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!"