Category Archives: Principal’s Blog

“Progress not perfection”

This phrase is on a poster at my gym and it has given me much food for thought. The first is that I should not take it personally as an observation of my efforts at the gym! More importantly I think it is a valuable lesson to us all that while we should strive for excellence this should not come at a cost to our personal wellbeing. Perfection is an ideal – the perfect note, speech or performance may be unattainable but progress towards this goal is still worthwhile.

This is particularly relevant at this time of the year as students reflect on their progress and articulate the short term and long term goals for the year during Student Led Conferences. Their e-asTTle scores are available and these will form the basis for the progress they will show in reading and Mathematics through the year. A key message to everyone at the school is that we analyse this data very closely, not only to assess individual and collective progress but also to evaluate the impact of our teaching.

Another phrase which is relevant to goal setting is that we learn more from our mistakes or failures than our successes. So set the bar high, strive for excellence but keep a balance and acknowledge that if we don’t quite make it there is nobility in making the effort.

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

Teachers as lifelong learners

At MHJC we believe that it is important for our teachers to continue to grow as professionals after they have completed their teacher training and two year provisional registration period. Every year all teachers meet with their mentor, a senior leader who helps them to set personal and professional goals that align with the school’s strategic direction, annual goals and achievement targets. Our weekly professional development programme assists teachers to reach their goals by providing time and expertise within these key areas and teachers meet fortnightly again with their mentors to discuss their progress.

One of our key objectives this year is to integrate the opportunities provided by the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiative into our teaching so that our students can attain even higher levels of achievement and engagement. To prepare for this, teachers used the google platform for the first time last year and also experimented with a class set of chromebooks in each whanau. This year all our teachers will be training for and sitting the examination for google accreditation as a Level 1 Certified Educator which will improve our capacity to utilise the potential of the google platform and portable, personally chosen devices.

Please join me in wishing all our teachers everything of the best in this journey. Once again we will experience the challenge, daunting for some, of a three hour examination. I will give the community feedback later in the year of our results without revealing the names of successful/unsuccessful candidates!

Growing greatness – kia mana ake

ERO feedback

As stated before we were extremely pleased with both the report and the productive conversations we had with the review team. We wanted to use the week as an opportunity to hear from experienced educators who visit a large number of schools and can offer positive and insightful perspectives. It is very pleasing to note that they were excited by what we are doing at MHJC. The conclusion sums up their findings:

“Students are well engaged and supported to develop high self-efficacy as learners. They learn through a rich and integrated curriculum that prioritises problem-solving.
Effective governance and widely shared leadership promote educational experiences that draw on middle year’s teaching and research”.
The Board of Trustees also met with the review team and we will be working on some of their suggestions moving forward. There were no areas of concern however we will be reviewing how we can promote ways to connect with our wider community and continuing to develop natural opportunities for all of us to become aware of and practice Te Reo Maori and Maori cultural heritage.
One way to achieve both these stated objectives is for us all to support the Cultural Day scheduled for Saturday 8 April.
This is a fantastic celebration of our culturally diverse community and includes the chance to sample traditional food, dance and music from different nations and New Zealand/Aotearoa.
I look forward to seeing you there and continuing our learning journey together.
Growing greatness – kia mana ake

Welcome to the 2017 school year!

Welcome to the 2017 school year!

This promises to be another year of exciting opportunities for our students. I look forward to welcoming all our new and returning students personally and hope everyone has made suitable resolutions for 2017.

We were very pleased with our National Standards achievement data and wish to congratulate the Year 7 and 8 cohort who managed to exceed the 2016 target in Mathematics and reach the 2017 target of 85% at or above standard a year early! All our results will be placed on the web site in the Principal’s Report once the NCEA data has been received.

We also received the confirmed ERO report which is also extremely positive. The team were extremely impressed by the school and how we are bringing the vision of “providing innovative, constantly evolving, personalised learning” to life. The full report will also be put on the web site after it has been ratified by the Board of Trustees at its first meeting of the year.

A big year lies ahead for our students who will be the first to be able to work at school with their own digital devices. We predict this move will have a very positive effect on teaching and learning and reinforces every aspect of our vision. Please refer to our web site for more information about this important initiative.

Best wishes

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”

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