Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New MTB!


I finally bit the bullet and bought a new MTB from Hedley. I got a Giant Anthem X2 and it looks pretty sharp. This morning Lea, her brother Danny, the Boss and Kurt and I went along Valley Station Rd with the plan to come back up the Mangakirikiri.

I felt really comfortable on the Giant. It climbed very well and it is a comfortable ride - once I get used to turning the shocks back on again!

When we got to the Mangakirikiri Kurt discovered he didn't have his sunglasses and he last remembered tucking them into his shirt before the big climb to Valley Station. Since it was his birthday I offered to go back the way we came with him while the others enjoyed a nice ride up the stream. This involved a 20 minute walk back up the track to the top of the little sisters and then a more pleasant ride along the top. We had a good idea they would be lying in the grass somewhere near he had a good fall and sure enough I spotted them in the grass.

We then charged down Valley Station and hurtled down the road towards the skid site almost colliding with the others coming back up to look for us. Kurt was a bit behind me so was chasing hard down the hill when he lost control, leapt over his handlebars, catching his foot on them, landing on his head and seeing his bike hurtle on by itself. Most of this was viewed by the boss who couldn't believe seeing an unmanned mtb heading through the trees!

What a great birthday treat for Kurt!


It was quite a slog home into a stiff wind but we had coffee, the Boss' homemade Xmas mince pies and Lea's Mud cake to dine on.

Danny biked strongly and technically very well, but it was good to see him stuffed at the end. He's certainly got those Vellenoweth calves!


The one drawback with the Giant is that it is a pain to clean as it has this complicated set of pivots and arms for the rear suspension.

I've been feeling great about last night's summer cycle race as we were caught early by the scratch bunch, but I was able to stay with them until hospital hill and was able to break from the rest of my group. I expected a fast time but was disappointed to have done 23.04, which is my fastest yet, but only by 2 seconds. That 23 min barrier is proving hard to break and I am not sure how I can go any faster!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Time for a new MTB?


It was Lea's idea to do a Boxing Day ride in the Blue Mountains to justify her huge servings of Xmas pud. So I set the alarm for 6.30 and the Boss and Lea turned up for coffee and we headed to Vallet Stn Rd for a pleasurable, enjoyable ride.

All was going well until the top point of Valley Station when a windfall tree's branch hooked my chain and snapped off my rear derailleur! We expertly broke the chain and relinked the Kona as a single speed and I headed back while the other two carried on to the Mangakirikiri. However, I was so enjoying the single speed sexperience that I turned left at the creek to meet them coming up stream. I had a great time hurtling down the track, getting some air and coping with the windfall.

When I met them I noticed the chain was super tight and the pedals could hardly go around. After some tutuing we were off again, but by the time I got to Gaskill's Bridge I could hardly pedal again.

William Ellis stopped in his truck and delivered me to the bottom of Tirohanga Road so at least I could ride the last kilometre, but the strain of gettin up Hanaia Rd was too much for the chain so it snapped!

Is it time to give in?

Xmas Day



The fun syarted on Xmas Eve when Lucy and I conducted a great secret manouver to liberate a Xmas Tree to our lounge. A couple of bevvies for Dutch Courage and the complete action took less than a minute from stopping the car, leaping out, cutting the manacles and liberating it to the back of the car before speeding off with high fives!

You can see it in the photo with an awesome santa at the top.

The actual day was spent with Leigh, Lucy and Thomas, MumnDad, Janine and Emma and Adrian S who joined the Abraham Whanau. Pete and Lea and Maia dropped in for a drink and we all drank fine champers. gewurts, temparillo and cabernet sauvignon, threw the frisbee and had mussels off the BBQ and ham and chicken and spuds and Xmas pud. We had a great, relaxing stress free day and I was asleep by 7.30pm!

Lucy got me the Chris Knox tribute, Stroke, which I really wanted and Leigh bought me a trilogy of some dead guy's only novels which are hugely thick and will take months to read. I think she wanted them for herself.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Xmas MTB


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Eventhough the ride was a bit more subdued than last year's (fortunately) it was still a great ride and a great time in the pub. And to top it off we had the annual semi-serious injury. This photo shows the gash to Ben's leg which required 5 stitches.

Most of the ride was heading south up the Waioweka river bed with 5 river crossings and a lot of bone jiggling time riding over the rocky river bed.

The highlight of the ride was the awesome swimming hole where we escaped from the heat of the day. The young bucks tried to outdo each other on the swing until Old Man Dennis showed them how to do it.

Heading home down hospital hill we were met with the high pressure hose from the fire engine. Somehow I knew there was going to be some skullduggery and escaped a major wetting.

Photos here.

The feed and beers at Craig's bar were great but because Leigh was hungover from the night before we headed home before getting caught up in the mayhem later in the night. Mark may have had a technicolour yawn in Kim's car and George would have woken up very thirsty.

Middle-aged Lea, who pulled out after one lap last Tuesday, didn't make Thursday's MTB at Te Waiti and missed the Xmas ride, Dennis, who made the Xmas booze up despite it being his 25th wedding anniversary, Brian, who really joined in on the festivities and myself met at the Waioweka Bridge this morning and had a great two hour ride around Paerata and Ohiwa followed up with coffee, cake and biscuits at Dennis'.

