Thursday, July 23, 2009

Michelle Obama

This speech by Michelle Obama on her recent trip to England is worth seeing/listening to. Like the First Lady, I have also been surrounded for much of my life by extraordinary women who have taught me about quiet strength and dignity. I include the speech here with them in mind.

July newsletter

The non-seasonal Influenza A (H1N1) virus continues to attract media attention world wide. We had one confirmed mild case of the virus last term and our student has now returned to school. It is timely to remind you of some details of our response to the threat of Influenza A. The school's health and safety committee has amended our Pandemic Plan that was initiated for the bird flu threat. I am the Pandemic Manager for the school. The advice we have received states that 'school closure is not required for a suspected or confirmed case' of the virus. Our absentee rate is averaging at 20% so far. If it exceeds 30% we will instruct the Ministry of Education. It has not reached this level yet.

My plea to students and community is keep following the advice from the ministry of health and ministry of education regarding sanitary practices - wash hands carefully, use tissues for coughs and sneezes (please see advice elsewhere in the newsletter). If students are sick they should stay home until well enough for learning. Some students are coming to school with heavy colds/coughs and this compromises the health of others. The relevant website for you to consult is as it has comprehensive details.

The first week of this term saw the 40th anniversary of the moon landings on the 20th of July. This was a momentous occasion 40 years ago in 1969. I remember listening to the radio broadcast as Neil Armstrong moved down the steps and misquoted the script NASA had given him - "It's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind". I prefer the way Neil said it. It certainly still gets the point across, even if it doesn't make sense.

I referred to this event in my first assembly back from the study break. J F Kennedy said in 1961 that the goal was to reach the moon before the end of 1969, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills". The power of a goal that sparks the imagination is huge, is it not. I would love my students to set big goals for themselves and then set the best of their energies and skills along that pathway.

Communication methods have come a long way since those events in 1969. When Michael Jackson died recently we had every news channel reporting live 24 hours a day, for days and days. In 1969 New Zealand we had to wait months to see television images of the moon landing. Are we better off? Has mankind made a giant leap? That is a moot point, but set those goals, okay?!

We continue this term with our extensive building programme - T block is making excellent progress and should be ready for staff and students to move back into in term 4 and work has begun on the new Teen Parent Unit/Early Childhood Education Centre on the south side of the Stadium.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Social networking 2 - Facebook and my privacy

A confession first of all - I don't read local newspapers, and by local I mean New Zealand. NZ media, generally, is very petty and aimed towards the sensational. I prefer to get my news from The Guardian Weekly - an offshoot of the two U.K. newspapers - The Guardian and The Observer. It's a weekly summary and therefore gives balance and background to international events. Suffice to say, there are never any stories about NZ unless they are of the humorous persuasion. You know the type - sheep stories or...more sheep stories.

By boycotting local news media I am usually able to avoid the petty and sensational. I therefore missed the latest media witch-hunt of a school until a summary turned up in The NZ Interface magazine. It was Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls' turn for the spotlight. Apparently some girls were stood down for some derogatory comments about a teacher on Facebook. This provoked the NZ Herald into righteous indignation and much hand wringing about the school's powers and the girls' privacy and yadda yadda yadda. Not much of a story really. It won't make The Guardian Weekly!

My responses included feeling sorry for Dio, disappointment at the Herald (yet again), wondering what I would have done given that situation, and thinking about my Facebook page. Mainly I thought about my Facebook page.

How secure is it? Can the public access it? Am I, as a school principal, allowed a private life?

More and more I use social networking sites to publish my thoughts and opinions, and keep in contact with my network of friends and family. I have a number of blogs to do this - one of which you're reading now. I am aware that once I put things on the interweb they enter a kind of public domain. This weblog is aimed at my school community but if you look at the map of users, as I do from time to time, the blog is being read by people who have no real idea about me or my school. So it's not very private. So I, clearly, won't be writing derogatory comments about individual people.

While I'm also not making negative comments on my Facebook page and family/friends blogs I do not regard these as part of the public domain. This is naive, I know - my friends' blog is accessed by plenty of people who've never met me. Still...I think I deserve some kind of 'private' life. It just so happens that the media forum I use to keep in touch with my friends also makes it accessible to others. Will this stop me? Well, no, but it does make me self-censor.

A good lesson for those girls at Dio to learn!