Rutaki School was an immensely rewarding position that allowed me to focus on developing my leadership skills in the areas of literacy, numeracy and ICT while still teaching a Year 5 and 6 mainstream classroom at the school. I was able to gain experience helping staff make sense of their National curriculum and develop a language of learning shifting from a teaching organisation to a learning organisation that promotes deeper learning through the medium of their own language.
Rutaki School is a Bi-lingual School catering for students from Years 0-6. Students learn completely in Cook Island Maori until Year 4 when English then starts to be introduced. I was responsible for teaching at the Year 5 - 6 level completely in English and students would cross classes to continue to receive Maori instruction from the School's principal. I would also take the Years 3 & 4 for mathematics. The school roll was 102 students during my time there and I was diligent in my responsibility in supporting the principal with the management of 4 classroom teachers, 3 teacher aides, 1 office secretary and a groundsman.
IMPLEMENTING CHANGE is a complex process that requires thought and insight from a leader within a school. By helping teachers at Rutaki School to better understand the overarching themes, principles and values of the Cook Islands Curriculum we could focus our efforts in an area we collectively decided would benefit the school, students and anau the most. By unpacking the curriculum we were able to begin to develop a common language of learning for our staff, students and in the future, our community.
ASSESSMENT was a huge focus for the two years I was at this school where we revised the manner in which we gathered, stored and used data to analyse student achievement and use it meaningfully for positive projections in the future. Teachers were introduced to school wide moderation in assessing Maori and English writing levels. This professional development was lead by me and supported by outside literacy advisers.
REPORTING to parents about a child's learning journey with more integrity and in a positive fashion was another focus for our school during the two years. In the second year after introducing a new reporting structure and by simplifying the language we used helped our parents to better understand where their child was sitting in respect to the curriculum levels. This in turn helped the parents' motivation to support the students more at home. With an improvement in our reporting practices and standards we observed greater turn out of parents to parent - teacher evenings as well as an increased involvement in PTA fundraising events and school sports day.
MATHEMATICS It is my belief that while a Principal or leader within a school is important in driving change they cannot do it alone. Fostering strong, respectful relationships is integral. Utilising a range of tools to improve the ability of our classroom teachers to implement the Numeracy Project was a challenge. I asked for goals to be set by each individual teacher and we assessed and reflected on each classes data as a group. Classes were modelled at each strategy level and classes were attended on effective numeracy practice. Facilitating strong support scaffolds for all staff at different levels is paramount to ensure everyone moves forward together.
SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND RELATIONSHIPS Through a commitment to open dialogue and mutual respect teachers felt listened to and could express their concerns and challenges in their classroom. Management could then support them using both resourcing and or human resourcing where we needed to. We noticed that by using a more collaborative team approach to improving classroom practice teachers felt a greater sense of support and success in the area of mathematics teaching.
ICT During my time at Rutaki we managed to secure the use of 10 Ipads to use within the small school. Professional Development around these new tools was informal and in the first year, allowing teachers to explore the possibilities and let the students govern how they could be used in a given curriculum area. By using my international connections in e-learning my Year 5 - 6 ESL students regularly connected with other classrooms around the world. This afforded them a grand opportunity to connect with the wider world and ultimately practice their oral English language.
- supporting training teachers through mentorship for 6 months
- facilitating the teacher aide meetings by keeping minutes and acting as a sound board back to the Board and Principal.
- Collaborating and supporting classroom teachers with the assessment of children with special needs as well as the construction and implementation of Independent Education Plans
- First Aid supplies and training
While offering service to Rutaki School I enjoyed many community partnerships by supporting the school soccer teams, netball and athletics. The Cook Islands community was warm and receptive. They were constantly pro active in encouraging my acquisition of the local language and customs and I am proud to call myself an intermediate speaker of Cook Island Maori. I regularly visited families at home who wanted to speak about their child's learning but did not have the means of getting to the school. Being a sensitive and morally focused leader I worked with Cook Island Police, Social Services and Teaching and Learning Advisers at the Ministry of Education to ensure that the welfare of staff and students was always paramount.