Friday, November 25, 2011

Lens and long grass

I was walking up the hill to my house and thinking about how long the grass was, how I hadn't transplanted the roses, how the grapes needed tying up, etc etc. It can get a little overwhelming at times. So much to do. As I paused I took in this view in front of me. I saw the roses very happily sharing their space with the lovely grass. Many of the grasses have different heads and subtly differing shades of green. Some of them almost sparkle in the light. The overgrown grapes were waving at me in the wind and I loved that they were taking over the place- like Sleeping Beautie's castle! I often say I live in a castle, so it is fitting that it is being overtaken by the greenery around me!
Looking with a different lens allowed me to see; really see and a calmness and a humble sense of wonder took over from the feelings of being overwhelmed.
I just need to do this more often, pause and really see, and appreciate the subtle beauty amongst the business and sometimes chaos that seems to surround me.
So the roses have been left alone, the grass still grows and the grapes are winning their takeover bid. Maybe visitors will need a pair of clippers to get to my front door but I promise it will be worth it!!!
So do stop to smell the roses, they are beautiful at the moment and the way the long grass dances in the wind can bring joy to the heart. A new lens can be so helpful, or maybe just dust off the lenses that we haven't used for awhile.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Is Respect Part of Your Environment?

"Make the most of the small things in life because as time goes on, you realise these are the big things."
I read this in a shop recently and thought about these words this morning. My grand daughter Devon had stayed for the weekend. She is 8 and is lovely company. Devon likes to write on any paper she can find, this time on the small pad I keep in the car. I discovered a message on this pad today. It read "Hi,my name is Devon, whoever is reading this, I will tell you what cool is. Cool is an old Grandma! It made my day. I am not sure about the old part, in her eyes I must be ancient but I like the cool bit. Devon and I share lots of small things and this is what has built our relationship, through caring and sharing.
Children can give us well qualified reflections and descriptions, not just in our homes but in our centres. It just depends on how we do it and what relationships we have established with them. Sometimes we need to respect children's rights not to speak or to express themselves on unpleasant subjects or be challenged. Making time and space for children to express themselves and to be listened to is an example of how "in order to honour children's participation rights we must establish the conditions in which they can be honoured". (Mayall, 2000)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


We have just held our Literacy Leaderhip Retreat at the Lakes Lodge Okataina. Suffice to say that we were located right on the edge of the very beautiful Lake Okataina. We were in fact staying in what are the only dwellings on this lake, the Lakes Lodge. The lake and surrounding bush were gifted to the Crown by Ngati Tarawhai in 1921. Okataina is “place of laughter” this relates back to one of the important stories about this lake. We certainly experienced lots of laughter over the weekend. This lake is without outlets and is the only lake in the district that is surrounded completely by bush. The forest includes fine examples of  rimu, totara, rata and pohutukawa. Some of us explored the bush at night and were totally delighted to hear the sound of both kiwi and morepork. We also saw the glow worms throughout the bush. It was quite magical.

Throughout this blog are comments from teachers attending the Okataina Retreat.

“This weekend has great!! It has been cool to hear the stories from everyone else and to see how different everyone’s journey with their other centre has been. The honesty and support shown to each other made me feel more relaxed and comfortable to talk. “

“Having discussions both personal and professional is always interesting with other early childhood professionals. It’s a great opportunity to discuss and share ideas and experiences.. Today has been again insightful! Hearing and seeing others learning stories is fantastic. It is always a reflection of practice when you see other teachers practice. The different structure and content of the stories help to challenge and extend my own practice in assessment and learning for children in our kindergarten. Thank you ELp for providing the opportunity to share and learn from our colleagues.”

“I was very excited to be attending this weekend... I understand that it would be able sharing, but also talking and collaborative learning with others, which I really enjoy. Discussions not only about our ELP journeys, challenges and for us it is not over yet” .

“I was really looking forward to this weekend! For two reasons. First of all a relaxing weekend away, relaxation, the thought of ‘yummy food’, PEACE, and lots of good company. Secondly, again it was another opportunity for ‘team building’ as we were here as a complete team. I’ve noticed that these opportunities are enabling us to become a strong, resilient team, to get to know each other and to share a little more of ‘myself’.”

“This weekend has been a real treat for me, time away from home responsibilities, surrounded by great company, along with being taken care of by our awesome hosts. I have enjoyed our professional discussions, I am taking away many ideas to implement, to improve my practices.”

