Friday, October 27, 2017

Creativity in education / power of story & drama / solving teacher stress / Reggio Emilia and play / exciting maths and project based learning

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Chris Hipkins

New Zealand’s new government has now been sworn in and is now getting down to work. The new Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, has made it clear that national standards are going, so that teachers can focus on teaching rather than testing. While I’m sure that there will be policy decisions that we don’t agree with, the overall direction will be positive. Because of this, there will be a subtle change of emphasis in these readings, with more articles focussing on enhancing quality teaching and learning. The odd ‘anti-GERM’ article will still appear, to inform less fortunate teachers overseas, and also as a warning to New Zealand not to go back down that path.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Please forward these readings to other teachers,
schools and interested people.

Building Resilience, Preventing Burnout

Are you putting your health and well-being first? You can’t do the best for your classes if you don’t look after yourself. 
Burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion. It can manifest as low-level depression. It’s what happens as a result of unrelenting stress—both physical and emotional. And you can prevent it. You can recognize the indicators of burnout, you can boost your emotional resilience, and you can draw boundaries around what you do so that you can tend to your physical and emotional well-being.’

Researchers confirm what parents have suspected for decades… Some old school playing really is better for kids than
For generations, it has been the go-to instruction for harassed parents pestered by bored and fractious children: “Go outside and play”. Now researchers have confirmed the long-held suspicion that playing outside is better for children than formal physical education classes. The trial at seven Glasgow schools found that encouraging pupils to not only play sport but also create their own games increased their activity by more than half an hour every day.’

Once upon a time: starting at the beginning

‘This might be an issue that is quite specific to our school, but I have realised that the vast majority of our pupils just don’t understand stories. Many of them have not been brought up with stories, not had stories read to them as young children and don’t really understand the point of stories, which makes developing a genuine understanding of what people are trying to do when they write difficult. Pupils could diligently learn all the different language and structural features and sentence starters, and churn out versions of the model answers we’d worked through, but did not have a real feel for why any of it was important.'

How Teachers Can Integrate Drama Into Other Lessons

‘There are few better ways to learn than to do and in a way, adding drama to lessons gives the learner a greater sense of doing. For teachers, adding drama to their teaching and not limiting it to be used as a separate subject, can have notable benefits in the classroom. So, we thought we would compile some ways that educators can include teaching in and also outside of drama class.’

5 Ways Gifted Students Learn Differently

'What distinguishes gifted children from other children? This question has been under debate for some time. However, as educators, understanding how gifted students learn in comparison to their peers is necessary for the success of their learning experience and your ability to connect with them through teaching.’

Pedagogy before technology

Thanks to Phil Cullen for this article.

'Central Queensland University senior lecturer, Dr Michael Cowling, breaks down the factors
schools should consider when incorporating mixed reality technology into the classroom.’

‘Mixed reality is an emerging and exciting field that is only just starting to break into education. When you consider the variety of hardware and software available, and the ability of students to develop user-generated content, a focus on “pedagogy before technology” becomes important. When applied to the classroom appropriately, mixed reality solutions can make a positive difference to student learning.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Reggio Emilia Approach To Early Childhood Education: An Overview

The Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education originated in the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy. Since its development in the 1940's, this inspiring and innovative educational approach to early childhood learning has since been used worldwide.

The Reggio Approach fosters the children’s intellectual development through encouraging young children to explore their environment and express themselves through all of their available “expressive, communicative and cognitive languages.’

A Starter’s Guide to PBL Fieldwork

Five tips to help you get started with taking students out for fieldwork—a powerful component of project-based learning.’

Math Class Doesn’t Work. Here’s the Solution

Jo Boaler:

Jo Boaler
‘I love math, but I know that I’m unusual. Math anxiety is a rampant problem across the country. Researchers now know that when people with math anxiety encounter numbers, a fear center in the brain lights up — the same fear center that lights up when people see snakes or spiders. Anxiety is not limited to low-achieving students.

Seymour Papert on How Computers Fundamentally Change the Way Kids Learn

Seymour Papert
Seymour Papert died at the age of 88 in 2016 (see obituary in New York Times). The following description of  Papert was written to introduce the interview he gave to Dan Schwartz in 1999. Seymour] Papert is the co-founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence and Media Labs, professor of Media Technology at MIT, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the impact of computers on learning. He is the current elder statesman in a lineage of educational reformers that include John Dewey and Jean Piaget.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The corporate takeover of society and education.

Thankfully this will no longer fully apply to New Zealand now that we have a new government.

