Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teen Parent Unit and Early Childhood Education

A few weeks ago I went to Masterton's Makoura College to see Wairarapa's Teen Parent Unit (TPU) and Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre with Raewyn Rooney (BOT member) and Tracey Burnell (one of our TPU teachers). Malcolm Harding (Headteacher of our TPU) joined us as well.

Our reason for going there was to see a purpose built facility on school grounds, which is, of course, what we will be aiming to complete in 2009. While there I was most impressed with the efficient way the two co-existed thanks to Rae (TPU) and Wendy (ECE), with the facilities that were opened in 2005, and with the purposeful way the girls were going about their studies. The girls we chatted with were very confident, intelligent, mature young women and it was a pleasure to be in their company (just like 'our' girls).

Our plans for uniting our existing facilities on the school site are taking shape thanks to the dedication of Mrs Rooney and Darryn from the Ministry of Education. Like Wairarapa we will be using Signature Homes' modular designs. Our TPU and ECE will both be positioned on the southern side of the sports stadium and we hope to be in these building before term three, 2009. In the meantime enjoy these snaps from our visit.

The first two are the inside of the teen parents' room (from two different directions)
Basically it's one large room with a kitchen and dining area at one end and computer pod at the the opposite end. The girls have their work stations in the middle of the room. It's new looking, brightly decorated and very welcoming.

The ECE pictures show a fantastic outdoor area for the children. A sandpit and fort were the standouts.

A large deck separates the outdoor play area from inside where the children are in over twos and under twos areas.

The two pictures above are of the over twos area. It was a privilege to visit the centre and talk with the staff there. My thanks to them for being so generous with their time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The interweb

With prize-giving over we have four weeks with the junior students while seniors attend their external examinations. For some years now my own children have gone through this process of exam prep and they are nerve jangling times for students (we sometimes forget how nervous they get and how much it means to them to do their best in testing circumstances). My advice? My mother always reverted to 'deep breathing' advice and it does help. Count to three (in your head) during the breath in then count to three during the breath out. It will relax you!

Recently Barry Bachenheimer wrote a very supportive comment on my prize-giving post. This reminded me about his blog that I follow - 'A Plethora of Technology' (it's on my blog list to the left). For fellow educators - I warmly recommend it. Have a look at the discussion on ADD and ICT sometime - it opens up some interesting questions. Also on my bloglist is The Fischbowl blog - again I recommend a look. It's especially useful for teachers of English (like me). The collection of news cuttings on the Democracy 2.0 post is worth a look.

The web sets up a lot of similar contacts and my last little tip is the New Zealand publication - Interface NZ (link is on the left). I always find some excellent little titbit like or the Guardian's 24 hours in pictures. There are some exellent Web 2.0 links there as well as things for teachers to try. I especially like the magazine because it's not pushy, overly technical or has obscure/difficult to locate sites - when you have limited time to devote to web searches that's all handy.

Incidently those are all the aspects of Web 2.0 that make it such a breath of fresh air for me. I remember setting up a website while teaching at Mount Albert Grammar in Auckland in the late 1990s and it took ages. It was really fiddly to do but doing this blog (and setting it up) is a revelation. It couldn't be easier to do. If you haven't stated a blog already try googling 'blogspot'. There are easy to follow instructions there or else try the Interface magazine link that is on their site. Go to it - you'll love it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Senior Prize-giving 13 November 2008

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.
It is with much pleasure that I present my annual address to the school community at our senior prize-giving.

The early focus this year was on re-establishing our values and vision in the Stratford Way acronym. To refresh your memories:

The S in Stratford stands for Safety (a safe learning environment for all).
T for Team (all moving in the same direction)
R for Respect (for others, for yourself, and for authority)
A for Articulate (use manners – speak and write well)
T for Tradition (we value effort/ excellence/ never give up)
F for Focus (seize the moment)
O for Order (Firm/ Fair and friendly)
R for Restore (make amends – say sorry/ do the right thing)
And finally the Stratford Way is completed by D for Dreams

Having a Dream and following it to its conclusion is a key attribute that I hope all of you can relate to and action throughout your lives. Luckily dreams don’t have to come true by age 20 or 30 or 40 or 50. They can occur long past when you thought they were possible.

You will all no doubt remember the phenomenal feats of Michael Phelps in the Beijing Olympics this year. Phelps won a record 8 gold medals and when asked by a NZ TV crew for his advice to young New Zealanders he said, “Dream big!”

Another famous American -Henry David Thoreau - agrees with him. Thoreau said “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined”.

The SHS slogan ‘Staying local, going far’ has this sentiment at its heart as well. The great thing about all three statements (Dream big, live the life you’ve imagined, go far) is that they are actually all easy to do, they are adaptable and, in the creation stages, they cost nothing . In a year of financial turmoil in the world this is handy thing is it not! As Lyteshar knows dreams do have a cost, however when put into action. But it is a cost that we have to be willing to bare to see them through and I’m not talking about dreams of winning Lotto, each week paying money and trusting in blind chance here.

The dreams I’m alluding to are things like representing your country in sport like Lyteshar Drewery, climbing Mt Everest like Sir Edmund Hilary, touring the world as a dancer like Shanelle Beazely, making it on the world stage like the Flight of the Conchords, being a Y13 leader like James and Maggie, organising Manu Koroero/ Pae Rangitahi in Stratford like whaea Tina, becoming bigger than Elvis like John Lennon, successfully gaining an apprenticehip like Jamie Henderson, or gaining an excellence endorsement in NCEA in the coming external examinations. These are the types of big dreams I’m talking about.

