All posts by Ian Morrison

Reading plus

Gary Player, legendary South African golfer when asked why he was so lucky to chip so many balls straight into the hole answered, “It’s funny, the more I practice, the luckier I get”.

Much has been made of the assertion that to reach the top in any sport or activity a person needs to put in 10 000 hours of practice.

I am not suggesting that students need to spend 10 000 hours on Reading Plus (although it would be preferable to games or social media…..) however, we analysed our latest whole school data and there are interesting lessons to be learnt.

Reading Plus is one of the digital tools we use to deepen and strengthen our students’ reading and comprehension skills.The data shows the correlation between the number of sessions students completed on Reading Plus and the level gains the same students made. The magical figure is only 100 sessions (just over two sessions a week). Students who complete this minimum number show significant level gains and interestingly those who complete 200 sessions (just over four sessions a week) double their rate of progress.

So parents, please encourage your children to use Reading Plus at home. Some sessions can be done at school but as you can see valuable progress can continue any time, anywhere in keeping with our learning philosophy.

As holidays approach this is even more important as many students lose ground during this time – Reading Plus helps our students to get ahead and if we work as a team our students can improve even quicker.

Growing greatness/kia mana ake

Resilience means we finish strong

Resilience is a quality we promote within our GREAT acronym. I spoke to students this morning about finishing the year in the best possible way. We wish to acknowledge students for their amazing achievements, progress and commitment this year at the various assemblies and prize-giving designed for that purpose.

Some students will be leaving us and this message is perhaps more meaningful for them. I compare a school year to a 400 metre race. The first 100 can be hard for some as they struggle to start, the next 200 most students get into their stride but it is the last 100 that shows the most character. When you are tiring and near the end there is a desire to slow down or walk or even give up and stop.

Our students are RESILIENT, they don’t give up and they finish strong. They will be remembered not by how they started but how they finished.

I look forward to sharing the last few days with all our students and enjoying the celebrations of their success as we close.

Parents please support us as we maintain the high expectations of punctuality, appearance and manners right through to the end.

“Growing greatness – kia mana ake”

Striving for excellence

Our students have shown two examples of being able to compete against the very best.

The first example is the Year 7 and 8 cricketers who reached the last four of all intermediate schools in Auckland in a limited over competition. In an exciting semi-final they were very disappointed not to make the final when the two teams finished on the same total. A count back to wickets lost meant their fantastic run ended after knocking over three local schools and St Kentigern College in the quarter final. An excellent achievement and credit to coach, Mr Pasupati and the boys.

In the area of academic competitions, our Year 10 team of problem solvers entered and reached the finals of the Bright Sparks Competition. This is a fantastic achievement and complements the four teams who won awards in the IPENZ Competition. Again credit is due to the students and mentors, I would also like to thank Mr Hargreaves whose engineering background is proving invaluable in supporting these and other projects.

“Growing greatness – kia mana ake”

Connecting in a digital world

Our students live in an exciting time in education with the opportunities created by digital technology. The benefits of using digital tools are well documented and I am excited by the high levels of engagement the advent of 1:1 learning has brought to schools. With the use of collaborative tools, students will be able to participate in a lesson, answering and asking questions on a level never seen before; develop on-line forums inside and beyond the classroom and engage with their learning. But we are conscious of the need to balance the digital connectedness our students are experiencing with the need to connect on a personal level with each other and with nature. Research is available which documents the harmful effects of people being wired 24/7 to their virtual world. There are physiological as well as psychological dangers from the excessive use of digital technology ranging from “ihunch”, the effect on posture, to the almost obsessional behaviour of some who cannot “disconnect” for fear of becoming isolated from their peers.

We are conscious of these dangers and intend to make digital citizenship a major focus of our learning in 2017. We want our students to see and harness the positive benefits of using digital technology. The responsible use of social media is a key competency for students as is the efficient use of technology and its many applications. Teachers will ensure that the use of digital technology will be balanced with other traditional teaching styles for example personalised discussion and class debate which fosters social interaction. We are also fortunate to be able to offer a comprehensive extra curricular programme which helps students to keep a balance. Year 7 camp, OPC, Outdoor Education excursions and Whanau organised EOTC trips are designed to provide the obvious benefits of being in the outdoors, enjoying nature and to be disconnected for a while. Our four cornerstones promote healthy activity, social development as well as participation in group and team activities.

We will also work with parents starting with the Netsafe evening on November 3 to ensure we work as a team so our students can become responsible and competent users of digital technology.

“Growing greatness/kia mana ake.”

Holidays during term time

It is a good time to wish everyone a restful and safe holiday after a very busy term. Next term has new challenges for our Year 9 students who face their first set of examinations in week 4 and Year 10’s who will benefit from the experience last year. There are many other activities in term 4 which require everyone to be at school for the whole period particularly the end of the year when we celebrate the achievements of our students in Prize Giving Assemblies.