An opportunity to explore the possibilities of ephemeral art!

“I have never heard of Ephemeral Art. To actually create a piece of art using what you have around you to tell a story was a challenge but one that I enjoyed ...”

“ It was a cool experience to try and create ephemeral art to symbolise our journey as mentors and learners on this ELP journey”.

 “The fishing trip was a highlight for me. Fish are not on my list of favourite things and I am quite amazed with myself that I spent nearly all the time out the back with a rod in my hand, would have dropped it like a hot potato if something came on it!.”

“Yesterday was the first time I had been fishing, so now I have gained some skill and knowledge”

“It was so relaxing to be fishing on this lovely boat, a real opportunity to quietly reflect and to be in the moment”.

 There were challenges with the fishing as well! We did manage a fairly major tangle!!!

We travelled across the lake and spent time in different parts of the lake. The peace the tranquility....

“The lake was so quiet, apart from two kayakers we saw no one else on the lake over the four hours we were exploring and fishing on the lake, wow, such peace. It was so beautiful”.

Some took opportunities to get up on top and enjoy the view!

Inside the boat more opportunities to share and chat

 “It was cool to be able to just sit around on the boat, in such a beautiful environment, just enjoying the peace and tranquility and the company of others.”

Saturday night dinner was a celebration! Fish philosophy in action. A time to play and be a little creative!
“The props at dinner added fun to the night and shows that as adults we find dressups fun too!”
“ Fabulous food and a wonderful celebration, such a treat!”


“ All in all this retreat has been an amazing weekend filled with laughter, talking and friendship. As a practitioner I have been provided with an opportunity to engage in numerous professional discussions, be creative and reflect on ‘wise practice’. Thank you”

“Being near water this weekend has been healing. I have enjoyed being part of a group of like minded people who have this common bond and purpose. Listening to the korero lead me to think about my journey - kia ora. Having time on the lake gave me time to ‘be’. I don’t get much opportunity for that, so it has been a weekend of reflection, rest and connecting. Thank you for making it possible.”

“I have discussed this weekend, the things that make me who I am. I have enjoyed the fellowship of my colleagues and felt accepted as part of the group. I have felt supported on my teaching journey in a way that I some times miss in my professional life. I have felt my ideas and feelings have been valued. I have learnt from listening and talking with others.
I will take away with me further knowledge and an increased confidence in my ability to find further learning from a variety of areas around me, people, reading etc. I aim to read about learnt optimism.”

“It has been a very relaxing weekend, with a variety of activities. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning walks with my friends. Can’t remember when I have laughed so much and for so long. The venue was superb, fantastic choice, Okataina has certainly lived up to it’s name (place of laughter).”

“Beautiful setting, beautiful people - ka pai .... Whakawhanaungatanga is very present at Okataina.”

“Food, company and new learning has been wonderful and as I sit here looking at the photo’s of this weekend moving across the screen in front of me, I feel lucky to have had this opportunity to have fun, share ideas and just come together. To Wendy and Alison, it was a privilege to listen to your wise words and  to be treated to such a special time..thank you.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Last week I finally had time to visit Eden Creative Recycling, a charitable trust set up to collect pre-consumer waste from businesses so that members can reuse these.
I spoke to Yvonne who showed me around and we talked about sustainability through art, in particular thinking about composite art through recycled materials which are able to be used again and again.

"Our intention is to provide alternative resources for children that may encourage creativity, and a new way of reusing ‘waste‘ which may cultivate a more sustainable approach to learning. Children and adults are able to explore and engage with these resources, reinventing uses for these items and giving them new identities." Eden Creative Recycling Website

As part of your membership you will have access to the centre during opening hours, as well as workshops where you can explore the materials yourself. There is more information on their website or you can access their Facebook site through this link
Yvonne said they are keen to source more reusable materials so if you know of a good source and are willing to share, drop Eden Creative Recycling an email - the address is on the website. There is also details of membership costs as well as opening hours.

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Eden Creative Recycling

Friday, November 4, 2011

‘Through the Looking Glass … a Lens on Quality Preschools’

It was lovely to be invited by the Early Childhood Unit for the NSW Department of Education and Communities to present a keynote and also facilitate a workshop at the conference. This conference was titled ‘Through the Looking Glass … a Lens on Quality Preschools’.

