We REALLY have to listen

Tune in to this interview with one of New Zealand's most successful businessmen, Michael Hill.

As I was listening in the car on Saturday morning these things crossed my mind...

What drove his mother to agitate at the school about his class placement? Why did that teacher cross the road to tell him and his family he would amount to nothing? It took 40 years for him to shake it off!

Why is it that you can predict how this story goes as you listen to it? Because it sounds like that of Peter Leech (Mad Butcher), John Britten (world leading motorcycles), Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop) and many other very successful New Zealanders who did not fit the school mold.

We really do miss the impact of the complexity of understanding music on children's brain development.

Teachers...do we value every talent and strength of children in our care?
Parents...what does pressure on only reading and writing and maths do to your children?

Worse things can happen than have kids grow up to be the millionaires mentioned above.

Thanks for the clean car

Members of two of our school netball teams are fundraising to pay for part of the cost of an upcoming training school. They have been very enterprising, as seen today in the staff carpark. Their carwash was popular with the staff. Great value and a job well done. Thanks girls.

Did you know?

A film by Karl Fisch

Why are we frequently talking about change? Why are we on a long and well considered journey towards a new curriculum at our school? Why are we asking big questions about what school needs to look like in the 21st century? Why can't we stay comfortably as we always have been?

This video might answer some of those questions...

...and it might just make you come up with even more questions about the sort of schooling we need to give our kids.

Good to meet

Two weeks of parent/student/teacher meetings are over. Thanks to our wonderful teachers for making themselves available at a variety of times so that as many parents and students as possible could take part.

We all enjoy being able to meet with you and your children to talk in-depth about our core business - your child's learning.

When parents AND children join with the teachers in meetings such as these we are helping the children to see that school is all about them and their learning.
- That all of the adults in their lives communicate with each other.
- That we all love to celebrate their progress and we must always set new goals and challenges to keep the learning momentum going.

This is why we like to have children at the interviews, they doesn't quite mean as much when children are not in the room with us contributing to the process. For some Waimairi classes and families this is a new development, we would love your feedback (add a comment below).

Our next formal reporting point for this school year is a written report, sent home late in Term 3. You should however make contact with your child's teacher well before that if you have a question or would like to follow up on any aspect of your child's learning.

We would also like feedback on our trial of the online interview booking system, share your thoughts with us.

Listening to Torres

In our professional lives we meet many colleagues who have similar ideas or approaches, we meet fewer who share our values and beliefs, and then we meet a very few who do all of the above and also inspire us to 'just be better teachers' and who become good friends.

I first met Marco Torres six years ago and he continues to 'keep me real' no matter what the technological tool, big idea or high concept. We are both Apple Distinguished Educators which means we are lucky enough to have the distance between the USA and New Zealand bridged by us being brought together at education conferences and events. Email, Facebook and instant messenger are not substitutes for real conversations with your friends. Last month we were both keynote speakers at the Middle Years Schooling conference in Brisbane. The messages we delivered to the conference were similar - never before in history have we had the tools in our schools for our children to be producers of, not just consumers of, information.

Marco and I had a mutual (and sadly late) friend Jim Ferguson who left with both of us a burning driver for our work "the kids you have in your class today only have one shot at being kids, you will be a teacher for a long time but they only have one time in their particular year group. Don't plan to make it better next year, do it now!"

You can listen to a radio interview with Marco here, and to part two of the interview here as you reflect on how we can make every moment for our students at Waimairi School more about producing ideas rather than consuming ideas.

Go Go Go Waimairi Teams

A nice email from a grandparent...

"Congratulations to Waimairi school netball teams .I only watch the c team as my grandaughter plays in it but I am so impressed with following:-

1.The ability of the team ...they have won all their games so far.

2.The teacher coach of the c team.I admire her skills and efforts that she puts into the team.She is not only great with the team she has a great knowledge of netball and her refering skills are outstanding.She needs a pat on the back.

3.The uniform that the girls wear and the school has provided is fantastic."

...reminds me of the positive impact that sideline support of our sports teams can have. The kids love us being there and it is very rewarding for those of us watching the games.

You can find the location of our Friday afternoon games here.

Wrap up warm and head out to the fields to make some noise in support of our kids.

Stay true to your values

Here come the National Standards

Educators and parents will hold a range of opinions on this initiative, which was one of the platforms the current government campaigned on.

