MHJC is fortunate to have developed close connections with Hwa Chong International School in Singapore. As a result our Year 10 students are offered the opportunity to represent the school and New Zealand/Aotearoa in an annual Student Leaders’ Convention. We are the only Kiwi school invited to this event and we also are members of the SWIFT (Schools With an Interest in Future Technology) alliance. The schools from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Russia each host a conference on a bi-annual basis and it was my pleasure to travel to Kazan, Tatarstan with Kate Lambert our DP Curriculum in late October. As this was the fifth conference it was an invaluable opportunity to catch up on the journeys of the schools we have come to know so well and share some of the new practices we have trialled which keep us on the cutting edge of innovation.
It was interesting to note how the schools from Singapore are shifting closer to our educational philosophy. They are very interested in how we are able to deliver the curriculum meaningfully and with purpose. The ideas of a personalised or student centred approach and emphasis on skills, values and dispositions are central to what we do but are gaining ground in systems which had been very examination and results focussed in the past. The delegates were also very interested in our holistic reporting system as it is a deviation from the traditional teacher generated comment and result format and provides students with greater ownership of their journey celebrating progress and involvement as well as achievement.
Ms Lambert and I returned with some valuable new insights but more particularly we are even more confident that the MHJC traditions of cross-curricular, authentic and relevant learning are still leading the way in terms of curriculum delivery. Our balance of academic rigour and personal inquiry with opportunities for collaboration and creativity gives everyone space to grow their greatness – kia mana ake!
One of our strategic goals is to attract, retain and develop high quality teachers and support staff. Part of this goal is achieved through our professional development plan. All our teachers are involved in “inquiry” projects of their own as part of our professional development programme. Every year we identify areas of our teaching or leadership that we wish to improve, strengthen or investigate and experts from within the staff or external providers support teachers to grow their practice. We also host a number of schools who are interested in how we deliver the curriculum, our focus on personalised learning and our DEEP programme in particular.
During the October holidays several teachers presented at educational conferences. Their time and efforts are appreciated as they have helped to reinforce our place at the forefront of innovative educational research and practice.
Ms Lambert has led a team of MHJC teachers for almost two years with resourcing from the ministry which has investigated how to strengthen collaborative practice among teachers. The positive findings of this research will help us to continue with our integrated approach to learning which allows students to see links between learning areas and develop authentic outcomes which are relevant to them, particularly with regards numeracy. She and Ms Grant, one of the team, presented their findings at U-Learn, other members of the team, Mr Hishey and Mrs Premdeep presented at the New Zealand Mathematics Association and Mrs Phadke will be presenting later this term at the Statistics Teachers’ Day at the University of Auckland.
Mr Choong also presented at U-Learn with the support of some of our students. His focus was the integration of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) into the general curriculum and Mrs Newbold presented ‘Learning through the Arts’ at a Literacy Conference in Christchurch. STEM and creativity are both focus areas for the school.
The professional development of our staff and willingness to share our learning journey individually and collectively show that we are committed to our vision of “growing greatness through innovative, constantly evolving personalised learning”.
Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!
On Monday July 1, the college will go back to the future by experiencing a school day without the use of devices. The only exception will be Senior Leaders being allowed to communicate on their phones in case of an emergency. Otherwise teaching and learning will be conducted without devices and students will be reminded not to use their phones, if they have to bring them to school, until the end of the school day. Again, any emergency should be communicated either to reception or the student’s Whanau Assistant in the normal way.
Our strategic plan includes the desire to promote a balanced lifestyle for our students. We encourage teachers to use a blended approach to teaching so that not all activities require a device. We also encourage participation in healthy physical activities, connecting with each other, ourselves and with nature during numerous camps and trips. We have many activities during DEEP and in our extra-curricular programme which help students to gain this balance and this day will reinforce our resolve as a community and Tāne Forest is being developed as a sanctuary for students and staff to practice mindfulness.
May I urge parents to continue this initiative by ensuring students minimise screen time at home. Tips from articles I have read include:
- eating together as a family without the distraction of phones or devices;
- stopping the use of devices at least an hour before bed to ensure that students get quality sleep;
- not allowing devices into bed-rooms during the night;
- buying an alarm clock so the phone is not required to wake up in the morning;
- have your own device free day or time every week.;
- setting a good example to our children – sometimes we need to detox as much as them!
Research is increasingly being publicised of the harmful physiological and psychological effects of excessive use of digital devices. As teachers and parents we must be reminded of the incredible positive aspects of digital technology but caution over-use.