‘Any kind of testing/ranking system is aimed at ensuring that the children of the 'deserving' (i.e
rich) are advantaged and thus prepared to continue the hegemony in the future. The extensive research about the effects of poverty and socio-economic issues on learning shows that the probability is that the children of the rich will 'achieve.' As in the past, the system is designed to sift children into levels of 'achievement'. The socio-economic influences will mean that the 'deserving' get a rich education, while the rest just get the 3Rs. Workers in this model are seen as intelligent machines, and, indeed, are replaced by machines as soon as possible. The alternative, of course, is the New Zealand Curriculum.’

Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL) .

‘Terms such as Inquiry Learning, Integrated Learning, Related Arts or holistic learning are well known to New Zealand teachers and are all similar to Project Based Learning. Such approaches were once an important in New Zealand schools.

NZ Goodbye standardisation in education welcome creativity

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Educational changes in New Zealand and a challenge for Australia

Reflections by Phil Cullen who retired from his role as Director of Primary Education Queensland and who, since his retirement,
has fought the good fight to resist the neo-liberal GERM ( Global Education Reform Movement that has infected Australian Education.
 Charles Philip [Phil] Cullen AM;  A.Ed., B.Ed.[UQ], Dip.Ed.Edmin, M.Ed.Admin (Hons) [UNE];  FACE, FACEL, FQIEL, Gold Medal ACEL;  Life Member:  CCEA, QASSP, QSPSSA, QSSSA, Bris. SSRLA;  Co-author: 4 books;  Author 1 book; Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education; Chairman:  Q’ld Day Comm, Primary Curric.Comm, Review Primary Educ’n in A.C.T. Gov’t Schools; Regional Director NQ & N.West Q’ld;  Former member:  Lismore Catholic Diocese Ed. Council,  McAuley College  [now ACU] Council,  James Cook U of NQ Council ,  Townsville CAE Council. Primary School Teacher/Principal 23 years; Regional Director & Inspector 6 years; Director 13 years.  (refer:’Who’s Who in Australia'.

May 17th 2017 In this final posting Phil, after a long battle , gives up the fight disappointed with the lack of resistance of Australian educators and  with opposition politicians to present an alternative to the current managerial test oriented  standards based approach.

New Zealand Leads the way

Phil has gained heart from the appointment of the new Labour Government led by Jacinda Adern with its return to a progressive approach to education.

New Zealand leads the way down under and maybe across the world in caring about kidsIts determination to return to 
sanity, humanity, progress, initiative and competence for its schooling system, which itself determines national progress in the long run,  is now being unpacked and, I am told that the new coalition government contains a few former teachers and active school parents as heavyweights who can talk school and lead the conversation for a better world down under. 


There's dynamic Tracey Martin, former School Board chair; Kelvin Davis, highly respected former principal and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; and Winston Peters of NZ First and, Deputy PM who trained as a teacher.  In Australia we only have legal eagles.
Tracey Martin and Winston Peters

Parent groups in NZ are claiming that now, teaching will be returned to the teaching profession and democracy will be returned to schooling in New Zealand soon. The isles are shaking with joy for kids.

It's a country that has always been to the forefront of school improvement but then, the take-over by the irrational managerialists and corporate heavy-weights circa 1990, and the addition of GERM in 2008, has had a detrimental impact that has lasted for a decade. They've had enough, now. We still tolerate it to our shame and academic deterioration.

How come New Zealand leads the world now  in the  decontamination of the establishment's unworthy,  useless, immoral, unethical,  unprofessional testucation procedures in schools? Well, there's been a number of factors.

Fortunately, during this period, it has had  its crusaders for kids who just don't give in too easily.  It's been a long and arduous battle, of the kind that must continue next door, in Australia.

There's Kelvin Smythe, former Chief Inspector and Allan Allach, energetic, thoughtful former primary school principal, reader and writer and Bruce Hammonds, former principal, consultant and writer - a valiant trio that has been unafraid to have their say.  They set the pace. ( Phil maybe giving us more credit than we deserve but we have all done our best to share progressive ideas but we are happy to acknowledge there are many  others  who have made valuable contributions-  Lester Flockton is one who comes to mind -Bruce Hammonds ).

Chris Hipkins
There's Chris Hipkins, in particular, who has been the shadow Minister for Education whose inspirational speeches and talks have been based on a sound knowledge of schooling and who has been unequivocal in his aim to rid the country of testucation and de facto schooling.