The Ministry of Education has set up a parents' web page where parents can view some of the proposed material and importantly, give feedback. There are also consultation meetings being held across the country. I am not convinced that they have worked out enough of the details to hold meaningful consultation but will hold off on judgement until next week.

I believe one of the most important things for us all to do as the National Standards are rolled out is stay true to our schools' values and beliefs about powerful learning.

The NZ Curriculum is all about school communities establishing what they value and believe about education, I already worry because I hear principals and teachers engaging in negative thinking. Nobody has told us we now have to 'teach to the test' and sacrifice our local curriculum.

As professional educators we must use our knowledge of child development and education to raise standards of achievement. What are we saying about ourselves when we say that because of the existence of National Standards we can no longer use the teaching practices that we believe our kids need? We decide how we teach. If we believe we are making a difference for children then we should keep on doing so.

I have many unanswered questions about the National Standards. I worry about the media using results to produce 'league tables' and unfairly rank schools. I worry about the potential disruption to the long and well thought out NZ Curriculum implementation process. I worry about clumsy and simplistic measurement of complex child developmental areas such as reading. I worry about the 'value added' to children at school not being captured in simplistic National Standards.

But most of all I worry about teachers and principals throwing in the towel and not innovating because of the existence of the National Standards. If we expect a doom and gloom, 'teaching to the test' system then we will get one - because we are the ones who will decide to deliver it.

Continue to be excited by, and proud of, our revised NZ Curriculum and don't take your eye off the ball. A 'key competencies' driven education system is what this country needs for its future survival. The merely literate and numerate are the new poor. The thinkers, relaters, self-managers, contributors and participants are the new leaders.

Don't sell out our children's futures because of the National Standards.

Turning the tide

This week our school community is coming together to celebrate Maori achievement and to listen to each other's wishes and aspirations for further engaging students and strengthening partnership in learning.

At this time it is interesting to look back at the work led by Prof. Russell Bishop getting teachers to understand the power of relationships with the youngsters in their care.

View TV feature on the project.
Learn more about the book, Culture Speaks:Cultural relationships and classroom learning.

Coffee Meeting

Thanks to the parents who turned up for this term’s morning coffee meeting. We were able to discuss and clarify a wide range of points. Those unable to attend can see what we covered below. Feel free to phone, email or drop in at any time to clarify any questions you may have.

Notes from recent parent questions discussed at Term 2 Coffee Meeting:

Recent ERO Review. Report is still in draft form. Should be published by the end of this term.

Parents’ library
. Reminder that we have a collection of books for parents. Teachers will point parents towards display in library during interviews over next two weeks.

Making the most of school website
. Those lost newsletters and missing sports notices can be found on the ‘SportZone’ and ‘Info Central’ pages on the school website. Also remember to use the ‘Any Questions’ page if you are unable to visit school to ask questions.

Upcoming Maori Consultation.
Invitation for whole community to take part.

Year 3/4 outdoor education programme.
Teachers currently working on details of a y3/4 outdoor challenge event to replace previous Y4 camp. Will involve all Year 3 and 4 classes. Will probably be two day long event including an overnight stay. Scheduled for mid-late Term 4.

Same learning, different contexts:
Why all rivers don’t look the same. There are school-wide focus areas, all classes are working on the same curriculum areas, the contexts used by each class are different.

What is a decile rating?
Explanation that decile ratings are calculated based on community socio-economic data and are not related to teaching and learning or the performance of a school.

We will follow up on parent suggestions to spread notices and newsletters across all Rivers so that more consistent information about school events arrives in each household.

It was noted that children’s ICT skills are surpassing some parents. Student-led lessons for parents are a long term goal to address this issue. Will be 2010 or 2011 when these start.

Our identification of gifted and talented children
was explained. Our aim is to ensure all teachers are challenging and extending children all day, every week - as opposed to sending these children to special events and programmes and believing this alone meets their needs.

We will follow up on parent suggestions to make clear the classroom release timetable for teachers with extra duties.

We will also ensure timely notices are send home when there is an impending change of class teacher.

We clarified that the large number of new entrants this year are IN ZONE students. Out of Zone pupils are not a significant pressure point on numbers in the junior school.

2010 class compositions. We clarified that the make-up of classes for 2010 will be done to meet the needs of the children, not to keep groups together at the expense of teachers’ and parents’ knowledge of what might be best for the child.