The books we buy more than once

A colleague recently asked me for a list of 'good education related' books to read over the summer break. When I looked through my office and home bookshelves I found that the books that I instinctively wanted to recommend to him were all book titles that I have had to buy more than once.

They are books that are just such a good read, with such a good message, that they become the ones you lend to people, never to be seen again. They are the keepers. The person you lend it to keeps it.

Keeper books stand out from most others in your book collection because you actually notice that you have lost your copy of them when you find yourself wanting to refer to them time after time.

This time I have sent him a list rather than given him my copy of them. I am sure that they will become keepers in his collection.

What are your 'keeper' titles? The books you have repurchased ( in my case sometimes up to four times).
Here are some of mine.

The Hidden Lives of Learners
Graham Nuthall
MUST READ and then re-read. Then lend to someone and don't expect to get it back.
The Big Picture: Education is Everyone's Business
Dennis Littkey.
An absolutely wonderful book, I have lost track of the number of copies I have bought, lent and lost.
A Framework for Understanding Poverty
Ruby Payne
Pretty essential for teachers in all schools I reckon.
Discipline, Democracy and Diversity
Angus MacFarlane
Gotta love Angus and his thinking.
The Kiss and the Ghost: Sylvia Ashton Warner & New Zealand
Jones & Middleton
a couple of 'keeper' videos to round it all off..
The Song of the Bird

Elwyn Richardson
and... Sylvia Ashton Warner (in three parts)

This time it's personal

The team supporting the teams during the Rugby World Cup.

This post is a 'lift' from my bit in our school newsletter this week but I do want to the world to know how much I admire our staff.

"At the end of 2010 I said that the most trying year we could face was over and we looked forward to a brighter 2011. Well... I was wrong, very wrong. As a wider school community (children, parents, families, staff and neighbours) we had it all thrown at us this year. The death and injury of loved ones, damage to our homes and workplaces, loss of businesses, income and jobs, broken infrastructure and facilities, and separation of families. Layered over all of this has been deep and ongoing psychological harm, anxiety and depression, children and adults alike. 

Yet...from this awful mess Waimairi School has functioned as a safe and happy place. In addition to putting self and family behind duty of care to your children, twice during major quakes during school hours (and many big after shocks) the school staff have got up each morning, put on their professional 'game faces', driven over damaged roads and through traffic snarls to be the best support they can be for our students.

This on its own is admirable, but despite many weeks of closure and disruption we have fostered and maintained academic, sporting and cultural excellence. The whole staff have given everything they have to give to your children this year. It has left them emotionally and physically drained but I know they would not have done anything differently. Your children's well-being is worth the personal price. So in this context, and aware of the regular taunts about teachers' holidays, I hope that in 2011 of all years, you do wish them all a restful holiday break. You need them rested up and ready for 2012 and beyond."

Teachers and support staff all over the world would like to think that if unprecedented disaster hits you would cope and do well. In 2011 the staff at Waimairi School, and all Christchurch teachers have shown that you can.

Blinded by the light

Most lights these days are powered by electricity but evidently there may be some still oil powered, snake oil that is.

Who would have thought that a blog posting about LIGHT could generate such a great soundtrack? If you don't like this posting at least you can enjoy the sounds. Start the LIGHT song that you like the best then scroll to read with the music playing.


So here is the NZ Herald education article about the Philips Lighting SchoolVision lighting system.
It is important to read, and remember, the wording used in this 'so called' news article. It will come back to you time and time again very soon. Rather than being cutting edge educational journalism it would appear that the publicity department of Philips helped out with lots of the wording. Here is the brochure from Philips. Compare and contrast the text with the unquestioned lifts from the corporate publicity. Educational journalism needs to provide balance not just deliver text from a corporate press release. Where is the journalistic balance and thinking in the Herald article? If Philips want advertising why don't they just buy ad space in the paper? They don't need to do so with journalism like this.

