Presenting: ‘Safer Schools for All’ – Part III

Previously I’ve reflected on presented the Safer Schools for All workshop here and here, commenting on the need to minimise the ‘tell’ and to challenge prejudice or ‘weak’ suggestions. In this third reflection I am going to try and process both my most successful presentation and my most challenging.safer schools

There was a strong challenge in terms of the cultural location of the conversation. There was a suggestion on one of the feedback forms to “include more NZ/Maori/Pasifika references”. But a discussion during the session, which continued after went much deeper than that. It asked me to have a more cultural perspective across the entire presentation as a Maori lens responds differently to the issues raised. As this participant pointed out, the language exercise at the beginning of the session was something they couldn’t relate to. In Maori there are only respectful terms for those in the LGBTI+ group. They compared this to a Maori student swearing in English and asking them to speak reo as a way of addressing this language. Homophobic terms simple don’t exist in Maori, so the colonial framework of addressing them isn’t necessarily the most appropriate.

I have since revisited the original data from which we extract the statistics in the presentation. It backs up that the data is accurate for a range of ethnic backgrounds, with similar number for Pakeha and Maori identifying as same-sex or both sex attracted. However, the report does not break down the health, well-being, substance, sexual health statistics by ethnicity. I think it is important to clarify this data before the next presentation.

The slide mentioning cultural terminology for some of the aspects we talk about on the Sex, Sexuality and Gender spectrums does -on reflection – feel like tokenism. I feel there is a much deeper way of framing this presentation in a culturally inclusive way that goes beyond just adding more examples of takatapui and using more reo in the presentation. This is something I look forward to addressing as a taskforce!

That being said the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Some of the feedback below suggests some significant shifts have been triggered:

[In] PE and Health I often feel we as a subject area are always left to teach these types of issues in isolation and with time constraints we struggle to give as much as needed.

I was really impressed with the presentation and the presenter. I wasn’t expecting it to be this good and helpful. I can totally see the relevancy and how I could begin to implement this into my curriculum.

Thank you! I came into this not knowing what to expect & if I’m honest, wanting to be doing my work – not because of not seeing this as important but just time constraints. BUT this was so worthwhile! Thank you!

Excellent presentation. Moving and thought provoking. Nice balance of videos and talk and discussion. Staff were engaged and wanting to do more to support their students and each other. Thank you.

Good session! The school has a very subtle issue of homophobic behaviour and the use of slurs. The staff (including myself) could benefit from some more thinking and action in this area.

I’m very proud to be delivering the session, and hope those seeds continue to grow for a long time.

Teaching Script Writing

This session led by Stuart Hoar was facilitated by Massey University for the Wellington Media teacher cluster. It focused on his experience of teaching script writing to students and what he felt, from his experience, are what young filmmakers need to understand.

Stuart regularly claimed how crucial it is for students to recognise structural paradigms in what they watch. They need to understand narrative paradigms, but not necessarily in order to follow them. This begins with the three act structure which recalls Aristotle’s three essential units of drama (beginning, middle and end).

He had many a point to make about narrative paradigms:

  • It is not a rule bound structure; it is instead grounded in principles.
  • The first draft should always be written without care towards these principles, but the review of this should always be through the lens of the paradigms.
  • The screenplay is written for the reader. The reader decides whether or not it will be made into something that is visual.
  • Tension = drama (dramatic stakes)
  • The audience wants to be engaged. We have dramatic expectations that can be capitalised on. We understand instinctively dramatic narrative; we have unconscious expectations of how this happens.
  • Genre and formula – our expectations get caught up by genre, we want surprise and comfort at the same time.
  • The dramatic structure is about what is happening to the characters and why
  • Act One makes a promise
    • It contains the ordinary world of the drama. By the catalyst, we need a perspective. We need to vicarious relate to the viewpoint. We must recognise that we are with that character.
    • Catalyst – inciting incident – sets something in motion and asks the dramatic question
    • Crossing the threshold – reaching the point of no return. Main character might refuse the dramatic question. But it is embraced by the end of act one. Audience must be engaged by 20 minutes in.
    • Sets the emotional tone, introduces the characters, takes us to the first TP – the point of no return.
    • Releasing the tension after the TP – how do you do this? Who knows. Write your script.
  • Act Two: complicates and escalates the action towards the next turning point
  • Act Three: answers the question.


Task: Use 2001 A Space Odyssey – first 12-15 minutes. The perfect one act structure – Kubrick not associated with Hollywood, but there is still structure. 

  • What is being set up here? Ordinary world?
  • Catalyst? Turning Point?
  • Climax and resolution? What is being paid off?

CTU Out@Work Conference


The CTU Out@Work Conference was an opportunity to share the work of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce as well as develop dialogue and network with other unions to hear about their work around sexuality and gender.

