Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Latest Learning Matters Column

I know a lot of people think that teachers are always on holiday, but I can assure you that by the time we get to mid December we are looking forward to break. This break allows not only time to relax with family, but also to reflect on the year that has gone and to begin preparation for the coming year.

What we really hate is when a new policy or programme is thrown at us in the last few days before we break for the summer. Such timing reduces the opportunity to have some input into quite important decisions.

I was horrified to hear on Thursday that legislation requiring regular testing of students against set standards at all year levels is being rushed through parliament and will most probably be law by the time you read this article.

I was aware that such a programme was National Party policy before the election and attempted to alert as many people within the education sector as possible. I accept that the National Party is now in government and has the right to introduce its policies. However, I would have expected that such a major policy would have been debated through the select committee process so that those of us in the education sector could have given some feedback.

The result is that schools, from primary to secondary, are having imposed on them a programme of regular testing against targets without any consultation with schools. I would have liked to know what research exists internationally which shows such a process has a positive impact on learning and achievement.

The United States introduced such a programme several years ago and was called “No Child Left Behind”. It is now more commonly known as “No Teacher Left Standing”! Most importantly, however, this programme has resulted in the United States languishing in 42nd place on the International PISA testing scale while New Zealand is in 3rd place.

If it is such a worthwhile programme and has value for teachers and students, I wonder why time wasn’t taken to explain this to principals and teachers. Rushing it through the week before Xmas, without consultation, only serves to raise suspicion that the proposal would not stand up to rigorous and vigorous debate. I fail to understand why we could not have been involved in such a debate in the early part of 2009.

During my sabbatical I saw first hand the consequence of such a programme. I saw principals as administrators rather than as educational leaders, I saw teachers who concentrated on teaching to the tests and being stressed by the uncertainty of the results, and I heard stories of students being turned off the joy of learning as most of the year was spent preparing for tests. This is not the educational environment we want for our country.

Hearing this news has certainly put a dampener on my festive season. You can, however, be assured that the leaders of schools in your district are determined to protect the elements of our education system which are envied by the rest of the world.

To all of you who either work in the education community or who support it by getting your kids to school in the right frame of mind for learning I wish an enjoyable summer where you will get the chance to spend quality time with your whanau. I look forward to your continued strong involvement in 2009. And remember: learning matters.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NZ Secondary School Mixed Touch Champions!!

Today the Opotiki College Mixed Touch Team won the title as NZ Champions by beating St Andrews in the final with a 6-5 victory. Simmon Howe scored on the final hooter! What a great way for Kahi and Shayla to finish their time at College!

We are the champions! We are the champions! We are the champions! We are the champions! We are the champions! We are the champions! We are the champions!

8000 Hits On The Blog!

Who is a popular bugger! 8000 hits!

Meremere Merriment and Madness

This could be quite a long posting as it has been a while. I wont mention the last two awesome rides we have had, especially last weeks to the trig and down Upper Paerata Rd when the Boss face-planted on that mean downhill before the trig, or my hurtle through the air to end up upside down in the manuka, or Jared's role modelling to get a few of us (Destry, myself and Grant) to successfully ride the tank trap. It was an awesome day. I wont mention my road cycle on Tuesday with one chain ring when I rode my fastest time (23.40) - not bad for an old fella with a big lump of steel for a bike. I wont mention the Thursday night MTB when I rode my heart out over the High course and successfully managed the hairpin on the hill side only to finish last across the line to hear Leigh say "What happened to you? Where have you been?"

I haven't posted recently because work has been flat out.

But this posting is about today's great ride into the Blue Mountains and down Meremere Rd. The Boss, Hedley, Teleri, Destry, Kate, Dennis and Brian met at my place for coffee at 6.15 am and at 6.45 we headed off to pick Grant up at the bottom of his drive. Since he wasn't there Hedley and I biked up his long and steep drive to find he wasn't there either! We pressed on and found him and Hilton waiting at the gate at the top of Block Access.

We tackled the first climb and made our way down Valley Station Rd. I got to the mud hole and waited with the camera and tried to encourage the others to ride through the middle. They were too clever. As I was packing up I saw Dennis arrive, and without any encouragement he rode the middle, came to a rapid halt up to his forks and parted company with his bike. While making sure he was OK the Boss turned up and did exactly the same thing. Check out the photos which show the whole ride.

We then took on the Dip. The track was in great condition and it was great to see most people take it on successfully. See previous posts of Grant and Teleri taking it on. I think the Boss and Dennis may have had a wee walk.

We arrived at the creek and Hilton and I attempted a tricky crossing which came to a wet end. He and I and Grant were able to find the bridge in the creek and lift it back into place.

We climbed out of there and ground our way up the forestry road to the military track which we tried to navigate but the forestry bastards had clear-felled the area (natives as well) and a lot of it was over the track. We continued climbing the forestry road and Hedley sent us down some bush-covered cliff face (Hilton rode quite a bit of the top bit very skilfully) and we ended up back on the military track.

There was a tricky log to jump over where I took some photos. Once again most people managed it. Just after Teleri completed her successful manoeuvre Hedley arrived and tried to leap it with both wheels off the ground and came to grief. Just watch Teleri, Hedley, and learn how to ride skilfully!

Once again we hit more tree fall and had to scramble up the hillside in the hope we would find the forestry road again. The photo with this posting shows the start of that journey with the chain gang getting the bikes up the first bit. The other photos show the rest of the tough climb to the road.

After some more tough climbing and some awesome downhill with the occasional large pothole to leap we arrived at the start of Meremere Rd. I jokingly suggested I go ahead and when I catapault over the side I would stop there and take photos of the others doing so!

The downhill was great and speed was high. Unfortunately the tight right hander had a left sloping camber and my trip through the scrub was halted by a manuka which caused me to leave my bike and land on my back at great speed several metres away entwined in more scrub. I recovered from the winding and realised no bones were broken. As I was emerging I was met by Hilton skidding out of control and attempting the same manoeuvre as me. He was able to stay attached to his bike.

The mad cap dash to the bottom continued and the highlight of the creek crossing was Dennis pitching into the water so that he could wash the mud from his previous unexpected dismount off himself and his bike. One bruised bum!

What else could happen? As we were hurtling down the Motu Rd there was a loud explosion as Hedley's tubeless tyre exploded off his rim and he came to a clattering halt almost bringing us down behind him.

It was reasonably uneventful from there so 5 hours after we departed we made it home at the same time as Leigh, Lucy, Shirley, Marg, Sarah and the young O'Dwyer girl arrived from their Tablelands jaunt.

There we feasted on coffee, juice, beer, muffins and crackers and cheese while some soaked in the spa pool.

What a great day!

Grant after tackling the Dip (Doesn't he look pleased)

This is another great photo which shows what it's all about. Grant is new to MTBing (but not mad sports!). He has just completed the Dip and is feeling exhilirated.

Teleri taking on the dip for the first time!

This is what makes our adventures so awesome. This photo doesn't do justice to the steepness of The Dip, but to hear Teleri whooping with joy because this was the first time she had managed it successfully is what it is all about. By going out every Sunday on massive rides with neat people everyone's skills are developing hugely> Check another photo of her in another posting completing a successful log leap (which Hedley didn't manage!).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Learning Matters

My mate, Terry, who runs the Teltales Blog on the link to the left is not a great blogger as he doesn't keep it up to date so give him a bit of a hassle. One thing he does is post his regular newspaper columns on his blog for us to read. This seems like a good idea which I am adopting, especially since my articles are more interesting than his!

Every fortnight I will post my Opotiki News Learning Matters column and the frist of the postings is here!

Learning Matters

4 December 2008

The recent election result and the economic crisis sweeping the world are both likely to result in a wave of change in the education area. There are some exciting possibilities, but also some fearful prospects.

I am really angry about the economic crisis as its very existence, which will have a huge impact on the ordinary citizens of our community and the world, is a direct result of the behaviours of those people who will not experience the same level of pain.

