Monday, 25 March 2019

Catching the values ...

Values are important. They are our moral code, our guide to how to act when we are not sure how to act. And I'd bet my bottom dollar that every school has a set of values at its heart.

Our Hornby High School values are Commitment, Achievement, Resilience, and Respect, our view of the values that are spelt out in the front of our national curriculum. There is however so much in them that they still require some degree of unpacking. In 2018 I began unpacking resilience and respect with two very simple messages: manaaki and aroha, kindness and love. I rarely miss an opportunity to encourage everyone to use these as their bench marks.

Navigating our way through life is perhaps much like the colossal undertaking that faced Kupe and his crews as they set out to navigate their way across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. Their bravery puts European navigation into an interesting context. These brave Polynesian navigators set out to find the land that the signs suggested was there, navigating by the winds, the tides, the signs of bird and fish life, and the pole star.

Navigating life requires our own pole star, our values. This makes our task as whānau and as kura very important because we are perhaps potentially the most powerful influence son ur rangatahi's ability to find their own set of values. Without those values we are lost.

In schools we look for signs that we may be helping our tamariki to develop those values. We watch the way they behave, I watch for signs of kindness and love amongst them, and we have seen those signs very much in abundance over the time since the awful events in Christchurch. At the memorial last week, older students comforted younger students by putting arms around the shoulders of those younger students as they cried.

This week I was presented with another beautiful sign, when a Year 7 boy came to find me with  a gift. It was this 'drawing' that he had produced.

In case you can't read the yellow lettering at the bottom, it finishes with the words "A school that loves".


Thursday, 21 March 2019

A sombre visit to the memorial wall of flowers

This morning I accompanied a group of our tamariki, and staff, as we visited the 'memorial wall' of flowers at the front of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens this morning

It was an emotional time for us all. The students took a range of flowers, cards, and tributes, which they laid amongst the thousands upon thousands of other tributes. They also took their aroha, their love. The compassion and dignity that our students showed were frankly inspirational. I was proud to stand amongst them. They (we) all stared, mostly watery eyed, at the tributes, at the words, and it was clear to see the simple sorrow with which everyone was overwhelmed. Small groups of student spontaneously broke into waiata, quiet, understated, and from the heart. The nurtured and comforted each other, younger and older students. I can't recall seeing such leadership amongst and by students. Several times I took my phone out to take photographs, and each time I put it away. It was not right to interrupt, to capture, that raw emotion in that way. It deserved the sanctity and peace of the moment.

Young people like these can change the world. Young people like these WIILL change the world. They will (I hope) be uncompromising in their demands for a better world, a world that is more caring, more compassionate, more filled with love and understanding. One Muslim woman walked amongst them, moved by the emotion to offer hugs to students, thanking them for caring. I overheard her tell one of our young people that their actions there, this morning, were important, that they made a difference. It was hard to walk away from that place, silent as it was despite being in the centre of the city.

These experiences show the true values that our children hold, the values of decent people. Those values were there for the whole world to see.

None of us would ever wish for such things to be the stuff of education, but the lessons and the affirmation that I saw this morning left me in tears. As I said earlier, I was proud to stand amongst our amazing rangatahi. As a community we should all be proud to know that we are nurturing such love, compassion, and caring.

Kia tau te mauri

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

On kindness at Hornby High School

In the wake of Friday's dreadful events here in Christchurch, there is much to be said. It will take us a long time as communities and as a nation to say everything that is in our hearts and minds. I wanted toishare with you my message to today's junior assembly.


Ki te kuru te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka - tena koe

‘Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu’
‘Feathers enable the bird to fly’

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

What is Aroha? What is love? What is manaaki? What is kindness? I speak of these things often, and as we think about those awful events of last Friday, I  (along with many others) am saying that the answers lie in love and kindness. But what is love? I’ve just read you one writer's take on it.. Shakespeare's famous sonnet #116.

But English is a confusing language.  In English that one word has many meanings: love between man and woman whether sexual love or not, between man and man, between mother and child, between brother and sister, between fellow soldiers.. The list goes on. In Greek there are at least four, if not six, different words for love. I’m not a Greek scholar so I was unable to critically evaluate the different Google responses to that question.