So let’s talk to each other face to face, do exciting activities which include movement and being outside, read, write, debate, discuss and collaborate directly with others. This will enrich our lives and remind us of what it is to be unplugged members of the human race!
Growing greatness/Kia mana ake!
I am sure the MHJC community is well aware of the strike action planned for Wednesday 29 May. Some of the issues that have been publicised include salary increments that have not kept pace with inflation and working conditions which have caused many to seek other employment or which have caused significant health concerns.
I am pleased to be working with a Board of Trustees which takes its responsibility as a “good employer” seriously and has supported several initiatives to promote staff wellbeing. Some strategies include membership of the Employee Assistance Programme; showing a compassionate approach to leave requests; paying support staff a “living wage” which is above rates specified in the collective agreement; support of teachers going on study leave and supporting management with initiatives which assist teachers and support staff to maintain a work/life balance. Our mentoring system has also been very successful in responding to the needs of our staff before the situation becomes damaging and the schools within school/whānau system is a very effective means of providing emotional support to our staff as well as our students. I continue to work with our Senior Leadership Team at ways in which we can lighten the load on our staff and commit to this on a daily basis.
While planning this message I wondered what our community can do to support our teaching and support staff while the union leaders and Education Minister lock horns. I note in the many articles and news reports that many teachers and support staff describe their situations in different ways often because of the context in which they work. I am pleased that in general our students and caregivers provide wonderful support to our staff. While working conditions overall could improve it is so important that our staff are and feel valued. We can all show this by following our values of integrity/pono and compassion/awhinatanga. Let us show our appreciation and gratitude for what our teachers and support staff do on a daily basis whether it be phoning in an absence, replying to a reminder about homework completion or simply meeting and greeting a coach/manager at an academic competition, sporting or cultural event. Just a few kind words on these occasions may not fill the bank account but they will fill the well of goodwill and put a smile on the face and a spring in the step for a community that is doing a great job but needs a boost right now.
Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!
This week we look forward to a number of activities which will promote our school’s values of integrity and compassion. We believe that by cultivating a better understanding of our differences and celebrating our wonderful cultural diversity we can send a positive message to our community. The week will finish with Pink Shirt Day which has become a rallying cry for us to treat each other with respect and manage ourselves so that we remain calm and respond appropriately if offended. The most important change we wish to see after analysing a recent survey is for students to become more equipped to articulate their feelings and for bystanders who witness hurtful actions or words to make a stand and indicate their disapproval. This has been documented to be one of the most powerful ways to combat bullying.
The following web site has more information which may provide us with greater insight: https://www.bullyingfree.nz/bullying-free-new-zealand-week/
Our view is that while we respond to any reports of anti-social behaviour we also wish to promote a positive message of seeking ways to be kind and compassionate which help create a culture of acceptance and celebration of our differences. The Student Executive Council has created a slogan “#be kind, be you” which I think sums up our message superbly.
Growing Greatness – Kia Mana Ake!
I felt privileged to enjoy the beautiful Central Otago during the holidays as my wife and a few friends completed five days of the Alps to Ocean bike trail. I confess we decided to use e-bikes to make the journey less strenuous than it might have been and to maximise our collective enjoyment! We were reminded of the natural beauty of this country and the many opportunities we can and should take to experience the outdoors. In our increasingly technical and digital world more and more research is showing how important it is to take a break, detox and make time for face to face conversation, take part in healthy physical activity, indulge in a hobby or simply read a book. We promote all these activities at MHJC through our DEEP programme and extensive extra-curricular activities. I trust parents and students continue to enjoy and appreciate these opportunities as well as the trips and competitions that are so much part of our students’ learning.
We have already kicked off a busy term with a wonderful celebration of our cultural diversity culminating with our annual Cultural Dress Competition; started the next leg in our pursuit of a third Education Perfect World Title with the English challenge; encouraged students to show compassion/awhinatanga by signing up for the World Vision 40 Hour Famine and had a social for our Year 9 and 10 students – this shows what an active and busy community we are!
I look forward to seeing many parents at the many Academic, Sporting and Cultural events we host. It is a great way for me to connect with our community and I have always been so proud of the way our students and supporters have behaved at such events. Let us continue to build the excellent reputation we hold of being gracious winners and fierce competitors who always give 100% but respect officials and opposition even when we may feel a 50/50 call may have gone against us – this builds resilience and equips our students for the future.
Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!