Uncontrolled financial institutions who have been driven by corporate and individual greed and who have rejected the idea of state-imposed controls on their activities have led the ordinary citizen to accept their media-driven campaigns to accept more and more credit until it has become unsustainable.

The response of various governments has been to bail these corporations out of trouble, most probably so that they can continue to carry on the same way. In the meantime, citizens face unemployment and, in many cases, the loss of their assets such as their homes.

Many economists and politicians are arguing that they way out of this situation is to spend more to keep economic growth moving forward. Examples of increased spending they have been talking about are largely what they call ‘infrastructure’, such as roads, buildings etc.

I agree that spending must be maintained, but that the investment must be in the ‘social infrastructure’. We must make sure that the most vulnerable are not left to pay the price and that our social and community organisations are strengthened so that people and communities can be supported.

However, the main area of social infrastructure that requires the most investment to get us through these troubled times is education. We are no longer in an industrial age, but we are in the knowledge age. We must invest in the creation and sharing of knowledge so that we have strengthened capacity to solve not only the economic problems that we are facing, but also the myriad of other problems we will experience in the 21st Century. An obvious problem includes sustainability of our planet, but the truth is that the 21st Century will produce problems that we don’t even know are problems yet.

Don’t let our politicians concentrate on spending on industrial age infrastructure; make them invest heavily in knowledge infrastructure so that every citizen learns, increases their capacity to learn and contributes to the learning of others and the whole community, because, even more so now, learning matters!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All Blacks and Blue Mountains

After watching the might All Blacks take out the Welsh (Hedley the Welshman was there with us!) Hedly, Teleri and I headed off from Tirohanga into the Blue Mountains. We picked up Grant, Hilton, Amy and Bruno (the dog) on the way.
We did the Valley Station Rd/Mangakirikiri Stream loop. Ther's a bit of good climbing and some great downhill with the fun stream crossings.

The highlights were Grant's delight at the MTB experience, Hilton's whoop with joy on one neat downhill, Teleri's dive into the creek because Bruno was too slow and Amy's determimation to crack the hill climbs.

I was the only one to get up the other side of the neat downhiill and uphill swoop about 2/3 away around without pedalling, but then again I was the only one who knew we were playing that game!

This was agreat 3 hours ride in good company.

We didn't go with the road bike ponies to Te Kaha and back because they implied we were too slow for them and they weren't gonna wait for anyone on the hills because they wanted to get back before dark.

The SOBs are real mates and we can accommodate anyone with us on our awesome rides!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Wiki

Check out the link on the side to Innovation Curriculum at Opotiki College. Andrew, from our staff, has just created a wiki to outline our progress towards implementing an innovative curriculum. It's still new and needs things added to it so get on board and comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Post Cycle Revelations

We had a great ride at Otara tonight. I went along determined to sit back in the group and let others push the pace. But of course that didn't happen. A small group of us tried to push the pace and sometimes opened up a small gap, but we didn't work as a team enough to break away entirely. It was interesting to note that 3-4 of the top 7 finishers in our grade were noticeably absent from doing much or any of the work early on.

That's the way it goes unfortunately and is the nature of cycling. But it was still cool with us averaging over 33kph and hitting 43kph along the Otara on the way home.

The best bit was a couple of beers at George's after the event. I learnt so much; Nicola and Jarrod don't argue, he just listens; Rosalie is the latest Teddy centrefold (Endurance Magazine) and also made the front page of Women's Day; Destry started biking to the race and then realised he might be forced to have a few beers afterwards so decided to bail out before the start; Simon, Ross and Colin almost biked past the beer option but after the cogs turned slower than the cadence they turned around and joined in.

Cycling is great fun.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hectic Week

Shirley and Leigh in time for coffee.

Kate arriving at Boss'

Resting after ride with Jinx

It all started with the Leavers' Dinner on Monday night at Rostcards. This was a great night, but at 11.00pm I was back at school with the police as a result of a major tagging of the school. However, my careful sleuthing had the suspects nailed by 9.00 the next morning. Local community dropouts! Home at 1.30am!

This was followed by two solid days of report writing.

Thursday night saw our senior prizegiving which was a great occasion. Hemi and Paula came back to be farewelled and Karen and Linda from the Human Rights Commission were there as guests. It was great to see Karen as she is ex Principal Gisborne Girl's High. I will post photos soon. Had a few wines at Lea's so a bit tired the next day.

Despite feeling buggered went the next night to a Blues performance at the Art Society Hall. The Mike Garner Trio from Rotorua were outstanding! See them if you can. I bought their CD, Cad's Alley (www.southbound .co.nz).

Saturday night is described in the previous post.

On Sunday we had a good road bike ride from the Boss' after watching a great All Black's win. Leigh, Boss, I, Kate, Destry and Rachel left and cycled up McCarthy's Rd where we found Dennis and Dad and on way back we picked up Brian. We then headed up Hukutaia where we picked up Zac. On the way down we came across Shirley biking up and she tagged on to Leigh and Kate. We headed out to Tablelands and rode like a pack of mad bastards hitting 75k down the hill! We then headed out Otara where I pretended I needed a pee. The group carried on and I headed back to Boss' where we had coffee and muffins. Buggared.

Kai From The Coast are Winners

Left-to-right: Stephanie, Rita, Chad, Kayla, Quintin, Marcelle, Bryce, Marion, Garry.
On Saturday night I travelled with our Young Enterprise Scheme Company, Kai From The Coast, to the Whakatane AAA Awards where they were announced as winners of the Emerging Business section.

This put them into the major final against companies such as Julian's Berry Farm and The Bean. This was won by Julian's.

As you can see from the photo the students looked stunning and Rita gave the best acceptance speech of the night. All of us, myself, Marion, Stepahanie and Garry were very proud of them.

Buy their cookbook as a Xmas present.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

School Update

Had a busy shortened week (Labour Day) last week. Tuesday was spent preparing for BOT meeting which was that night. It was a great meeting with lots of discussion around issues to do with curriculum and teaching programmes and property.

The hassle was that after that I had to drive to Hamilton (arriving just after midnight) as I attended a Michael Fullan seminar starting at 8.30am. He was a great presenter who discussed his six secrets for leading change. He really needed two days but he has given me some good insight because if there is certainly one thing that we can guarantee in this line of work it is change!

Had a nice dinner and catch up with Peter from Tauhara that night and the following day we attended a Student Engagement Initiative reference group meeting with the Ministry of Education. There was some robust discussion about the direction of this initiative but I do feel that the principals involved are listened to.

I got back Thursday night and had to do final preparations for a morning staff meeting where we were to have the first full discussion around curriculum direction for our school since my return from sabbatical. Despite most of the thoughts being out there via the wiki and Professional Reading Groups I was a little uncertain as to what staff response would be.

I reckon the meeting was very positive with some good questions being asked. Hopefully some comments will be posted to confirm or deny my view.

Bought a New Car

I've bitten the bullet and accept the Mighty Mitsi V3000 needs to retire (see my Trademe auction for a great buy!).

While in Hamilton on Thursday I splashed out and spent $4250 on a 2000 1.6L Hyundai Lantra Station Wagon. Youngest car I have ever bought! Woohoo!

I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning it because it was caked in a mouldy cowshit/dust stuff. Looks good now!

Ohiwa Ride

Today we leapt on our roaD BIKES SO THAT WE COULD PRETEND WE MIGHT BE READY TO RIDE TWICE AROUND lAKE rOTORUA NEXT sUNDAY. Lucy, Leigh and I left from the Boss' and joined Lea, Kurt, Roger, Shirley and Teleri at the bridge. From there we took off towards Waiotahi Beach and Lea and Roger promptly dropped us.

We went up Paerata, down Verrals, around Ohiwa (up and over that big hill), out of Ruatuna, down Toones Rd, onto the Main Rd via Waiotahi Valley Road, up Verrals, down Paerata for coffee and muffins at Marg's (who had gone to Bryan's Beach and back with Kate) and then back to Boss'. Just uner 60k with a few good climbs.

