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!).