Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Merger Progress

It is really great to be involved in a community who have the courage and tenacity to be solution orientated for the sake of their children.
After all that our communities have been through in the last three years and despite the fact that many are still living in broken homes and still do not have certainty about insurance and rebuild/repair. Despite all of this and then a merger forced upon them our communities fronted up on Monday night to work together to achieve the best outcomes for our children. Specifically we were trying to decide how we would 'split' a school of 800 over two campuses for 2 years while one campus is significantly rebuilt.
Our options? A junior /senior split or a split based on family/whanau groups. Not an easy choice. Yet again despite the challenges the participants were constructive and sought to really come to grips with the complexities of each option.
I salute the people of Christchurch, but even more I salute the families of Burwood and Windsor School. I really believe that if home and school work in harmony we can achieve amazing results!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Singing, laughter, relationship and movement

Recently I attended a session with our parents by Nathan Wallis. He presented a compelling argument that has challenged me to re think some of the basic principles about how our schools should be functioning. His thesis was that for the brain to develop effectively the release of endorphins is a vital factor. Furthermore his contention was that the top four  stimulants to release endorphins in children are:

  1. Singing
  2. Laughter
  3. Movement
  4. Relationship (a significant other adult)
If he is right (and really do these surprise you?) then our school should be a place where these 4 stimulants are present as much as possible. Our job is to stimulate and develop the brain, to cause learning to occur, so I for one am keen to do all that I can to make the most of the 6 hours we have with children a day. What can we take form this?

  1. Children need a significantly positive relationship with someone at school (preferably their teacher). The teacher must 'get to know' the child, his or her hopes, fears, aspirations, family life, interests, strengths, ares for development, how far to push, when to challenge more and when to ease off. This teacher will do all of this and more because the job of a teacher is to activate learning or cause learning to occur. The best learning will occur (especially primary aged children) when a child feels they are 'known' and feel safe. No wonder the best teachers are tired at the end of a day- they have to do this for up to 30 children! Furthermore culturally it is imperative that the teacher welcomes the culture of the children into the learning space. If you do not welcome my culture you do not welcome (or know) me.
  2. Sing every day, to real instruments is best (and even better if children are playing them as well) or un accompanied or with digital music. Sing to start the day, to end the day and as much as possible in between. Sing at Assemblies (we call ours Learning Celebrations), sing at school functions, sing, sing, sing!
  3. Laugh! need I say more?
  4. Let children move, why can't they choose to go for a run when they real their brain is starting to snooze. Let them move around the classroom!
Perhaps our staff rooms could also have some singing (we often start or morning meetings with a Waiata) plenty of laughs and movement?

You know all of this would seem to suggest that a Modern Learning Environment where there are a number of teachers that children could build a relationship with, where there are spaces for movement and music and where the acoustics are so great that laughter in one part of the space will not disrupt everyone, might be the best environment for learning rather than 4 walls 30 children one teacher.

Nathan also suggested that brain development happens best when children they talk... Hmmm schools, classroom children talking...
How many classrooms in the world encourage talking? Many that I have visited over the years are very controlled, very quiet and children are told to get on with their work quietly. So I will add a # 5.

     5. Encourage children to talk. Encourage 'think, pair share', stop asking questions to the whole class     
         and wanting a single reply, teach children how to discuss matters and how to listen. Get them 
         talking! (again a MLE will help!)

I wish we had the research to support this type of thinking 20 years ago!

P.S on my way to St Arnaud from Nelson ( to present at Nelson Primary Principals annual conference) on Thursday I picked up two hitch hikers- Ben and Jonno, both aged 18. Ben went to a very prestigious Christchurch school, had done well and was getting ready for varsity in 2014. His comment about school, "It used to drive me nuts when the teacher said we couldn't talk, I wanted to talk about the stuff we were supposed to learn, but we were told to do it quietly and on our own, that annoyed me!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Green School Bali

I just spent a wonderful 10 days in Bali with my wife and friends, what beautiful people- so peaceful and kind and with such a great sense of humor! I visited a number of schools and noticed:

  • Such pride in their uniform and schools
  • A real sense of community 
  • Concern for their neighborhood (cleaning the streets around the school)
  • Joy in learning
I also had the pleasure of visiting Green School Bali. What a fantastic environment. The school has really flipped the curriculum so that it is based on a philosophy of sustainability and future focus as well as a explicit focus on emotions, the arts and engagement in authentic contexts with the environment and community. It is exciting to see a school serious about making a difference for the future rather than just adding on a unit of sustainability here and there!
Much for NZ schools to consider especially new and merging schools. I really believe that it is time to make significant changes to our curriculum if we want a decent future for our children. Perhaps it is time to re look at the NZC and consider the opportunity and invitation that this provides for us to create a better NZ and a better World!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I presented a Keynote with Mike Anderson (Waimairi School) at the APPA AP/DP conference last weekend (hosted by Learning Network) Mike and I were talking about 'Leadership in Crisis'. What was interesting is that for both of us the key to the success of our school is the notion of 'purpose and beliefs'.
In a crisis if a school does not have a foundational set of beliefs and clear purposes it is like a sailing boat without a rudder- it will be pushed this way and that by the wind and waves. So it is for a school. We need to be absolutely clear about what it is we are about, what the job of the teacher is, what the aim of our school is, what our key beliefs are. If we have this sorted we can cope with earthquakes, Government tangents, endless bombardment from commercial enterprises trying to convince us we need their products, MLE's, ICT's and all the other letters of the alphabets that are used in the mad rush toward better outcomes.
Do you have any idea of the vision, values and beliefs of your school?
Is your practice as a teacher aligned to these?
If you are the principals are communications with home (notices, newletters, blogs, web site, twitter, Facebook, homework, community meetings, assemblies) congruent with your vision, values and beliefs?
If you are a BOT member is your school reflecting the vision, values and beliefs in policies and practices?
It is time to revisit these concepts as we head into term 4 and prepare for 2014.