Yet every single use of the word has something in common: the ability to empathise (to understand another person's feelings), the ability to care, the desire to support, nurture and protect another person. Built into the word love is the value of respect, which is of course one of our four values here at Hornby High School. I defy you to show me an example of love in which respect is not present. Not real love anyway.

You might even like to describe aroha as an absence of hate, although I think love is much much more than that.

What we can say for certain in our current world is that we don’t have enough of it. Back in the 1960s the Beatles wrote/recorded a song titled ‘All you need is love’, and never has that been more true than now.

Listen to this:

Your generation can make a difference. YOU can make a difference.

Already this week we have seen students your age, and younger and older, making a very clear statement, first about climate change, and now about the atrocities, the obscenities, that were the brutal shootings last week.

Your latest minor squabble with the person sitting next to you in class frankly is just so unimportant. The need for more love and kindness, for more aroha and manaaki, in the world is a cause worth fighting for. This is big! Do you want to change the world? If you want to make that positive change in the world, change THIS. BE the change you want to see. Don’t wait, do it now. Show love and kindness, tolerance and acceptance.

Our differences are something worth celebrating, not something to be afraid of. Every one of you is a beautiful person, and you deserve aroha and manaaki. If there is a God in your life, then thank God that we are all different, because our differences give us a richness in life that we would not find any other way. If you have no God in your life, then simply be thankful for our humanity as it gives us the difference, the richness, in which we can bathe. There is no judgement about you for your beliefs. Support each other, be kind to each other. Spread the message of love for our fellow human beings. Please!!!

Just…. be… KIND.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr who said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Robin Sutton

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

The true power of Learn Create Share

Authentic learning is a holy grail of education. What does it mean? What would it look like if it were happening? We have had an extraordinary example at Hornby High School this past week. What's more, this is an example of the true power of our 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy, of the amplification that is possible in the digital age, the 'affordances of the digital technology', of the impact of putting a Chromebook in the hands of learners.

I write recently of the work of Mr Rees and his Year 9 Maths class who decided to look at some of the maths behind sun dials. Mr Rees then put on his technology hat, and has class members making their own sundials. To 'cap it off', these students then proceeded to teach a Year 7 & 8 class what they had learned in one of those magical moments of tuakana teina. The students shared their blogs with the class, and these younger students have since been commenting on those blogs. The engagement is outstanding.

As the sun changes during the course of the day, the shadows change as well, reflecting a change in time

But it hasn't ended there. Members of the class emailed Dr Frank King, global expert on sun dials. They sent him photos of their work, and commentary on what they had learned. On Dr King:

Dr King who is the university bellringer at Cambridge and the keeper of the sundial on Great St Mary’s Church, said those with sundial expertise could design spaceships and power driverless cars - because the mathematical insight is akin to the one used for GPS technology.   
“Whilst we can live without sundials, I’m worried we cannot live without communication satellites and someone needs to have the knowhow to do that,” he said. 
“I don’t think education coming through schools these days is satisfactory to replenish people writing code for communication satellites or driverless cars or the rest of it.”

He replied. A global expert, communicating with Year 9 students.. this is truly outstanding. Here's what he said to them:

Dear Austin, Brielle, Faith, Jhermaine, Michael, Paige, Rykin, Shawn, Sophie and anyone I have missed out,
Thank you very much for the most interesting photographs and blogs about sundials.  You have all learnt lots about sundials. Perhaps, one day you will make some other designs that other people can enjoy.

I attach a photograph of a sundial that I designed for someone in Saudi Arabia.  

Can you see that the numbers go round the 'wrong' way for New Zealand?  Why do you think that is?

Very best wishes
Frank King
Chairman, British Sundial Society

This is authentic learning. This is an authentic audience. Mr Rees tells us the class is working on a response to Dr King. This is creative excellence in the teacher's design of the learning, creative excellence in the students risk taking, their application of 'Learn Create Share', and their engagement with community. And it is another wonderful illustration of the impact of the Manaiakalani pedagogy and the use of Chromebooks on learners.

This is one view of what authentic learning can look like. It is yet another view of what 'Learn Create Share' looks like, and it is certainly a view of what 'creative excellence' could look like.

Ka mau te wehi
Robin Sutton