It is with regret that I have decided to postpone the Saturday morning community event scheduled for 6 April. This decision was made after consultation with organisers and Board of Trustees. Several factors have caused this action, the most important being the timing of an event we wish to enjoy but which would have proceeded against a backdrop of national turmoil and grief following the tragic loss of life in Christchurch last Friday.
I realise that there has been a lot of work done by staff and students to prepare for the morning but this will not be lost as we will set a date later in the year when things are back to normal and we can focus on the celebrations free of other considerations.
My sincere apologies to anyone inconvenienced by this decision.
The events that occurred on this date will become etched into our collective psyche for all time. Following the deadly shootings of peaceful Muslims at prayer it is perhaps too soon to comment on an incident so horrendous and which has had such a damaging impact on our Muslim community. It is important however to pause and reflect on how our nation and the international community has spoken in one voice to condemn the actions of the gunman and how so many people here and across the world have shown their support for the Muslim community in speeches, marches, prayer vigils and a “Give a Little” page which at the time of writing amounts to over $4 million.
This sense of unity and outpouring of love and compassion reminds us of what makes us human and gives us hope for the future. To strive for a world where we accept, respect and celebrate who we are, free of fear or judgment. MHJC is also a community and it is one where these values are enshrined in our charter and we remain even more committed to them than ever.
Let us all send our thoughts and prayers to our Muslim families affected directly or indirectly by the shootings, the victims still being treated in hospital and all those first responders and members of hospital and emergency services who have worked so hard to restore safety and assurance for the Christchurch community.
We strive, at MHJC, to make and grow quality connections between all stakeholders so that students can enjoy and benefit from the endless opportunities we provide.
It was fantastic to see the positive dialogue taking place last week as we set aside a day for Student Led Conversations. I wish to express my thanks to every parent or caregiver who gave their time to strengthen their connection to the school and hear the goals and plans of their children in partnership with our Learning Advisors who are committed to supporting the students in their care to be the best they can be.
During the conference our plans for delivering the new “holistic” reports would have been discussed with you. As has been stated before this is an attempt, following consultation, to provide whānau with information about a student’s achievement and progress in all subjects (not only Maths and English), engagement which is measured by attendance, involvement in our Four Cornerstones and homework completion and importantly an innovative way of showing students’ commitment to our core values of integrity/pono, compassion/awhinatanga and lifelong learning/ako. We believe this will provide us with a much better “all-round” perspective of our students and reinforces our vision which states that every child has a grain of greatness and it is our mission to provide the opportunities for this greatness to grow.
Later this term we will host what has become an annual Girls’ Changemakers Breakfast and boys can enjoy a similarly inspiring event in term 2. We hope as many parents can attend these events with their children as possible and share in the learning they bring.
Our Year 7’s enjoyed their own social last week which provided great opportunities to bond with their classmates and senior student leaders. Camps in the next two weeks will do the same as every whānau provides team-building exercises in the beautiful New Zealand outdoors.
These are but a few of the highlights we regularly provide for students, parents and teachers to connect and enrich the school experience. Term 1 will culminate with another opportunity for the school to connect with alumni and former staff and parents with a Saturday Community Birthday Celebration on April 6. Food, exhibitions of learning and sporting and cultural events will provide our community with a chance to relive their past and see the progress of MHJC over the years. We look forward to seeing you there.
Growing greatness/Kia mana ake!
During his address at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi/Te tiriti o Waitangi Crown representative Lieutenant Governor William Hobson said the famous line “He iwi tahi tatou – we are one people”.
This is especially significant as we welcome our new students (over 250), staff and parents to the school. They have come from different schools close by or from foreign lands but all now share a special bond as members of our wonderful MHJC learning community.
This morning our Year 7 students and staff members were welcomed at a powhiri held in their honour. We look forward to sharing their learning journey and growing the greatness that lies within everyone and learning how we can honour the spirit of the treaty.
So let us enjoy the public holiday tomorrow, and reflect on the work so many people are doing and have done to bring people together to create this wonderful country. As we do so, let us consider what we can do to continue the nation building example of those who have gone before us. For pakeha this could mean learning more Te Reo Māori or becoming more familiar with the cultural traditions and practices or Ti kanga Māori and for our Māori community to support others on what can be a challenging journey. There was no better example of this than when our students taught their classmates and teachers the school haka last year!
At a school level consider how we can share our knowledge with our new recruits – support and guide them so everyone feels safe, valued and welcomed in this new environment.
Our Charter contains an important strategic goal of honouring the treaty and I urge our community to challenge ourselves in some way this year to support the inspirational words of William Hobson.
Growing greatness/Kia mana ake!