Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sharing the Oamaru Cluster's Pasifika Success Story at Canterbury University

Spread the mat....Keep casting the net into deeper waters... Do it from the heart, if it's not from the heart then don't do it....( Tufulasi Taleni's powerful messages to us all )

Tua Misiloi our Board Chairperson and I were privileged to be invited by  Leali'ie'e Tufulasi Taleni, Pasifika Education Facilitator on behalf of the Oamaru Pasifika Cluster to Canterbury University (UC) Christchurch on Friday 21st November. We were asked to present our St Joseph's school successes, highlights and challenges as well as our cluster's story of sustainability to the Pasifika Education Advisory Group and guests at the launch of a new Pasifika DVD education resource. Our experiences were based on the powerful and inspiring professional learning shared with us by Tufulasi Taleni and Janice Tofia during our participation in the Pasifika Success Talanoa Project.

Jenny and Tua during their presentation (Thanks Tufulasi for the photo)
Tua and I represented the 8 schools in the Oamaru Pasifika Cluster ( Oamaru North, Fenwick, Pembroke, Oamaru Intermediate, St Joseph's, St Kevin's College, Waitaki Girls and Waitaki Boys high schools ). Recent figures show that 21% of our schools have Pasifika learners. We are dedicated to supporting our learners to strive to succeed and shine in all that they do by valuing their identities, languages & cultures and creating culturally responsive school environments.
You can learn more about our Pasifika Cluster by going to this link and visiting our blog. Rowan Stringer is the curator of this excellent blog and we thank her for the time she puts into this on behalf of our cluster. Jan Plieger is the enthusiastic Secretary of our sustainability cluster and Tracey Bell is the Chairperson. Thanks to both Jan and Tracy for all of their hard work within our cluster. We meet termly for a fono and a different school hosts the fono as well as shares their learning and progress. The cluster has recently expanded to include participants from RTLB, RTLit, Waitaki Library, Fale Pasifika and the Kindergarten Association ( 4 kindergartens).

Message for us from Tufulasi Talenei
A big fa'afetai (thank you) to you both for your part in the talanoa yesterday – as I said yesterday that during your presentation, I felt quite emotional about hearing your story and the story of your cluster – a very special powerful piece to listen to, everyone felt the same – quite a bit of reflections going on around the room and strongly mentioned your message and how your schools/cluster picking up pieces of the puzzles and weave them together.  The mat is no longer disconnected – you will keep working on as a cluster and keep connecting the mat so that you are all able to sit on it together and around it!
Tufulasi addressing the guest during the launch

Jan – you must be proud of Jenny and Tua, they represented you and your Oamaru cluster well.  Your Oamaru cluster has been one of our success stories, congratulations and thank you for keep spreading your mat and for keep casting your net deeper, the catch is plenty and soon have enough to feed the whole village.  Nothing is impossible as we heard yesterday –  " E o'o lava ile sami sousou e mafai lava ona folauina - even the choppy sea can be navigated'.
 We listened to presentations from the Hornby, Levin, Dunedin, Invercargill & Christchurch East clusters. All of them have made a huge difference in achievement outcomes for their Pasifika learners. We were particularly moved by Rachel King's story from Levin. She spoke passionately about their work. Afterwards, one of the Pasifika elders described Rachel as being a Palagi (European) woman with a Pasifika mind. Rachel would be an excellent person to bring to our Oamaru Cluster and talk as a guest at one of our termly fono (meetings). We will try and organise this for 2015.

