I’m Still Here!

Hi all.

I’ve been quiet of late. As we move into our school production, the number of hours in the day seem to be shrinking.
I also think Hekia Parata’s current strategy of not saying anything to anybody about anything ever is making for less outrage in my thinks.
It appears the world is ever so slowly turning away from the neoliberal hegemony. I have more hope these days.
It’s like paper, rock, scissors. Hope beats anger.
I’m not sure what anger beats – but it’s certainly not the GCSB legislation.
Mr B


Technology Education

As our curriculum narrows ever so slowly and as our children grind out their days spending much of their time in either a maths, reading or writing rotation, this popped up on Radio New Zealand this morning.

Technology teachers say children are arriving at secondary school with fewer practical skills than in the past. They blame the problem on primary schools focussing on reading, writing and maths and parents failing to pass skills on to their children.

I’ve talked about this many times in the past. Many other people have talked about it. That’s what we’ve got. National standards that force us as practitioners to read during reading time or teach multiplication strategies during maths time. As we drive to meet our targets (yes – there are children in my class named after a bullseye), the pressure is on us to focus on only those subjects that are “tested” by the standards.

Why not pick up a set square and teach measurement with a piece of wood while building a tree house?

I would have loved going to that school.

Never mind. Hekia and the National Party doesn’t think anything other than reading, writing and maths are important…

21st Century schools look very different from older schools. They have ‘flexible teaching spaces’ that can be expanded or shrunk depending on need. They have break-out rooms for small groups and they are wired up for the very latest technology.

Part of the current National Party Education Policy

Although that sounds pretty great, the rest of their policy is a nonsense. I don’t really have the heart to tell them that they above was already happening before they were in government. It’s nothing to do with them. Everything to do with current thinking.

Let them try and enthuse our kids with a school consisting of three subjects and try to move them forward into the 21st century.

Bring on the long division with a chalk and slate.

Mr B.


Tech teachers say children lack basic skills – Radio New Zealand, Aug 27, 2013.

21st Century Education – National Party Education Policy, Aug 2013.

Boy’s Education

There was an interesting discussion regarding boys education on the Jim Mora afternoon show on yesterday. It followed the release of the revamped Fairfax Compare Your Child’s School Results to Another School They Will Never Go To website. We can argue whether publishing the NCEA results of students across the country to compare is a valuable exercise in increasing educational outcomes for young New Zealanders (to paraphrase Hekia-jargon), but the findings suggest, yet again, boys are underachieving when compared to girls.

Panelist Neil Miller pointed out that there are many differences between boys and girls. His view was girls are more cooperative and better at explaining reasons behind things while guys were better at calculations, logic, science and maths. He also suggested that you can’t lump everyone in together (as everyone seems to be doing in education)

There was also a suggestion that the idea of achieving highly might be considered nerdy and peer pressure might be a reason boys were flagging it. That is, boys aren’t really bothered by performing academically. As we always said at my school, and during my first stint at university, “C for congratulations.” A pass is a pass.

Why waste your time studying when you can pass with flying colours by doing literally nothing.

Stephen Arnold, AUT Education Lecturer, was the expert brought in to discuss further. Mora asked him about this problem and why it was getting worse. Arnold answered with a great quote:

It’s getting worse because the way we are looking at it is getting more and more extreme. If we want to acknowledge that boys and girls are different why are we using the same tools to measure them. And if we want to say boys and girls are the same then the differences must be due to something else. But if we keep focusing on the same statistics again and again, trying to prove one way or the other that boys and girls are the same, boys and girls are different, then this is why the gap keeps looking like it’s widening.

He had some very interesting points to make. If boys are so disinterested in reading and achieving in this area then you would think that would flow through to employment opportunities for men and actually the reverse is true. Men have all the opportunities despite their underachievement.

He also pointed out that reading is very recent thing in society. If we think back to pre-mass-schooling when the majority of the population were illiterate. Nobody except the clergy, university toffs, the wealthy and politicians had time to learn to read. The rest of us had to get on with pulling coal out of mines or ploughing fields or working the mills or whatever. Reading wasn’t important. Providing for our families was.

Ultimately it’s not that boys are underachieving, it’s that they are achieving differently. And the way we are measuring the achievement is far more literary than it used to be.

As a boy coming into teaching later in life I’ve always thought we work in a very sit down, reading and writing world. It’s the expectation of teachers and parents and media. I, and the boys in my class would prefer doing stuff. I will make it my mission to do this more.

It certainly got me thinking…

Listen to the panel discussion here. This discussion comes in during the second half – about 14 minutes in.


School Report – Stuff.co.nz

Afternoons with Jim Mora – Radio New Zealand

Exciting Times for the Hek

What up!

It’s times like these I thank goodness for Peter Dunne’s hair, Winston’s crazy left brain and the Prime Minister’s constant discrepancies with reality. Nobody’s asked me about national standards, teaching or chartnership schools.

I love being anonymous.

You know, I was talking with some learners the other day and they were all unanimous. We love you Hekia they were saying. We love how you get to the nub of the issue with your no-nonsense style of telling it like it could possibly be given that we don’t have all the information yet.

It was clear to me, and everyone attending this cash handout at a prestigious private school somewhere near central Newmarket, that education is flying high. Never have we been so close to the precipice.

All the learners I was talking to, some of whom had come straight from their school ball after-party, were adamant that their education had been totally fantastic.

A fantastic education is so important to a young and financially secure teen leaders.