There's the Primary Principals' Association which kept its administrative distance from the government testucrats and compliant GERMans, never properly complying .  While "The Government will never listen and nothing will change and we are just one little country." some timorous principals said, there were others of the association, especially the leader of the organisation, Whetu Cormick,  described as "The greatest teacher organisation leader of our time,:" by Kelvin Smythe.  Whetu  didn't hold back , "At the other
Whetu Cormack
extreme are those like me,"
he said "who will continue to fight to the end. We know that National Standards and all the 'reforms' that go with them are bad for our young people. Our young people have faith in us to protect their futures by continuing to fight for the best education that our young people deserve."  Looking directly into the face of Nikki Kay, the then Minister, he said, "Let's wait no longer to get our young people on the road to success. Let's put up a big stop to National Standards."  The organsation has always been fearless...

There's Diane Kahn and the Save Our Schools organisation whose prime target has always been ]
the elimination of 'national standards' and was heavy and  constant with dynamic opposition . [

There's  an influential Kiwi sciolist  [aka schooliolist - one who pretends to be well informed about schooling] and academic testucator who played a significant role in the introduction of testucation into NZ.....who left the country at the right time. ( Just in case you can't guess who Phil is referring to it is John Hattie -Bruce Hammonds)

There are some messages for Australia.

In world schooling terms,  it is the boondocks of failed political schooling, the backward West Island of learning progress, the most over-tested country in the world.

A political party needs to think. Does it believe in providing the best schooling possible, or doesn't it give a damn as Aussie political  parties do?

Time to leave standardised learning Australia
Listening to schooliolist academic know-alls,  qualified testucators, loud-mouth politicians, corporate unions inhabited by conservative capitalists, neo-libs and delcons, which still rule the roost on the west side of the ditch, continues to lead Australian schooling in the wrong direction. New Zealand has now told these cocky roosters what to do with their distasteful attitude to children.

"Australian schools are in dire need of some Finnish-ing tactics." said Wendy Knight in The Age....and we can now add: 'and some Kiwi tactics'. What really happens in a good school system?

Why don't Australian politicians look around and learn?

An example of off-the-hip, loud-mouth political interference is contained in suggestions made in Treasurer Morrison's Shifting the Dial, another imported kind of measurement.  It presumes that will improve  standards in schools. It overlooks the reality that real teachers teach real pupils....real people!  The secret is in the interaction. They teach them about mathematics, to like mathematics. They don't get up in front of a class and pontificate about what they themselves know. Effective teachers of anything  operate from the learner's level. Socrates was a better teacher of Maths than Einstein and a better teacher of literature than Shakespeare. His pupils learned how to learn.
the hiring of skilled subject specialists like mathematicians

Importance of Principal's organisations

A strong and outspoken principals' association can be truly influential as they are in NZ. Protection of children and their future as well as the provision of a rich holistic curriculum, undaunted by fearful interruptions to positive learning, should  dominate the spirit of every principal's personal  professional code. Laxity, timidity, compliance and silence have no place in their organisations when the chips are down for they are now  in Australia.

Labour  Party in Australia

What happened to Ned Kelly spitit?
 . The lib-lab neo-con conventions will probably continue as they did in the passing of klein deforms Neither political group, Labor nor Liberal, ever expresses any thoughts  about the continuance of the Klein system of schooling, now almost a decade old ; and which should go because it is proving useless. Neither party knows much about schooling and hides its ignorance by talking only Gonksi and funding and teacher quality. For them, the plight of children lies in the dollar sign, not in compassion and humanity and learning and in experience and excellence. Each  remains ultra-complacent by making do, making silly schooling decisions, maintaining the mediocre, and supporting private schools before helping public schools.
It's looking more evident every day that the lower half of the existing Lib-Lab delcon group viz. Labor under Shorten, will be the government after the next federal election in Australia
Joel Klein
from Labor to Liberal.

A country that treats its children the way that Australia does, is in for big trouble....really big trouble.  .

 It relies on the cockeyed Gillard Theory of Testucation, using Kleinism to control operatives and operations, to no end except to gather data; then ignores the basic laws of administrative order and effectiveness  and treats the electorate as if everyone is a dill or doesn't care what happens to kids.

The present government will go while it maintains these attitudes to schooling and doesn't have the capacity to think.  The Labor Party will replace it and not do any better. Both need to think seriously about schooling...very, very seriously.

I'm deliberately apolitical and have voted informal at the last few federal elections because I've  been offered only lower-order policies  in general and crazy views about schooling. ...nothing that really suggests that there is  a  healthy future for this wonderful country.