The keynote on the second day was delivered by Jack Byrne, a trans* activist. He made a range of points across his story filled presentation. Some of his key points were summarised by his tips. Firstly, the tips others have taught him:

  • Know your own struggle first
  • Look for groups that share a commitment to human rights
  • Listen to local community priorities and then identify what you can offer in support
  • How does your work empower those you are supporting?
  • Bring others with you
  • Be willing and eager to learn from emerging movements

Things to avoid:

  • Assume that activists in another country want or need your support
  • Making promises
  • Assume the needs and wants of another country

Things we can do from NZ:

  • Stand up from international human rights standards on Sexual Orientation Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGISC).
  • Sign on to NGO petitions and encourage general human rights groups to do this too e.g. the independent expert on SOGI is still under threat
  • Use UPR, CEDAW ILO and other reports to highlight SOGISC issues
  • To be honest about what we do well and share what we have learnt
  • Know where we lag behind and learn from others
  • Provide opportunities for activists and from other regions to share their knowledge and experiences

Some key points that have stayed with me – and that may have challenged the room -included the idea of being stuck in our own bubble. I think this was a striking point to make in a Union room. Like Karen Meluish’s uLearn keynote, the idea of the echo chamber does not helping us to move forward. Secondary, he made a strong argument for the need to link community research and community research together. Some of this research he showed us, and exploring these links is a big next step for me.

Another session titled ‘Pride, Politics and Power –lessons and legacy‘ involved a panel of speakers talking about their experiences in activism. Huia Welton spoke beautifully about the impact of language and how we can harness the power of words as a community. Her example was the Marriage Equality journey. The tenor of that campaign it was framed as about human rights and equal rights. Then there was a shift in language from rights to love. The argument put forward was everyone is created equal and everyone should be able to marry the person they love. Of course the campaign was more complex that this, but the shift in language made a big difference. It is harder to argue against love, than it is to argue against rights.

This teaches us about emotion, and teaches us about the importance of aspiration. In campaigns like this we articulate how life can be better and we speak to the values of society. We are much more able to take people on a journey of change by appealing to these values.

Finally, Kirsty and I delivered a workshop on the work of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce titled ‘Changing Workplace Cultures’. We argued the work we do in schools is vital for a future focused attitude towards the next generation of workplaces. Some of the takeaways included:

  • Language in the presentation needs to be updated: sex characteristics is a better was of talking about intersex identities.
  • When discussing the need for a collected movement, gender expression is a commonality across the LGBTIQ+ spectrum and can help to bring people together.
  • The PPTA is leading the way in terms of queer activism in workplaces. Our workshops and presence was a strong support to others who are making headway in their own unions and workplaces.
  • The connection made with NZEI was important as the combined force of our unions can make a real difference to the shape of NZ schools. For NZEI to not have formal rainbow representation is an outrage, but this is slowly changing as leaders in this area are emerging.
  • Their remains a tension between the work of a union and the greater good of queer activism.

In conclusion, the conference offered an opportunity to navigate my discomfort with the union movement, by realising the importance of the voices we have the opportunities that the collective has created.



Arts 21 – Relevant, Engaged, Contributing

Hosted by Radio NZ’s Bryan Crump, Arts21 at Te Papa considered the contributions that the arts make to our society and economy in the 21st century. It contained a keynote by Vice Chancellor Hon Steve Maharey, and a panel discussion with Professor Paul Spoonley (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Massey University College of Humanities and Social Sciences), Nicola Legat (founding publisher, Massey University Press), John Milford (Chief Executive, Wellington Chamber of Commerce) and Hannah August (writer, reviewer and commentator). The thoughts and reflections below are ideas that I gathered throughout the event – particularly from the excellent keynote.

  • We live in a globalised knowledge economy world where the arts have found it tough. STEM subjects receive natural bias and BAs are the butt of endless jokes. So the Arts have to explain itself. Explain it’s position in society. It’s reason for being. The arts are very good at doing this to the already converted, but wider conversation is necessary to re-frame education values.
  • “Knowledge earned through the Arts can set you free” – Steve Maharey. In our post truth era in politics (it’s wider than just politics) knowledge, attitude, competencies and skills from the arts – make us more likely to inquire and not just accept without thinking. Education in the arts essential to navigating a post truth world that is increasingly globalized. There is serious danger of moving towards a tribal world that does’t engage collectively (see the warning sounded in the recent film: Arrival). It is important to recognise the humanity in those of who you disagree with.
  • One of the key qualities that you get from an arts education is the ability to listen and to hear. This idea from Steve Maharey was expanded to thinking about learning to operate in environments with diverse views. There is a strong parallel here to the opinion economy that I’ve written previously about. Curiosity, communication, connections, appreciation of diverse views are other core qualities of an arts education. It prepares students to practice humility, tolerance and self criticism. Also to take on the challenge of how to take in thoughts of people that you disagree with and give their views respect.