The second part of the day was the launch of the new Pasifika DVD Resource called 'Saili Matagi' (seeking the winds). The resource is based around one of the trips to a Samoan Village that Tufulasi regularly organises for teachers and principals to help them become immersed in the Pasifika culture. Gary Roberts, the principal of Hornby School featured in the DVD and was present for the launch along with other staff who were on the trip. The Deputy Principal from St James who also featured in the DVD brought some children along to perform at the launch. This excellent resource will soon be available for schools to purchase. It is a resource that every staff member must view in order to help them have a deeper understanding of their Pasifika learners. As soon as we get the contact details for this resource, we will share these with you.
St James' children performing at the launch
Looking forward to attending the Fiafia Celebration Awards this Friday at St Kevin's College and celebrating the progress and achievement of our Pasifika learners.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Catholic Leadership Reflections and Recommendations

Last weekend, I finally completed my second essay as part of my first paper in the Masters of Educational Leadership studies through the Australian Catholic University. It took several weeks of reading and then at least three dedicated weekends to complete my essay. This is part of the commitment that we must all make when we study part time while working full time. Despite this mammoth effort, it was genuinely a worthwhile process for my own professional growth and development.

I related my essay to our role as leaders of Catholic schools in relation to the important document released this year by the NZ Bishops (see image and link below).This is a document we can't overlook as Catholic educators. It has many very powerful messages for us.  If you wish to read my essay, you can go to this link (open and download it to get the whole essay).

You can access a link to this document by clicking here
After being inspired by public feedback about my sabbatical report (you can access the 4 minute video here) and the message to be 'bold and brave', I was motivated to share my recently completed leadership essay with our Catholic Education Office in Dunedin. As I result, I felt privileged to be invited to contribute a 'studying principal voice' to a recent meeting as part of a review of professional qualifications and courses available through the The Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New  Zealand (TCI) 

Here are my reflections as a result of this meeting and my own thinking and research:
  • In a  recent survey I carried out with Catholic Leaders in our diocese,100% of participants agreed that a programme of professional learning specific to the context of leaders in contemporary Catholic schools would be beneficial 
  • Believing that 'having a Catholic background' is all that we need as teachers and leaders in Catholic schools is not enough. It is an invaluable starting point. But just as we teach our children to learn and grow, we must also have a 'growth mindset' towards our Catholicity and develop our theological knowledge and spiritual leadership skills 
  • Boards can support teachers and leaders in our schools by offering financial support towards furthering their qualifications (many of our boards are already doing this). We also need diocesan or national funding support here through access to scholarships to encourage and support our dedicated staff towards furthering their qualifications
  • I suggest that schools explore a study release option along the lines of the existing Classroom Release Time (CRT) for primary teachers. I would recommend one day release per paper- RE Study Time (REST) for any staff studying to enable some quality time towards completing their assessment and to recognize their existing workload. (Our board will be offering this to our staff in 2015).
  • There is a definite need for explicit study pathways for future and existing teachers, leaders and principals of Catholic schools. These need to be established sooner rather than later and become an expectation for leaders and staff (mandated through our Catholic Education Handbooks and guidelines). We have high expectations of success for our learners, we must be role models and set the same high standards for ourselves as part of our commitment as educators in Catholic schools. Here is an example of such a pathway created overseas (taken from Cook & Durow, 2008 full reference in my essay see link above)
  • Setting up 'open formation' model schools for leaders to put into practice some of their learning and to experience contemporary Catholic schools in action would provide a practical element to the widening gap for existing and future leaders of Catholic schools. (We have the expertise and willingness to develop and offer such a model of professional and collegial support and guidance at St Joseph's in Oamaru)
  • Forming networks of Catholic schools based on the Learning and Change model ( further information and referencing in my essay -see my LCN video link that explains this model) would further support principals, Directors of Religious Studies, leaders, boards and staff of Catholic schools to increase our combined capacity to address challenges, share best practice and grow together. 
Let's join together and inject our passion, enthusiasm and creativity for life and learning into our Catholic schools across New Zealand.

“School can and must be a catalyst, it must be a place of encounter and convergence of the entire educating community, with the sole objective of training and helping to develop mature people who are simple, competent and honest, who know how to live with fidelity, who can live life as a response to God’s call, and their future profession as a service to society ” (Pope Francis, 2013). 

Pope Francis. (n.d.). To Students of Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania (7 June 2013). Retrieved from