Don't feel bad NZ Herald there are plenty of other educational reports in big papers just using the Philips publicity words and pretending they are 'truth'

The Guardian and The Observer 

Not Given LIGHTly 
What annoys me about a claim that a lighting system can improve student achievement? Well it is the very claim that it does so that winds me up. Here is some Philips publicity.
For principals "However, with multiple stakeholders to please including teachers, parents and governors, one of your
most important goals will also be to improve your school’s results. Not only will it affect your school’s rating, it could also secure additional funding to help with overstretched budgets and limited resources."
Not in my school matey! It is our dedicated and skilled teachers who do that, not the lighting system.
"SchoolVision has proven results. The solution was first researched in a year-long, independent study by Universit√§tsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf with 166 pupils and 18 teachers. The results showed that: 
• Reading speed increased by almost 35% 
• Frequency of errors reduced by almost 45% 
• Hyperactive behaviour also dropped by an astonishing 76%

These positive findings were confirmed and endorsed by a second, more extensive study carried out by the University of Twente. The research at Disselboom primary school in Wintelre between December 2009 and September 2010 concluded that: 
• Children score on average 18% higher in a concentration test
• Are more motivated in the long term • Appreciate their learning environment more, both in the short and long term 
• Co-operative learning behaviour is positively influenced by the ‘Calm’ setting
In short, “Light makes a positive difference” in the things that really matter like concentration, motivation and co-operative learning."

You LIGHT Up My Life

Can we shine some light on the 'research' that claims that the  Philips system has a significant effect on mood, energy levels and ability to concentrate? Yes we can...sort of...

Lux Magazine says sort of the same thing

So go deeper...
The source of all this 'research talk' to sell a lighting system is Applicability and efficacy of variable light in schools Physiology & Behavior
Volume 105, Issue 3, 1 February 2012, Pages 621-627
Read the abstract! 
Turn the LIGHTS on

"Two classrooms each in two separate schools were studied over a period of nine months; one class in each school served as an intervention group, and a parallel class in each school served as a control group. The effects of the individual VL programs were assessed using standardized test modules. The overall effect was measured using standardized surveys of students and teachers given at the beginning and the end of the project. The results showed that the students made fewer errors, particularly fewer errors of omission, on a standardized test of attention under the VL “Concentrate” program. Reading speed, as measured using standardized reading tests, rose significantly. Reading comprehension also improved, but this improvement was not statistically significant. In contrast, the achievement motivation of the students and the classroom atmosphere did not change over the nine-month period.

Hmmm. The close attention that New Zealand educators pay to the value of reading comprehension, as opposed to reading speed and reading errors (which has kept us at the top of OECD reading achievement comparison tables year on year) suggests that we can't gain much from a lighting system making our kids read faster with fewer errors.

Where was the Barkmann et. al. research presented? At the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms conference. Check out page 2 of the programme. Major Sponsor...Philips

The attempt to re-create the educational gains in a lab study also generates skepticism

N. Wessolowski, C. Barkmann, M. Schulte-Markwort
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Department of Psychosomatics in Children and Adolescents, Germany

Objectives: In a field study with 116 pupils, the use of Schoolvision in school classes resulted in a significant increase of attention/concentration and reading speed as well as a significant decrease of restlessness (Wessolowski et. al., 2009). Schoolvision by Philips has preset lighting programs differing in brightness and color temperature. The aim of this study was to replicate these findings in a standardized laboratory setting.

Methods: In a randomized two-group cross-sectional experiment a sample of n=95 healthy adults received either optimized light programs (Schoolvision) or control conditions (500 lx / 3200 K). Optimized light conditions for the treatment group were bright daylight (1300 lx / 5600 K) to induce attention and less bright warm-white light (600 lx / 3000 K) to reduce restlessness. Attention was measured with the d2-test of Brickenkamp and the reading test of Schneider et al. To determine restlessness an optical measurement method named ““Childmove”” was used, which detects changes in pixel values within a video. Childmove was developed for the measurement of whole school classes (Koenig et al., i.P.) but it can also be used in other settings.

