"You Get Out What you Put In" - Gary Crew 2014

Gary Crew visits Albany Junior High School

We were privileged to host award winning, Australian author, Gary Crew, as part of this year's Storylines Festival, NZ. I was absolutely impressed with his knowledge, humour and content. Wayne Mills, another guru, now retired university lecturer and full time Quiz Master for Kids' Lit Quiz also attended. It was lovely to reconnect with Wayne after ten years when he presented in our foundation year here at AJHS.

A group of extension Year 8 and 9 students attended the creative writing workshop, selected for their flair and enthusiasm for writing. However, at first, they were a tough, mute  audience. Both Gary and myself had to try really hard to warm them up. This was an excellent reminder for me, as when we 'drop' students into these 'artificial' settings, they may not necessarily know each other or perhaps they are not used to having a voice, a choice or having to think deeply. As educators, ideally we need to activate their learning, encourage and empower their voice, allow them to take risks in order for them to gain confidence and articulate their thinking. 

Gary Crew's Advice:

1. When you write, have something significant to say.

It needs Resonance - echo   and Gravitas

Opening page of Chapter 6 An Act of God - in Force of Evil (1998) 
- he giveth and taketh
Who performed the final act of God? The Doctor took life, rather than giving it. Who is her? 

Title - every story needs a title

I loved that Gary, a seasoned professional was "scanning for victims", pointing out to our students that it is important to have a go - "if it's not right, who cares? If they laugh, who cares?"

Look at the use of VERBS - aggressive, violent, shook - conjure up an image.

2. You need to GRAB your audience's attention

Edgar Alan Poe - The Tell-tale Heart
He grabs you instantly, read in one sitting, see how he begins the story...

3. Questions - keep them wondering

Less to write, it is harder. Developing plot, character, setting and theme in a short story. A novel is more forgiving, you can drop stuff out. 
Ask: Was I right? I think...

4. Who is the narrator? Whose point of view? 

- Power to express
- True or False - change names to protect later - keep the energy in your story

5. Conflict - deviate from what is expected

Gary finished with a writing task for the students.  He wished to simply throw pebbles in the pond, for the students to make ripples.
1. Presenting images of two unrelated objects, he was challenging them to make connections and Ask WHY? The key  is to START - start making words.
2. SYMBOLS: again, images that symbolise ideas, concepts. Ask what  is the Conflict?
3. How do they LINK?

Capturing the experience - LiveBlogger

Rewarding our Avid Readers 
- morning tea with Gary Crew -

Enjoying the opportunity to meet with Gary Crew

Sharing his experiences as an author

As a creative writing Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Gary Crew works mainly with doctoral students. Their goal is to write a novel, plus theorise this process. This university also provides a PhD pathway in Gaming and Dance. Education is important.

Author's Advice: Final Words


From Novice to Host - #edchatnz plus #EngchatNZ

Here is the wordle.net collated from our recent #EngchatNZ Survey  

Like #edchatnz, we are given a list of possible topics to vote on. I was invited by Alex, to host tonight's chat. Thanks to sound advice from Ros and Alex, alongside Danielle's GHO - another thing - all the acronyms, I was ready and waiting, of course, totally nervous and excited combined.
A quick hint, if you haven't downloaded TweetDeck, you will find it easy to have several columns open at a time. 

 How is English evolving to meet our 21st C learners and beyond? #engchatnztopic

This week's questions:

A special thank you to Toni for creating this week's Storify.

I love the interesting ideas, discussions, encouragements and challenges these chats bring. Of course, you have to mull over things after the event, which is where the storify is helpful. 


I like to leave people feeling like they could walk back into the classroom tomorrow and apply their new knowledge, skill, challenge or question. 
Here are mine - what are yours?


Danielle, Alex, Toni and Ros, plus of course all the tweeters #EngchatNZ and of course, @EngchatNZ

Po Marie #EngChatNZ


Feed the Teachers: TOD 2014

Teachers as Learners 

Teacher Only Day 2014

The students are happy - they have a long weekend! The teachers are happy - we have time to regroup, review and reinvigorate.  Interestingly though, our students seemed surprised that we, teachers, will actually be at school, learning, today. This is a good reminder for us to explicitly model and share that we are lifelong learners. Personally, I prefer the inclusive term: Staff Only Day. However, this time, the support staff are enjoying a well deserved day off.

