A Gingerbread Loaf & 'Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps'


Today I am convinced that Summer has bypassed Wellington.

Wellingtonians are rugged up in black puffers, woolen jumpers and on their feet, (because Wellingtoniains are optimists), they are wearing a pair of sandals or slip ons with no socks.

I feel a need to bake a ginger loaf. The smell in the house will be amazing and thinking and writing whilst  baking is in the oven feels like a happy place to be today.

The recipe I am going to use is from a book called Cooking for Optimists.

I know this recipe as Esther’s Gingerbread. (Note the books talk about this particular recipe is not owned by a particular person; it just keeps getting passed on.)

Whilst measuring and finding ingredients. I am thinking about the book, Berger, J. G. (2019). Unlocking leadership mindtraps: How to thrive in complexity. Stanford University Press.

Berger suggests there are five ways of being that  stop ourselves from seeing possibilities. She calls them ‘Mindtraps’.  Since this book was published I think and reflect on them often. Both in my personal and professional life.  They have supported me to notice more possibilities in my RTLB practice.  

Trapped by Simple Stories: Your Desire for a Simple Story Blinds You to a Real One.

Trapped by Rightness: Just because it Feels Right Doesn’t Mean it Is Right.

Trapped by Agreement: Longing for Alignment Robs You of Good Ideas.

Trapped by Control: Trying to Take Charge Strips You of Influence.

Trapped by Ego: Shackled to Who You Are Now, You Can’t Reach for Who You’ll Be Next.

Mind Traps Webinar: 


Mind Traps Pod Cast 


One mind trap that often traps me is that idea of being right.

As a teacher / educator being ‘right’ real feels great. Actually, I think as educators we are paid to ‘be right’. Berger talks about how this feeling of being right, is like a dopamine drop. (actually I don’t think she used the word dopamine) We feel so good about knowing we are right. Yet, she suggests we can not trust that feeling.  

The questions I really enjoy asking are, which are encouraged by Berger are: How many ways might I be right? How many ways might I be wrong? I really recommned trying this. Asking these questions does a thing where, what ever context we are often subject to, eg. developing a localised curriculum during a staff development day or even just sorting the playground duty roster.  The two questions support us to position the context as an object, to step to the side and notice our capacity to think, act and do things differently. If you do try asking these questions I recommend doing this  with a colleague.

As I write this, the smell of gingerbread is  wafting through the house. It’s time to get it out of the oven. (Judging by the cracks on the top, I might have been a bit distracted whilst cooking.)

Note: I did not use a loaf tin. 

Instead a small roasting tin. Like reading and writing,  I prefer chunks not slices.

Roasting cauliflower and thinking about the importance of leaning into conflict

 Most weeks I like to try cooking something new. Today it is roast cauliflower. 

I have seen many recipes for roasting cauliflower, all of them leaning into getting a bit flash for me. This one, however, I can easily hack and I suspect results will be a pretty dam delicious plate of cauliflower.

The recipe I am hacking is called Burnt Lemon Cauliflower

(I call it hacking because if I don't have some of the ingredients which is usually the case, I miss it out or add another, eg. who has fermented lemons on hand?)

Click on the link below to see the recipe in detail. 

Note, the picture is different, mine looked more like the image above. 

I love scattering fresh herbs about the place. Also, note: there is also no way I have black sesame seeds, I just threw in Nigella seeds. (buy from your supermarket)

Also, I left out the garlic.


Whilst sitting in our kitchen thinking about how I’m going to rearrange this recipe into something manageable, I’m also thinking about: DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press

And an article I read a few years ago Evans, R. (2012). Getting to No: Building True Collegiality in Schools. Independent School, 71(2), n2. there is something niggling in the back of my mind about both.

Evans, R. (2012)  highlights the importance of teachers moving away  from Congeniality, relationships that are based on getting on well, being warm and friendly and move towards Collegiality, relationships where its okay in fact encouraged to disagree it’s not because we ‘don’t like you’, we embrace the difference in ideas and approach, we lean into for the sake of improvement. I blogged about this some time ago.