Holidays are great!

Te Waiti Pre Xmas


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
It's been a while but it is time to blog again. I've got heaps to post about but I'll start with the pre Xmas MTB ride up Te Waiti followed by BBQ and beers.

This track is in great condition and is one of the best single track rides in the district. And to finish off with some snags and beers was great.

Just a sit was getting a bit rowdy a young couple in a camper van drove down to the boulders and joined us. I think they thought they were going to a quiet secluded spot but came across a bunch of hillbillies and escapees.

Click here to see a few photos.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Swimming down the Mangakirikiri

After a hard night out fundraising for the school multi-sport team Lea, Boss and Teleri headed off with me from Hanaia to bike down the Mangakirikiri and out the Pakihi. This was the first time for me on a MTB for a few months and Lea was a bit hungover!

I have never taken on the 40+ creek crossing with it so deep or swift so it was outstandingly good fun. The Boss and I tried every crossing and some twice to nail them and we got most of them. The Boss' highlight was face plant over his handle bars into a deep pool emerging with his glasses still on. Some unkind people did a lot of laughing.

Teleri, to her credit, listened to my creek crossing coaching and was soon nailing most of them, but shortly after telling her it wouldn't hurt if she tumbled into a creek she promptly did so and landed on a rock and hurt herself. I told her if she had gone faster she wouldn't have fallen off.

Lea was pretty useless and talked herself out of most of them but did impress with one dive into a creek and another dive onto the hard ground.

We were all looking forward to the final hole which Sam O'Dwyer dived into last year (see NZMTB mag for photo). Not only was it deep it was very swift with an electric fence going across it just about where you would surface if you fell off and were swept doen stream. I was the only one who tried to ride across (twice!) and Boss and Lea kindly stood where the fence was to resecue me if I was swept towards it. I was ultimately unsuccessful but had great fun being swept off the bike.

It was a hard ride back to Opotiki into a strong headwind with Lea doing a lot of the work and then a mad dash from Opotiki to Hanaia with Teleri leading the charge all of the way home.

Even them we couldn't rest as Teleri interviewed us for one of her papers. Apparently we area sub culture and Andrew and I had to answer questions about why we did these sort of things, what people thought of us etc. If anyone has answers to these questions please put in the Comment area as I lie awake at night worrying about these sorts of questions!!

Great to be back in the saddle on one of our many great tracks! It was fun and sociable! Go the SOBs

College Third at Secondary School Relay

On Saturday two teams travelled to this relay in Rotorua where teams tried to do as many laps as they could in three hours. Our senior mixed team of Gareth, Kurt and Lucy completed 11 laps and finished third behing Fielding and Trident. We did note that the female member in the Trident team only did one lap while lucy did three!

Gareth set the fastest time for the team of 15.36 with Kurt churning his out in 16-17 minutes and Lucy in 20-21.

The junior boys team of Kyle, Jared and Podge biked well with Kyle doing laps in 19-20minutes, Jared in about 20-21 ansd Podge in about 23.

It was a great day and more photos can be viewed here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Motu Challenge 2009 - a real challenge!

Race winner, Richard Ussher described the conditions as most probably the toughest he has ever raced in. There were strong winds on both bike legs (head wind all the way on MTB and strong head wind to Matawai and strong side gusts from there, but also a lot of tail wind) and the strong gusts from behind and from the sides in the river tipped quite a few kayaks. There was cold rain at Motu, lots of slippery mud underfoot in the bush run, snow falling at the top of Traffords and a Waioweka River which was pumping at about 2.3 metres. In other words, conditions were perfect!!! If it was meant to be easy, everyone could do it!

Highlights were:
Barry forgetting his transponder and having to break a window at home to get it to just make the start.
Shane joining the hard man's club by completing his first Motu solo (Club membership includes myself, Hedley, Kurtis, Mad dog Scotty, Trevor/Terry and Legend Lea). If any one else feels they are entitled to membership let me know by commenting on the post.
Not falling out in the kayak!
All three Abraham whanau leaving nothing in the bank.
All three Taylor whanau with a whangaied Teleri leaving nothing in the bank.
Awesome first time paddle by College student Brooke (only 2nd time he had been in a kayak).
Lea's gutsy performance to get through a grueling run to finish strongly in just under 10 1/2 hours.
Relaxing with the Teddy's and others at Hunter's later in the evening.

The MTBers found the strong and cold head wind all of the way to Motu very challenging with many riders going slower than their normal training rides. The battle between Kids vs Parents and Parents vs Kids began immediately. Teleri (for the Kids) biked strongly for 3.39.22 and handed over to Amber for the run. In the meantime Sherpa Boss came in for the parents in 3.52.49 and handed on to me. Lea had come in at 3.27 13 and after a rapid transition headed off first.

