E te atua kaha rawa
Tenei te tuku mihi ki a koe
Nga mate, haere, haere, haere atu ra
Te maunga tapu o Taranaki
Mihi mai, karanga mai
Nga manuhiri, nau mai, haere mai
Ki tenei kura tua-rua o Whakaahurangi
Ki te whanau whanui o Whakaahurangi
Tenei te tuku mihi ki a koutou ma
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa
A very warm greeting to you all – The extended family of Stratford High School. My congratulations to all of the worthy recipients of certificates and prizes. You’ve worked with purpose and been rewarded. Well done!
During this term the staff and school reviews the year and looks forward to the next. This morning I’d like to pick one aspect of our busy year and then mention our two focus points for 2009.
Last year at this time I spoke to the then year 9s and 10s about how rapidly the world was changing, most notably in terms of communications technology. You may remember I mentioned that third generation fiber optics carry 10 trillion bits per second down a single strand of fiber which enables 150 million simultaneous phone calls every second.
I liken the progress in technology to the journey made by Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars film 'The Phantom Menace'. They are travelling in Jar Jar Binks’ underwater craft when they are attacked by a large underwater beast which is eaten by an even larger underwater beast which is eaten by an even larger beast and so on. Qui-Gon’s comment that, “there’s always a bigger fish” is relevant to technology – there’s always a newer better faster smaller piece of tech just around the bend.
Never-the-less, this year some of the staff at SHS decided to become more involved in cyberspace. A couple of events prompted me personally to become a blogger. One was a professional development day at NPBHS organised by our E principal Rachel Roberts. During that day I attended a session on Web 2.0 features like weblogging and wikis run by some staff from KatiKati College. The web 2.0 presentation opened my eyes to a number of possibilities. Students could access their teachers from school or home for explanations and question things that had come up from class, they could get extension exercises and links to worthwhile sites. Best of all the students could comment or post their own questions to the teacher.
Unfortunately the NPBHS system could not handle the demands of the day and I could not actually begin my blogging career immediately. Bill McGeoch was another staff member who attended that day and he subsequently led a staff professional development session to our staff. During his presentation he showed us how easy it was to start a blog, how he had added some video from youtube, and again how interactive the process could be. But above all – how easy it was to do. No using complicated fourmulas – web 2.0 technology does it all for you.
Since then other staff have also become dedicated bloggers - Mrs Griessel, the ICT lead teacher, has created her blog – beon2it; Miss Lithgow has established a blog for support staff and admin news, and then there’s me. I began three different blogs, one for my English class, one as Principal, and a personal one for family and friends. To date the Principal site alone has had over 300 visits since I began in August. However for me the most valuable use has been for my class of Year 13 English students. In their lead up to the external exams I was able to suggest some excellent sites to study from, links to NZQA past papers and various helpful hints.
A visit to our reorganised website will give the community links to the blogs I’ve mentioned. I would encourage the community to keep our website bookmarked. It contains daily information about the school, our procedures and events as well as those links and it looks great thanks to one of our AV technicians,Sam Ballantyne.
I’m sure this focus on technology to assist our students with their learning will only increase in 2009. Our main focus points next year will continue to be on two major areas. The new curriculum and Te Maunga Tuu.
If they are not already the years 9 and 10 in front of me will need to become adaptable, quick learners who can embrace new technologies and use their imagination. The key competencies of the new curriculum have this understanding at their heart. The KCs place importance on personal self management which our poutama system also encourages; relating to others; participating and contributing; thinking skills; and using language, symbols and texts. The PPTA and ministry have organised a number of Teacher release days to support us in our adjustments next year.
Also on our agenda for 2009 is Te Maunga Tuu which loosely translated means the uprising of the mountain. This is the name given to an improvement initiative SHS is part of with 6 other Taranaki secondary schools. Our aim being to improve achievement for our Maori students specifically at NCEA level 1. The gap between Maori and non-Maori achievement here is definite and although we have made a lot of progress to close that gap over the last three years – it is still very much there. Te Maunga Tuu therefore, is a professional development project targeting Maori achievement that all seven schools are very keen to start in 2009.
But that’s next year. For today let us bask in the many successes of our Y9 and Y10 students in 2007.
These successes must never be taken for granted. Many generous people are behind each one of them – whether they be school events like house events, a nationally ranked performance in sport or an individual 100% effort at a classroom task.
Staff, students and parents are to be congratulated on an excellent year.
As 2008 draws to a close I would like to end with a wish for everyone to experience peace and joy during the coming Christmas holiday.
Thank you and may the force be with you, always!