Results: The results of the attention/concentration testing showed a significant advantage of 25% from using Schoolvision in the treatment group in terms of the d2 test error rate compared to the control group with standard light (F=2.839, df=1, p=.048, ␣2=.031). This is comparable to the effect described by the school study. In addition, the results for the working speed of the d2 test also showed a significant advantage of 11% for the treatment group (F=3.803, df=1, p=.028, ␣2=.065). The effect outranged the result of working speed in the school study. In contrast to the results of the d2 test, the results of the reading test could not be replicated in lab. The results concerning motoric agitation (restlessness) showed a faster decrease by using Schoolvision (after 5 min: F=2.897, df=1, p=.0.046, ␣2=.031) as reported in the school study. However, unlike the findings of the school study, a decrease in restlessness was not affected.

Conclusions: In sum, the results of the school study could be replicated: The results in the lab showed an increase of attention by using Schoolvision: The experimental group made fewer errors and had a higher working speed in the d2 test. The results of the reading test cannot be replicated, assumedly because the participating college students (59%) are very practiced in reading long texts under inconvenient environmental conditions so that the reading test was not sensitive enough for this sample. There is also a faster decrease of motoric agitation by adults detected in the lab but in contrast to the school study no relevant total decrease was found. An analysis of the z-transformed school and lab values showed that the baseline scores of the pupils in the schools were more than four times higher than those of adults in the lab. On closer inspection of the low baseline scores it was possible to find a faster decrease for the experimental group but not a higher decrease over a longer time, because both groups already almost reached the minimum right after the beginning. 

Come on baby LIGHT my fire

The funny bit - Don't Turn the LIGHTS On

Mayer Hawthorne sings about LIGHTS and this whole thing reeks of the Hawthorne Effect.

The irony is that the Hawthorne effect was all about light levels.
The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they know they are being studied,[1][2] not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.
The term was coined in 1950 by Henry A. Landsberger[3] when analysing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works (a Western Electric factory outside Chicago). Hawthorne Works had commissioned a study to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers' productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded. It was suggested that the productivity gain occurred due to the impact of the motivational effect on the workers as a result of the interest being shown in them. Although illumination research of workplace lighting formed the basis of the Hawthorne effect, other changes such as maintaining clean work stations, clearing floors of obstacles, and even relocating workstations resulted in increased productivity for short periods. Thus the term is used to identify any type of short-lived increase in productivity
The killer bit
From the NZ Herald story which kicked off this post.. 
"The Education Ministry's website says evidence suggests learning outcomes improve in spaces that have daylight as the main source of lighting." So embrace classroom 'windows' (the first time a Mac guy like me has said that) and don't think that the Philips Company is going to lift student achievement any more than an interactive whiteboard company will.

Electric LIGHT Orchestra 

Touch devices 'back to the future' uh-oh

A website called bloomsapps keeps appearing in my Twitter feed as a recommended reference. So I took a look and was told on the front page that  "it is essential for educators to understand how to implement Blooms (sic) in the classroom using the apps that are available." Just why this is an educational imperative is not stated but it is linked to growing use of iOS devices in American school districts.

Bloom's Taxonomy and Anderson's revision, offer, at best, a set of considerations for teacher planning to ensure balanced cognitive provision. I don't believe there is any gold in there for looking at what children actually learn. A side note (not explored in this post is a general observation that I have about many educators focussing totally on the cognitive domain of Bloom's work and often not even thinking about the affective and psychomotor. Let alone the parallel nature of the 'top three' - see Anderson & Kraftwhol, 2001. Renaming does not show deep understanding of the revision ). But all of that is for another day/blog post.

Let's go back to the 1990s. Computers in classrooms (as opposed to touch devices in classrooms in 2011) were all the rage. So much potential and so much crap. Educational software was the discussion point of too many teacher conferences. And...having followed the #ulearn11 Twitter hashtag over the last three days I have a sinking feeling about the word apps being used in the same way. Too much talk about 'great apps', 'harvesting apps' and 'apps we must have'.

If the hopefully long dead Bailey's Book House and Milly's Maths House have not yet been awakened as zombies from their well-deserved graves by the voodoo priests of the iOS booster gang, then it is sadly not too far away I fear.

The missed opportunity often spoken about by Seymour Papert is well and truly missed when we consider money spent vs. learning gained from the classroom computer. 