With holidays much on our mind I need to remind parents that I cannot approve holiday leave during term time. I have received several requests already for this term and the end of the year. The Ministry of Education has given schools clear instructions in this regard. There are several reasons for this policy which naturally relate to the work a student will miss while away and from a wider perspective if too many students are away the programmes we are running become less meaningful for those who remain. We adopt a compassionate approach to families who need to attend funeral services overseas but ask that families liaise with relatives regarding the timing of weddings and other family celebrations so that students can attend without disrupting to their learning.

Exciting plans for 2017

I was extremely impressed by the number of students and parents who attended our recent Option Evening. The commitment of parents to their children’s learning is a key component to success at school so any opportunity to reinforce this responsibility is appreciated. I would also like to explain the importance and benefits of your child/ren attending a Junior College and what some of our plans for 2017 include.

The model of a Junior College is unique as it provides our Year 9 and 10 students with opportunities they may not get at other traditional schools. I have compared our senior students to trees in a forest who do not have any competition for light above them and so can grow taller and stronger. I see this every day when I speak to our students who show a maturity and sense of responsibility resulting from the leadership positions they hold or for being simply the “elders” of the school.

Aside from the programmes we traditionally run we are “continually evolving” our practice to engage all our students. In this regard we are conscious of the need to develop programmes and opportunities specifically for our Year 9 and 10 students.

Some new and existing opportunities we will provide in 2017 include:

Curriculum

A significant change next year is the introduction of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. This promises to take our students to another level of learning. The differentiated (personalised) learning opportunities with devices familiar to students is exciting and heralds another dimension to the collaborative environment already so successful in terms of engagement and achieving authentic outcomes.

Our commitment to preparing students for the future with specialist option subjects and we review our options every year. We are introducing Digital Technology in Year 9 and 10 next year. This exciting subject includes coding, electronics and robotics which will appeal to our aspiring engineers and programmers. We also took a strategic decision to introduce Mandarin to Year 7 and 8 students this year and this will be offered to Year 9’s next year as well as Spanish – “the international languages of business”.

Mindful of the need to orientate students to the NCEA assessment system we offer “low stakes” NCEA Internal Achievement Standards to Year 10 students. These credits may be carried over to Year 11 and assist students to reach level 1 with less pressure than students in other schools. The knowledge of the process is an asset for students entering this relatively complicated assessment system.

The Accelerate Classes in Year 9 and 10 provide our top academic students opportunities to collaborate on a high level; engage in deeper learning and enter national and international academic competitions which challenge their intellectual abilities. However the DEEP programme also provides other students the opportunity to extend themselves in enrichment programmes reflecting a huge variety of interests and passions.

Extra-curricular
To complement the opportunities provided in our extra-curricular programme we will be offering students the chance to enrol for the William Pike Challenge Award as a DEEP option which will appeal to the adventurous who have a passion for the outdoors. The award helps prepare our students for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme which is offered at Ormiston Senior College. It fits naturally into our curriculum as the service and activity components can be done through either Whanau excursions or special Outdoor Education trips.

We also intend building on the tremendous growth in participation in all our cornerstone activities and reach even greater heights of achievement. We have been particularly pleased with the success of our Saturday morning sports teams (netball, cricket and soccer) who have competed against top teams from other schools and the phenomenal growth of basketball.

I trust this help you to understand something of the new opportunities our students will enjoy next year.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

E-learning at MHJC – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for 2017

At MHJC, e-learning supports our school vision of providing authentic and contextualised learning to our students. A digital learning environment allows our teachers to integrate creative strategies and satisfy the individual learning needs of our students. This integration supports personalised and differentiated approaches, enhances academic rigour and engagement, connects our learners with global contexts, and enhance an already established collaborative learning environment.

The challenge lies in shifting from teaching and learning about digital tools to teaching and learning with and through digital tools. This means rather than using technology to do old things in new ways, we want to do new things in new ways and use technology to enable and transform teaching, learning and the curriculum.

One to one learning

The school has provided stand-alone devices at a ratio of one device to two students since 2009. This means that students have been able to collaborate using these devices or work independently depending on the required outcome. Within this digital learning environment, teachers and students have been able to develop their digital capability and have shown a willingness to try new strategies.
After receiving the infra-structure for ultra fast broad-band in 2015 and In keeping with our vision of promoting innovative and personalised learning, we chose to investigate the potential of using chromebooks this year to see how portable, one to one device to student ratios could engage and accelerate the academic success of our students. The results have been extremely positive with students and teachers enjoying the possibilities and outcomes being enhanced with the use of the chromebooks.

We are pleased to inform parents that next year we will allow students to bring their own device to school (BYOD).

