Thursday, August 04, 2011

Social networking: sharing and inspiring

It's amazing. There have to be perks in transition periods (not being in a class day-to-day) and attending the Speaks VOLumes online conference ( is so inspirational. When I was in the class every day, I just ran out of time to keep up-to-date with everything that was happening. This can lead to distorted information / perception of bigger issues or misinformation. It was leading to a sense of isolation for me (especially when I was based within a special character environment with a MOI of te reo Maori). The investment of time required in the creation and translation of resources just did not allow time for social networking outside the immediate and close circle of specialised practitioners.

Sorry, I squirrelled this years ago -
might be from
It's absolutely fabulous to have the time to hear about passionate and driven teachers who are blogging, writing and presenting about their experiences in their teaching and learning!  and 
  Then, listening to Dr. Bonk's presentation brought out my smiley face =)
See to find out about this very enthusiastic and passionate presenter! 

13 year old has been a teacher for over 1/2 of her life -
Adora Svitak is recognised for doing what I believe all
children are capable of. Fabulous!!
The R2D2 model (Read, Reflect, Display, Do) is a simple framework - in the presentation, focused on online pedagogy... But in my mind, the distinctions between online and F2F learning are becoming very blurred. It is hard to imagine 'the good old days' when I was at high school and I went to the library to do my research, looking for appropriate titles in the catalogue drawers, sending snail-mail letters to playwrights for a research project, phoning a company to try and interview an expert... The ways I live, learn and teach today can be summed up very simply:

That is why it is a little sad for me to say that, while I shared as much as I could F2F, I wasn't uploading resources to share online. That has changed and will continue to change.
Te Rito - aimed at pre-schoolers

- bilingual interactives with some basic vocabulary, for the body, for greetings and expressions, and for karakia.

Rehutai - some information literacy resources (in te reo Maori) and a database of school readers.

Wiggio - Not sure who else uses this, but would love to know how easy it is to share - has a social studies inquiry unit and some timetables, overviews and planners so far.

LearnCentral - - has a couple of documents in te reo (around SGML and the origins of HTML, along with a layout drafting handout)

Flickr photostream - EOTC camp shots are it so far

Youtube (;P) - 2 clips so far, but fully in te reo Maori and more will come.
On the other hand, as a casual teacher atm, integration of technology is limited. Not as a result of lack of experience, but by the fact that:
  • there may not be a functioning computer or smartboard in the room
    (sometimes a phone is as technological as it gets and I have seen blackboards recently)
  • casual staff don't have log-in access, let alone administrator rights
    (so you have problems if the students can't log you in under one of their accounts, or if you are trying to access a site that requires a plug-in or viewer update)
  • social networking and social media sites are quite often blocked
    (so it is a good idea to have a local backup of your delicious or diigo bookmarks and don't even try youtube or any web forums...)
  • any website may be blocked -it looks like the policy is to start by blocking everything and then to go through sites manually and decide whether the site should be unblocked. Make no assumptions that you will be able to access anything online...
In my current context, this adds up to one key result... I cannot integrate the technologies I would normally use or demonstrate problem-solving approaches that I would use when students are trying to trouble-shoot / research / answer questions.

What I have managed to do is to, at the very least, incorporate aspects of digital photography into lessons and (if the technology is both in the room and accessible to us) utilise a combination of the resources I have gathered/created over the years on my external HDD with those resources I would normally use online -- in the sessions that I have with that class.

I am really looking forward to having my own class again. It'll be much easier to integrate both my old favourites and those mentioned on:

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Teaching and Learning - a draft philosophy

I question my abilities in the classroom on a daily basis. Today is the start of Education Week. There were school groups that travelled to the mall. They sang, danced and performed beautifully. It made me think of last week when I returned some test booklets to a school I have done some casual work at. Walking into that school, seeing the students that I had taught: some for only one day, others for longer periods of time - but it made me happy. I smiled to just be walking in the grounds. I have seen so many places that make stories out of bad or incompetent teachers... It seems to drown out the good stories sometimes.

Take "Bad Teacher". Haven't seen it yet. Not too sure if I want to.
Has anyone seen this and enjoyed it?

So, I have finally figured out that I definitely want to teach. Despite the hours, the challenges, the hard work... I want to teach. I love teaching. 