Bit shattered for the rest of the day so went to movies in Whakas to watch Pineapple Express. Great for a laugh and some stupid slapstick action.

Yesterday I was a celebrity(!) in the Celebrity Race for the Opotiki Trolley Derby. Riding Eastern Bay Motors ELF I hurtled into the lead down Crooked RD soon to be overtaken by 3 of the larger competitiors who had gravity on their side only to finish a bone shaking 4th out of five!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back into Amokura

Two weeks in a row we have ridden classic SOBs rides. Last week's post told you about the beautiful Blue Mountains and Mangakirikiri Stream ride.

This week we took on the mighty Amokura Rd/Challenge Road loop which is quite a daunting ride. Added to that I've been suffering from a head cold, gutsache and nausea most of the week!

However, I set off with the Boss from his place and down the road we me up with long lost Kerr and Brian and at Woodlands School we collected the two Teddys. The first climb had become quite technical with larger channels carved into it but we all managed OK. Aaron was struggling though with his asthma.

From there the fun start. When Brian fell in front of me trying to skirt a large puddle which I just biked through my day was made. Of course the loud laughter came back to haunt me as I flew over my handlebars when my front wheel came to a sudden halt in a bog a few hundred metres later. Things got better when we hit the tank trap and as Brian came to a halt couldn't get his feet out! Jarod was the only one to successfully navigate the second part of the trap though none of us managed the first part.

We hurtled down to the ford with Jarod being the only one to keep his feet dry though, to be fair, Aaron got in my way and I had to put a foot down in the river.

The following climb was as bad if not worse than I remembered and it was an uncommon feeling to experience arriving at the top in last place. I did, however, get attacked by a toe toe bush which grabbed me to a halt and threw me into it, bashing the inside of my knee on the frame and ending up in that uncomfortable position of having your head lower than your feet while they are still locked into the pedals. Aaron, suffering from his asthma, cycled past at that point and I followed him up.

The Upper Paerata Road looks opened up by a bulldozer and could be quite good fun, but we chose to hurtle down Challenge Road at breakneck speed and crawled back to Boss' for cake and coffee.

It's great to be stiff and sore and wasted on a Sunday again as a result of SOBS adventures.

Where were you Destry (in trouble I hear) and Hedley and Teleri?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

National's Education Policy

Those of you who followed my blog during my sabbatical will realise the opposition I have developed to the US system of annual testing of students throught primary and intermediate years. Schools, Principals and teachers were entirely focused on preparing their kids for the tests each year (from age 7 up!) as they were judged on how their kids did.

USA was ranked 42nd in the International PISA tests while NZ was ranked in the top 5 so why are we planning to copy such a programme?

We have to oppose this at all costs. Weighing the pig does not make it any fatter!

NZ schools already regularly assess student progress to inform further strategies. There is no need to have a centrally imposed and driven programme which has the intention (according to their policy) of comparing students in one school with another.

This crock of shit is a populist strategy for which there is no credible research to support it.

You will have different important policy positions which determine your vote. For me, education is one of the most important issues and National's position on regular testing makes it impossible for me not to let as many people as possible know what they are up to.

The NZ education system is in good health. Young people are more literate and numerate as a group than any before. We do have a longish tail of under achievement which is largely ethnically centred and with programmes such as Te Kotahitanga and Ka Hikitia we are making inroads in this area.

If National are elected and push this policy through I will struggle to remain involved in education to my current level in New Zealand.

Tuesday Cycling

It's hard to believe that 93 people turned up for the first cycle night of this series. It's well-organised, free, relaxed and fun. Check out the website for news and results. If you're a local ask about how to get involved as all abilities are catered for in the simple format.

SOBs Are Back

We had a great ride this morning and it was like the good old days. The Boss, Hedley, Teleri, Destry and Jared biked from town and picked me up at Tirohanga. I thought we were going to do the Mangakirikiri Stream to Pakihi but of course we turned up the hill towards Valley Station Road. The climb was worth it as we had a good ride along the top and then charged down to the stream. The creek was quite high so the crossings were interesting.

When I heard Jared and Destry laughing in front of me at the last crossing I should have been suspicious, but on their urgings I ploughed into the water to find myself up to my seatpost in water. I attempted to keep peddling only to have my wheels float off the bottom. Cool!

Of course we then encouraged the boss and Hedley to have an unsuspecting shot much to our amusement. Don't tell Lea, but we're going to try to get her to have an unsuspecting try!

The ride back to town with a strong southerly at our back was very fast. Thankfully we had a coffee at Hedley's before I had a final solo 8k home in the wind.

Leigh, Shirley, Marg and Sarah were out tackling the Meremere again and they returned pleased with how they conquered it.

The SOBs are back in business and are talking about Amokura Rd next weekend. Must take the camera as there is potential for mayhem.

Monday, October 13, 2008

First Day Back at School

I arrived to hear Robyn was sick and would be away! Never mind we coped. It is certainly great to be back at work. The Diary was full with a couple of new enrolments, a meeting with two whanau about behavioural issues, the drug testing of a couple of students to keep them on their toes, an assembly, dozens of emails to process, questions to answer from my Executive Officer, a 3 hour meeting at the Council to discuss event centre options, a Senior Leadership Team meeting at 5.00, followed by a quick jog to recover from the Motu and a sprint home with a satchel of work to cook tea because Leigh goes to Pump on Mondays. What a great day. Bring on tomorrow.

It's now 8.30pm, I have a glass of wine and I'm about to open the satchel. Already thinking about getting up 30 mins earlier to get to work to do the stuff I didn't fit in tonight so that I am free to make it to the opening night of Summer Series Cycling tomorrow!

The Mighty Motu Challenge!

What a great event and what great performances by the various members of the Possums and SOBs. The Very Principalled Possums did about 9.17 with ringin Christopher leading the way with a 3 05 mtb. I followed up with a 1.26 run (10 min faster than expected) then the mighty Boss flew home carrying a kidney stone on his road bike in 1.41. I finished off with a 3.04 on the water/cycle run/leg. I guarantee no one paddled a plastic boat faster than me down the river that day!

But what about Trev/Terry's 9.15 solo effort and Hedley's 9.36 solo effort which has me considering early retirement! Lea put in a gutsy 10.51 in her solo effort with a gentle reminder about how tough the event is.

Lucy was in a team with boss' daughters and rode a wonderful 1.58 in a solo road cycle. Amber succumbed to injury on the run and Nicole had a strong final leg paddling powerfully through the field.

There were some great MTB efforts led by Barry in 2.41, Destry in about 2.56, glen in 2.58, Karl in a fraction over 3 hrs, and Brett in 3.05. Aaron had a strong run and kayak section and Dad George paddled very well.

The best news was that Captain Aquanaut only had one swim!

And what about 72 year old Dennis who did the whole thing in just over 11 hours? Kurt and Steve (who both worked hard with their star road cyclist Teleri who rode in 1.47) were overheard skiting how they finished in front of the old fellow --- by 3 minutes!

Check out the full results on www.motuchallenge.co.nz.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Late Preparation For The Motu

The Motu is only one week away and I have now completed two weeks of my training schedule. The team is still a bit up in the air. The plan was to be in a 2 man team with the Boss, Team Very Principled, but he's been a bit crook and even now the selector is giving him until the last possible moment to become available for selection.

Last Saturday Nicole, Lea and I paddled the top two thirds of the river and all went well. On the Sunday Lea MTBed to Motu then she ran from the bridge while I ran from 2k in. I was disappointed with 1.28 which equates to 1.38 for the full distance.

In the meantime Leigh and Lucy headed off on the cycle leg. Lucy is cycling in the Boss' daughters' team and this is the first time she has cycled the course. Leigh was doing it because I suggested she would enjoy it. Lucy did 2hrs 05 while Leigh did about 2 15. Right then she became first reserve for the cycle leg for Very Principled. Lea was biking from Matawai where I had bought the compulsory fried sausage.

