Today we had our school athletics day. I really enjoy days like these where I have the opportunity to see some other things that students do outside of the classroom.

For some students, it’s easier to jump an actual hurdle than to jump the mental hurdles of learning an academic subject. It’s really endearing to see these students shine in their athletic events and I enjoy cheering them on in a setting other than the classroom.


When I first started teaching in New Zealand schools, the only other place I had ever heard of house systems were in Harry Potter books. My family and friends teased me when I started talking about my house class and the fact that they were trying to earn points so they could win the house competition. They wanted to know if my school taught potions class as well as mathematics classes. Har har.

This is one of the only years in my teaching career where I don’t actually have my own house class and to be honest, I kind of miss it. I became really invested in the group of students who I saw every morning for 4 years. It was my job to know where they were headed and keep them on the right track to success in their time at the school.

What is good about my current school is that even though I don’t have a house class of my own, I have been assigned to one of the houses. For athletics, I still felt like I was a part of everything. I got to follow my house group and cheer them on. The students were excited that I was supporting their house.


The only bad thing was that nobody told me what colour my house was (the houses are named after past students who have made significant contributions to sport) so I accidentally wore blue instead of green! I had to explain all day that I had made a mistake! At least I’ll never do it again since I had to explain myself so many times!

Seems kind of anticlimactic to have to end the week with one more day of classes after such a fun day! I have tried to plan some really exciting lessons for tomorrow!


I have worked in three different schools now and one of the procedures that I have found noticeably different in all three schools is the lockdown and evacuation procedures.

I have paid close attention to these procedures, especially in the last school I worked in where I acted as the school’s Staff Health and Safety Representative for two years. Also, coming from an American background makes it something that is, sadly, ingrained into my very soul.

The first school I worked at was in New York. It was a large intermediate school (US grades 6-8, NZ years 7-9) that had approximately 2100 students. We not only had lockdown drills but I actually was unfortunate enough to partake in an actual lockdown twice. It’s really scary when you know as a teacher that there is actually no lockdown drill scheduled and the school goes in to lockdown. (But this blog isn’t about the differences between the American and New Zealand school systems so I’m going to go no further down that slippery slope.)

My last school was a rural New Zealand school and I was incredibly surprised when I started teaching there that many things just weren’t thought about. Not because they were not diligent – there was just such a high trust model going on that certain things didn’t even get considered in procedures such as a lockdown. As an unrelated but similar example, students didn’t even have locks on their lockers because why would you? When I was health and safety rep, I asked the staff in a workshop to try and come up with some hypothetical situations that could initiate a lockdown so we could talk through them. One group came up with: there could be a swarm of killer bees outside! They were serious. (Me, coming from a background of bomb threats, school shootings, and that one time a parent going through a custody battle came to school with a gun to get their kid just can’t visualise the killer bees being all that scary.)


That brings us to today. My current school had a lockdown today and to be honest it seemed to be a happy medium of the two schools I have been at so far. This works for me. It has clear procedures. The staff and students all knew what to do. I think the best part of it was that when we went in to lockdown, my students took their maths with them under their chairs and tried to keep working. They whispered, “Don’t worry Miss! We’ll keep being really quiet!” It was really endearing. The only negative about it was that it was a really hot day so when we evacuated to the field it was way too sunny! I guess there are worse things in the world. Like killer bees.

The first day, and a pōwhiri.

I have been at my new school for about a week now trying to get myself organised. I have set up my new office and done some lesson planning for the first few weeks. I have also been hard at work placing students in the correct classes. Course counselling has been going on all last week for students who have been coming in to try and make sure that their timetables will be ready for this week when they begin their classes.

Today is the first official day for staff! It is customary in New Zealand schools to have a pōwhiri to welcome new staff or students to the school. Since my new school is so large, they had a pōwhiri just for the staff to welcome other new staff.

For those who don’t know, a pōwhiri is a Māori welcoming ceremony involving speeches, dancing, singing and finally the hongi. Both the people who are welcoming and the people who are being welcomed are expected to participate.

I decided that I would get involved. At our new staff meeting last week, I decided to teach the other new staff members the karakia, or song, that was our staff karakia at my previous school.

Whakataka te hau ki te uru
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga

Kia mākinakina ki uta
Kia mātaratara ki tai

E hī ake ana te atakura
He tio, he huka Tīhei mauri ora!

The karakia has a beautiful melody but it also has a beautiful meaning:

Cease the winds from the west
Cease the winds from the south

Let the breeze blow over the land
Let the breeze blow over the ocean

Let the red-tipped dawn come with a sharpened air. 
A touch of frost, a promise of a glorious day.

I was really proud to play and sing this karakia at the pōwhiri today. I got a lot of compliments.

The head of drama and the head of music have both already approached me asking if I would like to help in their departments with production and helping with music. I told them that I would definitely be interested once I got myself situated within the school.

It was a lovely start to my first official day.