My Developing / Draft Philosophy of Teaching and Learning
E minaka ana taku ngäkau ki te ako mö töku oranga katoa
My heart desires to teach / learn for my whole life.
To the right is a representation = Learning is relationships.
The outer koru indicates the world and its impacts on the classroom environment. The triangle has as its base the subject matter, what is being learnt, the sides represent the teacher and student, each bringing their own background, experiences, needs and desires to the classroom.
I believe that it is through inquiry, social interactions, the dialogue in the classroom (whether between student and teacher, or student and student) that learning happens. Posing an authentic and relevant question is the means through which engagement and motivation occurs. Facilitation and mediation by the teacher enables the students to engage with content that they find interesting and appealing.
I believe that learning is a life-long journey and that my job is to instill in students a passion for learning, for reading, for inquiring, for engaging in dialogue. If there is one thing that I manage to achieve in the classroom, I would hope that I can validate the belief that it is important to follow your heart and to provide students with the cognitive strategies through which they can reach for their goals.
I believe that the classroom should be a safe environment, where everyone feels okay about making mistakes – mistakes are how we learn. It is okay to find a problem or to raise a question.
We need to query to discover our place in the world: our relationships to others and to our environment. We need to be able to question the government, the workplace, and our communities and not just passively accept the situations we find ourselves in.
To be human is to inquire (Aulls & Shore, 2008:vii).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I miss teaching every day =(

Just last year, I looked forward to the school holidays. Every holidays, I would commit the first week (although sometimes it took a little longer, sometimes a lot longer and on the odd occasion it took the whole of the holiday period) to planning and preparation for the upcoming term. Then in the second week, I would have some quality time with my daughter, time to relax and recharge.

Now, I am counting the days until the holidays finish. Actually, I'm counting the hours... There are 33 hours and 3 minutes until I will be able to ring the agencies and say, "I'm ready. Please ring if a job comes up".

I've found life as a casual teacher, without a car, to be very hard... Especially for someone who is navigationally challenged, living in a new area. At first, I thought that I had covered my bases by signing up with two major agencies and hand-delivering my CV to the six closest schools.... But, I was mistaken. I've had so many days 'to myself' that I have been able to:
  • order my external HDD (1TB of data, dumped from CDs, DVDs, my computer and school laptop before leaving NZ - all of my projects, coursework, portfolio pieces, workshops and conference presentations.... a feat and a mission!)
  • read up and study four new curriculum frameworks (the local NSW curriculum documents K-10; the IPC; the England and Wales National Curriculum; the IB framework - the differences and similarities between the organisation of learning areas is fascinating)
  • organise a re-write of my will (last done in 1998)
  • catch up on all of the movies I haven't had time to watch (since becoming a mother in 1996)
  • photograph and backup my important documents
  • post a video to YouTube, as a way of practicing my te reo Maori
  • join and start to learn some basic phrases in Ukrainian, Mandarin and Indonesian
There's also been a lot of time to think. Although I am only in my third year of teaching post-qualification, I have committed to teaching and learning since 1998. Being a mother is what drew me (like many others) into teaching. I started as a teacher's aide (kaiawhina), going in to my daughter's kohanga (nursery or kindergarten) to help. I was and always will be, passionate about learning. I wanted my baby to have every opportunity and it is from this, that my belief in the right of every child to excellence in education came from.

My brother asked me a question, when we first arrived in Sydney. He asked me why I stayed so long as a teacher's aide. I didn't know how to answer at that time. But, I thought about it as I was sorting my HDD. I thought about it while I was sorting photos (getting all teary eyed and 'homesick'). 

I worked many more hours than I was paid for, especially when I started as a teacher aide at my baby's primary school. I realised... I found it hard to leave and do the formal training, because I love the children. I love the job with all the associated ups and downs. I love learning and teaching and I love the 'click' moments.

I strongly believe that teaching should be an apprentice-ship first and foremost. You learn how to teach by teaching. All of the theory and academic readings in the world cannot help you if you don't go through the practicum experience. Perfect attendance at lectures and great note-taking skills won't help you if you cannot question and reflect on your own practice. Getting A's on your assignments won't help you if you cannot accept constructive criticism or feedback about your classroom practice, using it to learn and grow as a practitioner.

I love reading books. I love watching movies and I like keeping up-to-date with news and current affairs. But I am saddened by what I see and hear sometimes. I believe that teaching is the hardest profession in the world, after parenting... yet, despite (or maybe because of) the challenging nature of this profession, teachers are constantly looked down on. There are so many reasons that are given. Teachers are not professionals, who work shorter hours, get longer holidays and are not even capable of constructing a grammatically correct sentence. Teachers 'brainwash' their students, don't care, or that it's such an easy job anyone can walk off the street and be a teacher. 

