Saturday, 20 June 2015

#EdVentures Part 7: Makers at Marymount

Derrick Gay advised me to meet up with Kim Marvin. I had a busy week scheduled and by the sounds of Kim’s Voxer messages, so did she. We organised to meet through a 3-way conversation on Voxer. We were having lunch on my last day, Friday but I changed everyone’s plans by catching a taxi just before midday. Derrick said it was forgivable, as I’m a newbie to New York. $34 and 1 hour later, I arrived. I apologised as I walked into the school, as I’m not usually late. Lucky for me, Kim replied with ‘Don't worry, I had plenty of work to continue with’. We headed straight out of the school for lunch. Kim and I chatted about our education, our schools, our families and our passion. I could see why Derrick thought we should meet. 

Met Don Buckley
After lunch she mentioned that Marymount was hosting a conference. I said that I would be interested to observe and what was the topic. Design. Do. Discover. D3. What had I stumbled upon? Gold!!! Design Thinking and Maker Spaces. I loved what I was seeing. Teachers were working independently or collaboratively, just as the students would. I met Jaymes Dec and Don Buckley who told me about the tours they were conducting of Maker Spaces-SVA Visible Futures Lab, NYU-ITP & CTC Exhibition at Teachers College. So I did what all 'take every opportunity to learn' educators would do…I delayed my train trip to Boston, and contacted them via Twitter. I was fortunate enough to visit SVU and NYU Maker Spaces and connect with some very creative people in the #d32015 workshop. What a wonderful opportunity!

Gratitude Journal-

Derrick Gay- for connecting me with awesome people & opportunities in New York
Kim Marvin-for inviting me into your education world.
Don Buckley & James Dec- for including this Aussie into the group.
All the educators attending the workshop for making me so welcome.

#EdVentures Part 5: It's about the people.

Alile & me
Earlier this year, Gina Parker Collins from RIISE contacted me through LinkedIn. She was wanting to introduce Alile Eldridge to me before she arrived in Australia. Alile kindly requested to visit Wenona. This  year Wenona welcomed Lindall Watson to her new role of the Inclusive Education Coordinator. Lindall thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Alile, as one of her roles is Director of Community Life and Diversity. As I was visiting New York, I thought it would be great to meet up with Alile and visit Chapin. I have provided some background information taken from their website

Chapin School
  • K-12 with 755 students. 
  • Located at 100 East End Avenue
  • 49 classrooms
  • 2-story library with a multimedia room and a video-editing room
  • 8 science laboratories
  • 4 art studios including a photography darkroom 7 ceramics studio
  • 2 music studios, a black box theatre, a dance studio, 
  • 2 computer laboratories
  • 4 gymnasiums 
  • a greenhouse
  • Students come from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey
  • Student-to-teacher ratio is 7 to 1
  • 2014-2015 tuition $39,300 

When I visited the Chapin School, it was under reconstruction and while students are out for the summer, Alile took me on a tour. She thought I would like to spend some time with Kelly. She believed we would connect as we both have a strong interest in education and technology. Kelly Hammond, has been the Middle School Director of Academic Technology for the last three years. She is an incredible educator who is very inspiring. We talked about how we are both willing to ask questions, to try new things and be ok with making mistakes. We both said at the same time- 'Mistakes help you learn!' While Chapin has many facilities and an unbelievable view, I believe it's the people who make the school. By meeting Kelly and Alile, I could see what a great school Chapin is.

Manhattan Streets
Our topics of conversation-
  • Giving students a voice and choice in their education
  • Coaching and mentoring to improve teaching quality
  • Maker spaces & Design thinking

Gratitude Journal-
Gina Parker Collins
Alile Eldridge
Kelly Hammond

#EdVentures Part 6: Two amazing places with two amazing educators.

I met Joe Mazza face to face for the first time yesterday. We have been communicating via Twitter and Voxer for a few years. Joe was a guest moderator on #SatChatOc back in July 2014. His topic was creating a partnership with parents. Joe was the person who connected Derrick and I before Derrick visited Sydney and Wenona. He includes me in many of his edu-activities for which I'm very grateful.

After Joe picked me up from the train station, we headed to the University of Pennsylvania. There I met Bob Jarvis ( and Martha. Joe asked me to do a podcast and here's the link. We chatted about TeachMeets, Professional Development, #satchatoc & Twitter.