If the world was a car, the Arts are the steering wheel – Callum Marra

The panel discussion followed with presenting wide ranging ideas. Some that stuck included:

  • Importance of exercising the responsibility of being citizens and not dismissing alternative views. A failure of engaging with questions and understanding that which we agree with and that which we disagree with is reflected by the issues faced in the USA and Britain. Something to note is the lack of wide media in NZ. There are very few places to go to gather diverse views.
  • We denigrate young people to easily. On the whole they are engaged, they are just communicating differently and navigating a very complex world. It is too easy to say they are apathetic, but the truth is far more complex.
  •  Steve Maharey spoke about what education needs to do: hang on to a curriculum that teaches students everything. Don’t succumb to the narrow vision of the curriculum that National Standards promotes and instead aspire for a broad range of knowledge. Languages being cut and dropped from the curriculum represents this narrowing and it’s something we have to fight against.
  • There is a balance between the specific skills for a job and the wider knowledge and life-skills required for success in 5 different industries and 17 different jobs (the new average apparently!).
  • Government had a lead a shift in discourse that sees value as economic value. We need to widen the discourse of value. Economic input doesn’t have to be economic output.


Guidance Professional Learning Day

The Guidance Professional Learning Day is now an annual event for the guidance team to take a PL approach to our positions. Deans PL is usually deferred to learning-on-the-job and internal support, so having this day to stop and examine our practices and be introduced to new ideas is so valuable.


Presentation from Marc Mulholland as our guidance counselor. Talking around helping student to slow down think less and rationalise through mindfulness. Mindfulness is:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Marc suggested the importance of taking time out and time to focus during our days. He took us through an exercise where we were instructed through a meditation process. It was a  time out and a chance to focus on the moment. He talked about the importance of taking time to stop and notice things in our environment that we don’t notice everyday.

We were introduced to six mindfulness exercises you can try today:

  1. Mindful breathing
  2. Mindful observation
  3. Mindful awareness
  4. Mindful listening
  5. Mindful immersion
  6. Mindful appreciation

Mindfulness is training the brain to have focused attention and increased emotional regulation. Data to support the implementation of a mindfulness programme is part of this TED talk:

Conversation then turned to how this might be incorporated into our current programmes. Initial feelings were positive and this is a discussion worth continuing.

Cross Sector Agency Perspective on Vulnerability 

Jo Brider – Lead Adviser: Social Sector Partnerships | Sector Enablement and Support

Jo spoke about the introduction of the Vulnerability Children’s Act 2014. The impact on schools and professionals and the actions we take to support these students. Vulnerable children are defined as:

Vulnerable children are children who are at significant risk of harm to their wellbeing now and into the future as a consequence of the environment in which they are being raised and, in some cases, due to their own complex needs. Environmental factors that influence child vulnerability include not having their basic emotional, physical, social, developmental and/or cultural needs met at home or in their wider community.

What do we do as professionals?

  • Sometimes something as simple as asking “are you OK?”
  • Trust your instincts – be professional
  • The need to share information, pass on disclosures
  • Sharing of information is absolutely vital

Further reading: The White Paper for Vulnerable Children and a FAQ.

Research on Student Wellbeing

Julia Davidson – Principal, Wellington Girls College | Woolf Fisher Scholarship 

With Julia’s scholarship she targeted visiting high performing schools and how they are dealing with mental health and wellbeing of their students. Her findings pose interesting challenges to the way in which we are supporting student wellbeing in these increasingly complex times. The first part of her session was reporting back on her findings. Most of the following examples come from Ontario:

  • Integrated and holistic approach to wellbeing – part of the vision, annual and strategic plans, comes from the top.
  • Curriculum integration – health compulsory until students are 15/16
  • Incredibly well resourced including this website: Well Ahead Canada
  • People involved are generous and collaborative, with additional staffing in place (the US system Julia encountered doesn’t have guidance counselor, broadly speaking they are under resourced careers advisors)
  • Ontario just started walk in mental health clinics

What action is possible for schools?

  • Learning environment: ‘climate of care’; responsive classroom model
  • Curriculum: health; wellness days (teachers not involved, student managed, external providers) and pop ups; reduction of credits 15-19; quality not quantity; NCEA policies around withdrawal and assessment clarified and emphasised; no exams Y9/10 or homework; flexi-block of time in timetable.
  • Pastoral care: form time (swap for more focused mentoring? Smaller groups?) Tuakana teina instead of peer support – 1:1 matching; wellness theme in assemblies with student voice.

