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

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.

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:

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.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Margaret Carr now an Emeritus Professor at the University of Waikato

Long and successful careers acknowledged
March 2018
We have taken the feed off the University of Waikato site to share with you all. A very special event for the early childhood community. 

New Emeritus Professors Margaret Carr, Terry Locke and Janis Swan.
 A distinguished engineer and two high-level educators have been made Emeritus Professors at the University of Waikato. Janis Swan, Margaret Carr and Terry Locke have all had long careers at the university, and their contribution as teachers, administrators and researchers was acknowledged this week at a special ceremony.

Professor Margaret Carr ONZM has been a key influencer of early childhood education (ECE) in New Zealand, driving the national early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki, developing new forms of assessment, and leading research across the sector. The curriculum was ground breaking and is still held up as a model. Professor Carr also advised on the 2017 revision of the document.
Internationally, Professor Carr is known for the development of ‘Learning Stories’, a narrative assessment approach that recognises the breadth of children’s achievements, with multiple inputs that contribute to the analysis of children’s learning that encourages further learning. The ‘Learning Stories’ approach was adopted in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the UK, Japan and China. The programme enhanced the University of Waikato’s profile in the field of early childhood education. Her two books on learning stories – one of them co-written with Wendy Lee – have been translated into several languages, as have two of her more recent publications.
Professor Carr is a recipient of the highly prized McKenzie Award from the New Zealand Association for Research in Education, given for a life-long career of outstanding merit and sustained research excellence.

Margaret addressing the attendees.
Family and the early childhood group celebrating with a waiata!
Margaret and Malcolm with the family, enjoying the celebration.
At the end of the evening, a quiet continuing celebration with Wendy Lee, Helen May, Jane McChesney, Norman Kingsbury, Margaret and Malcolm. A lovely way to end a very special day!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018



I would like to wish all the teachers in New Zealand and those well beyond our shores, all the best for a very wonderful Chinese New Year. During this time many Chinese are gathering together sharing wonderful holidays with families, some in their hometowns and some in other parts of the world. 

I think it is wonderful that the year of the Dog highlights dependability, building loyalty at work and in relationships. I also read that a Chinese Astrologer Laura Lau says that the Dog is a true companion, associated with loyalty, honesty, intelligence, and a strong sense of right and wrong. Laura Lay says "Dogs are known to be swift and passionate believers in their own personal philosophy," Lau says. "The Dog does his best to protect high-integrity people in other words, this year of the Dog may see people fighting for the cause they believe in. This influence could manifest itself as large-scale political movements or something as simple as local community work and small acts of kindness. She then goes on to say "We're inclined to believe we'll see more of the latter than the former, due to this year's representative element: earth. "The earth element makes this a gentler dog than other elements," Lau says. She says this element encourages us to take a cooler-headed approach to problems, rather than letting our emotions flare up and get the better of our reasoning.

What a wonderful lens to put on the year ahead. I am sure the year of the Dog will bring many prosperity and strengthened relationships, many happy times ahead with family, friends and work colleagues.  I am wishing everyone a VERY VERY HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR. 

Arohanui, Wendy 

Information from Laura Lau: Chinese Astrologer

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Haere Haere Haere

Beverly Kaye – (1969 - 2017)

When Beverly joined ELP, she had already made an enormous contribution to early childhood education in New Zealand. Her quiet, gentle and very humble way of being was a powerful inspiration to us all.
Many of us have memories of the ways in which she inspired others, particularly around the use of ICT. She was an early and passionate adopter of the use of computers and IT technology and helped make this both visible and full of possibilities for many ECE educators.

She brought her passion and her commitment to ELP and shared her experiences with the qualities of kindness, gentleness, caring, a sense of humour, grit and determination, love and that generosity of spirit which so characterised her.  On many levels, Beverly exemplified the principles of Te Whariki, New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum. 

Empowerment - Whakamana  She saw the strengths in everyone and nurtured and supported those around her. Beverly always looked after the rights of others: she was a powerful advocate for injustice and was never frightened to speak out. At the same time, we constantly witnessed her humbleness: Beverly found no need to acknowledge her own strengths. 
Reciprocal relationships  - Ngā Hononga  Her capacity to build relationships was so wonderful. It was her authentic self that everyone could see. Her deep interest in others complemented her willingness to listen to and understand others and to respond to them in wise and thoughtful ways. Her gentle caring way of working alongside others enabled her to build many very special relationships. 
Family and Community - Whānau Tangata  We loved having Beverly as a member of our ELP team. We totally loved her spirit and her capacity to drive the positive energy through some quite difficult times. Beverly never lost hope and was always positive, so much so that we always felt that one day she would be in a position to return to her work at ELP. Sadly, this was not to be.  We were all so aware of how connected she was to her family and especially to Fiona. 
Holistic - Kotahitanga  Beverly’s sense of fun and playfulness was exemplified in her ability to dress up, to play games and to see all the possibilities for fun. But she also kept things in balance in order to value holistic views of learning. Yes, she had a passion for ICT but she also had a very deep awareness and joy of nature, never loosing her connection with the land.

Many of us have such wonderful memories of Beverly to sustain us as we come to terms with her passing. Beverly touched so many of our lives. Her bravery in the face of adversity was an inspiration and her capacity to always find the best in every situation was staggering! 