From Penn we headed to Wilmington where Principal El and his staff greeted us with a very warm welcome. We sat around a table and talked shop. At one point, I think we were convincing Principal El to connect with other leaders on Voxer. We talked about how Twitter connects all educators, regardless of location, position or experience. On Twitter or Voxer, we are all learners and it flattens the hierarchy. From there we grabbed a bite to eat on the waterfront as I was told to save some room for a Philly cheesesteak.

There were many photos taken that day and not by me!
To end the day, I had dinner with Joe, his wife, Lauren, and their two beautiful children, Molly & Mark. And of course, I ate my first Philly Cheesesteak in Philly! While driving back to the station, Joe made a quick stop and encouraged me run up the ‘Rocky’ steps. It was a great finish to a wonderful day of connecting and building relationships. Thanks to two amazing educators in two amazing places.

Gratitude Journal-
Joe & Lauren Mazza & family
Principal El & Staff

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#EdVentures Part 4: Williamsburg Northside School in Brooklyn

Their neighbourhood
This week I was fortunate to connect with educators from Williamsburg Northside School in Brooklyn. Again, being a connected educator made it easier. Kendra, the Associate Director of Admissions, showed me around their beautiful school. I believe every context is different and you really can't replicate any school because your students and colleagues are unique. What works for one school may not work in your context. What I do believe is that from listening and learning from each other, we can learn, adapt, adopt, and develop our knowledge. Then take small risks upon implementation.

At Wenona, K-2 (Woodstock) is Reggio inspired, so I was grateful to receive an opportunity to observe another Reggio inspired school. What I learnt is that their teaching and learning philosophy correlate with mine beautifully. They’re committed to creating an experience that views every child as a strong, capable and powerful individual who is an active participant in their learning. Each child develops and builds on their thoughts, ideas and questions already established. True engagement results when internal motivation is tapped. They strive to create a community in which all children feel safe, secure and supported to share, explore, and question. Students persevere, think critically, create and falter when necessary.

Comprehension Strategies
They have approximately 350 students, from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens. With 90 full-time and part-time educators, the staff are supported by a team of administrators. Williamsburg Northside Schools currently has three campuses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Infant & Toddler Centre, Pre-school and the new Lower School and Pre-kindergarten building, which I visited. It is a brand new nine-story space with a regulation-sized gymnasium, a full-floor indoor play space, science laboratory, and cafeteria. I met the head of the Lower School, Tara Mastin and as I walked into her office, I knew we would hit it off because on the table was Gary Stager’s book, Invent to Learn
Tara, me & Kendra
I was happy to learn how documentation can incorporate technology, thus student learning may not be visible at first glance. These were some of the topics we shared with each other-
  • Project based learning, design thinking and the future
  • The integration of social studies (HSIE)
  • Literacy and numeracy programs, resources and educator gurus- Marilyn Burns, Singapore Math, Words Their Way, Fountas & Pinnell, Lucy Calkins, TERC math. 
  • The accountability of public and private schools and the Common Core Curriculum
  • Teacher-student ratios
  • Scheduled collaborative time for homeroom and specialists teachers to plan for the subjects of art, science, music and Spanish
  • Structure is needed to facilitate student learning. Not "let’s see what outcomes are achieved".
  • The parents’ expectations aligning with the school's philosophy.
Classroom themed
As Tara said, we could have talked all day. There are those people you meet and instantly you know that you are both on the same wavelength.

Gratitude Journal-

Derrick Gay-for helping organise the visit
Kendra & Tara- for spending time sharing your knowledge and experiences at a very busy time of year.
My taxi driver-for sharing your knowledge and school experiences with me...Priceless.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

#EdVentures Part 3: Six Degrees of Separation.

Having lunch with Derrick Gay at the Plaza Hotel gave us the opportunity to chat everything education... and more. We’ve been Voxing for close to a year but nothing beats having a conversation face to face. Do you know that conversation that has you thinking long after the talking ceases? You may wonder who he is and how I know him. 