I suggest that many 'educational' touch app developers also do not know how to do this. They try to re-create school on a touch device. How many popular touch apps are 'latinesque? or bluntly put schoolesque?  

Now we bounce on to the touch device era without much overt consideration of learning potential (and money already spent). Having touch devices in a school does not equal learning facilitated by touch devices.

I believe that if it offers children nothing up front then it is a great app. My friend Marco Torres often retells his 'oscilloscope anecdote' in his presentations. 

Marco makes an overlooked but important point. Schools need to have devices like iPods and iPads in them because they offer apps like oscilloscopes, decibel meters and voice/video recording tools. All things that offer nothing to a child without skilled teacher input. I want lots of touch devices in our school because they are a means for us to have the tools which we could never afford to have. From musical instruments to science tools, these are the killer apps.

The power of the touch apps is not in the digital regurgitation of flashcards and maths games but in the blank page stuff. A good school art supply room will never be stocked with colouring books and paint by numbers kits. Good school touch devices should mirror that. Produce, don't consume. Explore, don't be shown. If a child can use the app at home then it probably belongs at home (with the colouring-in books and paint by numbers kits). The challenge to myself and others is to make sure the amazing power of touch devices amplifies learning at school rather than baby sitting kids through school.     

But who am I to tell you what to do?

So.... go for it. If you take a look at why you have/want iPods/iPads in your school and if you decide that rote maths and spelling learning in a 'digital' way is for you then buy them. All you have to do is rationalise the expense. I find that many schools who rationalise the expense on the basis of engaging children in maths and spelling apps also have charters and strategic plans which promote higher order thinking and student directed learning. Are these congruent?  

Write this in your charter; We believe in B.F. Skinner's thinking around behaviorism and are investing $XXXXXX.XX in touch devices to allow children to do and have reinforced what we want to teach.
This stuff is great for special needs and IEP kids - go for it. At every Case Conference we can find an app, and probably should do so. 

But is it why you want everyone to have touch device access? Do what you will in your own school, but don't just plan to buy some touch devices because they are the flavour of the month. The 1990s words of Mark Brown come back to me "computers are not inherently good" and neither are touch devices. 

We have been through the painful misunderstood rationale behind the  purchase of classroom computers, then laptops, then interactive whiteboards. Let's not do another round with touch devices.

There is a very real danger that current educational seduction with touch devices will rewind some advances in thinking about the pedagogical role of ICT.

Who is currently doing the big thinking on this? The amazing Dorothy Burt is. Funny how the 'app' and the 'App' have evolved. The Manaiakalani Project is all about, and successful because of, blank pages rather than cute apps made available on tap to her community. 

And a big nod to Chris in Room 22 - a true creative pioneer in the digital forest :)

Full Circle

Rock On Waimairi School.

You did it and you did it so well. My last posting was 10 long weeks ago we left the school all fired up about a term of dance, drama and music. At 8:20 in the morning of the first day of Term Three the school was alive with adults showing the children how a school can become a centre of arts performances. The challenge to all was to create and interpret so that by the end of term our school could become the 'new Arts Centre' of Christchurch.

We did it. Here is the full programme. Our teachers and support staff really did give the children a stunning term of learning and creativity. Our Arts Centre Finale was enjoyed by the whole community. Enough with the words, enjoy the pictures. After ten weeks work the kids are the performers in the same spaces.

Teachers, support staff, children and parents all made for a great term. We LOVE the NZ Curriculum, and in our battered city we loved having an Arts Centre back for a day( complete with with the yummy food stalls).

Arts front and centre

One of the many things I love about our NZ Curriculum is the even and balanced priority we must give to all areas. This term is the time for the arts to be front and centre.

Our school-wide overarching question is 'how can Waimairi School become the new Arts Centre of Christchurch?.

Those of you reading from afar might not know that our city's formerly vibrant and diverse Arts Centre is one of the casualties of the earthquakes. So this term's big question has a special poignancy for us.

Half way through the preceding school term a group of teachers get together to undertake a review on the state of learning and plan the school wide direction for curriculum focus for the upcoming term. This year the arts planning team concluded that our visual arts learning is very good and needs to be maintained but music, drama and dance are the poor relations (in a classroom learning context). So these are our focus areas.