I believe that this is the reason why I (unintentionally) insulted a practitioner, while in the process of writing my thesis. I was not a qualified teacher at this stage, but I was in the fourth year of my apprenticeship. I sincerely apologise to you and I hope that you know how wonderful and painful every teaching day is. I constantly question my practice and invite questions and dialogue from colleagues. It took me many years before I was able to drag myself away from the classroom for the university qualification... and I used every excuse I could find to return to the school and the classes that I was missing dreadfully. Every one of my classmates quickly learned of my passion for the school I loved, for the 'master' colleagues that I had been apprenticed to and of how badly I wanted to return. 

It was likewise very difficult for me to leave this school that I love, at the end of 2010. But I had to leave. I believe that, as a practitioner, I need to study and apprentice in the programming and implementation of new curriculum frameworks, in new countries - immersing myself in new cultures to learn and grow.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The process of accreditation in NSW

Now, I've been wanting to post this for a while (ever since I found out how many steps are involved). At first, I put it off by saying I needed to make pretty banners... I needed to focus on this or that... But, the information is really important, so here I go with the vanilla version.

The first thing you need to make sure you're aware of, is that:
- Each Australian state has a different process of accreditation. This process applies only to NSW, so, if you are planning to travel inter-state, you will have to find out what other states require (see for state-specific information).

The second thing to know, is that the process outlined below, is only for for the first of the three sectors that make up the NSW Education system: 
- DET/DEC public or government schools
- Catholic Schools

Process for accreditation in NSW public school system
  1. Online application forms (can take up to 1 hr) thru Institute of Teachers (NSWIT) and DET. - This application was approved for me within 24 hours of receipt of my documentation (your mileage may vary), but important to do this one first, as you need an institute number before DET continue processing your application. - This is the tough one, especially if you are new to Australia, as you require printer access and two people you have known for 12 months or longer, who can attest to your good character / disposition for teaching. Get onto it as soon as you can.

  2. JP signed documentation for both applications, plus the signed declarations of good character for DET and the printed application form. I sent mine off using Express envelopes, about $5 a pop, but worth the investment, if you want to ensure speedy delivery.

    A note here: Australia works on a 100 point identification system, so it is a good idea if you are looking at settling in Australia (and have a postal address organised) to start investigating other requirements, such as Medicare and applying for a Tax File Number (TFN).

  3. On getting accepted for the first and getting your institute number, you are then eligible to continue the DET process.

    Note: Institute fees are $100AUD yearly.

  4. As an overseas trained teacher (OTT), I had to sign up for the OTT course, receiving an email that gave me a number to ring. This is irrespective of experience, whether this is at leadership or management level, or of how many years experience you have in teaching - the course is a requirement for any 'new scheme' teachers. At first (in early March), they said that the first vacancy was in May, but I signed up for any cancellations, so ended up being placed in the course starting 24th March. This involved a 1 1/2 hr train ride to get to Blacktown by 9am for a two day orientation, finishing around 4pm each day.

  5. I made it through the orientation part of the programme, with a certificate proving my participation.

  6. I went to a nominated school for a week practicum in which I had to conduct observations and teach at least 3 formally observed sessions of my own. Any trained teacher will be familiar with this process, which culminates in a meeting with the principal and your tutor teacher at the end of the week. There, you are either approved as suitable to teach, or you will need to extend your practicum to meet any requirements you didn't quite reach, or you will be signed off as unsuitable to teach. If the latter, you will need to investigate other options as a career in NSW. I was assured, along with my OTT cohort, that the latter is a VERY irregular occurrence.

  7. I then travelled to Blacktown for my Suitability to Teach interview (This is supposed to go for up to 45mins – I found this step incredibly helpful, as the interviewer was able to either answer all of my questions, or point me in the right direction for answers).

  8. After getting my emailed acceptance letter with my DET ID which stated exactly what I was accredited to teach, subjects and levels, I needed to head down to the library to make a 1 page CV and double-side it with the letter to then hand-deliver to schools I wanted to relieve at. The way it works here, you start as a casual teacher to build experience in NSW schools. I have been automatically signed up with but apparently you can’t just hold out for the phone calls if you want to work sooner.

    I cannot stress how important hand delivery is. Majority of my work to date, is through schools that I hand-delivered my CV to.
    I also found it helpful to register with agencies (Randstad, Hayes, Key Stage Casuals). You have to hand deliver and register after you get your approval, so I would suggest making sure you complete as much of the registration forms as you can, so that as soon as you get your approval, you're ready to go.