Nicole, kurt and I started paddling and Lea joined us at the Gravel Pit. The river was low (1.48m) and the paddle was hard especially after the day before.

On Friday Leigh, Lucy and Shirley did an awesome ride up the Meremere and back, another first for Lucy and Leigh. On Saturday Kurt and I paddled the river (very, very low 1.39) which was a real struggle - 3 hours and 5 mins!

On Saturday night the Boss was still an uncertain starter.

This morning (Sunday) Lea MTB through with Glen B while Leigh, Lucy and I drove through to Motu behind the Boss and daughter Amber. Lea and Amber and I did the full run. I did a disappointing 1 39 in quite cold and windy conditions with Lea and Amber doing about 1.55.

In the meantime Leigh, Lucy and the Boss headed off cycling in wet conditions with a strong headwind from Traffords. By the time we (I) bought a sausage from Matawai we only caught them right at the end. In very tough conditions the Boss did 2 hours, Lucy did 2 05 and Leigh did 2.20. All good times. We then heard that young Gareth had biked it in 1.39. Outstanding!

The Boss felt good so Plan A is me and him. Plan B is he MTB, I run and kayak and Leigh road bikes. Plan C is Roger MTBs, I run and kayak and Boss road cycles. Plan D is Roger MTBs, I run and kayak and Leigh cycles. And there are still 22 letters of the alphabet left!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Back Into The Swing: Troubles with NZQA

The holidays are here! Apparently, I've already had mine so I'm at work and well and truly back into it. While attempting to keep my eye on the big stuff which has recently had my attention I've been dealing with a carpet layer putting his foot through a rotten floor, an argument over who should pay for toilets and cleaning at the farm block and other stuff.

I'm also trying to buy another car as the Mitsi is about to die. I'm sick of being in debt!

Robyn has tied up all loose ends so I reckon I might be out of here by the end of the week. It will be good to have a break to spend time with Lucy and Leigh before the Motu the following weekend and before the final term gets under way.

I think I have bought into a fight with NZQA and am hoping that my BOPPA colleagues are doing the same that I am. I am refusing to report the non-achievement of internal NCEA standards because there is no sound educational reason to do so and it does not warrant the extra workload. I have been told by Bali Haque that we will face remedial action if we fail to follow guidelines. The reply I got to my email has done nothing to make me want to change my mind. Rage against the machine!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back Home

Friday was a bit of a wasted day as we filled in time before heading out to the airport for a 7.15 flight. All went to schedule and we arrived in NZ and made our way to the Venturra Inn where we crashed just before 2.00am. We left at about 9.30 and had a good trip home.

It's great to be here but the time with the group was great. The way the schedule panned out meant we experienced some stuff, talked about it and then developed plans together for our school. Even when we were flying back they were reading their material and taking notes.

The wiki on plans for Opotiki College now contains our current thoughts.

Last Evening in Australia

Feeling a bit slow this morning while waiting to check out, spend some time in town and then head out to the airport. Kurt and I headed down river to Regatta for a feed at the Boatshed. I had garlic prawns and snapper and he had lamb cutlets and barramundi. Andrew had a quiet night in while Teryl and Vickee met up with some friends and hit the pubs in town.

When we got back on the ferry we stopped at the Grand Central Station Pub where there was a live band Karaoke and lots of drunk people. We had quite a few top shelf drinks while I watched Kurt fighting off drunken babes! Not really!

We wandered back at about 1.00 but I stayed up as longas I could so I would drink heaps of water and crashed about 2.00. Teryl got back at about 11.00 while Vickee was out to about 4.30am! Have had breakfast but no sign of the boys yet.

Feeling bad because I forgot to do my Learning Matters column.

Education Queensland Thursday 18 September

This morning we were hosted at Education Queensland by Margie Burrell and Susan Brown who were keen New Basics supporters. We only spent an hour and half with them but it was very valuable.

We grabbed hard copies of Blueprints and a CD with the Rich Tasks on it. We saw samples of work and discussed pedagogy and various implementation models. As the meeting progressed I saw Andrew, Teryl, Vickee and Kurt realising the potential of this model. Margie and Susan were impressed with what we were planning.

After a quick coffee we returned to the Hotel and spent the next couple of hours moulding our excitement into a workable plan which follows:

Read material supplied by Education Queensland before landing in NZ.
Download and familiarise ourselves with all Rich Tasks and Blueprints by end of holidays.
Meet in first week of Term IV to prepare ALG presentation.
Present the following to ALG by end of week 3:

One year 9 class (minimum) be staffed by converts who would teach one Rich Task/Blueprint to that class in 2009 and report to ALG.
Combine two Year 9 classes as desribed above with four teachers and deliver a full Rich Task/Blueprint curriculum in 2010 and report to ALG.
All Year 9 and the Year 10 pilot have curriculum as above in 2011.
All Year 9 and 10 have above curriculum.

After that we discussed the Teacher Rubrics that everyone had been working on which will form part of the Teacher Observation programme we will be implementing next year which is described on the planning wiki.

This has been a wonderful team to work with and will be key people over the next few years.

After a late lunch we are relaxing a bit. Vickee and Teryl are going out on the town tonight with friends of Vickee and the boys are planning a ferry ride down the river to Regatta and having dinner there.

Tomorrow night we fly to Auckland and then drive home on Saturday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

North Rockhampton High School

Library computer suite

With Principal Judi Newman

Feed at Chutney Mary's

Yesterday we spent a great day at North Rockhampton High School where we were hosted by Principal, Jude Newman. Their school is similar to ours and it was good to see what she was trying to do.

We started by observing a Maths teacher presenting the Maths part of a Blueprint Activity which was also taught by the Maths and Science teacher. This showed us one school's way of attempting to grow integrated learning.

Jude gave us an outline of her school and what she was trying to achieve. She shared a template that was used by all junior programmes to outline course and align with the curriculum and formalise assessment and then she left us for an hour to discuss and plan. This was valuable time as we attempted to take what we saw at Calamvale and what we were now seeing and establish a model for our school. We were very impressed with the programme planning template and plan to implement in our own school. All present felt this was valuable and doable. The others with me are very enthusiastic and I am finding that I have to keep reining them in a bit!

We played around with a structure and timetable and settled on a model which had 2 Year 9 classes combined in a home room and their 16 core class periods blocked and coverted by 4 teachers. There would be two teachers in the room at all time with 32 hours of coverage which could be 4 teachers at 8 periods each. This group would pilot a New Basics type curriculum.

After lunch we had a session with the IT teacher who gave us a bit of a tour. The facilities were inferior to ours.

After waiting a long time for a taxi we all ended up at the airport where we made our way back to Brisbane and after a nice Indian feed at Chutney Mary's crashed for the night. We were all a bit tired after our planning day, the travel and poor sleep at the Cattle City Motor Inn.


It is now Wednesday morning and I am sitting in the Cattle City Motor Inn in Rockhampton waiting to go to North Rockhampton State High School to look at their trans-disciplinary approach. It was a bit of an effort to get here as our flights departure time moved from 6.15 to 7.30. When we arrived at the Cattle City at 9.05pm we discovered that their restaurant closed at 9.00pm and that the food option was KFC 30 minutes walk away. We settled on delivered pizzas and a good talk about things we had seen at our visit to Calamvale and school things in general.

Everyone took different things from the visit and it was good to hear what people had to say. The discussion soon broadened to things like what it takes to be a good teacher at Opotiki. It was great for everyone to talk candidly. I am learning more about all four as the trip progresses and feel the school is in great hands.

Let's retrace steps a little.

Working As A Team

On Monday morning I rang Margie Burrell at Education Queensland. I was a little worried as I hadn't heard from her all last week. She said she hadn't received my latest emails but we have arranged to meet on Thursday morning.

We all met at breakfast and agreed to meet together for the morning and discuss school development plans. We arranged a conference room and brought along the packs of material I had provided them.

