All posts by Ian Morrison

Wellbeing@MHJC – PBS

Forgive the acronym, PBS stands for “Pause, Breathe, Smile” and as I have indicated in a previous blog, I accompanied four of our teachers to a training day in term 1. Following the training it is our intention to introduce important lessons and practices from the course to our daily practice. It is hoped that our students will feel greater sense of wellbeing as a result which in turn will strengthen relationships and promote a safe, kind and courteous learning environment.

We have already successfully introduced mindfulness classes during DEEP which students have enjoyed and indicated that they had felt calmer and more focused which has improved their learning. Teachers have also offered calming techniques during lunch time last year during exams when students were feeling anxious, again with very positive results.

We feel that students (and staff) increasingly need to be taught tools which will enable them to cope within a complex, digital and “noisy” world. The increasing number of reported cases of anxiety and depression have been widely reported and are linked to our wired existence where we find it difficult to switch off and live in the moment. PBS or mindfulness techniques have been proven to have a positive impact on our ability to cope and indeed flourish. Relationships improve, thinking becomes clearer, concentration sharper and generally feelings of being in control of our lives strengthened. By focusing on the present moment mindfulness is able to enhance awareness and enrich the human experience

Mindfulness is not linked to any religion, it is not meditation and so students and parents should not feel threatened by the practices. Indeed I was first informed of the idea at a conference which showed the science behind the practice and I enjoyed a very interesting discussion with the head of Catholic schools in Tasmania who had been running a similar course for several years.  I am aware that Baverstock Oaks School has already started to implement PBS practices into its daily classroom practice and also report very positive results.

However should anyone have any concerns I welcome open and constructive communication about this practice and should you wish to research the PBS programme please visit:

https://mindfulnesseducation.nz/pbs-the-new-zealand-curriculum/

Examples of our plan include:

  • offering students a chance to access the full course on a voluntary basis during DEEP;
  • training our teachers to lead a “ready to learn” type of activity before and after class;
  • providing students with mindfulness activities during Learning Adviser Time;
  • holding special exam time sessions;
  • continuing to offer “active” mindfulness opportunities by exploring nature on trips outside the classroom

We firmly believe that PBS will help to equip our students to meet their personal challenges and opportunities of the future, and thank you in advance for your support as we roll out the plan.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake

An inclusive, caring community

In my last blog I mentioned that our end of term assembly included promotions of Safe Schools Week and the World Vision 40 Hour Famine. To place these initiatives in context I wish to explain why they are important events in our calendar.

 

Safe Schools Week coincides with the widely publicised Anti-Bullying Week. Schools and workplaces are encouraged to make this a focus in week 3 of term 2 and which culminates in Pink Shirt Day. We have chosen to use the phrase of Safe Schools Week as this encourages us to focus on what positive actions we can make to promote a kind and caring community where people feel included, safe and valued. I am pleased that staff and students have thought up various activities within their Whanau which will remind us of how we can all make a difference.

 

The idea of making a difference will be reinforced by encouraging students to get involved with raising money for the World Vision 40 Hour Famine. This year funds raised will go to the refugee crisis in South Sudan and the awareness of this humanitarian crisis helps our students to become global citizens and see how they can make a significant change to other people’s lives. Again I am so proud of the many students who have signed up to sacrifice something for a short while to help others.

 

Both initiatives will help develop the sense of community we enjoy at MHJC and grow the notion of think global and act local.

 

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

ANZAC Day

The school assembly at the end of term 1 acknowledged our champions and made a special focus of the important day of remembrance on April 25.

I asked our teachers to encourage students to enter various writing competitions related to ANZAC Day and am pleased that two students, Nikhilesh Prasad and Fauzaan Muhammed were selected to speak at ANZAC services at the Auckland Museum. Yet again our students have shown that when given the opportunity to grow their greatness they rise to the occasion.