This article connects to DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press because if the purpose of ‘education’ is the development of intellectual capacity (Dewey 1938 & Whitehead 1939)  then as classroom teachers and educators in the broadest sense, we need to be doing everything possible to open up spaces for the improvement of ideas and an intentional capacity to listen to learn. I have known many colleagues who will do whatever they can to avoid conflict. 

In order to learn and to grow, I believe we must learn to sit in those uncomfortable spaces of conflict, (different values, differing knowledges, different attitudes and values) be courageous and lean into the discomfort, stay uncomfortable for a little bit longer than usual and learn. 

Yes, I really am thinking about this whilst hustling a cauliflower!

The cauliflower was ridiculously delicious. A perfect lunch for the next day. I will be inclined to top left over roast cauliflower with some roasted pumpkin seeds and maybe some precooked quinoa or rice.

Happy cooking - Happy reading - Happy thinking!

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education, / New York: Macmillan 

Evans, R. (2012). Getting to No: Building True Collegiality in Schools. Independent School, 71(2), n2.

Mordachai, K. (2017)    Simple Fare, A Guide to everyday cooking and eating, / Abrams, New York

Whitehead, A. N. (1929). The aims of education & other essays.  New York:Macmillan.

Cooking mini quiche whilst summer reading

This is a recipe for educators who are on summer break and are reading hard out in between organising their family and getting head ready for returning to school.

I have seen variations of this recipe in so many recipe books.  Most recently, I saw a version of this recipe in Coffee Pen’s recipe book. I am inspired by coffee Pen cafe it has an unassuming vitality and a warm community. https://www.instagram.com/coffee_pen_/?hl=en

Little pies with your summer reading

(makes 8)


Pastry (I use a delicious pre made Vegan pastry called flaky puff by New Way)

Feta (cubed)

Spinach (small leaves)

Bacon (totally optional)

The mixture

6 eggs

¼ cup of milk

¼ cup of cream

Whisk these up with a fork. Adding cracked pepper and salt


1. Oil muffin tins

2. Take two pastry sheets out and cut one square sheet into four smaller squares.

3. Gently push and pleat eight pastry squares into the muffin tins

4. Bake pastry for 6 mins then take out of the oven. (I was somewhat dubious about this action - however, a little bit of pastry baking will stop a soggy quiche base)

5. Place, spinach first, then feta, then bacon (optional) into each pastry cup6.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the pastry cups

7. Into the oven at 290 C 37 minutes or until them look and smell ready.


When these are in the oven, I have had a quick clean up, I have 30 minutes of reading time. I pour a cup of hot water and sit down with my book.

The book I keep reading and rereading is Imaging Decolonization. (BWB texts - https://www.bwb.co.nz/books/imagining-decolonisation/) I think this book is essential reading for all educators who work in Aotearoa, New Zealand. If your personal development and professional work does not connect to the Treaty of Waitangi then, the question I ask is why not? Educators believe in equity and talk about inclusion and designing for it.  Yet, if we are not immersing ourselves in personal and professional learning about Sovereignty, Tino rangatiratanga in education and schooling, conversations and actions about equity in education and schooling are like pushing water uphill with a rake. This is critical work.

After I have read half of Ocean Ripeka Mercier’s article “What is Decolonisation?” it is time to get the quiches out of the oven. They smell delicious. As I let them cool for a couple of minutes I think about her reference to ecological decoloniseation. I look over to our little garden and wonder about what would the garden look like and how might I feel if from this moment on I  plant plants that are native to this area? 

Note: I cook like I teach. A little of this a bit more of that. So, once you have a sense of the ingredients for what they do, own it and share it. Smash out the most delicious flavours, knowing you can feed the family and read at the same time.

Imagining Decolonisation      


UDL and Learner Variability: Teacher Variability / Student Variability (UDL #2)

This year , Universal Design for Learning has totally consumed by every thought!

My most demanding question that I have on loop is: Why should educators bother with UDL? I have never met an educaotr against the idea of inclusion and equity but with every other fabulous "program / frame/ lense " winging its way to our colleagues classroom and learning spaces, do they need to bother with UDL?

Has anyone noticed that UDL resources talk about learner variability? According to Grant and Perez (2018), the best way to address learner variability is through flexible design. In their book they offer ‘pause and reflect’ questions to support teachers to design for flexibility. The questions are fantastic and the UDL resources available on tki are gold, however, I have a niggling thought. Where is the explicit mention of adult / educator variability? As most of us would agree, educators encapsulate the definition of variable! So how do we design for educator variability?