It’s simple – Think of Kevin Bacon and 6 degrees of separation. I was introduced to Derrick by Dr Joe Mazza @Joe_Mazza (who I will finally meet this week). Joe asked if I could organise a visit of my school for Derrick. Joe was introduced to me by Jeannette James (JJ) through Twitter. JJ was introduced to me by Cameron Patersen, who I connected with after he presented at my school, Wenona. Cameron was invited to present by Mark Staker, who advised me to connect with him via Twitter. Mark is the Dean of Professional Studies at Wenona. And there you have it! We’ve come full circle. All connected in some way.

6 degrees of separation

It's been close to a year since Derrick visited Wenona and at the time, my students were developing their awareness of the United Nations and global issues. Interviewed by Year 5 students, Derrick shared his passions (food, travel & education) and attempted an Australian accent (very successfully I might add). They learnt about various cultures, cities and the other countries he had visited. He shared his love of Smores and serenaded them with some opera classics. This meeting or connection was a highlight of the year, illustrating that connecting and speaking with people enhances student learning. 

Professionally Derrick is an educational consultant with 15 years of independent school experience as a senior administrator and teacher. He serves as a resource to independent schools all around the world, delivering keynote presentations, providing professional development opportunities, conducting inclusivity assessments, working with student groups, training administration and boards on issues of community life, diversity and inclusion. With a great love of music and theatre, Derrick also he speaks many languages – English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

What are the benefits of social networking and connecting with educators? It’s this! Through making connections, you meet and learn from people like Derrick, whose expertise is shared so generously and ultimately, it is the students who benefit. It all about connecting, sharing and adding value.

Gratitude Journal

Derrick Gay
Dr Joe Mazza
Jeannette James
Cameron Patersen
Mark Staker
Thank you!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

#EdVentures Part 2: Out of your control but YOU control your reaction.

This #EdVenture has pushed me out of my comfort zone, even before I left Australia. Typically my husband organises all the documentation for travelling overseas (passports with 3 children from Australia, Canada and United States, at times causes complications). I do all the research but he makes the bookings. This time, I did it ALL! This is a very time consuming exercise and at times, a little stressful. No matter how well you plan, some things are out of your control. I was very interested to watched people's reactions when we had engine issues that caused major delays and many to miss connecting flights. How we react to things out of our control is YOUR choice. Yes I was disappointed, I won't deny that. But I've leant to try and put things in perspective. Engine failure is better to occur before takeoff than over the ocean. What's the saying?... Make lemonade when given lemons. Perspective is key!

I've had quite a few things to do before I left work. I had my checklist. I was on schedule. I was on top of things. Reports were written and proofed, presentations were shared, and I believed I was balancing my mother/ wife/ daughter responsibilities. I told others, 'Nothing could to take me off this high'. I can't honestly remember the last time I'd felt this excited. I'd worked hard and been consistent in my planning and approach but everything fell apart when I has some worrying news about a family member's health. That was a tough moment emotionally. It was something out of my control and I couldn't fix it.

Fortunately I have a husband who is very rational and calming. He provided the broader perspective. Sometimes, emotions can over-ride reality. My wonderful colleagues have always supported me professionally, and now they were supporting me on an emotional level. Was this a surprise? Not to me! But it made me realise that we're a TEAM, not just colleagues. My team went above and beyond both professionally and personally. 

There are also people who you may work with but not so much on a one-to-one basis. Their presence makes work a more joyous place. I am reminded that kind words and gestures, no matter how large or small, make the difference.

The course I'm engaging in at Harvard asked for a success and a challenge as a leader. The actions of my team this week confirmed my idea of a successful team. Collaborating with a goal, does not make you a team.  An effective team requires time, commitment, compassion, empathy, mutual respect, trust and care. I believe these essential components are more related to your personality and mindset. I hear some argue that this is just 'being professional', but is it authentic? Without this authentic foundation, you are merely colleagues working together. Many skills and knowledge are required in a successful team. But I believe those skills and knowledge can always be developed (Dweck & growth mindset). In my opinion, it is harder to develop the essentials required to make an effective team because they are related to personalities and values. Although you may need trust first, I believe coaching may be the answer.

Gratitude journal-
To Andrew-You are the Yin to my Yang.
To Claire & Kate-for always stepping up and being so supportive, especially this week. I appreciate you both.
To Sharryn Naylor- for your support and guidance.
To Sue, Emma & Liz-thanks for being part of Woodstock. Your positive energy is awesome!