Core Breakfast – The power of research thinking to transform teaching and learning

In this seminar Keryn Davis will open up the research space traditionally allocated to academics by sharing how research can be the activity of teachers and students. She will share some of their recent research experiences and the exciting and transformative changes that are possible when creative methodologies are used to listen and challenge what has always been.

  • What is research?
  • Who can be a researcher?
  • How can students and teachers can be active in the research – not just as subjects and / or participants?
  • Using creative methods to listen and challenge.
  • Stories of research for transformative change.

Defining research:

  • Collaborative classroom research
  • Difference between the research as the outsider and the researcher as the professional on the inside (self study?)
  • Research as taking in different viewpoints to discover why some can see what they can see
  • Research thinking
  • Inquiry or research?
    • Research space has a clear design and rigor so the research can stand up to scrutiny
    • Inquiry doesn’t necessarily have the detailing (i.e. ethics and approval) and is more everyday process
  • Action research: “No action without research; no research without action”


  • Belongs in the hands of researchers or the hands of teachers?
  • Hattie: no evidence that action research is making a difference

What are there dispositions, orientations and approaches that researching teachers are using?

The session was highly focused on Early Childhood which wasn’t ideal but there was plenty to consider in terms of relevance to teenagers. Something to reflect further on is the involvement and well-being scales which I think could be implemented in some way to gather data within some future action research. Therefore my underlying takeaway is to reframe my thinking about what data actually is and look for the stories and how to capture the stories of learning.

Top tips for putting

  • Learn the art of listening
  • Learn to ask meaningful questions in the right way
  • Be prepared to find the unexpected – become comfortable with uncertainty
  • Look at things from multiple angles and perspectives
  • Use the language or literacy of the people that you want to learn from
  • Try, try and try again

uLearn16 – Keynote #4 – Karen Spencer

‘Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession’

Karen will take you on a provocative journey to explore the rapid rise in innovative professional learning. From ‘done to’ staff meetings to collaborative, agile investigations into what’s happening for our learners, the way educators improve and grow has evolved rapidly in recent years. She’ll explore new insights into professional learning, best ways to embrace change, and invite you to think about how we can transform what we do for our learner.

In many ways this was a perfect closing to uLearn16: synthesising the key themes of the conference and drawing together some superb advice for working in praxis. Karen acknowledged poetically the essence of teaching, affirming that getting better at what we do is part of our DNA and that methods matter. She also affirmed that the greatest difference to student achievement is teachers. Teachers’ beliefs are fundamentally important.

The approach that will make the greatest difference to students is self-belief in teachers to collaborate and to be effective

If we are to surround ourselves with only voices that agree with us then we can end up operating in a filter. It’s vital we keep our views being challenged and engage with dialogue with alternative viewpoints. There is no one idea, so we must hold our ideas lightly.

The key note stuck to a central theme of embarking on change. This was fitting, as come the end of the conference with so many ideas boiling at the surface, the how was never more important. The three considerations before embarking on change:

  • Find the urgency
  • See the story behind the data
  • Embrace discomfort


1. Find the Urgency

With so many initiatives and ideas surrounding us, a continual yearn for solutions and constant educational designing; it is hard to have deep meaningful change. So we need to focus on the most urgent area that students need most. Find the urgency. giphy

Go slowly into innovation and take the time to ensure it is deep and meaningful, not a band aid solution. Focus needs to be spent on the things that are urgent. There’s no such thing as small change. The answers are not at the next exit – because it is a fluid process. Look for the alignment between the vision and what is happening for the students.

Pause before you leap into the next innovation…

how-to-hire-a-cfd-consultant-maslow-71405b732. See the Story Behind the Data

Data is one thing, but the story is as important. Listen to your learners. Make it be OK for it to be safe for them to offer us their feedback. Their voice is so important, but it has to be genuine. They have to have the space for their voice to be heard authentically.

3. Embrace Discomfort

Being a modern educator means having our biases being gently exposed. You need the diverse views in order to realise where you are making assumptions. We all see things differently and being open to alternative points of views is fundamental to success across the board in education. Our challenge sometime sis finding ways to hear diverse perspectives.

Naturally there is pressure to conform (last clap) and agree with colleagues. Devil’s advocating and seeking diverse views can help – read a blog you don’t agree with. John Cusack rule:

I have one rule: keep the fear off the set

Five Actions

  1. Compare the school’s vision and curricula
  2. Explore the story behind the data
  3. Walk around all the information
  4. Resist ‘solutionitis’
  5. Agree on the strong signals before you test and trial

The learning we do together is not the extra thing we do on the plate, it is the plate. Education doesn’t change the world. Education changes people and people change the world.