Our localised curriculum, called Learning @ Waimairi requires the careful selection of two verbs from our list which capture the essence of a learning area and need to be amplified. For term three we selected 'creating' and 'interpreting'. This is what the common school-wide learning is this term.

Next comes the individual teachers 'turbo charging' of any achievement objectives they select for the term using SOLO Taxonomy. Kudos to the authors of the arts AOs for arranging them in a very 'SOLO like' way in the first place.

So... with all that important, but potentially dry, planning done it is time to ignite the children's interest, passion and curiosity. If our school is indeed going to be Christchurch's new Arts Centre in ten weeks time then everyone needed a peek at what that might look like.

When children, parents and staff started to trickle in on the first day of term they found every sort of performer going for it everywhere they looked. At the end of the term it will be our children performing in these spaces, they have now been shown what is possible. And we loved the performers.

Looking forward to a great school term and to seeing the children as the performing artists Enjoy the video.

Compare and Contrast

As I have stated in many previous posts, the government is the government and being democratically elected they have the right to implement the policies they see fit. But today my jaw dropped as I saw the launch of the Government Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. Well done Paula Bennett, take a bow.

This is what New Zealand's government law making process used to be like. I love it.

There is a very big issue, the green paper comes out. The stakeholders, the experts and anyone with a strong opinion have a crack at it. Here is the timetable:

Step 1. Child abuse in New Zealand is an identified problem which needs attention so...

Step 2. May-August 2011:
Green Paper developed by a multidisciplinary team of public servants and others.
Advice and peer review provided by a group of academics and scientific experts chaired by Sir Peter Gluckman and a frontline forum including the Children’s Commissioner.
The Green Paper is released by the end of July 2011.

Step 3. August 2011-February 2012 :
Nationwide public consultation Green Paper

Step 4. May-July 2012:
Analysis of consultation.
Development of a White Paper setting out the Children’s Action Plan.

Step 5. August 2012:
Release of White Paper and formal adoption of the Plan.

Compare and contrast the education national standards legislative process.

Step 1. Lack of student achievement in literacy and numeracy is identified as an election issue. In the face of clear data that New Zealand leads the world in these areas.

Step 2. Pass Education Amendment Bill. Under urgency. No select committee consideration, no industry or professional sector consultation, no teacher voice, no parent voice, no university education research voice. That's all folks. Done. Law made.

There is a perverse factor to take into account as you compare and contrast the modes of operation (Minister of Education with the Minister of Social Development) and their degrees of haste. The evidence of child abuse is real and commands immediate action. The evidence of an underperforming education system is harder to find as New Zealand continues to top international performance tables. You would think one deserves parliamentary urgency and the other consultation and careful steps. Sadly it has been reversed.

Actually both issues deserve due process, and enduring and effective solutions require the latter. Well done Paula Bennett for getting back to the way that our country was, and should be governed. You and the cabinet have the ultimate say on what legislation will come out of the process but what you do decide upon will have had some good expert (and every-person) input. Can you pop down the corridor to share your methods with the Minister of Education?

Post-quake, walking the walls with even more admiration for our teaching team

I walk the walls. It is a part of our curriculum review process. But it is much more than that. This term, more than any other before, it has moved me.

In any regular term I always end up looking at the pictures and thinking "wow, I love working with these people." But this term I have to admit to a few tears flowing as I looked at the picture collections.

These teachers are quake-weary, tired and doing all they can to hold together emotionally affected children and families. And... dealing with their own wrecked homes and jangled nerves.

Yet they are delivering a stunning term of learning. Better than before.

Every teacher in every class is here, plus some of our learning support staff. (Missing the afternoon programme pics because time keeps robbing me of the chance to grab them on camera).

Snapped in the first part of the term (front loading) look here

and the second part of term, applying the front-loaded knowledge before children fly with their own inquiring questions.  Look here.

The wall pictures only tell a small part of a learning story, photos of walls don't show the rich learning experiences in action, but looking at these pics I am in awe of a teaching team working in a disaster hit city.