New Zealand schools enable self regulated learners- Yeah Right!

We have such a wonderful opportunity to respond to the challenges of 2013 due to the powerful nature of the NZC. This document allows schools to be responsive to the many challenges in our world and to develop learning opportunities based on the needs, interests and experiences of our children. The NZC has a vision for learners that should see the classroom (or learning environment) of 2013 learning in ways that are significantly different to 2003, 1993, 1983 or 1973. I wonder....?
If I transplanted a teacher from 1993 to 2013 (time travel) would they be at all challenged by the learning environment and practices that are happening in 2013, or would they slip right on in and fit in without changing anything about their practice?
Think about this for yourselves educators. Take the time to read pgs 1-12 of the NZC and then Pg 35. Make sure that any person transported from 1993 would be stunned by the difference in how children are learning, how you teach and how we use technology and sustainable practices in our learning environments.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Best laid plans....

That plan to blog on a regular basis....
It has been an interesting time with the proposed merger then the interim decision and then the final decision regarding the merger between Burwood and Windsor on the Windsor site.
What I know is that following the earthquakes we made sure that our children felt safe and were having fun with their learning, teachers were even more specific about the learning that was planned and worked very hard to engage children. Our children have been making improved progress since the earthquakes because we are determined to focus on things that count.
Will the mergers derail us? No! If we can survive and thrive after the events of 2010 and 2011 then we can also survive and thrive after a merger- we owe it to our children. We will be taking advantage of every opportunity to maximize learning opportunities for our children.
Personally I would love to lead the merged school into the future and look forward to the opportunity to present my ideas and credentials for the position in due course.
We are in one of the most exciting times in educational history. We have the opportunity with new technology, teacher knowledge and skill, rebuilds and repairs and community involvement to create the most amazing school for the communities of Burwood and Windsor.
Time to look forward and make it great for the children, staff and community.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Year draws to a close (nearly)

It has been another incredibly year in Christchurch. Despite the ongoing rumblings - be they earthquakes or proposals for closure or merger- the business of learning goes on. Teachers continue to work extremely hard at Windsor to cause great learning to happen for our children. Over the year I have had the privilege to work with and present with many great educators. So here are some of my top thoughts for the year:

  • The job of a teacher is to cause learning to occur
  • To do this we need to have a learning focussed relationship
  • A learning focussed relationship is an open and honest understanding that all that I will do and how I will interact with you is to cause learning to occur
  • My # 1 job is not about happiness, caring, nurturing- it is about learning
  • If I want learning to occur then I will care, nurture, challenge, provoke, challenge and at times I will make learning hard
  • Embrace mistake making it is the key to learning
  • Encourage you children to understand that importance of mistake making and risk taking 
  • Help you children and their families to know that the learning pit (feelings of discomfort, fear, anxiety etc) are essential for learning to occur
  • Give feedback and praise on process not intelligence (fixed vs growth mindset) teach you families about this
Stop wasting time-
  • lining up outside the classroom (why- why can't they just get into learning) 
  • Waiting in the morning for the roll call! (come on there are hundreds of ways to get this done without any waiting),
  •  "getting to know children" for 4-6 weeks at the beginning of the year (get onto real, rich , relevant (3R's) learning and you will get to know them! 
  • hands up (I call this a 'thinking stopper')- If you have a question for the children have them think pair share, if you already know the answer why did you ask?
  • Marking homework (don't give it it is a waste of time)
  • Telling children where to sit (let them choose- it will help them to become capable confident, actively involved life long learners)
  • Complaining about how busy the job is, how hard it is, how much you have to do...if you are thinking and saying these things then your children will pick up on it- is that really the message you want to give?


  • Encouraging children to be mathematicians, scientists, authors, artists... in authentic contexts
  • Giving children control, voice and power in the classroom- the more control the teacher has the less the child has. The less the child has the less he or she is likely to become a lifelong learner
  • Modelling learning (mistake making, risk taking) in a real way
  • Challenging your children- if they get 100% of what you have set for them correct then they are not learning!
  • Collaborating with your fellow teachers- You do not need an MLE to be a MLT!
  • Having fun , teachers and principals have the most amazing job in the world- we get to have a profound influence on the future direction for young lives- what an honor
  • Enjoying your last few weeks of school (southern hemisphere) in another 3 weeks you will have 5-6 weeks on holiday - you will have earned it 
I am going to finish this year on a high, we are looking at student learning information (data) and man it is exciting, we are going to honor our learners through our challenge and award system, what a pleasure and we get to farewell another set of 92 amazing Year 6 children as they head off to Intermediate.

Enjoy- we will