Book Corner: Term 4 2014

Introducing Rachael Craw

It is always exciting to discover a new author, especially when they are from New Zealand, and remarkably good.

As I was heading on vacation, I loaded several books onto my Kindle, including Spark, written by Rachael Craw. I tweeted Rachael instantly when I discovered that she was on twitter, was an English teacher and of course, a kiwi. My goal was to have her feature in our final English Newsletter for the year. Rachael agreed, and her responses are recorded below. 

No wonder I thoroughly enjoyed Spark, Rachael draws inspiration from my all time favourite author, Margaret Atwood. Spark is not just for Young Adults, many of us adults enjoyed the convincing characters, the pace and sophisticated themes. My Year 10s have loved the novel, and look forward to the next installment. We understand this will be hitting our shelves early next year.

Rachael Craw 2014
Thank you Rachael for your inspiring responses. I am looking forward to meeting you in person one day, as we sound like we have a lot in common. In the meantime, I will follow your successes via twitter, and will continue promoting your novel to our students.

What are you planning to read this summer?

Evaluating Ms Robson, 2014

What do they really think?

As promised, I provided the students with opportunities to have their say. To ensure that I am accountable, for continuous improvement and pure curiosity in me, I set up class evaluations annually. This year, I opted for a Google Form for two reasons. First, it is easily accessible and secondly, the instant feedback I receive is valuable.
I love that they take this evaluation seriously
Here is the survey I emailed to students in my Year 9 and 10 English classes. I also created the QR code, which was displayed in our room. The response rate was approximately 35%, which is not great, but about average from my research experience.

For me, reflecting on the data to improve is vital.

What works well?

I am pleased that students comment about their engagement, relationships and enjoyment within our classroom. They believe that I am helpful, provide feedback and give them the ability to discover learning at their pace. 

Even Better if?
Common threads of improvement, other than the usual demands for more movies and cake, seem to focus on the need for more guidance to reach independence. A couple of students want a quieter environment, whilst others think having more revision would be useful.

Know thy Teacher

Next, students selected characteristics that best fit me as a teacher. The top characteristics they highlighted were: helpful, motivating, firm yet fair, patient, empathetic and an active listener. Interestingly, when our ako began this year, they brainstormed characteristics of an ideal teacher and student - check out the blog post here. Furthermore, an excellent clip posted by Mr Perry - Things Teachers Should Hear, resonates well here.

Rate my Teacher

Using Likert Scales, 1 = Strongly Disagree through to 6 = Strongly Agree, students rated me on each of the following statements.

The first two graphs show that by and large, I am knowledgeable and approachable. As for personalised learning, it seems to me an area to work on further. Further probing could include: perceived? explicit? visible? 
Once again, our goal of e3 - Enjoying English Every time is evident, and students feel that they are genuinely cared for. Likewise, the fact that the majority know where we are going and what success looks like is pleasing. Kind Specific and Helpful Feedback is highlighted as a strength - this is ongoing, varied, and used by us all.  
The Key Competencies 'TRUMP' have been used as dispositions, as ways of empowering students to take ownership of their learning. By Thinking, Relating to Others, Understanding symbols and texts, Managing Self and last but not least, participating and contributing, students are equipped with life long learning habits. However, quite clearly, this is a very varied response recorded below and further work is required for its overall success.
I would like to investigate the safe environment further, as for me it is concerning that potentially 5 students do not feel strongly that their environment is safe and focused.

Here are some extra comments:
- Thank you for such an enjoyable two years of English :)
- I really enjoyed English this year, it was one of my favourite subjects.
- Thanks for being the best teacher
- I've learnt a lot this year in English!
- Ms Robson is FABULOUS!
- I had an enjoyable year studying English.
- I have had Miss Robson for almost two years now and she has been a wonderful English teacher. She always motivated us to read more because she said it will help you improve in English. I never used to believe her but now, from her motivation, I am reading every night and have watched my English marks improve dramatically.
- Hi Miss, you are one of the most wonderful teachers I have ever met. I'm very glad that you teach me English. Thanks for teaching us.