I love the close detail learning obtained from the simple things like the autumn leaves, the dirt in the garden and the clouds in the sky. The interactive learning centres and the children's voice screaming out.

Can't say much more.

TED Said...then spread

It all started off well. But then TED spread.

TED first came onto my radar in 2006 when Sir Ken Robinson made his moving, humorous, and influential 'Schools Kill Creativity' speech. Ideas worth spreading indeed. Since then the TED Talks have inspired and challenged me. A few of my own key ideas, decisions and actions in recent years have had their genesis in a couple of TED presentations.

TED is now very fashionable. "Did you see it?" "It was amazing." "Very Inspirational" The risk is that TED-hungry leaders, managers and decision makers will end up with the sort of 'doing it vicariously' effect which has gripped the world of would be cooks, singers, and overweight people.

The abundance of reality media means that many people who don't cook their own healthy food can now instead get some sort of solace from living vicariously through watching Jamie Oliver do so. It means that people who want to have an entertainment career can now instead live that dream vicariously through their favourite TV Idol contestant. Watching the Biggest Loser gives an easier sense of well-being than changing diet and exercise programmes for yourself.

Also add to this list: Vicarious parenting through watching Super Nanny and vicarious home improvement through watching Grand Designs.

We can become dumbed down and passive consumers of ideas, convincing ourselves that the 'hard' but good things to do are taken care of in our lives by watching someone else do them on TV.

So the now pervasive presence of TED videos, and live local iterations of TED events, offer us inspiration, opportunity and also risk. The risk of us becoming consumers of TED content rather than producers of new ideas. The risk of living vicarious creative lives through the TED presenters' lives.

Ask some fellow teachers, principals or other leaders about creative things they have done recently. If they respond by saying that they have watched a TED video start to worry. Watching TED is good for getting inspiration but it is not creativity on its own.

Produce don't consume. Force yourself to be able to list actions you have taken as a result of a dose of TED. If we don't make ourselves do this then, as leaders, we are no different to an obese person cheering on their favourite Biggest Loser contestant while sitting on the couch eating a bucket of wings. Watching Ken does not make you Ken.

Who is it that is teaching new teachers to write lyrics for Whitney Houston songs? If it is you please stop it now.

Every few months I find myself in this position. All I want to do is find an outstanding teacher to employ. All I end up doing is wallowing through a pile of edu-speak sickly sweet treacle.

Who is it that is teaching new graduates that a CV should sound like a Whitney Houston song? The lack-of-substance mush-crimes are at their worst from UC College of Education here in Christchurch. Graduates seem compelled to offer something called an 'emerging philosophy of teaching.' 

The problem with an 'emerging philosophy of teaching' is that it states the obvious and tells me nothing about what the candidate actually plans to do if I let him/her loose on a class of children.

"I believe the children are our are future 
Teach them well and let them lead the way 
Show them all the beauty they possess inside 
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier"

Give me a break. Without breaking any confidentiality by quoting from actual applications in front of me, they seem to say the same thing while at the same time managing to say nothing.

"Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be"

The missing components of so many of these manufactured sugar-sweet teaching job applications can be illustrated by going back to the old school Dr. Julia Atkin circles (as illustrated in From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice. Dr. Julia Atkin, 1996).

Since no one would say "I believe in a teacher centered classroom where only some children reach their potential and only some needs are met and parents are unwelcome" everyone has to say "I believe in a child centered classroom where all children reach their potential and all needs are met and there is an open door policy/partnership with parents." These nice words are the centre of the circles mentioned above. 

Sadly most job applications I receive stop there. They don't go on to say what the applicant's planned practices (which are congruent with their values and beliefs) are. A job application with the outer circle filled in will get my attention. The rest don't.

I could easily apply for a doctor's job by saying I want to heal people or an engineer's job by saying I want to build great buildings that don't fall down. The thing needed in those job applications would be some concrete ideas for how I might do that (the outer circles).

I hope teacher training institutions cotton on to these important gaps in the CVs they guide their students to produce.