I would argue, and it is taking me some time to think this through, but we do not talk about the variability of adults or working and designing for this variability as often as we could and I am wondering why we don’t.

To introduce a conversation about Learner Variability educators, I have been triying an activity that focussed on adults. The activity is called: Walk in my shoes - Adult Learner. (I have attached a link to this template below). The activity involved the teacher thinking about what conditions and or strategies they use to achieve each task on the sheet. When I recently did this activity with a group of educators, the educators chose one task on the list, they chose - Welcoming a visitor to school assembly speaking te reo Māori - and together they talked about all the different strategies they would need to use to achieve this. It was a totally magic moment in the staff meeting because the understanding of designing for variability for themselves and their own students was a serendipitous moment.

I’m really excited about approaching professional development from the UDL lense because I have this hunch that we may (as educators) experience this weird kind of thing where we need to homogenise into a particular way of thinking, acting and doing. An example is a ‘good teacher sounds like… a good teacher looks like…” UDL offers an opportunity to literally smash through such ridiculous cookie cutter thinking and explicitly identify and recognise each others creativity and variability and design and work with it.

I’m wondering, is anyone else explicitly using the UDL framework / principles to design professional development with our colleagues and if so what have your experiences been?


Grant, K.,& Perez, L. (2018). Dive into UDL Immersive Practices to Develop Expert Learners.

Portland, Oregon : International Society for Technology in Education

Ministry of Education (2019) Inclusive Design. Guide to Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved from https://www.inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/universal-design-for-learning/

Walk in my shoes adult learner

Universal Design for Learning #1

“Can we take the longest walk in the world from our perspective to theirs, lay ours down for a minute and simply seek to understand another human being?”

Jennifer Garvey Berger

Three reasons why I value Universal Design for Learning

  • Adult Development. UDL is an entry point for conversations and engagement about adult development and adult learning. To understand and make explicit what have been and are our own barriers to learning. Learning about our students.  For us as educators to be explicit about  what it feels like to be wrong. (We were trained to know stuff and be right)  As discussed by Berger, J. G. (2019). The experience of being wrong is the experience of learning.  Implementing Universal Design for Learning is about adults learning to be able to design learning for others. To see what is possible.

  • Culturally sustaining pedagogies and practices are critical for student access to learning.  How does my culture values and beliefs connect to this learning?  How does my students culture values and beliefs connect to this learning?

  • Intellectual capacity / Diversity of ideas. If the purpose of education is  building intellectual capacity and diversity of ideas then this must be accessible to all. Whitehead, A. N. (1929) Dewey, J. (1938) Equity of access to building intellectual capacity. In other words - No barriers folks - access to building intellectual capacity and working with and valuing diversity of people and ideas is our work.

I’m wondering about...
For myself, the grit for UDL is for it to be applied to the actual purpose of education. It can be a lense from which we as educators can see, think, act and design  differently. For the purpose of educative value.  This idea of educative value comes from Dewey (1938) and Whitehead (1929). They identified the purpose of education was to have Educative value. For  Dewey (1938) and Whitehead  (1929) Educative value is about intellectual development. Gilbert (2017) outlines the features of what both Dewey and Whitehead consider for learning to be educative. For Whitehead educative features include exploring the relationships ideas have with other ideas and that these are complex and that learning is about ideas (Hipkins et al. 2014). For Dewey, educative features include an ability to think about complex and abstract ideas.  

If when we work with UDL and we  ignore ‘for the purpose of educative value’ then UDL may become nothing more than another 'once over lightly' contribution to our overflowing  ‘tool kit’  and a popular addition to an educators edition of  Buzz word bingo.

UDL Benefits for students
UDL Benefits for adults, educators
1.Way of thinking about teaching and learning that gives all students equity of opportunity to learn

2. Personalised learning

3. Student voice has value

4. Provide tools and supports they need to demonstrate their learning in ways that work for them across all classes

1. Supports us to practice being wrong
Rational: Educators are trained to be right, to hold tightly to best practice. But what happens when best practice isn't working for some students?