  9. Once you have experience, you can then start looking at applying for a position. Keep in mind, your acceptance letter has a priority date that DET use when they’re matching you to the school you will be working at – this limits the number of interviews that you need to do, but I have no ideas about this part of the process yet.
Once again, whew! Lots of work... but it helps knowing the steps! I hope this information helps =)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teaching agencies

Before you sign up with agencies, or think about teaching overseas, you need to be aware of one really important thing:
'Everyone' may be after NZ trained teachers, but the majority of international schools run under either the National Curriculum of England and Wales, the International Baccalaureate (PYP or Primary Years Programme and MYP or Middle Years Programme) or the International Primary Curriculum. So, NZ trained teachers with experience in at least one of these curriculum areas are in demand.
  1. It may be helpful to head to the UK first, so that you can get experience implementing the National Curriculum. However visa requirements are a nightmare. I will be devoting a whole post to the hoops and red tape involved in this pathway.
  2. The International Baccalaureate programme could be a more accessible option as they run online courses - with a huge amount of information available on their site (most at a price) and it is much easier if you are already affiliated with an IB World School. However, they do provide induction programmes, such as which comes in either a standard or condensed form and costs £350.00. They have a wide range of workshops - - I haven't had the funds to do these yet. If someone has feedback on how they felt about the courses, I'd love to hear about it.
  3. The International Primary Curriculum - is again, much easier to access if you're affiliated with an IPC school, but I have found the organisation incredibly helpful. They went above and beyond the call of duty for me and, as such, I would love to be able to experience the curriculum in action.
I did put off this post. I had no experience with teaching agencies prior to 2009, so I have been through a very steep learning curve and yes, some of it has been painful. I won't be speaking about getting work in Australia either, as that is a separate post. But I will be giving my tips for getting the most out of the agencies you're working with.

Generally, you have a place in mind that you want to head for, so this makes selection of agencies easier.My main aim was to travel, but I had no specific destination in mind, so I tried to cover my bases. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it contains the main agencies I have been involved with.
  • is a listing site. One of the easiest to deal with. All you need to do is to register, then search and apply for the jobs you are interested in. Although they focus on the UK, there is a great range of international jobs.
  • is similar to TES, in that you are the one searching and applying for jobs.
  • specialises in the Middle East and Asia, although they do post jobs on an international scale.
  • is a real people organisation. You need to work in with the people there, who will put your cover letters and CV forward and keep in touch regularly.
  • a focus on the UK, but also international jobs.
  • is the international branch of an agency that focuses on the UK. I didn't have too much luck with them, but your mileage may vary.
  • specialise in placements in the Middle East.
  • also focus on placements in the Middle East. There is a lot of paperwork involved.
  • focus on placements in USA (if I remember right, mainly in southern states, or it could be south-eastern).
Whew, that's been an awful lot of text and I haven't even started sharing hints yet.
  1. One key thing I will say is that you will need to invest the effort into form-filling. Most agencies give you an option of registering online. Now, I consider myself tech-savvy, so I didn't think it could possibly take as long as it did... but most sites will not let you just upload a CV. VIF, for example, has an indepth form that took me 1 1/2 hours to complete. The forms will take anywhere from 15mins to 2 hours. It is much easier for the form-filling if you have your paperwork handy. Also, make sure you save copies of the paper forms that you need to send through to the agencies. There are lots of similarities, so for those of you who, like me, are not typists... Copy-Paste is a real time-saver.
  2. You will then need to make sure you do your research. I found the teachanywhere podcast sharing phone interview techniques really helpful - they also have a range of resources and FAQs that are a great starting point. Quite a few of the agencies require at least a phone interview as the next step in registration, so it is very important that you prep for this. It had been around 10 years since I'd needed to be part of a job interview process, so at first... I was very rusty.
  3. Other than the phone interview, Skype is a popular option - so make sure to download this if you don't already have it. There are a few agencies that will organise face-to-face interviews or participate in job fairs... So, for a recap on the job-hunting process, I really recommend "Get That Government Job" by Dawn Richards. The accompanying website gives an idea of some of the content -
  4. One thing that freaked me out about my first face-to-face interview, was the emphasis given to the paperwork. Before doing any of your related research, make sure you have all your documents. Don't even limit it to what they tell you to bring. Bring any and all important documents in a little folder. I cannot stress how important the documents are - I even took to having a spare Justice of the Peace certified copy, plus originals and an extra photocopy for a while. Bring it all.
  5. The interviews aren't difficult, on a whole. As teachers, one thing that we love to do, is to 'talk shop'. So talking about your approaches to behaviour management, what your classroom would look like, how you would organise this or that curriculum area... is the easy part. Only tip here is make sure to talk about specifics. Some of the questions are so broad that if you don't focus in on specific examples from your personal experience, you may get bogged down in the process of answering the question.
Alright! You are now registered and you think everything will be smooth sailing from here... Maybe. My biggest tip for this part of the process... is to follow-up. When I thought I was well on the way to my overseas job with one agency and turned up for the interview... they shot my CV down in flames. I had successfully used this CV with all of the agencies that I had signed up with and no-one had said it was text-heavy, or formatted incorrectly?? You need to ask all of the questions and to followup with each agency on a regular basis, so that time is not wasted for either party.