Some of us let great dreams die while others nourish and protect their dreams through bad days, moments of hardship and failure. My plea to you this afternoon, especially the senior students who are saying goodbye to SHS, is to hold on tight to your dreams. Those of a certain age will recall those words from a song by The Electric Light Orchestra. I mention this in passing as I must surely be the first Principal in history, brave enough to quote them in a prize-giving speech.

This afternoon we are celebrating all students at Stratford High School. Some will win cups and certificates but all who come to this school are encouraged to dream big. When you do so you risk failure. Sometimes you don’t succeed and at such times you have to stand firm and find the inner self discipline and resolve to never give up, never surrender. I have a lot of admiration for all of you here today who have stayed in school, and risked something every day. You are the ones willing to take the risk of failure. Those students who give up or who choose not to attend regularly risk nothing. It is easier to do nothing and blame others, than it is to try something and possibly fail.

To the leavers - Be proud of who you are and where you come from. Be proud of who you are and where you are going.

To those who are returning next year. Take up the risks and challenges of success.

As with any end of year prize giving, there are people to thank and farewell. Mrs Buis, Mrs Harris, Mrs Rawlinson will not be returning in 2009. They will be continuing their dreams and doing their tuckshop duty in other schools. Thank you for your much valued contributions to the school and for helping students towards their dreams. My personal thanks to Lesley Harris for patiently helping me with my Year 11 English class. You’re a good egg!

The members of the Parent Teacher Association
and the Board of Trustees give up a lot of time
to attend meetings and functions throughout the year.
I would like to thank each of them, on behalf of the community,
for their dedication and commitment to the school.

Raewyn Rooney, the Chairperson of the Board of trustees decided not to stand as chair this year but remains a much valued Board member. We cannot let her leave the position without expressing our thanks for her work in that role. Our new Board chair, Pete Theron, has had to juggle commuting to Australia in the second half of the year. His dedication to SHS has remained undimmed throughout. I marvel at his capacity for trans Tasman flights and I value his advice and resolve to continuously improve life at SHS for staff and students.

My thanks to the senior management team - Phil, Maria, and Barbara. I can’t think of any of our meetings this year that haven’t contained your collective wisdom, pragmatism, and an awful lot of laughter. It is a privilege to work with you.

Many generous people are behind each one of our many successes this year and the staff’s on-going commitment and good humour
should never be taken for granted. The staff at this school are amazing in their dedication. They work extremely hard and are constantly looking for better ways of doing things in order to ensure all the students can succeed. Our students are fortunate indeed to come to school each day and be served by such a talented team of professionals. To the support staff and the teaching staff, on behalf of the parents and students – thanks and congratulations on an excellent year.

My special thanks goes to the ladies in my life. My office is surrounded by dedicated and extremely fun people. Thank you Diane for your fantastic support, Thank you Suzie for the quips, jokes, and newspaper cuttings whenever Chelsea fluke a win against Arsenal.

Thank you to my daughters Samantha and Jade and to my wife Jacky. You make many sacrifices on my behalf and share my dreams with me. In the words of the great sports agent Dicky Fox:– "Hey I don’t have all the answers. In life to be honest I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life and I wish you my kind of success".

As 2008 draws to a close
I would like to end my speech by wishing seniors good luck for the externals
with a Celtic blessing
and with a wish for everyone to experience peace and joy
during the coming Christmas holiday:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall soft upon your field.
And until we meet again
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November and student farewells

Tēnā koutou katoa -

We have entered the final stages of our academic year with NCEA external examinations being just around the corner. Senior students and families are directed to my blog which contains advice about studying. All senior students should have a firm idea about what they need to do to achieve their potential from senior reports and the Academic Wall. Teaching staff have spent a lot of time and effort on reporting results from the mock exams in term 3 and I urge students to heed the advice that is presented to them. My best wishes go to all students sitting these external examinations. Kia kaha!

Staff changes: At the end of term three we farewelled Mr Coleman (to St Mary’s on promotion), Miss Whitwell (back to Dunedin) and Mrs Newton (to Australia). We also welcomed back Mrs Gordon from her maternity leave. Mrs Constantin has been made a permanent member of the mathematics department following the vacancy left by Mr Rodgers. We will be making an appointment of Head of English at the end of November following the vacancy left by Mrs O’Neill. Leaving us at the end of the year will be Mrs Harris who will move on promotion to Tauranga Boys’ College for 2009. Recently Mrs Buis indicated her move to teach at Devon Intermediate for 2009 and we welcomed Quentin Smith as our new AV technician.

A reminder about uniform for 2009 – the grace period that operated this year ends in December 2008. That means that all students are required to be in the new uniform for 2009. All uniform items (except shoes/sandels) are available at ‘OFF THE CUFF’ on the Broadway. The PTA will also be offering appropriate second hand and some new items during their sales days in the new year. If in any doubt about the suitability of any uniform item families need to check with the school.

My final thought: I really liked the positive messages that Barack Obama used in his campaign for the United States Presidency. His catch-cry, “Yes we can!” needs to be adopted by all of our students in the externals. Can I achieve, “Yes I can!!”

Nā Warren Purdy