We are all thinking of you Fiona, and also the wider whānau. To Beverly's parents, Anne and Stuart and her sisters Annette and Rachael, we send our heartfelt thoughts and love to all of you during this very sad time. Thank you so much for the opportunity to contribute to this Celebration of Beverly's life.

As we say in ELP, ‘once a member of the ELP team, always in our hearts’ and 'you never really leave ELP'. Beverly will be with us forever. 

Arohanui Wendy

Please feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook post dedicated to Beverly by clicking here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ko Te Kore - the child has potential
I was fortunate to attend a workshop facilitated by Rita Walker & Jacqui Brouwer which unpacked the assessment framework Te Whatu Pōkeka. Some of you may be familiar with this kaupapa Māori assessment resource, however, many of you may not yet have had the chance to engage with it. This workshop was the catalyst for me to seek more knowledge with the aim of being able to  truly value the language, culture and identity of tamariki. My hope is, that this article will make you curious and inspire you to want to investigate Te Whatu Pōkeka further, with the aim of incorporating its kaupapa into your teaching practice

 I’d like to start by sharing one of the issues that Rita raised: that te reo Mā ori is often translated but should in fact be
interpreted. Mā ori language is a taonga because every word has a whakapapa, where it has come from, and different
For example when we translate tamariki  it means ‘child’:
tama  - sons
riki  - sons of chiefs
ariki  - tamaariki - chiefly knowledge
 ariki - the realms
 However, the same word interpreted  becomes ‘precious little ones, loved’
ta  - Blueprint, image, representation, impression - Whakapapa, Ruomoko - the trembles are Ruamoko (the unborn
child) the deity of tamoko (patterning anywhere on your body). Ruamoko is the guardian of tamoko, who has the ability
to change the landscape - children are powerful. Ruamoko is fickle - children fickle. Ruamoko is also the deity of
eruptions - the child is a real Ruamoko. Tamoko - representing you, your stories, your history, your whakapapa.
tama  - Derivative of tama-nui-te-ra (the sun), ana atua (spiritual guardian) depicted by the sun, which provides light and
warmth which we can’t live without - the same as our children.
ama  - Balance, stability, consistency (ama - a specific type of waka, an outrigger providing balance) children bring
balance to our lives.
ariki  - chiefly status, devine being
riki  - young shoot connected to a root system; a metaphor for whakapapa
(riki - seed potatoes) they are rooted in their history.
(all translations taken from Walker & Bouwer workshop notes)

 You can see how different the translation and interpretation are from one another, how they can impact on your view of something. It’s just a reminder to slow down and take time as a team, to unpack the whakapapa behind the words you use in your te ao Mā ori journey.

 In Te Whatu Pō keka there are three aspects to the framework. Walker writes: “[T]he first part of the assessment framework which argues that children come with ways of knowing  the world (mohiotanga), that they learn (mā tauranga) through experiences and challenges and that they seek and gain clarity (maramatanga) from the achievements, accomplishments and failures they encounter as they learn and grow.
The second part of the framework argues that Mā ori children possess a number of attributes derived from their history which spans back through time and space [wairua, mana, mauri] [...]. This means that the Mā ori child has a way of being,  which in turn requires that adults working with and alongside these children must have an in-depth understanding of the children's contexts in order to plan culturally and socially responsive programmes

 Adult responsibilities is the third part of the framework which focuses on providing appropriate contexts of learning, drawing on knowledge relevant to the context, planning and implementing programmes and providing critique and analysis. This indicates ways of doing ” (Walker, R. 2008, p.9, my emphasis and addition). As teachers, getting to know each child, their whakapapa and their kō rero hitori is paramount, if we want to really
discover who they are. For some time now, many centres have been asking their whā nau to share their child’s whakapapa or pepeha with them, as a way of building relationships with whā nau, however, many of these taongo get filed away in the child’s portfolio or on the walls of the centre, once the enrollment process is over and the only
revisiting that occurs is by the child. I began thinking about how well we acknowledge, respect and value all that the
childern know and all that they bring with them, their whā nau, their history, their whakapapa? We need to be thinking
about how whā nau know that we truly value what they have shared with us?
Teaching teams that have unpacked Te Whatu Pō keka have begun to write bicultural assessment documentation that incorporates the concepts mohiotanga, matauranga, and maramatanga. They are helping to unpack the child’s kete, their ‘funds of knowledge’ and they are using what they discover to help them create a learning environment that is supportive, not only of that child but of whā nau, hapū  and iwi also. Their Learning Stories are one of the ways they are letting whā nau know that they value what has been shared with them. Their words have had the power to build learning partnerships. Teaching and assessment must be a collaborative activity where whā nau and kaiako both have a valued
contribution and we must be mindful to write Learning Stories that are thoughtful, meaningful, respectful and inclusive, remembering to interpret not translate te reo Māori.

Ministry of Education (2009). Te Whatu Pōkeka: Kaupapa Māori Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars.
 Wellington: Learning Media.
Walker, R. (2008), The Philosophy of Te Whatu Pō keka: Kaupapa Mā ori assessment and learning exemplars. The First
Years. Ngā Tau Tuatahi  (10):2, pp. 5-10.

Gillian Fitzgerald