My role as Academic Dean at Orewa College 2020


In 2020 I was appointed as the Academic Dean at Orewa College. This is a brand new role at the school and quite different from my previous role of Pastoral Dean at the school.

It is now my responsibility to look after the well being of the academic achievers in year 7 to year 10.

The role of the academic dean is to monitor the progress of the top 15-20 students at each year level at the school.

The aim is to work with students, their families and teachers to build the most effective teaching and learning opportunities for each student.  The Academic Deans will liaise with careers, guidance, teachers and Heads of Department within the school to monitor student progress and engagement.

The goal is to ensure that students and their families are aware of any concerns regarding each student’s academic achievement and to support students to reach academic excellence.

This will be done through individual meetings, or through group discussions.

The role will also focus on the overall well being of these students. This could range from mental well being, stress management, time management to general health and  hauora

It will be the role of the Academic Dean to provide resources to these students. This could range from a variety of school resources to courses on offer at various academic institutions that these students could consider attending.

Facilitating learning opportunities outside of the classroom is one way that academic deans could assist the students under their care. This could include encouraging and helping students to begin new study groups and monitoring student involvement in co-curricular activities. In addition, the deans will/could assist with leadership, career and vocational development in the form of external training courses and workshops .

The Academic Dean will also be available to these students’ parents, should they wish to discuss anything that hinders or that could possibly promote their learning and academic results. 

The Academic Dean is a new role at Orewa College and it will be developed and refined over the next two years by the two Academic Deans, Trevor Rubens and Gavin Fitzhenry. We aim to build working relationships with other schools that already have academic deans, in order to learn from these schools so that we can fulfil this role successfully.

As educators, we know that every student learns differently, and it is our role to ensure that each of these top academic students are learning in a way that suits them best.  

Te pakiwaitara o Hona Lomu

I tuhi te pakiwaitara o Hona Lomu mō te Whare Wānanga i tēnei wā. I pānaui tōna pakiwaitara i Ingarihi ā kātahi i tuhi te paikwaitara i te reo Māori.

I kōrero tēnei ki tōku kaiako me ngā akohoa i tērā wiki. I kōrero tēnei i tuihono. He taumaha tēnei kōrero, engari kei te ora ahau I whakamau i tēnei.

For my final assessment at university this semester I had to tell a story in te reo Māori. I chose to tell the life story of Jonah Lomu. I read a book about his life story in English and summarised this in +/- 1000 words. This I translated in Māori. It was a difficult assignment, but I am happy that I persevered and completed the task.

Attach is a recording of my presentation of the story.

How I connected with my class during the lockdown weeks of “Covid19”

Yes it was daunting at first. We had two days to prepare for level four lockdown. I was wondering how I was going to stay connected with my learners, my colleagues and others in the education sector. It was then a case of “slow down, breathe and think clearly.”

I asked myself the question “Do I change the way that I teach, do I re-create my lessons etc”

Luckily for me the answer was “No”. For the 12 years that I have been teaching in New Zealand I have always created slides for every single lesson, ranging from Maths, to English Writing, Science etc. So my question was can I still share these lessons with my students?

The answer was a definite “yes”. My saving grace came from a feature on the MacBook called Quicktime Player this feature allows me to open my slides and then add the “record a new screen recording” and off I go. I managed to actually teach my lesson via my slides and simply post the slides with my “voiceover” on a daily basis for every lesson.

The feedback that I got from my students and the parents was that this helped a lot. As both students and parents could actually follow the lesson by listening to the instructions from myself, often pausing and rewinding the lesson and then work at their own pace.

These lessons I then placed in the class’ Google Classroom page and I made sure that I gave the students a daily suggested schedule to follow. Once again this helped because I only needed three very short meetings a week with my class, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9am. These meeting would be done and dusted by 9.10am. Students could then get on with their work. Any questions that they had were placed in the comments box for the day’s activities and I could respond.

On two occasions parents requested a “meeting” on Google Classroom which we had to clarify matters and then move on.

Going ahead I plan to continue placing these lessons (with my voice overs) on the Google Classroom page. I feel that my students that are working at a slower pace would still benefit from this even though we are back in the classroom.

I believe so much in this new way of “normal” that I believe one day of the week should be a day of “flexible learning” where students and teachers work from home using technology and resources to teach and learn.

I have included two examples of lessons below:

Outdoor Education 2020

An annual highlight is outdoor education week in week six of term one. During this week students get to do different exciting activities every day.

This year was no different. Day one was spent at Goat island exploring the marine life. The afternoon we spent at Warkworth museum gaining an appreciation for general New Zealand history.

Day two we walked Wenderholm and enjoyed general outdoor activities on the beach and parks.

Day three we did outdoor cooking ath school, with some students cooking their own meal for the first time. They did this in groups of three/four and this helped them to work as a team and rely on others in a team. After lunch they had a hands on experience where they were taught how to create household objects with flax and further bush craft skills.

Day four we walked to the Orewa beach where they were taught how to surf by surfing experts. The afternoon their creative instincts were tested with Estuary arts done on the beach and surroundings.

The final day we enjoyed a bus ride out to Woodhills where the students’ nerves were tested in their ability to deal with heights. The students really got to know themselves and their ability to work when they were tired, to persevere when they were scared and to step out of their comfort zone and fend for themselves.

Overall a very productive week was had by all.






Attended a Blind & Vision Workshop at BLENNZ

I was very fortunate to attend a blind and vision workshop recently. The reason that I attended the workshop was because I have a girl in my class (7RBS) this year who is completely blind.

What does it mean to be blind?