We began by discussing the building plans I had begun to develop for the school. We had a great time pouring over them and got some great feedback and further ideas. After that discussion I am more determined to move the canteen so that the flow of students through the open foyer continues through the canteen site, through large doors and onto a stage and steps overlooking the quad. The canteen would be rebuilt on the southside of B9 and that quad area be turned into an outdoor cafe setting.

It was also suggested that a low display cabinet be placed in the foyer to establish flows through the front door for visitors and students. Another suggestion was to have the doors off the B and C Block decks wide so that they gave a free flow through to the outsisde. The major discussion around C Block was enclosing the corridor from C1 to the Hall entrance and including decks on the north side of C1-4 as well. This would give computer/seminar space for all of C1-3, more flexibility for the use of toilets and resource rooms as alternative space and create more covered decking in the quad area opposite the planned stage. This plan would also give C$ more space for photography computers. I am now more in favour of building our new toilet block where the current tennis court toilet block is.

Andrew has also included a request to astroturf the tennis courts and I think, after the visit to Calamvale is going to want the gym floo resurfaced.

We then discussed the plans I have wikied for a programme of teacher observations. We had a great discussion about that and saw great value in it. Each person has also agreed to look at one of the Teacher Rubrics and make it relevant to our school.

We then had a discussion about what we would likely see at the schools during the week. After arranging for Lea to fax over the ALG questions we then had a free afternoon. Teryl and Vickee headed off to Fortitude Valley and Chinatown while the boys headed into the CBD to shop. Andrew soon disappeared into a maze of malls while Kurt and I found Rocking Horse Records and bought some music. I now have all but 5 of the top 115 of the Top 500 Records of all time!

Kurt and I wandered to the river and caught a ferry to Southbank. Not much was happening there though Kurt did a bit of goggling at the bikini babes at the artificial beach. I didn't notice them!

We wandered back over the bridge and headed back for a rest.

At 6.00 we met up and taxied to Chinatown to visit what I think is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. It is simply called The Vietnamese Restaurant. We ordered a banquet and dined on dim sums, duck, quail, and spring rolls for entree, followed by the best squid ever, fish, chicken, bok choy and rice. It was superb and I was relieved as I had been talking this place up. If you are in Brisbane you must go.

Calamvale Community College

POD Classroom

Teacher work area in POD

Covered Area

Outdoor Steps for Stage

Sue Bremmer with our team

The next morning we piled into our maxi cab and took the 30 minute trip to Calamvale Community College where we were met by Geoff Latta (Geoff 1). He took us to meet Sue Bremmer, the principal, who remembered me from my last visit.

She gave a presentation on her school and the curriculum journey it has been on. It was opened in 2002 and is a Year 1-12 school. It was purpose-built for integrated teaching and learning. She is a passionate and visionary leader who is being a little worn down by meddling government agencies who have required them to move away from the New Basics model which I had seen two years previously. They were determined, though, to keep the best of that model.

Geoof then took us for a tour of the junior school where we saw the PODs in action. A POD is basically a circular building with a glass teacher space as the hub and the space around it being one large space that can be broken into four individual spaces with moveable walls.

After morning tea we were hosted by Sheryl, who is the principal of the senior school. I felt she spent too much time explaining the Queensland Qualification system and UE requirements. We had a quick tour with her but I would like to have seen more of their actual programme structures. We did, however, get a sample of their timetable which is largely 3 90 min periods per day with each subject getting 2 periods a week.

During and after lunch we were hosted by Geoff 2 who is the principal of the middle school. He gave a good outline of their structure and has provided us with a curriculum planning

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Brisbane

Andrew, Kurt, Vickee, Teryl and I arrived in Brisbane yesterday to investigate innovative curriculum ideas. We hope to visit the Department of Education today, but I am a little concerned as I have been emailing my contact all of last week and have not heard from them. It was all confirmed before I left on my sabbatical, but the silence concerns me. I will ring this morning at 8.00 and hope all is OK.

Tomorrow we visit Calamvale school which really impressed me when I visited 2 years ago. It was a school designed to deliver the New Basics curriculum. Apparently they have had to move away a little from this position because of state mandated learning outcomes. I am certain it will still be a very valuable visit.

We left Opotiki on Saturday and had an uneventful trip driving up in the school van. We checked into the Ventura Inn and set off walking to the Toby Jug Inn for dinner and to watch the rugby test. We got a little lost and then got hit in a downpour. After sheltering for a while we made it and had a basic pub meal.

The boys watched the test and we were rapt to thrash them. The downside was that we got back at midnight and had to get up at 3.45 to be at the airport for our flight. This made for a very long day yesterday.

Kurt is proving to be the traveller who needs watching and supporting. At he Toby Jug he ordered a beer and $40.00 cash, didn't get his money and didn't remember until the next morning. (He will try to retrieve on our return). Also, when we were checking in it was announced that Kurt needed a visa to get into Australia! The wonderful Pacific Blue people organised it for him (at a cost of $30.00!).

We finally got away. The flight was cattle-class cheap, but was great. The steward had a real Polynesian humour and joked all of the way. Tried to get some shut-eye but didn't happen.

We arrived at the Grand Chancellor at 10.00 and were able to check in straight away. Vickee and Teryl hired a car to visit Vickee's neice in the Gold Coast while the boys walked to Chinatown for lunch and then spent a couple of hours walking around the CBD and riverbank. Back at the hotel we had a rooftop swim, followed by some downtime before we wlked into town for a fairly average Italian meal. Andrew had a greaT Linguini, I had an average calamari and Kurt had a fish risotto thing, which I don't think he was that impressed with.

Asleep by 9.30 hoping the girls make it back!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Additions to Wiki

I have added new pages (Kids, Sustainability, Behaviour Management, Teacher Observation) to the wiki on Plans for Opotiki College. Some of the statements and suggestions may be challenging so I look forward to feedback.

About to go for a paddle and then fly out to Aussie tomorrow.

Hello Followers

I'm keen to see who is a regular reader of the blog. If you wish, go to the sidebar on the right and scroll down to Followers, click on it and add yourself. Give it a go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Week of Running and Reflecting

This has been a good week. I have enjoyed getting up at a leisurely time and going for a run before sitting down and doing some planning.

I have been for a run everyday and got up to 14k today which I am rapt with. The only hassle was getting swooped upon by a couple of magpies on Tuesday morning.

Most of the rest of each day has been sitting down and trying to make sense of all of the thoughts that I have picked up on and then think about quite clearly when running and then promptly get confused with by the time I have had a spa and breakfast.

I have been into school a couple of times and feel it is a good way to ease slowly back, without getting in Robyn's way. She is doing a fantastic job.

I have been doing a lot of thinking of how to best build on this strengthening of leadership throughout the school while maintaining sustainability. I am concerned about burn out for Robyn and Lea and I also want to ensure that on my return I don't get dragged back into too much day-yo-day minutae.

I really want to concentrate on curriculum and teaching leadership which will require me spending a lot of time in classrooms.

I am looking forward to the trip to Aussie beginning on Saturday when Andrew, Kurt, Vickee and Teryl and I visit schools in Brisbane. It's people such as these who seem keen to be involved in improving the school.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Wiki for School Development

I have created a new wiki to begin a discussion about possible developments for Opotiki College. There is a link to it on the side. At the moment I am planning 4 pages, but, no doubt, more will be added by myself and others. Currently there is some thoughts up on the Property and School Structures Pages. I hope those who are interested in the development of Opotiki College will comment and add to the pages.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting Into The Groove

Yesterday I got up at a leisurely time and went for a run down Tirohanga Rd not knowing how far I would go. As it was I went to almost the end and ran for a total of 50 minutes which was great for me and puts me ahead of where I thought I would be.

I spent most of the rest of the day spraying my track and bank to get it back under control. Destry turned up and told me the broadband was now hooked up. I spent the next several hours installing and making sure it went. It was quite straightforward though I have had trouble connecting the EEE PC tp the wireless modem, but hope I have now solved it.