2.Supports us to work with uncertainty which is a requirement for working in complex spaces. Rational:  Best practice is based on certainty. Berger, J. G. (2019) suggests when we are certain we have a limited ability to notice possibilities. She refers to this as being  ‘Trapped by rightness’

3. Supports a shift in our practice
Bae, S., Ofiesh, N. S., Blackorby, J. (2018)
“4. Offers a framework to guide decision-making  ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)
5. Identify and minimise barriers to learning and wellbeing hidden in their teaching
6. Consider how to offer useful options and supports that can be built into the learning environment at the outset
7. Problem solve with colleagues, students and whānau using the shared language of UDL.” ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)
Benefits for Families
Leaders have a framework that will:
“1. Their ideas and questions will be welcomed
2. The uniqueness of their child will be valued and seen as a source of strength for the community
3. The learning needs of their child will be met their child will not be singled out or separated from their peers.”
1.support their growth and development as an inclusive school
2.support consistent, coherent inclusive teaching and learning practices across their school
3.guide the design of more inclusive systems and processes, community events and building projects
4.provide a shared language that can be used with all stakeholders, across all contexts. ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)

If you see other benefits please let me know and I will add them into the table.

Why am I blogging  about this? 1. I’m wondering about the  assumption in education spaces  that we all know why Universal Design for Learning is important. I hear oh we have done UDL. Done UDL? I’m not sure I understand this comment when I think of UDL as a way of living and seeing the world. Perhaps it is more Universal Design for Living? 2. Every educator I know is passionate about equal opportunity, equity of access. So why is it still so hard to design for equity of access? For myslef, UDL is a way of living.  Making decisions in the present about how we want to live in the future. It’s about social change. I've started asking myself….  Is it possible that each day as educators we make decisions and take actions that lead to futures we do not actually want?”  

Theatre for Social Change - Mind over Manner NZ

Connect to the humanness in the other before you.
Their right to belong.
This connection an open hand...
of strength and possibility.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop called Mind over Manner.
The workshop was hosted by RTLB Cluster 29 and educators through out Hutt Valley, Wellington attended.

The message that resonated with me throughout the day was "Be Generous".

What is mind over Manner?
"The Mind Over Manner workshop aims to normalise what is often viewed as disability or dysfunction and encourages the reframe of cognitive difference."

Four actors and a facilitator (Susan Haldane the Creative Director) took us on a journey - exploring areas of stress for students..
Students who are...
Over sensory
Over responders
Under responders

The workshop was a series of role plays and adult participation. Four hours absolutely zoomed by.
Sometimes we would pause and offer the actors alternative scenarios.

Image: The Scenario- Emily's story about transition, hoops and hooping

Why am I blogging about this?
1. Because, this professional development workshop was dynamic. At times the atmosphere was electrifying - as we were invited to step into the experiences portrayed in the role plays.
2. I am excited because it is  important to me that we explore simple ways of acting, thinking and doing things different each day. Things we as educators can try where we learn about ourselves and others.
3. Links to the building of Resilience and the conditions for the Discipline of Anticipation
4. If I had one wish for staff professional development across Kahui Ako it would be, dial up Mind over Matter.

Image: Actors modelling the use of flash cards in the classroom by students. Instead of a student saying I need to get out of here or I need to move, a student can use a flash card that says "I need to move my body" (Tap into the use of different sensory modalities)

I learnt a new word.
I learnt using declarative language sets the conditions to create neural pathways and to practice re-framing is to set conditions for the invitation of connection.

For information about Declarative Language check out

Examples of declarative language
Imperative language: Did you do your home?
Declarative: How was your homework last night?

Imperative: Say goodbye.
Declarative: We are going home now.

I understood that in being explicit in our use of Declarative language we model flexibility. The teacher shifts so the student feels better and as a result we fostering connection.
Using language to connect. Reminds me of Va, Talanoa, Whanaugatanga.
We know as educators that connecting with our students is critical for learning and reducing the distance between the teacher and the student.

This workshop offered simple language frames that I could try out in my next  learning and or in behavior conversations. I will start having a go at explicitly using Declarative language frames in my teaching as Inquiry this year. Declarative language will support students and myself to develop new neural pathways.

Theater for social change is pretty dam exciting and I really want to engage more with this genre.