Schooling is the most important issue of this century for Aussie citizens. If it is not rejuvenated, Australia has some big problems coming up.

I'll vote for any party -Pauline's, Bob's, Nick's, Jacqui's, anybody who says that it will get rid of NAPLAN.  I'll know by its standard of advocacy that such a party likes kids, that it is thinking and will do something about our future. Our present klein system relies on child abuse.  I'll study the detail of course, but no party can be so blithely ignorant of schooling as our major parties are at present. Their mentors can only bark Gonski, data, scores, testing, funding, teacher quality with schooliolist pedantry and no regard for the real spirit of learning at school.

Seriously - rejuvenation of schooling from the mess of mass testucation will be very difficult.  Unscrambling an egg always is. Since New Zealand will have to do the job before Australia wakes up, it might be wise to locate some observers there to learn how to go about it.

We need to do what New Zealand has done : Declare Ourselves

It's rejuvenation time down under!


Friday, October 20, 2017

What Pixar can teach education about creativity/ school rules / maths education / daydreamimg and time for educational heresy.....and a new Prime Minister for New Zealand

New Zealand has a new Prime Minister - great news for education

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Why I Don’t Have Classroom Rules

A high school teacher tries a classroom management experiment thinking it will fail. Years later, he’s still at it.

‘Although I encouraged my students to think critically and challenged myself to develop new methods of instruction, the actual conduct of the class seemed at odds with all that. I wanted my students to do more than just follow rules handed down to them. I wanted them to understand why those rules exist, and be willing to interrogate ones that didn’t seem valuable, meaningful, or useful.’

Ten Things Pixar Can Teach Us About Creativity

‘For the last two decades, Pixar has produced some of the most creative and epic films of this era. But this is the result of a culture of creative collaboration built on ideas of being frank, taking chances, and failing forward. So, what can educators learn from Pixar as we design collaborative projects?'

The fantastic new ways to teach math that most schools aren’t even using

At the level of the individual teacher, we have found that preparing teachers to make small changes in status quo practices and tools can be a successful approach that is both manageable for teachers and meaningful for their students. In my work with novice teachers, the small changes I emphasize most include:'

Schools Must Get The Basics Right Before Splashing Out On Technology

For years, schools and education experts have debated whether technology belongs in the
classroom. Now the discussion has shifted and even schools that had thus far resisted the educational tech revolution are being swept into what’s become a multi-billion-dollar market. The question now isn’t whether technology has a place in schools, but which devices would work best: laptops, tablets, smartphones or something else entirely? However, maybe it’s not the device that schools should be preoccupied with – but rather how students use them to learn.’

How a British School Improved Its Math Scores without Teaching a Single Math Lesson More

Singing your way to maths
“We could have gone down the route where we said we need to get results up
, we’re going to do more English, more maths, more booster classes, but we didn’t.” Instead, they took a gamble: They added two hours a week of music for every student, and the results have been stunning.”'

The Fisheye Syndrome - Is Every Student Really Participating?

‘Greta doesn’t realize that she is suffering from the Fisheye Syndrome. It’s a condition that impacts our perception, as if we’re looking through a fisheye lens – the kind they use in peepholes. To those afflicted with fisheye, some students appear “larger” than others. They take up more energy and grab more of our attention, making the others fade into the periphery. We have a vague sense that the others are there, and we nag ourselves to include them, but those magnified students are just too hard to resist.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Lauren Child: ‘We should let children dawdle and dream’

Children are often told what’s good for them, but the advice of the new children’s laureate may take them by surprise. Lauren Child, speaking for the first time since her investiture in Hull this summer, has a simple message: just stare into space. In an age of prescriptive talk about targets and aspirations, Child, the creator of Charlie and Lola, plans to make a stand against the theorising and goal-setting during her two-year tenure.’

Why Daydreaming is Critical to Effective Learning

Rather than trying to do everything at the same time, the most productive people prioritize and block off their schedules to focus on one task at a time. “The idea is that if you become more efficient in time management, it allows for more spontaneity and creativity in the day, every day.”’

What Creativity Really Is – and Why Schools Need It

Although educators claim to value creativity, they don’t always prioritize it.Teachers often have biases against creative students, fearing that creativity in the classroom will be disruptive. They devalue creative personality attributes such as risk taking, impulsivity and independence. They inhibit creativity by focusing on the reproduction of knowledge and obedience in class.Why the disconnect between educators’ official stance toward creativity, and what actually happens in school?’