I was pleasantly surprised with the telecom helpdesk; I didn't have to wait longer than 1 minute to get a person and they were very helpful. I gave them top marks in the survey at the end of the call!

So we're now up and away with broadband and I can't believe the difference!

This morning I got up a bit later than I wanted (Father's Day afterall) and went for a 70 minute run. I am rapt with how the running is going. As I returned I caught up with Marg and Shirley whom I haven't seen for about 3-4 months. They were about to go for a ride with Leigh. I have an hour or so of peace and quiet before they return!

All of this down time is a bit dangerous as I am starting tp bring together my thoughts for Opotiki College as a result of the sabbatical. I am excited about the power of wikis to put my thoughts out there and for staff to comment on.

In three weeks time I will have finished my sabbatical report which will include my plans. These plans involve buildings, teaching pedagogy and support structures. I'll let you know when the wiki is up as I would welcome comments from all.

Looking forward to the September school holidays. I feel a bit tired!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reconnecting With The Real World

This week has been the fastest of the sabbatical time and I wanted it to be the slowest as I am at home and I want to do some work on te section, do some school planning, do some IT development (Check out my wiki), put my feet up and listen to music and cook meals.

Tuesday was quite a slow day (first day at home). Leigh went to Gisborne for library PD (on blogs and wikis) and I mooched around at home mainly trying to save some grasses and trees I planted before I left which look as if they've been attacked by hares. However, started the day with a 40 minute run to prepare for the Motu. When Leigh returned I had prepared a nice Singapre style chicken dish.

She shared her learnings about wikis and I spent the next few hours that evening creating my wiki for staff to use to help them with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. It is continually being updated so check it out on the link on the right and make comments.

The next day Leigh and I travelled to Taupo to watch Lucy and her soccer team at tournament. The standard is very high but they are playing well. Awesome to see her again. Head Girl, Alicia, filled me in on some stuff around the school Ball which Robyn dealt with very well. That night Leigh cooked up an Italian style pasta meal.

Thursday was a bit more productive. After Leigh went to work I went for another 40 minute run and then mowed the lawns. After that I worked on my wiki further.

Have been having some productive thoughts about redesigning the learning spaces in our school and have started to sketch these out a bit. As long as money is no object I reckon we can do quite a bit with the buildings that we have got. More on this later. I am thinking of developing a wiki with my thinkings about developments for the school, including organizational structures, curriculum and buildings. It could be a good way to let people know what I am thinking and get feedback. I prepared a spicy beef and Hokkein Noodles dish for dinner!

Today I went into school for morning tea and to hand out gifts. It was great to be there. The school is going very well and everyone has spoken highly of the work done by Robyn as acting principal with the support of Lea. The Deans, as expected, have been outstanding.

It was great to sit with Robyn and hear about the issues she has dealt with. Many of them have been complex and serious and she has handled them expertly.

I am really excited about the next few years. If we can deal with the sustainability issues for the Senior Management Team then I think we can achieve a lot. Leadership is certainly strengthened across the school and we seem to be placed to move the school along to take advantage of the new curriculum with the support of Web 2.0 tools and a willingness to be open to new ways of doing things.

I brought home a big box of reading stuff to catch up that Robyn saved for me. So far most of it has been straight forward and will be dealt with by the end of next week.

She has made some staffing decisions and has some good ideas on some staffing issues for next year.

I have to now confirm all of the details for the visit in just over 1 week to Brisbane by myself and four staff.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Girls' Soccer Tournament

Above are some photos from the Girls' Soccer Tournament in Taupo. The girls are getting on real well and have had 2 losses, one draw and a win.

It was great to catch up with Lucy after 9 weeks away. She will be home on Friday.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I've cancelled the new blog of How To Videos for web tools and have created a wiki (my new learning) which has a link on the right. A wiki is more suitable as it allows others to contribute to it. Go and have a look and post your thoughts here.

Back in Opotiki!

Tuesday 2nd September
We're back at home.

It was great to arrive at Whakatane Airport to see Mum and Dad waiting for us. They took us to The Bean for a great coffee. We couldn't stop talking about our trip and they couldn't stop talking about Opotiki and whanau events!

Mum cooked us a great kiwi feed of corned beef and spuds and we enjoyed their company for the evening. We are looking forward to seeing Lucy on Wednesday when we visit her at the soccer tournament in Taupo.

Leigh has gone to Gisborne today for library PD andd I've been for a jog, read local papers, sent off my EEE PC review, sent financial stuff to Joc at school and talked with Robyn for quite a while this morning. She has been doing an outstanding job and had dealt with some difficult issues.

After updating my blog I'm going to do some work around the section. 6 kereru are in residence and the trees are in blossom!

I'm then going to attempt to cook a Malaysian type meal for dinner and tonight begin the process of upgrading to broadband. On Thursday I will visit the travel agent to ensure the Aussie part of the trip is organised and on Friday I will visit school for morning tea and to catch up with staff, especially those going to Aussie.

Arrival in NZ

Sunday 31 August
This part of the sabbatical is almost over as we have arrived in NZ. We fly down to Opotiki tomorrow. I hoped it was Summer over here as I have got used to 29-35 degrees, but the 11 degrees when we arrived put paid to that idea.

On Thursday morning Leigh and I bused into Georgetown where we walked down the main street, through the colonial centre, around Fort Cornwallis, along the port area and through some scary traffic until our scheduled bus trip back to the beach. We spent the afternoon doing what we do well, swimming and sunning.

We went to our favourite food stall where we started with sambal fish and followed up with squid and chicken and dried chilli. Once again we had an outstanding feed.

On Friday we checked out of our paradise hotel and flew out of Penang airport to Singapore for one more night. We wandered around Marina Square trying to find some Skins for Lucy, but none were to be found.

We caught up with Terry and Dallas who had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur. After a pool side beer we wandered into Arab St where we had a halal meal. I had chicken and potatoes, Terry and Leigh had lamb, and Dallas had beef with prunes.

We needed a beer after that so wandered into our hotel bar where a dance class was showing off their skills. The barman was ill-mannerd and the beers were $15 so we bailed out.

On Sunday morning we taxied to Little India to Mustafa's 24 hour shopping mall. This was a treasure trove which I am pleased we did not discover earlier. Leigh managed to buy some nice jewellery!

After checking out we wandered down the road in a new direction and found a neat shopping area which I am also pleased we didn't discover earlier. Leigh bought a watch because her 'Rolex' is already broken. We also bought some neat shirts as gifts for some lucky people.

We then had a great lunch in a local's food court where we were looked after by a drunk old fellow who was good fun. He delivered lime juices and cane sugar juice to wash down our meals of chicken and dried chilli, black pepper beef, fish and noodles and pork.

We then relaxed by and in our hotel pool until about 4.30pm when we taxied out to the airport and after hanging around for a few hours boarded our plane to New Zealand. It was a pretty straight-forward flight but got little sleep as I found it difficult to get comfortable.

We said good bye to Terry and Dallas who were connecting straight to Tauranga and we headed to our airport hotel for our flight home tomorrow. It's a very average motel/hotel, but will do. We have decided to stay awake rather than sleeping so we get a good night's sleep tonight. It's now 5.30pm and I am really struggling to keep awake.

We went for a walk through the local Mangere streets in the cold wind to blow out the cobwebs.

Nearly home!

Penang and A New Blog

Wednesday 27 August
Went to the same food stalls last night and we each had a plate of sizzling noodles. Leigh's was chicken and vegetables and mine was seafood (shrimps, prawns, octopus with chicken and mushrooms. Very delicious!

We looked at more of the stalls, but again it was raining by now. I don't enjoy the bartering, besides things are cheap enough anyway. We bought a couple of batik shirts for Pete and Marcus and a sarong for Lucy from a stall run by the hearing impaired which made it difficult to barter which suited me. I hope I don't see her listening and talking later!

