s six standards for teaching and unpacking of Te Whāriki (2017). They can make evident the teachers collaborative making sense of these new documents. 

To write authentic, meaningful Learning Stories requires teachers to have attachment relationships (at all ages) with children, and reciprocal relationships with families.  This means slowing down to truly be present and listen to children in play.  Margaret Carr,at a recent ELP Lecture Series presentation,suggested “building a portfolio of learning episodes is researching the development of a learner identity”.   Digitalised individual plans that are never referred to, pictures that are open to interpretation and links to TeWhāriki, add little value to the storying of learner identity.  The value of relationships within a community of practice, where every member of that community has a voice is another big rock priority.
  
Learning stories are also a tool to shape our own professional identity.  Palmer (1998) suggests that not only is character central to teaching, but we teach out of who we are as people.  What teachers do, how willing they are to do it and even to persist, can be best explained by the beliefs they have about themselves and children. Another of Margaret’s provocations was a powerful quote from Tim Ingold, an anthropologist, “Stories overlap, with each telling learning over and touching the next.  So too do the lives of which they tell.  That’s the way they carry on”.  Portfolios will be opened up at 21stcelebrations and shared with future generations, it is our personal responsibility to be at our teacher best, and engage our mind, our heart and our intuition to write stories that will continue to overlap throughout children’s lives.

What are the stories you would like told about each child you write for at their 21st?  Learning Stories that celebrate who that child is as a thinker, a learner and as a citizen of the world.

References:
Franklin Covery.  (24 August, 2017).  Big Rocks.  Retrieved 16 August 2018 from http:/ 
Palmer, P.  (1998).  The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teachers life.  New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Ingold, T.  (2018). Anthropology and/as Education.  New York: Routledge.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Winners of the Prime Ministers Education Excellence Awards Announced

These are the six categories that the Finalists were named in.





Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners of the Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards.
The winning finalists were as follows:


 


  


 

For futher information on the finalists and to see all the videos, go to the official website:
https://www.pmawards.education.govt.nz/

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Poppa Jim's Farewell

Many gathered at the Iona Church in Blockhouse Bay to celebrate a life well lived. Poppa Jim died after a very short illness and has left an amazing legacy behind him. There were many parts to Poppa Jim's life but his contribution to the lives of the teachers, children and families/whānau will never be forgotten! His contribution so great, he left behind a portfolio of learning episodes documented in Learning Stories that will continue to be read and re-read by children and families as they remember the warmth of a man who became a member of their family. Poppa Jim's participation was truly Te Whāriki in action on so many levels. I have had the privilege of sharing this story of intergenerational participation to teachers not only in New Zealand but globally. It is a story that brings great joy!!

Karen Ramsey (Head Teacher at Roskill South) gave a eulogy, and this was followed by enthusiastic clapping! Here is what she said...

The teachers with Poppa Jim (he was considered a member of the teaching team, from the left Nadine, Karen, Poppa Jim, Kim and Verity.
It is a pleasure and privilege to share with you a little insight into Jim’s life at kindergarten. My name is Karen and our team Kim, Nadine, Verity, Heather, Erin and Christine, along with our children and families past and present have been extremely blessed to have Poppa Jim, as he was affectionally known, as part of our kindergarten community since July 2012.  We fondly remember Poppa Jim’s first day and while the teaching team were a little anxious about how this idea would play out, the children immediately responded, taking Poppa Jim under their wing, sharing their world with him.  Looking back this was not surprising as in true Jim style he came well prepared, a clipboard in hand, with photos to share, and his story created a connection with the children.  

For many of our children, their grandparents lived out of Auckland or overseas and they did not get to see their grandparents that often. Poppa Jim was like a surrogate grandfather to many and we often saw special bonds form as the children and families spent time with him, enjoying a relationship with an older person. This is intergenerational  friendship at its best! Grace shared “I like Poppa Jim because he is like a grandfather to me. My grandfather died and I won’t be able to see him again.” Poppa Jim loved to spend time with the children and loved to watch them play, to hear their happy noise and to be involved in their learning. He often told us coming to kindergarten was some of the happiest times of his life.  


On his second day Poppa Jim introduced his bear Honey to the children and Honey become Poppa Jim’s story telling companion. Every Tuesday Honey and Jim had a story to tell. The children loved listening to these stories and we often noticed them including elements of stories in their play, whether it be through their bookmaking or dramatic play we could see links to the recent storyline Poppa Jim and Honey had shared.