 

The assembly focused on the meaning of ANZAC Day – the need to remember those who gave their lives for peace and then what we as a school can do to give meaning to such sacrifice. We can all make a difference was the theme and promotions of the World Vision 40 hour Famine Charity and Safe Schools Week illustrated how our students can take action to strengthen our commitment to develop a caring and kind community where people feel safe and valued.

 

The school orchestra played the appropriately chosen theme from the movie “Chariots of Fire” and we also chose to end the assembly with a minute silence, poem for peace and National Anthem. One of our strategic goals is to develop a sense of nationhood within our student body and I trust the assembly helps us to achieve this goal.

 

I look forward to the ANZAC Parade at Stockade Hill this morning accompanied by the Executive Council who will represent the school and lay a wreath at the cenotaph.

 

Growing greatness – kia mana ake!

“13 reasons why”

It is perhaps timely to alert parents to the sequel of this controversial series as it is either available or soon will be available in New Zealand and your child may have access to it through Netflix. For those who do not know of the series, it is a fictional drama of the suicide of a teenage girl in an American school where she had been subjected to bullying and other social pressures.

Supporters of the series say it has been valuable as it has opened up a more public discussion of the challenges young people face. Critics say the show provides graphic, disturbing scenes and it does not go far enough in providing young people with advice on what to do if they or their friends are experiencing similar issues. It can be quite disturbing for children who are already experiencing mental health issues particularly relating to anxiety and depression so caution should be exercised by parents before deciding whether to allow their children to watch the series.

Shaun Robinson of the New Zealand Mental Health Foundation provides some good advice for parents regarding the the show. His advice can be found at: https://thespinoff.co.nz/parenting/20-04-2017/13-conversations-to-have-about-13-reasons-why/

Parents may wish to consider:

  • starting a conversation with your child about whether they have heard of the show, have they watched it or discussed it with their friends?
  • if you do allow your child to watch the show, watch it with them and talk about the issues the show raises;
  • educating yourself about suicide prevention and what support children and families can access.

Student wellbeing is important to us  as a school community. We promote resilience and discuss mental health issues that relate to teenagers in Health and PE. We also have several DEEP options that help students deal with anxiety, which will be particularly valuable around exam time later in the year. Recently five teachers went on a ‘Pause Breathe Smile” workshop which equips students with techniques to improve their wellbeing and promote a “flourishing” or feeling good and functioning well, state of mind. We are planning to integrate techniques and lessons from the course in the near future. 

Our counsellor skesrey@mhjc.school.nz is available to support students and the following web sites might be useful to parents:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/home/our-work/category/34/suicide-prevention

https://www.healthpoint.co.nz/public/mental-health-specialty/whirinaki-child-family-and-youth-mental-health/

https://mindfulnesseducation.nz/pause-breathe-smile/

I believe we all have a collective responsibility to support our children and be aware of warning signs of anxiety or depression. If we work together we can help present a positive view of the future where students are valued and are well prepared to overcome the challenges they may face.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

 

Charter review – have your say

Our Charter is a document which gives the school direction and purpose.

We review our performance against our aspirational strategic goals every two years and review the Charter itself every 4-5 through surveys to our community.

The survey is intended to provide parents with the opportunity to contribute to the process of building a culture and learning environment which will equip our students for the future.

From here the students and staff will also be given an opportunity to voice their opinion and then senior leaders will work with the Board of Trustees on the new document.

The survey will be sent to all parents later this term but you may wish to do some background reading/research into the future of education and the world our students will be entering.

These documents focus on the values, qualities and dispositions our students should develop and the conditions or environment we should promote to achieve this ideal.