A blind person completely relies on their other senses (especially their hearing). This often results in them being fatigued at the end of the day. Blind people are often “music orientated” as a result of the use of other senses. Spend time to get to know your blind student. They are in fact more similar than different to others.

Encourage her to stand up for herself. Her social skills and mobility are the most important life skills that she can have. In addition to this build a good relationship with her family.

The teacher’s job is to deliver the curriculum to her, thus her academic learning is my responsibility. Make sure that there is equity in delivery, that she has access to the material in that she feels included on a daily basis.

The aim is a rounded education where communication with her is key. In terms of her social skills it is as important for her to make friends, that she will also be aware of others’ feelings, that she shares, joins and participates in group activities along with accepting and respecting others’ opinions.

We need to guide her with her general life skills i.e hygiene and grooming and to be aware that we are preparing her for the real world as well, thus future planning, which will include pre work skills and time management.

Teaching a blind student

Everything that a blind student will ever know must be taught to her. They don’t pick things up “incidentally.” Always verbalise what you write on the board. It is vital that you have the expectations for your blind students regarding manners etc.


If your student has partial vision and you share notes, make sure of the following: Arial 12 text font, left align text, use bold text, use descriptive hyperlinks, bullet point and numbering systems as normal, make your headings big and bold, don’t use textboxes, avoid PDFs and only use tables for tabular data.

Special Assessment Conditions

These students (NCEA) will receive a special document for assessments with BLENZZ on the document. The assessment will arrive the day of the particular assessment. Included will be a special password to access the document.

These students are entitled to a reader/writer. These assessments will be in braille.

Orientation and Mobility

Provide the student with a sense of control. Take your time when you assist her. When you offer to assist always mention your name first to her. Offering your hand in the conventional way is socially acceptable. Some tips though for guiding her: Place the back of your hand to the back of her hand, or place your hand on her elbow. It is recommended that when you are guiding her by the hand that you place your hand under her hand. It is very important that she feels in control all the time. Allow her to leave five minutes before the end of the lesson to get to her next class. Do as much as you can for her to become independent.

Ask yourself

Am I helping the learner or am I helping her to learn? Remember the aim is for her to be independent. As you guide her, teach her. Make every experience a “learning bubble.”

Feeling in control on the campus

Look out for “head hazards.” Other hazards could include handrails, fire hoses, sharp edges, even stairs and water fountains. Use “blind friendly” language. Instead of saying “stand over there,” you will need to say “stand two steps to your right.” Let her practise her “cane skills” at school because of the safety that school provides her. If she gets lost encourage her to “problem solve” at school, i.e when she gets lost on the playground or on her way to class. “Have fun with your learner” and embrace the opportunity to be a part of her education. Allow this student to get involved in a “passion project.”

PE/Running and Outdoor Education Tips

Build trust between yourself and your learner. Be specific in your verbal instructions and focus more on the enjoyment factor rather than the pressure. If you are helping her, i.e on the road, make sure you are closest to the road at all times.

“They are more similar than different”


Trevor Rubens




Reflection of the year 2019

It is that time of the year again and I can reflect on the past year. This is always a very good exercise to do as I analyse my own performance as a teacher and set goals for the year ahead.

I had an amazing class which always helps, so I didnt have huge behavioural issues in class that I had to manage. Students simply got on with their work and there was a huge element of trust between myself and the students. I think students can sense that”trust” and it makes for a very easy relationship between students and me as their teacher.

It was also my final year as the year 7 Dean. I enjoyed my five years as a Dean, I have learnt a lot and the biggest trait that I managed to obtain was to make decisions under pressure, think on my feet, when dealing with parents and improve my public speaking ability.

In 2020 I have a new role as Academic Dean. I look forward to this experience as I will now focus on top academic students and their well being.

In terms of teaching I went back to the basics with reading, with a fair amount of lessons where students were taught how to read for understanding as opposed to simply reading for enjoyment. The maths results in my class were pleasing overall and the students also improved their writing a lot. I also have to give credit to “Education Perfect” for some great lessons that students could do online.

My own studies took up a big chunk of my time. I have now completed te reo Māori at level 5 at AUT. I have achieved an A+ in all three papers and that is pure and simple because of extremely hard work and dedication. I plan to continue level 6 in 2020. It will be a challenge but achievable if I apply myself and put in the necessary time to be successful.

Te Kākano te reo Māori pepa tuatoru AUT WhareWānanga

I tuhi tuhi ahau te whakamatoutou ki AUT te rā wiki Rātu pō. I tuhi ahau tuatoru pepa o te te Kākano te reo Māori. Kua mutu ahau te whakamatoutou i tēnei tau. Ka haere ahau ki Tāmaki Makourou AUT Wharewānanaga a tera tau ki te ako pepa tuawhā. Kei te taumaha ahau otirā kei te harikoa ahau i ako i tenei pepa.


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Certificates of proficiency te reo Māori AUT

Sometimes it simply feels good to receive hard copies or certificates of work completed. It felt good to receive digital copies of two papers that I have completed at AUT recently.

It makes the hard work and the long hours spent studying seem worthwhile.

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Te Kākano

I have passed the paper of the first semester this year. I have since enrolled to do the follow up paper at AUT.

This means that if I pass this paper I will have te reo Māori at first year level (level 5).

It certainly helps me in the classroom as I am now capable to teach my students commands in te reo Māori as well as sentence structures.

The added benefit is that since I live in New Zealand I am able to now visits institutions like museums and understand what is written about Māori history.

It is hard work but I am enjoying it and plan to continue my journey in te reo Māori.


Protected: Reading Results 7RBS Term Two

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