This morning was a bit of a slow start for me as my head feels a bit out of sorts. Not sure what I mean, but feel a bit gloomy. Lying by the pool and having a swim makes things a bit better. Poolside I have drafted my EEE PC review and written the introduction for my sabbatical report – not bad for someone on holiday.

We had our usual curry puffs for lunch then bought some horrible beach shorts for the head boys and some sarongy skirt things for Lucy to give to some friends.

It then started to persist down so took a break in the room. Started a new blog itiaki.blogspot.com which includes some neat how to videos on IT use from www.commoncraft.com.

Once again hit the hawkers and food stall. We bought some more clothing type gifts for people including some stuff for Lucy to give to friends.

Tonight we ate black pepper prawns and a chichen murtabak. This was quite an expensive feed - $15.00 (not counting the Tiger beer and lime juice of course).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Georgetown Visit

Oldest mosque in Penang

Same mosque

Hindu Temple in Georgetown

Some colonial building.

Leigh at GeorgeTown seafront

Last night we hit the food stalls and hawkers again. We had a great feed of satay, black pepper prawns and murtabak. This was an expensive meal for us $22, not counting a beer or two. The food is outstanding.

We then went a bit berserk buying a few more clothes things such as Tshirts for a few people etc. The copy brands here are awesome, but some people are a bit taken in. I saw one guy battering for a Tag Heuser Ferrari w3arch, believing it was the real thing!

This morning we jumped on a bus and headed into Georgetown. We didn't know what to expect, but after fighting off a persistent trishaw operator who took personal offence that I didn't want his services, We walked with good navigation from Leigh and we found the old colonial centre of Penang, saw Fort Cornwallis and cross to the mainland, then we took on the scary traffic and walked qlong the port area trying to see the 13k bridge that goes to the mainland. We ran out of time and made our bus back.

Once again we sunned and swam until a final pool side drink and fabulous feed at the food court where we ate "big squid like rubber bands" (which was beautifully tender), chicken and cashew and dried chillis (which was very hot), fried rice and sambal fish (which was outstanding) all for a total of $14.00!

We are packed to fly out to Singapore tomorrow and on to NZ the following day.

IT Support

Check out the link on the left to How To Videos. This is anew blog I have set up with simple how to videos to use blogs, wikis and RSS etc. It will be added to as new stuff is discovered. Please visit and comment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Relaxing in Penang

Leigh dining at the Food Court

At work with the EEE PC.
Tuesday 26 August
Exploring the hawkers last night was quite good fun. First off we found a great food hall type place where there was a huge range of foods available at a very good price. We started with chapati and dahl and chapati and chicken for 7 Ringitt ($3) and followed this with a shared Chicken Murtabak for 5 rng ($2). The three beers cost 37rng ($16). The food was outstanding and served amongst a chaotic mix of tourists, locals and serving people.

From there we explored the hawker stalls where Leigh and I bought matching 'Rolex' watches for $22. We also explored some sarong type things for head students and are looking for batik poker shirts for Pete and Marcus. Bought some stuff, but a combination of running out of money and bags getting too heavy our options are limited. Will look at buying Lucy and Leigh some 'Puma' or 'Nike' shoes tonight for about $30.

Spent the day beside the pool. Only a couple of burnt patches from yesterday. Once again we had curry puffs for lunch before returning to the pool where I largely snooze and observe a few bikinis while Leigh reads.

The pattern seems to be very hot days followed by rain in the evening after the build up of big black clouds in the hills.

Plan to do much the same tomorrow and not do any of the sightseeing stuff. Will take my laptop to pool side and start pulling all the thinking together. I have to write a review of the EEEPC which has been awesome apart from a few little limitations. I also want to begin writing the sabbatical report that the MOE needs which will also act as a report to our BOT and plan for the future. The Australian part of the sabbatical, however, is still to come and will influence the final report.

Leigh's New Blog

To make sure I can teach people to blog in preparation for launching this teaching and learning tool on my staff I ran a tutorial for Leigh to create her blog. She is determined to create one for the school Library. I have now taught Terry and Leigh. Anything is possible! Check her site out and make some comments to keep her motivated.

First Full Day in Penang

Leigh relaxing by pool at Penang.

Pool surroundings.

Beach from pool area.

Hotel from beach.

Monday 25 August
Believe it or not this feels like the first day off on the whole trip. We were at breakfast at 9.30 and beside the pool at 10,30. Out in front of us on the beach there arte a whole line of touts selling watersports activities (parasailing, jetskis etc) and horse riding and massages. As soon as you approach the beach they hit you like a pack of sharks.

We spent the morning swimming and sunning and watching the touts ande other tourists in action. There are enough bikinis to keep a bloke interested. The oddest are the large number of muslim women in full burkhas accompanying their husbands who are in togs. Some swim, but in full body suits.

Around lunch we wandered off to find an ATM and had some curry puffs, bought off a roadside stall for lunch, followed by an espresso bought at a small western style cafe run by a Malay family.

On our return I taught Leigh how to create a blog as she is planning to create a library one to act as a newsletter and then to develop a wiki for kids to put book reviews etc on. A link to her blog is on my principalpossum site.

If I can show Terry and Leigh how to do it I am confident that I can get all staff to do so with the aim of developing class blogs and wikis next year.

We then returned to the pool for swimming and lolling and then a walk along the beach We only really got hassled once by a tout, but he did go away.

Shortly we will visit the food etc hawkers down our road. This should be quite chaotic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Penang

Sunday 24 August
We've made it to Penang. Terry and Dallas were up and gone to Kuasla Lumpur at sparrow's fart and Leigh and I didn't have to leave Singapore until 11.00am. We jumped in our taxi only to discover the main highway was closed for a big run/walk event so we had to go the long way! However, we made it with plenty of time to spare.

The plane was only 1/3 full and we got lunch which was a bit of a bonus. We were met at the airport and had a 45 minute ride to our hotel, Golden Sands Resort at Batu Feringhi. After check in and unpack we wnt to the pool bar for a beer and satay. It is hard to get used to the prices. It might be 20 ringit for a beer, but that is abouit $9.00 so things seem very expensive at first. Though, to be true the prices in this resort are much higher than out on the street.

When the rain stopped we walked down the road. There are a large number of food, clothing and other shops along this strip of beach. At night, apparently it is alive with hawkers selling lots of copy brand stuff. We bought some rambutans to chomp on and at a bar across the road from the hotel I had a couple of beers while Leigh had 2 Singapore Slings (buy one get the second free).

Because it is raining and we are very tired we decided to use one of our vouchers and had a meal in the hotel restaurant. It was a buffet and I had fried rice, vegetables and roast duck followed by ice cream I chose what I thought was vanilla, but it turned out to be durian, which is the fruit banned from hotels because it smells like an open sewer. The ice cream was OK but burping afterwards is not very pleasant!

We're watching the Olympics closing ceremony in Chinese before crashing. The plans tomorrow are to loll around the pool and generally relax.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St Andrew's High School and Final Day in Singapore

Belinda Charles with Terry and I

Little India Street

Temple in Little India
Saturday 23 August
Yesterday afternoon Leigh and I walked down Orchard Rd looking at shops before trying the metro and ending up at Raffles where we had the horrible experience described above.

It was Terry's turn to selct dinner so under his direction we jumped on the metro and headed to Chinatown where we entered a local restaurant and had a great feed of rice, pork and chilli, chicken and mushrooms and szechuan fish with a couple of beers. $72.00 for four was great value. We metroed home and walked back around the outskirts of Arab Town which is opposite our hotel.

This morning Terry and I went to St Andrews School where we met with Belinda Charles who is principal of the high school there. They are a strong rugby school and I am certain that we played them when Ngaruawahia High School toured in 1983.

The school is 146 years old and has as its motto, “Capture the past; prepare for the future.” They take a full range of students and as a result have many hurdles to overcome. She has stuck with this policy, despite pressure to select students for enrolment.