The New Zealand Curriculum (pages 4-13):

http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum

MHJC Charter:

Charter MHJC 2014 – 2018

An alternative view of the future of education:

https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution/transcript

How students learn:

http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/learning-theory-research/neuroscience/

The nature of learning:

http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/50300814.pdf

We have created an email address to allow the community to provide their feedback on the school charter. To email us and provide your feedback, send an email to charter@mhjc.school.nz.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

Student Led Conferences – lessons from the rowing machine

I have mentioned in previous blogs some of my reflections when “working out” at the gym. I set myself a target some years ago to do 2km on the rowing machine most weeks and what followed has been a love/hate relationship with a machine that has tested me in many ways.

This week the thought struck me how lessons from the machine can support what we can achieve through Student Led Conferences.

  1. Goal setting

Before we start we need to set ourselves a goal – SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. For me that would mean finishing the 2km inside 8 minutes 20 which I have found quite challenging recently!

2. Tracking

While rowing it is important we keep an eye on the data on the control panel – this helps us to maintain the pace we need to reach our target – similar to the baseline and progress data we can share in SLCs.

3. Motivation

At times it is great if we can have someone encourage and guide us on how we can improve our performance – sometimes advice from a Personal Trainer or praise from family and friends can make a huge difference.

8 minutes does not seem to be a long time but I am sure we can all see how lessons from my weekly time trial mirror the importance the Student Led Conferences can be.

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

 

Connections – report on forum

Thank you to the parents who attended our Forum last night. It was great to see you and I trust you have a better understanding of the school, what we are doing and hope to achieve. It was also great that John Bassano, Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees was present so that parents could connect with this important committee.

I presented some of the key work streams for 2018 which include the development of a new Charter, a Long Term Property Plan and planning for our 10 Year Birthday in 2019.

It was also an opportunity to give feedback on suggestions and comments made in last year’s Community Survey.

Something on my “To do” list based on parent feedback is to work with staff and students to develop a stronger culture relating to sun-safety. The number of incidents of skin cancer is one area where we do not wish to be leading Australia and we have an obligation as a school to ensure students and staff take more personal responsibility for their own safety (sunscreen and hats) and that our site provides appropriate shelter. The building of covered areas is already part of our Draft Property Plan as it also pertains to learning being compromised by rain. There is work to do in this important area and I will need parental support of any initiatives in the future to make it work. For the record we already provide sunscreen within the whanau and it is available for PE and I will be reminding staff to make supplies available to students. The school cap is available at our stockist and is part of our uniform.

This important feedback from the community is invaluable and I appreciate the positive approach parents took at the forum.

If we work together we can achieve so much!

Growing greatness – Kia mana ake!

Welcome to the 2018 school year

2018 promises to be another exciting year for MHJC. Several initiatives will build on and strengthen our vision three of which I will highlight:

  1. Innovative, personalised learning will be promoted with the use of digital platforms – Reading Plus and Maths Buddy have been used successfully for many years and we will be adding Education Perfect to this suite in English and Science. This is an important step as these learning areas will be able to lead the way in maintaining our reputation as a school which uses cutting edge pedagogy;
  2. Students in Year 10 will be able to utilise the “Enrichment” aspect of the DEEP programme to investigate an “Inquiry” project. This has been successfully completed by accelerate classes in the past (and the year 9 and 10 accelerate classes will continue to be involved) but has been extended to include any student who has the talent and passion in a particular field of study to extend themselves in external competitions like IPENZ;
  3. Students in year 7 and 8 will benefit by the inclusion of “Option” subjects into the planning of contexts. Every Whanau will include one of STEM (including coding, robotics and gaming for learning); Technology; Visual Arts and Performing Arts (dance, drama and music) every term as a “chunked” learning opportunity, three sessions a week. E.g. Year 7 and 8 students in Forest will have Performing Arts in Term 1 then Visual Arts in Term 2 and so on. This will strengthen our provision of specialist teaching and the benefits of an integrated curriculum where students can see the connections between learning areas within a broad context.

More will be revealed as the year unfolds but may I wish every member of our community all the best for a richly rewarding year in which our students are guided and supported to collectively “grow their greatness”

 

Kia mana ake!