 The second day saw a range of workshops facilitated by the following people and a few others.....
My keynote was entitled Sustainable Leadership: A time to reflect, re-imagine and to reconstruct’ and the workshop was titled ‘Pedagogical Leadership: A powerful opportunity to build learner identity via ‘learning story philosophy’.

The work was enthusiastically received, some of the comments sent from the organizers following the conference included the following:  
“Participants all agreed that your presentations met the highest possible rating and their comments supported these ratings. I have added a small sample of these for you as follows:

It is so good to be reminded of the importance of positive interactions.
Find the magic... I loved that. I am making it my new philosophy/goal.
This presentation was so thought provoking and powerful making me think about how/why I work with
young children. 
I love Wendy’s stories that she uses to build relationships.
I love the slow schooling theory...a real inspiration.
This was first class...a real joy. Fantastic content and presentation.
Thought provoking!
What a wonderful keynote speaker..

Thank you for helping early childhood teachers have a voice- promoting the child’s strengths and interests, not a K-6 curriculum push.”

After the two day conference. We (Dave and I) went on to have a lovely weekend in Sydney. See photos of this on my personal blog

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Pleasure of Play and Puppies

During the weekend I visited my son and his family. They were out but their 3 puppies were romping on the back lawn. I sat on the deck and watched them with delight as they played together and thought about the learning that was happening for them. Sometimes all three would wrestle together, then one would detach and hide behind the tree and watch and when he thought it was the right time, would bound out with obvious glee and join in. Watching, smelling the ground, times for action and time for quiet and thinking and able to explore the environment is valuable learning for these puppies. I come from a farming background and have witnessed this learning with many young animals, through play and fun. My own childhood was filled with fun and play with my siblings and I have grown up with memories of making huts in the native bush, playing ‘birds’in the long grass, dressing puppies in baby clothes to take them for rides in the pram and feelings of peace and serenity in a natural play setting for children and having parents who realised the value of this play for us.

I reflected on how this puppy play is how our young children learn but sometimes we lose sight of this in our busy world where so much emphasis is on academic achievement. Are we losing sight of these precious years where the importance of learning is through play, to wonder, to be curious and to find out about our friends and develop social competence through being able to make mistakes and try again.

Through play and exploration, these young children will develop dispositions to help them deal with an uncertain world as they grow older.

Margaret Carr and Guy Claxton remind us that dispositions to learn are verbs i.e. contributing,exploring, collaborating, persisting,questioning etc, we do not acquire dispositions. We become more or less disposed to learning in certain ways - or not!

Are teachers through lack of knowledge, but believing they are doing the right thing by insisting on group times or kindy sessions (interestingly, I have never seen a kindy session in kindergartens!) limiting the learning of these children by denying them play over a long period. Surely short play times are just filling in time, good for teachers maybe but of little value for children.

As we nurture the disposition of ‘loving to learn’ through play, we need to feel confident that we are doing the right thing for these young children and strive for an environment where provocations widen and deepen learning and teachers are engaged in their own ongoing learning so that skills, knowledge and dispositions are strengthened for everyone in the learning community and literacy and mathematical skills sit alongside effort, teamwork, friendship, courage and curiosity to make assessment so much more meaningful and brings TeWhāriki to life in ways that show our children as capable and confident.

This learning environment needs effort to make it an environment where ‘deep listening’ is part of the pedagogy. Langsted (1994) argues that structures and procedures are important but;.... more important is the cultural climate which shapes the ideas that the adults in a particular society hold about children. The wish to listen to and involve children originates in this cultural climate. This wish will then lead to structures and procedures that can guarantee the involvement of the children. (pp41-2)

Children’s play reflects their social and cultural context and we need to understand the importance of the social and cultural context in which children live and avoid making generalisations that assume that some forms of play are typical or essential. I thought about this as I watched some boys playing ‘pig hunting’ at their centre after an excursion where they went pig hunting through native bush, carrying their toy guns and knives. This is what their whanau do each weekend and their play reflected an in depth knowledge of catching pigs with dogs, the singeing and preparing the meat for hangi, meaningful learning for these young children within the contexts of their family life. This play is upholding the mana of these boys, they are supported, respected and given choices so that their potential can be reached, an example of whakamana or empowerment.

Play has many different theories and there is so much that can be written about it.

Maybe we should leave the definition of play from those involved - the players; see ‘Play is having fun’ and ‘it has to be work if you tell us to do something’.