Session One: Financial Literacy - Getting ahead financially

Vicky and Ashmita presented the latest from our AJHS Financial Literacy Team.
The Business Academy has been successfully launched this year.

We have been asked to complete this Survey,  that way PLD can be personalised to meet our needs. Through the Business Academy, students are learning through hands on opportunities to be enterprising. It is exciting to see the partnerships with community being established. I particularly liked the students' presentations - creating apps, working collaboratively, and fiercely competing. The cross overs into several subjects affirms to me this has to be the way forward. I also enjoy seeing students I teach, succeeding in other areas of the school, another area for us to develop further.

Session Two: Appraisal - the AJHS way forward

Traditionally, appraisal has been treated as a tickbox exercise (Robson, 2012). Appraisal is an area I feel so strongly about - hence the basis of my thesis - check out my link here.

Stephen presented a fluid appraisal model, drawing on Marzano's work on system effectiveness.
Marzano's Four Domains
1. Classroom Strategies & Behaviours
2. Planning and Preparing
3. Reflecting on teaching
4. Collegiality & Professionalism

Teacher Effectiveness Framework 

Stephen acknowledged, Sarah Martin from Stonefields School, one of his educational heroes. The big question is: How do we know where teachers are at and where to? We need to see progressions, not just ticking boxes.

As we have been examining Hattie's research which highlights the biggest variance is between classes, not schools, we need to provide a consistent, viable curriculum. We need to assure our community that at AJHS we invest in four years of students' lives. How? - by providing an ordered, safe environment.
Stephen reminded us that TIME is the constant. Also, promised that time will be given to appraisal, to ensure that it is viable. Furthermore, if our long term Goal is vertical tutoring systems, we need to focus our efforts on Vocabulary - especially as academic language increases from Year 9 onwards.
PLC - Professional Learning Communities will be established.

AJHS Appraisal Process / System: A Clear and Transparent system
A living document - which will go live next year.  The staff have been assured that money will be invested in this, TIME is essential (and training).

Beginning - initial meetings

Mid Year - formal / informal observations

End of Year - self reflection, goals, meeting

Session 3: Visiting ASHS in action

Building Links: Stephen Kendall-Jones, AJHS and Barbara Cavanagh, ASHS
ASHS Three Strands: - Specialist   - Tutorial  -  Impact Wed
Fishbowls - breakaway rooms


- New Leadership Space now - used for student leadership committees
- No whole school assemblies, Level 5 now open
- 750 Students
- Longer periods 100 minutes - students enjoy 
- No Bells
- First name basis
- Tutorial Time - constructive, leaders helping younger students, tutor teachers fluid, 15 students only.
Flexible & variable spaces/respect spaces/sound proof, quiet & focused
- Collaborative Visible Art Work - Impact Projects. 
Learners focused - apart from jumping up and hugging AJHS staff!

Wall of Impact


Performing Arts in action

Impact Project, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye with Suhanna

As always, it was lovely catching up with the fabulous English team. Our links have strengthened over the past few years as we have shared PLD meeting times and of course through Narate events each term.

Finally, Stephen challenged us to reflect on:
What can we learn from our experience at ASHS?
Staff ideas included: Having our school open longer after school - catch ups?
Channeling creativity on the walls - colourful, student ownership
Looking at utilising atriums - furniture to absorb sound.Which whanau wants to trial new furniture - the catch, open the doors and walls up...Who will it be?

Another highlight for me, was the ASHS Library (MLLE)


Session 4: AJHS - The Vision, 2015 and beyond

I, We, It, Them
Shared Vision
Mission Statement: Excellence is the only option - Stephen's suggestion...

I chose to work in the VALUES/BELIEFS group. 
This was a large group of teachers. Here is what I observed:

In big groups, it is hard to be collaborative, decisive and productive. To ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to contribute, there needs to be a leader guiding the process. 

At first, we all sat in a large group - it was hard to hear, hard to share, hard to complete the task at hand. A few left the group as we were not getting anywhere. 

Problem solved - we split into smaller groups, each with a mission - to explore our values and beliefs on  environmentcurriculum, assessment and instruction.

To our shared, collaborative efforts, ready to report back

Inherited potential...authentic - real world learning
My Observations:
Effective Group work - needs a leader with 4-5 people
Reporting back - the art of actively listening
Challenging others - focus on the evidence, not the person.

 Overall, an interesting day. There is a lot to process, and much to celebrate - Monday is our Mid Term Break and precious time with the whanau.