I will save CVs for one of the next posts, as that was quite a saga in itself... But, other than following up, the thing that helped me the most in working with agencies was 'being a squirrel'. I held on to digital copies of forms, of cover letters, of varying versions of my CVs and this became quite a time-saver for me.

Remember, even if you are currently in a job where everyone thinks of you as the person to turn to, even if your students are excelling... you will face rejection. What I needed to do, was to reflect on each step of the process and to use my mistakes to learn from.

Hope this helps someone out there who is looking at getting overseas =)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Teaching overseas - before you leave

OK, I thought it was about time I started sharing some of the things I have been going through, so that hopefully it'll help others out there, who are looking at making the move to teaching overseas.
  1. Passport! You might say, hang on, duh. Of course I know I need this, but make sure you have lots of time left on your passport. Different countries have different requirements about how much time needs to be on these, so do your research.
  2. Check on things like your driver's license, your teaching registration. If either are due to expire soon, renew early to make your life easier.
  3. Sort out a forwarding address (I had the help of my gorgeous mum and lil sister, who offered to email if anything exciting turned up via snail-mail).
  4. Make sure you have original copies of all important paperwork. If any are lost, request copies of birth certificate, change of name, marriage certificate - these are all hugely important and you will need these in any country that you move to.
  5. Make an appointment with a JP and get lots of copies of your important documents certified (only if you're going somewhere like Australia, that has very close ties with New Zealand. If you are heading further out, see the next step).
  6. I had never heard of document notarisation or the apostille certificate, until I received my first job offer. Some countries will require this for your teaching qualification, as in their country they cannot determine by sight whether or not your qualification is authentic. It is essential for work visa purposes, so very important. Before you leave NZ, make sure you get a notarised copy (through an notary public like Wynyard Wood - about $60 for one notarised document plus hourly fee) and then see the following page: - apparently, the time frame after Internal Affairs receives your application can be around 14 working days, so get on to this early. Their fee is $32.50 at the moment (although that may well change).
  7. Organise at least three written professional references and make copies. Also, depending on where you are heading, organise a written reference from your landlord.
  8. If you are definite about what country you are going to, do your research online. If not, have a back-up plan. For example, if you have a back-up plan of living and casual teaching in NSW while job-hunting - find out about their accreditation process. Even though New Zealand and Australia have a close relationship, never make assumptions! You may be required to get declarations signed by friends or colleagues who can attest to your character. This is much easier to do before you leave the country. There may even be more than 1 accreditation process. You have no idea how long these could take, so - in today's information age, make sure you've done what you can online and prior to your departure.
  9. Minimise, minimise, minimise. Start at least 6-8 months before you're even thinking of leaving (especially if you're anything like me). If you are anything like me, I would recommend having at least a year up your sleeves, to minimise on stress levels.
    • Pass on resources to other teachers who can use
    • Run trademe auctions
    • Give other larger things to clothing bin, the mission, Salvation Army collection points, friends. Don't just rely on Trademe. I thought I had started quite early, but then the things I thought would sell, didn't and the re-listing grew tiresome. All the little things add up and for over 2 months it just felt like I had a mountain of things to still get rid of. I was still frantically going through the last of the bags / boxes up to three hours before the flight out.
  10. For anyone who has been day-to-day in a classroom for longer than a year - make sure you allow at least 3-5 days for your final classroom sort out.There will be things that you really want to PDF and have a digital copy of, sorting out your email (what needs to be backed up) and your folder on the server. There will be a list of things that you had meant to pass on to colleagues and had never had enough time to do so... The list goes on.... and on.
  11. If you are able to move out of your property at least a week before the flight and stay with family or friends, I really recommend it. This allows you time to sort the final property inspection, to take stock of exactly how much you have left that you no longer want.... and it means that you can spend your last week or so visiting family / friends and saying your goodbyes.
There is a lot to think about and here I have tried to cover the majors - In my next post, I'll look at CV requirements and my experiences with agencies. Please let me know if you think I've forgotten one of the majors.