Overall, I feel that my students have had a successful year. I truly believe that their positive learning environment encourages them to be self driven and thirsty for knowledge. Building curiosity, independence and ownership for their learning have been some of my goals. Building strong relationships certainly is the key, and makes this time both celebratory and sad. Not only am I farewelling this year's group of students, I am also saying good bye to the school, where I have been for the past ten years - but that is another blog, for another day!

Making it Modern - Work in Progress

Our Modern Library Learning Environment (MLLE)

Welcome to our AJHS Library - click here -


This is something we constantly ask to ensure that we protect our third place - a place we see as a blend of recreational/information seeking/social flexible space. Ultimately, our library is the heart, the manawa of the school. Therefore, it needs to be: invitational, a point of difference, responsive, reflect and support the school vision, fluid, have adaptable flexible learning spaces, ongoing initiatives, accessible, adaptive, service, spaces, connected, digital, collaborative. Check out our recent presentation here, 'Dancing in the Dark'.

Flexible Working spaces

Adaptive and responsive
Utilising our flexible spaces

Considerations for MLLE/MLE:

* Staff

- Library Manager/TLE - regular time/meeting to plan and drive change.

- Library Manager/librarian/student librarians/Library Team - value added teams

- upskilling the non digital natives, we need to offer them the best to enable them to help their students. Web based, social media contexts

- look at how staff use the library - purchased data projector screen & portable screen for presentations.

- Chromebooks - 10 were trialled by the library. Now, 7 have been purchased, via English and Social Sciences
* Space

- flexible/environment/never static/functional

- host author visits/PLD/English Learning Area Meetings/Enrolments/Powhiri

- physical and virtual worlds - not limited to the room

- personalising learning

- connecting with community, feeder schools - Kids’ Lit Quiz, Spell it Out

* Students

- students’ needs/personalised learning

- authentic, lifelong learning

- Want our students to be: communicators, work ethic, perseverance, working collaboratively, and multiliterate (Sandretto & Tilson, 2014)

* Programmes/Services

- Athenaeum

- Chromebooks

- Access 24/7 - Library Catalogue/Blog/ePlatform

- copying/printing - before/after school, during day

- ICT support - during interval/lunchtime

* Budget
- More please!

Vibrant, invitational, student centered
Our annual book sale - weeding the old, to bring in the new
Book Chat - just one of the possibilities

Challenges and Hurdles to Overcome

- Budget - no increase of budget - parent forum/support from some departments.

- Vision - if stagnant - school vision, the Library / Literacy team are driving changes - continuous PLD/readings

- Skillset - varying IT skillbase of students/staff

- High use: heavy traffic in the library - several items due for refurbishment

- High demand

Engaged Learners, Blended Learning
The Chrome Books have been an excellent addition. 
These are available for students during the day.

How to implement Change?

  • Principal - # 1 Driver
  • Demand High expectations - staff / teachers / students
  • Library thrives on meeting the needs of our students
  • Visionary - our vision of a library - focussing on the importance of relationships with students and staff - offering personalised services - being the "go to" person for information needs.  Value added, transforming learning. To anticipate and be proactive.  Build a team of student librarians. Being a active member of professional groups and undertaking ongoing professional development PLUS The traditional view of a shushing librarian being an exception rather than the rule.
  • First impressions count
Our amazing Library Manager, Sandrea Ware
Christmas strawberries, ice cream, meringues & treats to say THANKS to our fantastic student librarians
Members of the NARATE committee, at our Term 4 Literary Quiz
Professional Learning and Development is held in our Library
Fabulous food by Julie, Visual Impact Ltd
Christmas Cheer for All
 Students & staff collected luxury food items for the Albany Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal, 2014
Wishing you a very
Merry Christmas 

Meri Kirihimete e te whānau

AJHS Library Team 2014