This strategy provides us with an opportunity for teachers and students to collaborate on a new level. We will still promote quality teaching which includes traditional as well as modern methods and must emphasise that a device is a tool to enhance learning and should not replace the teacher nor the use of other engaging pedagogical approaches.

We have investigated the viability of BYOD and believe our students and teachers are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. There are several key questions we will answer on our web site and have an information evening later next term.

As a consideration to families who have already invested in a device for their child/ren, we will allow any device provided it meets certain specifications. These specifications will be provided by the school and will include screen size and the need for a key-pad (mobile phones will not be considered as a learning device). While we have found chromebooks to be functional and cost effective for our pilot study we believe that the choice of a device should be one that suits the individual learning needs of your child. We are also making provision for the safety of the devices at school by providing lockable shelves for students to rent if required. In addition we will develop an educational programme to provide technical support and strengthen existing digital citizenship advice to ensure we use the devices correctly and appropriately.

I am convinced that this new exciting direction will have a positive impact on engagement and achievement and it builds on the excellent foundations laid since the opening of the college. It also strengthens the transition of students into the college and will help to prepare students for the next step in their learning journey after year 10.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

Next steps in the journey for our Year 10 students

Many parents have been asking me for advice about their Year 10 child/ren’s next steps on their learning journey. I need to emphasise that the vision for the Flat Bush area was for MHJC to be the feeder school for Ormiston Senior College and I remain committed to this ideal. We work hard to ensure there is a seamless transition from our contributing schools through MHJC to OSC. Diana Patience and I have regular meetings to seek ways to collaborate and we have spoken recently about how we can share resources to develop each other’s sporting programme. She has already made good progress with her school being involved in a sports exchange this year.

I am also convinced that Ormiston Senior College is able to provide outstanding academic opportunities for your children. The school’s results last year indicated excellent growth and to have over half of the Year 11 cohort achieving an excellence or merit endorsement is a record most schools would envy.

I attended the Prize Giving last year and was very impressed by the tone of the event and the achievements of the students. One was of particular note – Taraani Mohammed (former student of MHJC) who was awarded a scholarship from the University of Auckland to cover her entire study fees estimated at over $30k.

Finally we all want students to learn in a happy, caring environment and the personalised learning programme that they are used to combined with entering the school with well-established friendships is a crucial ingredient to academic success.

I hope my words, visits to the school and meeting members of staff may help you to make an informed decision. But don’t forget to listen to your child as well!

“Growing greatness – kia mana ake”

Advice for Year 10 students 2017

Many parents have been asking me for advice about their Year 10 child/ren’s next steps on their learning journey. I need to emphasise that the vision for the Flat Bush area was for MHJC to be the feeder school for Ormiston Senior College and I remain committed to this ideal. We work hard to ensure there is a seamless transition from our contributing schools through MHJC to OSC. Diana Patience and I have regular meetings to seek ways to collaborate and we have spoken recently about how we can share resources to develop each other’s sporting programme. She has already made good progress with her school being involved in a sports exchange this year.

I am also convinced that Ormiston Senior College is able to provide outstanding academic opportunities for your children. The school’s results last year indicated excellent growth and to have over half of the Year 11 cohort achieving an excellence or merit endorsement is a record most schools would envy.

I attended the Prize Giving last year and was very impressed by the tone of the event and the achievements of the students. One was of particular note – Taraani Mohammed (former student of MHJC) who was awarded a scholarship from the University of Auckland to cover her entire study fees estimated at over $30k.

Finally we all want students to learn in a happy, caring environment and the personalised learning programme that they are used to combined with entering the school with well-established friendships is a crucial ingredient to academic success.

I hope my words, visits to the school and meeting members of staff may help you to make an informed decision. But don’t forget to listen to your child as well!

“Growing greatness – kia mana ake”

The Olympics

Very soon the 2016 Olympics will be over. What an amazing spectacle it was. After the feats of Usain Bolt start to fade, important reminders for me were:
Not everyone can get a medal however we can all be satisfied by improving our personal best;
The most disappointed people were spectators and journalists with unrealistic expectations;
Sometimes effort and sacrifice is rewarded;
How well the human race responds to new challenges and records set the bar even higher;
How important simple gestures of affection and humanity transcend all other sporting moments.

I cannot resist the opportunity to reinforce what we do at MHJC:
Provide opportunities for our students to challenge themselves to succeed. Encourage everyone to reflect and improve their performance. To strive for excellence but remember to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. And always show good sportsmanship – thank the officials, supporters and other competitors, without them there would be no event!

I look forward to the Paralympics which for me is an occasion which celebrates an even greater ideal of the inner spirit overcoming physical disability. Prepare to be inspired!

Growing greatness – kia mana ake.