As I looked around the room I saw many, many parents following my every stage movement with their surgically enhanced eyes. It was important to me to put their minds at rest.

“At no time ever,” I began, “will your children ever have to work for anything ever.”

As the ovation died down I continued.

“We are at a cusp,” I said, “where we could go one of two ways. Either we have a public education system that is the best in the world – the envy of so many jurisdictions around the western world – or we can have the one that you want.”

Many didn’t know where I was going with this. However it was hard for me to tell whether they were sad, angry, outraged or ecstatic thanks to the prevalence of the Fonterra-supplied Botulinum toxin circulating in the faces of my audience. I carried on.

“As a government we are prepared to pay for everything to do with your boy’s education – teachers, support staff, buildings, lodgings, sports equipment, school trips, iPads, Galaxy tablets, mobile phones, smartphones, late-night Swedish tutors, and officially sanctioned NCEA exam takers. We are not, however, in the business of providing this sort of thing to everybody.”

At that moment a parent of one of the “scholarship / make the school look altruistic” students piped up, “What about all those kids in South Auckland whose parents struggle to put food on the table and clothes on their back because their too busy working several jobs to make sure they can pay their power bill to a government-owned power company?”

I let the laughter run its natural course and as the woman left I started the powerpoint that showed how all the money we used last year for Reading Recovery was being funneled into a new bridge lounge for the head-master and the board.

These are very exciting times in education. Long may the redistribution continue.

Hek x

What About the Legacy?

My father is a retired teacher. Like all teachers he likes to keep himself busy with a range of retirement projects. He sits on the Body Corporate committee for his block of flats. He runs various grandchildren around Christchurch. He also writes the family history.

Every year in January we children get a copy of the family history bound, as it is, in Warehouse Stationary issue plastic binders. On our bookshelf sit several large tomes, all featuring a range of periods of our family story. From the first Fletchers who arrived in New Zealand in the mid-1800s through to my grandfather Dr. George Alexander Chambers. He, among other things, was one of the 14 or so founding pupils of Trinity Grammar School in Sydney (founded by my great-great uncle the Rev. G. A. Chambers) and invented a way to burn warts off using a magnifying glass as he worked in outback Australia and didn’t have access to the liquid nitrogen they used in town.

My father’s legacy will be his family history. When he departs this world I will look to my bookshelves and know the many hundreds of hours he put in to recording the settling of the Fletchers in New Zealand and the Chambers in Australia will make me proud to be his son.

Legacy is a funny thing. It can be subjective. Rev. George A. Chambers of Sydney and his subsequent family (many of whom are still dotted around Australia’s largest city), would have been / are proud to be associated with his legacy. Some have even attended said institution.

What happens with the subjective legacy?

You ask any National Party voter. I’m certain they will be proud of the government led by Jim Bolger and latterly Jenny Shipley which gutted the welfare state, brought in student loans, sold off much of the Housing New Zealand stock etc, etc, etc. There are others of us who remember that time very, very differently.

They were the sorriest excuse for a government New Zealand ever had.

Until now.

Now we have a smiling muppet who lies to us, almost daily, yet seems to be held in high enough regard to get 50% support for his party from the public he so routinely lies to.

Lies are also subjective. One man’s lie is another man’s education policy.

What is going to be the legacy of John Key’s government? Are we going to look back on him in 20 years and think, “you know, that man had his faults, what with his brain-fades and slimy used-car salesman attitude, but shit he was a good prime minister. New Zealand led the world in everything when he left power. So ably supported by Paula Bennett and the far too neutral David Carter! Don’t you dare get me started on Bill English…”

No. In 20 years I think we are going to look back at the last 5 years with a huge sense of sadness and regret. That was the time that New Zealand became broken. Sliced up further and distributed to the 1% by the 0.0000132%*. A time when law changes were made not to benefit New Zealand companies or people, but to benefit a small number of hugely profitable multinational corporations. We will look back and see that the government was willing to offer our laws up to these companies without being prompted in a “look, if you do this for us, we will do this for you” way.

Saddest of all will be the legacy to our education system. The New Zealand Curriculum, envy of the world, will have been ditched in favour of testing for facts. Innovation and 21st Century Learning will have been redefined as the regurgitation of a series of facts during an examination not the applying of knowledge to new situations (you know, like we do in our actual adult work lives). Technically this is not where we are at the present time, but history and experience in other countries tell us that bringing in national standards can only lead us down this backward path.

No. This legacy of this government will be lies, media manipulation, and corruption.

Unless we let it.

Labour has started saying they will repeal various laws (charter schools, GCSB legislation) if they win in 2014. How much of this is visionary thinking and how much of this is pandering to the popular vote I don’t know. What I do know is that despite the undermining of the fabric of New Zealand democracy by the National government, Labour hasn’t managed to break their stranglehold on the electorate. Until there is real vision from them and others on the left, then National will continue to receive half the popular vote (It would be interesting to see how popular National is without John Key as their leader).

Let’s hope the next government we get will be keen on leaving the type of legacy that will be good for the whole of New Zealand and not just a limited number of corporate mates.

Mr B.

* That’s an actual percentage I worked out based on the number of National Party MPs divided by the current population of New Zealand suggesting the National Party are about as representative of New Zealanders as the Khmer Rouge were of Cambodian academics. Because it’s a population clock, the figure will be already out of date, and National will be even less representative of New Zealand than it was when I constructed the above sentence.


Trinity Grammar School website

Trinity Grammar School – Wikipedia

Population Clock – Statistics New Zealand