And... one final point. We work with children, we get them to use crayons and picture books. This does not mean a job application and CV for a teaching job needs to look like it is made with crayons and made up as a pop-up book. Sort out the pedagogy/andragogy divide.

and!! What ?? does this like mean??

I found this posting from a standards proponent on Kiwiblog. 

If not National Standards then what?? We need something in place to see what state the education levels of our children are! Quite frankly they are alarming and something needs to be done fast. I have a 5 and 8 year old with my 5 year old falling behind! I don’t take offence to the teacher telling me he’s this way, more what can i do as a parent to help him? the National standards are catching these children before they get too far down the track. I agree that a 5 year old shouldn’t be tested and yes some improvements need doing to the policy but I don’t see anyone else with any bright ideas on how to fix the problem. I am at university at present doing year two of my teacher training and believe that teachers also need to be accountable! Its our job! thats what we are getting paid for. Its the whole education system that needs to be looked at and I think with a little time the standards will show this and hopefully something will be done! Or is that what we are all afraid of??? Quite frankly i don”t think someone with a one-sided opinion like Martin Thrupp should be leading an investigation in the first place!

My response is.... firstly try to read the above out aloud to yourself then read on.

Are you really a university student training to be a teacher? If you are a teacher in training you are indeed a living example of the need for national standards. A quick reading of your post shows me that you are well below the expected standard for writing. Your strangulation of punctuation is well below the expected standard for a child leaving the primary system. Sections of your posting are very hard to comprehend because of your poor writing skills.
I am a school principal waiting for the extreme language on both sides of the debate to die down. There are some significant flaws in the standards and these flaws need some expert attention. Until the expert attention is applied to them my school will not be fully compliant with the national standards regime. This does not mean I am a rampant anti standards campaigner, it means that I am taking a considered professional stance.

My main concern is with the standards for mathematics. The rushed implementation has left teachers with some very inconsistent measures to use when making their standards judgments for reporting to parents. I long for a well reasoned professional debate about the content and detail of the standards. Sadly this will not happen while people are forced into camps for or against the standards.
Until the minster, the unions and NZPF get together and work these issues out I remain in state of limbo. I am a civil servant and I am required to implement the will of the current government. I am also a trained professional and I am ethically required to use my professional knowledge for the benefit of the students in my school. Cool heads need to prevail in this debate, sadly this has not happened yet.
Surprisingly, only the parents of the school concerned will know that one of the leaders of the ‘anti standards’ coalition of schools has a long history of giving his parents a written report which tells the hard truth about where their child is in relation to national expectations. My own school adopted his school's report format just as national standards arrived on the scene.
Let’s get this clear, the leader of the anti standards coalition reports, in writing, to parents in the way that national standards require (and has done so for many years). This shows that the problem is with the national standards not the concept of reporting to parents on how their child is progressing.
Until the debate on the real issues with the national standards starts to happen I remain uncertain about the outcome. The one certainty I do have is that rach88 has no chance of getting a teaching job unless he/she lifts his/her standard of literacy so that he/she can teach children to meet the required writing standard.

Can you run my business for me in your school?

My February resolution was to crank my blog posts back up to a regular level again. Four days after my last post the earthquake put that plan to an end. But I am ready to roll again now.

Here is a letter I am composing to schools. I want to make lots of money with  little quality control.

Dear School Principal,

Today for some reason I am thinking about starting a business. A business run for profit. A business that retails goods and makes a profit for me.

One barrier to me starting my business is the cost of buying or leasing retail premises, a place to show off and sell my products. To avoid this cost I will run a mail order business. But the problem still is the cost of direct mail or circular delivery of my monthly catalogue to home letterboxes.

Hmmm, you could help me out here by giving my promotional materials and order forms to children at your school? I will save on lots of advertising and delivery costs.

The next problem I face is order processing. If you get your teachers to give out my promotional materials, catalogues and order forms to your pupils can you also save me lots of money by collecting the orders, counting the money and sending it off to me. It would really reduce my overhead costs.

Distribution of the ordered product is also a hassle (cost) for me so I propose that you get your teachers to do this for me as well. They can also follow up missed and incorrect orders for me.