To ensure that the needs of her diverse range of students are met she has developed multiple pathways, adopted restorative practices and introduced programmes of emotional awareness. One such programme is called Self Science and is based on a programme from USA called “Six Seconds”.

She is very keen to research further boys education and I have undertaken to send her some information on Ceilia Lashlie.

We were very appreciative of her time with us. She was very open about the challenges her school faced and was generous with her time considering it was Founders Day and she had some big formal events starting as soon as we left.

Because we had arrived early we had a strong sweet coffee with condensed milk at a local eatery! Whew!

After that visit Leigh and I visited Suntec Mall but couldn't get into the Mall scene. I was feeling a little under the weather actually. We left there and metroed to China Town but it was pouring with rain so it was difficult to browse the stalls. We then metroed to the river (walkable, but dry on train) where we established there was no place worth eating at. In fact, this area had gone downhill since our last visit.

We then metroed to Little India which would have been a great place to spend time, but it was raining so persistently it was difficult to move as everyone was trying to take shelter under the available shelter. We bailed out of there and met up with Terry and Dallas, had a beer by the pool and then went to the restaurant we went to on our first night, Maggie, and had another superb feed of rice, calamari, chicken curry, beef and dried chillis and deer meat on hot plate.

We're now packing because tomorrow morning we go to Penang.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Photos from NUS Visit

Don't Drink at Raffles Hotel

Don't Drink at Raffles Hotel (unless you have a lot of money!)
Leigh and I decided to drop into the Long Bar at Raffles where Somerset Maugham used to hang out. You eat peanuts and throw the husks on the floor. I had a beer and Leigh had a Singapore Sling as you do in Raffles. Terry and Dallas joined us and by the time we hqd finished I had had 3 half pints of cheap old Tiger Beer, Terry had had two (he arrived late), Leigh had had 2 Singapore Slings and Dallas had had one Sling and one Bombay Gin.

The bill was $191.85!!! $16.00 per beer, $22.00 per sling and $17.00 for the gin, 10% service charge and 7% GST! What a shocker. Don't go there as it is daylight robbery. We were caught out! Don't do it.

Last night we went down the road and had as much fried rice, ginger chicken, calamari, fish and bok choy with 2 large bottles of chinese beer and mineral water for four for $70.00.

At least we have ticked off having a drink at the Long Bar in Raffles!

NUS High School of Science and Maths

Thursday 21 August
We have just arrived in Singapore after a straight forward night flight from Frankfurt. The flight was packed and the plane was a bit interesting. Just after take off the oxygen masks on the row of seats across the aisle from me came down. They couldn't put them back so hd to evacute those seats. I then had to use a piece of cord I had to tie up the storage flap in front of me because it was broken and hung against my knees.

I then discovered that my reading light did not work. Then the guy's seat diagonally in front of me would not go up after reclining so the poor guy behind him was getting annoyed. The plane also rattled alot.

It was terrible to hear of the air crash in Madrid that must have occurred while we were somewhere in transit.

We're all resting up now before heading out for an exxplore and some tea. Tomorrow morning we are meeting with a local principal who has a curriculum strong in the sciences and whose buildings hve been influenced by the current guru on learning spaces, Prakesh Nair

NUS High School of Maths and Science
Today Terry, Dallas and I visited the National University of Singapore High School of Maths and Science. It opened in 2005 and is a government initiative aimed at targetting gifted students who excel in maths and science. It's motto is “Experiment. Explore. Excel” and has a strong culture of research. Students have to submit a thesis to graduate.

Secondary students in Singapore sit A Levels and O Levels but sitting two external examinations wastes learning time so some schools have been given permission to sit only O Levels. NUS High School students sit neither but complete an NUS Diploma which is recognised by Singapore's Universities and from prestigious universities throughout the world.

Our students are epected to complete three years of external qualifications!

We were hosted by GOH Hock Leong who is the Director of the Office of Research Innovation and Enterprise for the school and Dr SEAH Wee Khee who is the Head of that department.

We were ggiven an overview of the history of the school's creation, its philosophy and some information about its curriculum and structure. They run a modular structure which is made up of core, elective and enrichment modules. Only core and elective modules are graded.

Learning takes place within three contexts: classroom (though this involves tutorials and group problem-solving discussions and very little lecturing), field (including at least one international experience in their time at school) and independent (self study, peer tutoring and research projects).

Students have had their work published in academic journals and presented at international conferences alongside PHDs and professors.

The key elements of their curriculum are: differentiated, compacted (don't do stuff they already know), small group discussion and peer tutoring, research focused, relationship centred and pro-risk taking.

We went for a tour of their school which included to one of only three observatories in Singapore, their boarding hostel, where all students must stay in their 5th year to concentrate on their research project, their library, some classrooms and their impressive concourse which is a covered, open space where students gather, hook up their laptops to power points in the floor, and where there is a timeline in the floor of major scientific and mathematic discoveries.

Tables and chairs were set up outside the staffroom so that students and teachers could meet to discuss work and issues. A student common room sppace existed in a covered outdoor area, and there were gardens in available open spaces. The netball and tennis courts were on the roof, soon to be covered by more science labs to be built above them and the canteen is beneath the 400m synthetic track!

Once again we have come across a model which has at its centre differentiated learning with all students working with mentors to develop their own Independent Learning Plan based around real life issues and problems which the students see as authentic and relevant to them. Teachers act as facilitators to help them experiment, explore and excel.

It has also been reinforced to me that the actual spaces and atmosphere created by them play a big impact on the learning approach and motivation of the school.

We need to convince the Ministry of Education that we must rebuild most of Opotiki College. Our request will have more chance of success if we embrace the required pedagogical changes and do what we can with what we have.

Arriving in Singapore

Wednesday 20 August
We have woken up for our last morning in Rome and have a long flight viaa Frankfurt to Singapore where we will arrive on Thursday afternoon. We are all packed and in the process of checking out of Maria's Bed and Breakfast. This has been a great place to stay as we are 2 minute walk from metro, 5 minute walk from train station and 30 minute walk from the Colosseum area.

I have just been interrupted to be told that we haven't paid our deposit. I will have to check our statements at home because I have a copy of the fax I sent authorising the payment. Always little hassles.

Last night Terry and I were able to do all the check-ins on-line with a couple of pints of Guinness in our puku. It's a good thing that we did because Dallas was sitting elsewhere on the plane.

We all then went out to Plazza Navona for dinner. This was a vibrant place in front of a Pope's palace with lots of restaurants and outside entertainers. Marco, our waiter, was very jocular and most of us had a great meal, but we could see the prices were quite a bit higher than we were used to.

Terry had a proscuitio and salad appetiser followed by a spaghetti and meatballs main, Dallas had Caneloni, Leigh had fettucini alfredo and I had calamari which was not as good as the ones I had in Spain.

This was all washed down with a nice Montepulciano red and a Venazzia white. Dallas had a tiramasu, Leigh a liminicelli thing and I had some ice cream with whiskey. We were a little bowled over with the bill of 180 eur, but it was a good final meal to have in Rome.

The taxi ride home was as madcap as the dash by taxi to the restaurant.

This morning we had a gentle start to the day and after organising for our bags to be left at Maria's we walked to Plazza Republique (31 degrees at 10.00am), bought an Italian Rugby cap for the boss which I might keep because it is so nice (!), 2 dresses foe Leigh, a couple of more gifts and then checked on-line the best way from Changi airport to our hotel.

We are now sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our flight to Frankfurt which has been slightly delayed, but has now just been called for.

We are now in Frankfurt Airport after a straight-forward flight from Rome. The flight was delayed a little and I'm glad it wasn't for longer as it took us lmost 30 minutes to make our way from arrivals to our departure area. No time for the cold beer I was looking forward to.

During that walk we talked with a young woman who was finishing a year's exchange in Italy. She was from Trident High School and her mother used to be in Playcentre with Leigh and sold real estate briefly in Opotiki. Her last name is Probst. It was a chance encounter just after I greeted a guy going the other way in a Chiefs shirt!