Poppa Jim had a deep commitment to his role in our kindergarten community and he embraced every opportunity to be involved. Whether it be his Tuesday morning visits, spending time with us at Bush Kindergarten, our outdoor programme on a Friday where he particularly liked having BBQ sausages for morning tea, joining us on our trips to Ambury Park farm, dressing up for our annual disco, attending our Christmas parties, or our fundraising events, Poppa Jim was keen to participate. We will remember his playfulness, sense of fun, his honesty, and his love of enjoying a good party!  When Kim got married we had a kindergarten wedding and how lucky were we to have our very own minister on sight to officiate. Poppa Jim loved every minute and wrote some very funny wedding vows, his cheeky nature shining through.  

Poppa Jim embraced our fund raising events. At our annual garage sale he had a regular gig selling hugs for $1. With a sign he had designed, he advertised the opportunity to hug a 90, or as the years went by 91 year old and so on.  Last year he raised $100 dollars and was very pleased with his efforts.  Our Christmas raffle was another activity that Poppa Jim loved to support, selling tickets at happy hour to his friends at HHRV. Tickets were $2 and Poppa Jim developed his own marketing plan, $2 a ticket or 2 for $5.  He was always delighted when some of the baskets were won by the residents, as that bode well for sales the following year.

From Poppa Jim being known at Kindergarten, he was recognised and acknowledged in the wider community. One Christmas holidays Sophia and her family were at the Roskill South shops when they saw Poppa Jim. They offered him a ride home, which began with a visit to the bakery for morning tea, it was sausage rolls all round before the family then delivered Poppa Jim safely back to the village. Stories like this certainly warmed our hearts, Poppa Jim was an integral part of our kindergarten family, not seen just as a visitor but as a respected member of our community. There was a natural progression to him taking on the role of the elder of our centre and we appreciated his wise thoughts and guidance. Poppa Jim often took part in visits from the powers that be, and outside agencies, and supported us when we hosted visitors from the Auckland region, throughout New Zealand, and overseas.  He was a strong advocate for the rights of children, families and the teaching team and loved to share the story about his time at kindergarten.  Often quoting “You do know this is the best kindergarten in NZ.” And when we told Poppa Jim you cannot say this, he was not deterred, and we know he continued, just making sure we were not in ear shot!

Through our relationship with Poppa Jim we have develop a connection with the management and residents at HHRV and we have enjoyed many wonderful visits.  Poppa Jim’s friends Shirley, Lois and Cherya now spend time at kindergarten reading stories and forming their own relationships with the children.
And more recently, Verity and a small group of children have enjoyed regular visits to spend time with residents from the serviced apartments.  Poppa Jim provided the link for us to establish relationships in our local community and he was extremely passionate to see this relationship grow, he had an absolute belief that the young and old could learn so much from each other and bring so much joy and happiness to each other.


Poppa Jim’s presence in the kindergarten created many rich learning opportunities for all and his involvement added another dimension to the kindergarten programme, one that was unique to Roskill South.  This year Poppa Jim did not make it back to kindergarten but he has been the hearts and minds of our children.  Recently Rachelle and Amelie were creating pictures for him and Nadine overheard this conversation,

A - "Do you miss Poppa Jim"
S - "Yeah I really miss him. And he's going to die soon because he's old and that's just what happens."
A - "He's going to die soon???"
S - "Yeah, but don't worry, he can come back alive again."
A - "How? I think when you die you can't come back alive again."
S - "My brother said Jesus can make you alive again."
A - "Who's jesus?"
S - "You know, the person who made the whole world."
A - "I'm going to ask my mum to tell me if he's a wizard."
S - "He's not a wizard! He's just a man who made the world and he kind of has magic powers."

Such a wonderful perception of life and spoken with such conviction as only children can.

Poppa Jim, when we began this journey we had no idea what would happen, but through embracing this uncertainty, together we have created something very magical.  Intergenerational relationships have the potential to make a difference in the lives of many and The Poppa Jim Story is a fabulous example of this in action.  This story has inspired many far and wide, and we know this has inspired teachers to develop intergenerational relationships in their communities.  It has been a privilege to have you as a member of our kindergarten family and now it is time to say farewell, you will live on in the hearts of our community forever and our time together will continue to guide us and influence our thinking in the future. Now you will hear the children’s happy noise from a little further afield, but we know you will be always looking over us.  Rest in Peace Poppa Jim.