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Monday, January 15, 2018

Oral Language in the Classroom- a Snap Shot.

It's been a while since I have written a blog and as I was pondering the year ahead I thought it would be most useful to stand back and view the landscape as I see it.

I have been an advocate for raising the importance of oral language teaching and learning for well over 10 years now and I guess it is fair to say it has been a part time occupation.  This is not by my choosing of course.  Many of us working in the sector have had the same experiences- seeing a need, hearing a need but not being able to deliver to the need.....because funding and prioritizing against national standards gets in the way.

Late in 2016 the the Ministry of Education announced its new framework for the delivery of Professional Learning and Development into the sector. Many welcomed it, many looked sideways at it with great suspicion and there were many qualified and skilled facilitators who were cut out by this change.

Late in 2016, I was given accreditation to delivery this PLD in my specialist field, oral language. Much excitement ensued and plans were rolled out to be able to collaborate with other facilitators and to connect with all the schools that wanted to add oral language PLD to their calendars. EXCITING STUFF! (Here is were we discover that 'all that glistens is not gold') What happened? The same challenges that I had faced prior to the announcement of the new structure still lingered but even more were loaded on top. This blog is not going to be about me having a whinge about the MOE because the I know that the MOE is just made up of people who are doing their best, day to day to delivering policy that sometimes doesn't work well, or even make a lot of sense. I also know that the school leaders and the teachers who face the children of NZ every day, just get on and teach. They are some of the most resourceful, resilient and creative people I have ever worked with.  Work arounds, robbing Peter to pay Paul, external funding applications, cake name it they will find a way. And good on them but it is hard work. The question is, should it be hard work?

What I am seeing now is many schools slowing down making PLD decisions for 2018, waiting and seeing what is going to replace National Standards, wondering if the new PLD system will change under a new Minister?  All the while, teachers and learners wait and the facilitators have to explain the situation to their accountants!  Same old, same old. 

I have recently moved to Auckland and it is exciting to see the work that is being done through Comet Auckland and their Talking Matters Programmes.   While their work is mainly focused towards The Early Years, they are forging the way in the region with the the help of the NEXT Foundation and the Auckland City Council. They can be our guiding light and our motivation. 

So where does this leave me (and many others I am sure)?  Still a part time advocate and passionate facilitator for all things Oral Language in the Classroom.  I'm ok because I own a business that has diversified, that is agile and resilient. I'd just like to be spending more of my time making a difference in this, as I finalise my budget projections and create my promotional plan I wonder what will this year will hold?  Perhaps the MOE might take a look into its crystal ball and let us all know. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Laughter is the Shortest Distance Between Two People

    Laughter is the Shortest Distance Between Two People
The great Victor Borge once said “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” and as a speaker this is a theory to live by.  Having the ability to laugh is quite different from having the ability to ‘make people laugh’ and many of us think that we are simply NOT FUNNY. This is a viewpoint that I strong contest.


As a speaker and leader, having the ability to look at the light side of things or to interpret events from a humorous perspective allows us to make stronger connections with an audience.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that you all drop sticks and launch into a career in stand-up comedy but as I travel about the planet on a day to day basis, I am regularly hit smack between the eyes by sombre people. Some of these people may have a genuine reason to be sombre but I am certain that it does not apply to all of them.  Ask yourself  “Is sombre my neutral position?”

This week I did a poll with some kids that I teach. 
Question “How many times did you laugh today?”
Answer: (they laughed) and then spent 5 minutes counting numerous occasions…in excess of 15 for most of them.
Question: How many times have you heard your parents laugh in the last 24 hours?
Answer:  (took quite some more consideration) Responses ranged between 0 and 3.

Well adults, this is just not good enough!  Apart from the physiological benefit of laughter, enjoying a good chuckle, belly laugh or even a quiet smirk will dramatically increase your ability to connect with people in positive manner.  The added bonus here is that it will make you look more attractive!

A word of caution is needed here.  Telling a joke is not the only or even the best way to be funny.
In my consulting work with executives who are improving their public speaking, I often hear “do you think I need a joke at the start?”
My response is “yes great idea…how about ‘why did the chicken cross the road?"

NOTE- writing sarcasm is a challenging genre and one I am still developing or perhaps it is totally reliant on the paralinguistic qualities of the spoken word, must look into that sometime!  

BUT NO, you don’t need a joke with that!  You need levity, also known as ‘lightness of mind, character or behavior’. 
I shudder to think about the number of horrendous Best Man speeches I have had to endure just because someone told the poor guy he need to include a joke!

1   1.  Be a collector.  A collector of stories that can be called upon to fit into different situations. Your stories, other people’s stories, stories from the news and on it goes.  You will be surprised how many funny things have happened to you that you can connect to your message.  These stories are authentic (see Key Number 1) and they let people get a peep into your life.  If you open your Kimono for just a second you are letting them into your world and they are much more likely to like you. They are much more likely to take on board and remember what you are saying and much more likely to be your advocate.

2   2.   SMILE- Get rid of your ‘bitchy resting face’. Use your smiling face as your default and that way when you really want to show people you are in a foul mood it’s easy. 

3   3. Get some help from the experts!  The other day I was feeling a bit cantankerous so I quickly swallowed a solid dose of Senifeild (opps that dates me doesn’t it but who cares), he’s funny and always will be to me.  A good laugh and I was back on track.  Work your way back to levity and have the route planned for a quick journey.

On a more serious note, I do believe that many of our workplaces are just far too serious.  The Dame said it   ‘Take your work seriously but not yourself’ –Dame Judi Dench. I walk to some organisations and think ‘thank god I don’t work here’!   If this is your business or workplace it might be time to do something about it.  Happy people do good work!


Over the past few months I have been working with the amazing Effective Intelligence Coach- Lesley Klue to put together the iFactor Forum and we have invited the seriously funny Employee Engagement Specialist Terry Williams to join us.  This event is in Palmerston North, will run for two days and you will leave knowing a lot more about yourself, how to lighten up and connect more. It will be seriously good fun and you will take away lifelong skills.  Check it out here-  

So until next time---‘Why did the Roman chicken cross the road?  She was afraid some would Caesar’   Now that’s funny!