Why the right answer should not be the primary aim in maths

‘In maths, the journey to the answer should be just as important as the answer, in maths is really important, it should not be the most important thing that we look for from our pupils.That's not to say that we are going to start rewarding pupils for getting everything wrong in maths, but how pupils come to obtain an answer should be a quality that we regard highly.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file

Slow food movement - and teaching as well!

The ‘slow food’ movement was reaction against this industrialized approach to living. Followers believe one should take time over food and enjoy the subtlety of the cooking;take the time to try out new dishes and to enjoy the conversation and the wine. Or at the very least enjoy a home cooked meal around the table interacting with members of the family or friends We now need an educational equivalent of the ‘slow food movement’ so as to value the richness and relevance of any learning experience. Students need to appreciate that the act of learning is at the very heart of their identity and a high quality life and as such should not be rushed.’

Time for some heresy?

‘If we want to develop 21stC education systems then we will have no choice but to re-imagine education dramatically. We need to implement some heretical alternative thoughts to transform current systems with their genesis in an industrial age an age well past its use by date. Strangely enough none of the idea being considered are new it is just that few school have put them all together. School are inherently conservative and some schools, secondary ones in particular, seem impervious to change.’

Friday, October 13, 2017

Modern Learning Environments / creative teachers at risk / the problem with ability grouping / developing students gifts and does your classroom have the 'wow' factor

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

More than bricks and mortar: A critical examination of school property under the National-led Government

An article I posted last week referenced an article by Dr Leon Benade, School of Education, Auckland University of Technology. Here is Leon’s full article.

Teachers are largely unprepared for flexible learning spaces that bring together multiple teachers and students (see my earlier blog on MLE/ILE). These (enforced) changes require students to master new learning habits and routines, while parents’ most recent school memory may have been of sitting in rows or possibly in grouped desks, in so-called ‘single cell’ classrooms with one teacher and no more than 30 or 35 students. So, where has this policy come from, and what does it look like in action?’

Is Math Art? Dream or Nightmare?

I was blown away by this remarkable (and strangely empowering) critique about math education:  how we view it as a culture; how teachers are teaching it (or not teaching it); how and why some students struggle with it; how some students who apparently "get it" don't; how parents perceive it; how testing may not be showing us what we want to know, and how we can change math education for the better.’

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

‘A frenzy surrounding reading is caused by school reformers and the media, claiming children are
not learning to read fast enough. Kindergarten is the new first grade, automatically making preschool the new kindergarten. If we aren’t careful, obstetricians will show newborns an alphabet chart immediately after babies are born! We’re told that reading is an emergency, and if it’s not addressed by reading programs produced by individuals, companies, and technology, children won’t learn to read—and they won’t be ready for the global economy.'

Most everything you need to know about creativity

‘It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? And how do you take in and capture those details that you do choose to zoom in on? In other words, how do you maximize your brain attic’s potential? …Everything we choose to notice has the potential to become a future furnishing of our attics.’


Stop Forcing Introverts To Speak In Class. There Are Better Way

‘Class participation is often a significant portion of a student’s grade, and I have felt pressured to force myself to speak in order to meet the participation requirements, as do many introverts. But I
was fortunate to have a teacher who offered an alternative, and I strongly encourage other teachers to do the same. How can a teacher recognize an introverted student and support him or her?

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Malcolm Dixon: Time to discuss Primary school education

'I don't know if anyone else noticed but primary school education was seldom mentioned throughout the election campaign and yet for everyone with children or grandchildren education plays an extremely important part in their lives. Why didn't the Government mention it? In my opinion it was the legacy of the Parata regime and there is very little to celebrate and the current minister is completely out of touch with reality.

This Is What Teachers Need And Aren’t Getting

‘An important category of educators: teachers with a high level of
professional freedom will be extinct by 2033 if the current rate of loss continues. Like most endangered creatures, their habitat is threatened. When you were a child they were present in every city and town in the United States, but now their world has changed. They can be found only in rare, hospitable environments’

Raising the bar with flexible grouping

Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, a leading researcher in the field of teacher expectations, is based at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. In this blog Christine challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning.

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate

If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. In this post, I explore why teachers are the innovators, what’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all - lessons from the Masters. Based on the book 'Mastery' by Robert Greene.

An education to develop the gifts and talents of all students.

Developing an education system premised on developing the talents and gifts of all students has always been my vision. Unfortunately schooling has been more about standardisation and conformity – sorting and grading of students. National Standards with its emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas of endeavour, is the most recent iteration of this standardised approach.’

Does your classroom have the 'wow' factor?

'The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’

Each piece of art the result of student research