I like the idea of your teachers giving my promotional materials to their children. If it comes from a teacher and the teacher spends some class time talking with the kids about what is great, exciting and really worth buying this month, the children will unquestioningly believe I am offering good products. If I offer the class some incentives based on their total order value then there will also be some good peer pressure to keep up the class ethos and buy from me. My customers (children) wont want to let the class down by not pressuring their parents to buy this month's quota.

What could I sell in my mail order business?

An art kit (crayons, felt tip pens etc.)
A battery powered game console
A crystal growing kit
A battery powered safe
A T-shirt embroidery kit
A bedroom burglar alarm
A plastic bead-making machine
A plastic stencil set
A solar powered calculator
A battery sudoko machine
A set of board games

or basically any cheap stuff you could buy at the Warehouse. Why would parents buy this from me? Because it had tacit endorsement from their child's school and therefore must be good for learning.

I need to avoid hassles with tricky questions from school principals and boards of trustees. I will do this  by orienting my website to recruit individual teachers directly to sign up to run my business for me in their own class. My other idea is to get some parent volunteer labour to work for me.

By doing this it is unlikely that the things I say to parents in my catalogues e.g. "Parents: Ordering from me earns your school valuable FREE resources! or Parents: Every Item Ordered Earns Your Child’s Classroom FREE Books!" will ever show up for scrutiny or audit on the school accounts or on school library book asset registers. Principals will be left guessing what is received and where these resources end up. There will be no required approval of school management for teachers to join up and help me run my business for me. My website will help this process by recruiting them directly.

Now all I need is a catchy name for my global multi-millon dollar business. A name which projects the feeling that what I sell is somehow educationally valid: Academicastic, Learnastic, Growbrainastic?

Please support me with my new business plan.


PS Don't knock those teachers who already like my business plan, they do so because they like to support literacy and reading in their classes. And NZ parents have a belief that what they got sold as kids is also still good. But let's question any new sign-ups. If you would not to open the gates to any other mail order company using teachers as commissioned sales people why would you open the gates for one that has been around for a while?

Slow and steady wins the race

Wow, far too long between blog posts. Back into it for now 2011.

I am all fired up and enthused by an afternoon watching two of our teachers presenting a workshop to other educators on their use of the NZTA resources (an earlier post talks about how cool this work is) and then a day with our whole school teaching staff led by Julie Mills of Hooked On Thinking.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I asked our school staff to come along on a ride to enhance our school learning culture and develop a true 'learning community'. Not because there was anything wrong with the school but simply because there was a new national curriculum to implement and that was what was required in all schools for a successful roll-out of the NZ Curriculum (lots of stuff on that in this earlier post).

At the time I told our team that the 'ride' would last three to five years. Why so long? Because at the same time that we are busy re-thinking and re-skilling we have a school to run. No children or year groups of children can be used as guinea pigs with experimental educational ideas used on them in the name of change. If we were opening a new school we would have time before-hand to think about how we wanted to work and get it clear before we had children in front of us. We don't have that luxury. We are building a new plane in the air.

This is why we are taking three to five years to fully implement the NZ Curriculum - keeping up the quality while adding value.

The last two days were milestones in this process for two reasons:

1. Our staff (rather than me) ventured out to share with others what is going on in the school (see photo at top). Nothing consolidates understanding of what you do than having to explain it to others.
2. Our whole staff had a professional re-look (as opposed to a new-look) at SOLO taxonomy. We all need time playing in the sandpit with the new toys before we get really serious about new uses for them.

We have gone into the pit of new knowledge and can now spend a few years consolidating and making connections as we rise up to a higher level. At our staff retreat this year the pleasure for me was seeing connections emerge in the minds of our whole staff- Bruce Hammonds has aspects of thinking which relate to Sir Ken Robinson, which relate to aspects of thinking of Kath Murdoch, which relate to aspects of thinking of John Edwards which relate to aspects of thinking of all of our canons....

From now on it is reviewing and re-engaging rather than cramming more in.

Bring it on....

...until of course we get to the point just before a peak and need to start the whole process over again - see the sigmoid curve. If not the organisation that is Waimairi School would start to fade. But perhaps that is the next principal's job.