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Maitai School

Students will achieve educational excellence and celebrate success

Long term focus:

Through participation in the Student Wellbeing: Mental Health Education Contract teachers examine teaching and learning practices to ensure thatstudents are engaged in learning opportunities that support their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Specific focus for this PD:

Staff will reflect on the delivery of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum at Maitai School and write IEP goals that are consistent with The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) and the school vision, values and beliefs.

Background situation:

Maitai is a special school catering for students from 5–21 years who have a wide range of special needs. The student population is drawn from the wider Nelson region. To assist mainstream inclusion, satellite classes are located at Auckland Point and Victory Schools.

Using NZC, the learning needs of each student will be met through the development and implementation of IEPs (Individual Education Plans). Ensuring the wellbeing of all students is a major focus of the school. A large number of teacher aides assist in the delivery of the programmes.

Since late 2007, Maitai School have been participating in the Student Wellbeing contract with the Lead Team attending PD (Professional Development) workshops as well as the whole staff participating in PD sessions. In addition, visits by the facilitator supported the Lead Team in how best to action the school goals including those identified above.

Responsibilities:

  • Lead Team: The lead team consists of the Principal and two Deputy Principals (one responsible for Health). Their role is to attend workshops, support and resource the participating teachers, and to provide support and encouragement for the programme goals including development/enhancement of policies and practices that support a whole school approach to mental health education.
  • Staff: To be fully involved in the PD and to work with the lead team and facilitator to develop whole school programmes, policies, procedures and practices that support the wellbeing of staff and students.
  • Student Wellbeing Mental Health Facilitator (SWMHF): To support the lead team to develop, evaluate and review learning strategies that focus on quality teaching, model best practice and support student achievement.

Process undertaken:

Early Term 1, 2009 the teachers participated in 3 days of PD:

Day 1 involved the Deputy Principal leading the staff through a process of examining the school’s vision and the importance of aligning their vision, beliefs and values with the NZC and the work that teachers do in the classroom.

Day 2 extended Day 1 and involved the SWMHF. The purpose of this day was to narrow the curriculum focus through reflection on the delivery of the H&PEC at Maitai School. The team looked at the four dimensions of Wellbeing/Hauora : Taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing); Taha whănau (social wellbeing); Taha tinana (physical wellbeing); and Taha wairua(spiritual wellbeing) and how each dimension is delivered to enhance the learning and wellbeing of the students. A Treasure Hunt activity encouraged the teachers to link the key competencies, the achievement objectives and the key areas of learning in the H&PEC through identifying what they do in classrooms. The teachers were asked to think specifically about how their IEP goals and strategies incorporate student understanding and motivation.

Readings provided and discussed throughout this day included:

Celebrate Strengths, Nurture Affinities: A Conversation with Mel Levine. Educational Leadership. Sept 2006. Vol. 64 No. 1.

An integrated approach to promoting emotional wellbeing. Jo Kopela and Anne Clarke. Educational Horizons Vol. 10 No. 3, 2008.

Excerpts from: ‘ Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.’ (1995). S.D. Brookfield. New York Teacher’s College Press. New York.

Day 3 gave the teachers time to meet with the teacher aides who support them in classrooms. One purpose of this day was for teachers to convey how the school vision, beliefs and values will be upheld and incorporated in the practices of the classroom.

The outcomes of Day 2 of the PD were captured in the teacher’s feedback:

New knowledge and skills gained?

  • “Classroom planning in Health education becoming more relevant to meet the needs of the students including use of effective strategies.”
  • “Sharing of information about what is important to students in classrooms and linking this to IEPs.”
  • “Ensuring that goals are matched to student needs and are practical, timely, motivating and relevant.”
  • “. . . . . everything is holistic and it all weaves together.” “Wellbeing, Hauora.”
  • “A deeper understanding of Attitudes and values and the connections with Key Competencies / Achievement Objectives.”

Understanding of writing of curriculum goals and envisioned personal changes?

  • “A lot of food for thought about relevance and how students know what and why they’re doing.” “Ensuring the students are motivated to achieve their goals and written from strengths and interests.”
  • “Certainly think more critically about it.” “Keep more of a focus on motivation.”
  • “Again, improvement in application of goals, specific to student voice.” “Develop goals for students to learn the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.”
  • “The importance of all the strands linking in planning and delivering of projects.”
  • “Look to what we can do long term and not just focus on what we do.”
  • “Learn to ask the what if question.”
  • “My understanding of making deliberate goals and linking these to action.” Keep to the MUESMART.” (Motivation, Understanding, Evidential, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely).

Reflection from the SWMH Facilitator:

Day 1 clearly set the scene for Day 2 when the SWMHF was to concentrate on the H&PEC and encourage the teachers to think about the setting of goals for their students.

A discussion around Stephen Brookfield’s suggested four critically reflective lenses: 1). Our autobiographies as learners and teachers. 2). Our students’ eyes. 3). Our colleagues’ experiences. 4). The theoretical literature, encouraged several participants to take the idea of collegial ‘critical friends’ further.

The use of the Maori concept of wellbeing, Hauora (p.31 Health and PE in the N Z Curriculum, H&PENZC) was an effective way of revealing how the school are already incorporating many programmes and strategies that support the students' health and wellbeing needs.

The Ah Ha moment occurred when the teachers were asked to find a Think/Pair/Share partner and were posed with the question “As a teacher, how do you ensure that the student understands what they are doing, and why they are doing it?” It was clear that the teachers were thinking deeply about the way they relate to the students and the importance of motivation as a crucial tool for learning. Mostly, the pairs came up with the same response to the 'understanding of what they are doing' part of the question. All resolved to think further about providing students with ways of knowing “why” they are engaged in a specific activity. The question of student voice is a difficulty when teachers are providing for the needs of students who have very high needs. These teachers have clearly indicated that they are keen to make the voice of students louder and clearer.

Next steps

During a follow up staff meeting, the staff came to a collaborative decision to make their school wide target “ Putting Vision into Action.” The two Deputy Principals are working with their respective teams and building this into each teacher's appraisal development diaries. The questions that the teachers will use to reflect on their practise are “What am I doing in my programmes, planning and organisation that reflects our school vision? How well am I putting our vision into action?” The teachers have committed to sharing in a workshop/meeting their reflections around how they are putting 'vision into action' and a great piece of work that shows this.

Strengths and Challenges

The strengths of this intensive focus on the NZC is the school’s clear, albeit long term PD path towards achieving their vision. The participation of the SWMHF at the Teacher Only Day, has assisted in moving the school a little closer towards achieving their goal.

Student self-motivation, as commonly indicated in the teachers' evaluations of the PD provided by the SWMHF, has become an issue that teachers will need to continue to ponder. Providing for this in their IEPs will be a challenge but very much incorporated in the inquiry learning that the school practises in their PD programmes.

Future opportunities

The SWMHF will continue to work with the lead team and staff on further extending the strategies and programmes teachers use to enhance the learning of students.


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