I knew Lea was struggling when I caught her in the bush with well over 45 minutes to go. I was disappointed not to get Amber in my sights but found the muddy conditions in the bush difficult to deal with and despite finishing strongly over the last few ks never saw her. I was disappointed with my 1.32.58 as I did 1.29 in training a few weeks ago. Amber did 1.40.18 and handed over to Lucy who took off into the head wind about 6 minutes in front of her Mum, Leigh. In the meantime Lea came in after 2.16.17.

The wind was brutal to Matawai and sucked the strength out of those biking by themselves. Lucy was fortunate to get on the back of another bloke and they shared the work to part way up Trafford's. Just before the hill we came across a very cold Hedley who was attempting his second solo but was forced to withdraw bordering on hypothermia. While waiting at the top for Lucy and Leigh the snow began to fall! Both hurtled down to Oponae with a strong tail wind with Lucy clocking a great 2.04.36 in tough conditions to hand over to Nicole while Leigh finished in 2.13 23 after riding strongly and determinedly. Both had broken 2 hours in training two weeks prior but the head wind to Matawai took it out of everyone.

I was now in a forlorn chase of Nicole in the river and I had forgotten my drink bladder! Lea, meanwhile, finished the ride in 2.01.11 to hit the river not too far behind. I must admit when I saw Ted's car I was a bit nervous.

The paddle was out of this world. The river was really pumping and the pressure waves were huge. It really boosted my confidence to get through the top rapids while passing some swimmers. Unfortunately I came across Destry who had had a few spills. He seemed in good spirits but he had a few more and was pulled from the race at the gravel pit because he had turned blue.

The wind was the biggest threat on the river with the gusts being so strong I had to brace for long periods of time and get pushed along until it subsided. I came closest to tipping in one strong gust. One kayaker in front of me was tipped by the wind and there were stories of this happening to many others. A helicopter had to be called in to rescue one person trapped on the wrong side of the river.

My near death experience occurred in the rapids above the didymo signs. I was abit confused because the river was so high and I couldn't see all of the normal rocks. I ended up going right over the largest rock in the river, dropping a metre on the other side and then stopping in the backwash with huge pressure waves. My life flashed before my eyes as there was no one else around and I knew if I tipped there I would be trapped in the hole with little chance of getting out. A combination of sheer panic, maniacal paddling, loud swearing and tightening my sphincter I managed to pop out and keep going while yelling at the top of my voice with relief!

I did my first sub 2 hour paddle (1 55) and rode and ran like a maniac to the finish in 2.34.03. Nicole did the leg in 2.28.01 to bring the Kids vs Parents home in 9.52.50 to win the 4 person female category and $1000. The Parents vs Kids finished in 10.13.14. The College team of Gareth, Jared, Kyle and Brooke finished in 10.03.16 with Gareth continuing on to complete the Motu 160 and be the first local home.

Lea completed a strong day with a final leg of 2.43.16 to finish in her best solo time of 10.27.58 (only 10 minutes behind my best!!!).

There are lots of other neat stories from everyone else but they will have to tell them. A huge thanks to Jarrod and Rosalie and team who keep putting the event together.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swimming in The Willows

Today I picked up Nicole from Lea's and we drove up to Motu with our kayaks in tow. It was pretty horrible weather but the river looked good - quite fast but clear.

After waiting for half an hour we were about to unhook the trailer and go and look for our cyclists but soon the muddly, bedraggled crew came in; Lea, followed by Barry, another bloke who couldn't find the car keys left by his dad, John, for about 15 minutes, Teleri then the boss.

Barry jumped on his road bike and started the ride home. The Boss, Lea, Nicole and I headed to Matawai where the boss and I had the standard fried sausage and coffee and we heded off to Oponae giving Barry some much needed encouragement.

Just before Nicole, Lea and I started our paddle Hedley and Shane turned up as well. I felt strong and paddled hard through the rapids and felt much more confident. Both Lea and Nicole headed up stream a couple of times and Lea took one dead end.

However, i was the only one to take a swim. I got caught amongst the willows just below the cottages and ended up tipping and taking a swim. It was good to get it out of the way!

Hope to get a couple of runs in this week and do both legs next weekend!

Kapa Haka Success

On Saturday Opotiki College Kapa Haka group Kura Ki Uta performed at the Mataatua Secondary School competitions. Our performance was very strong and moving, but we were quite nervous about how they would score.

When the results were announced we were third in whaikorero, first in kakahu, first in Te Manukura Wahine (go Hana!), second in Te Manukura Tane (go Raha!), third in Waiata Tira, second in original composition, third in Te Reo, first in discipline, first in whakaeke, first in moteatea, second in poi, second in waiata-a-ringa, second in haka and third in whakawatea.

Te Whanau-a-Apanui were third overall, Whakatane High School were second AND WE WON!!!!!!!!

This was a huge achievement and follows our awesome 3rd place in the NZ co-ed schools rugby tournament last weekend.

Well done KKU!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Motu Training

A large group took part in a wide range of Motu training options today. Barry and a group left from the Waiaua Church and MTBed to the top of Whitikau and back. Hedley drove Karl's car to Motu, ran the track and then road home via the gorge. As well, a large group of us met at the College. The Boss, Lea, Jarrod, Dennis, Gareth, Destry, Brian, Karl and Mike left on their MTBs and picked up Dick at Tirohanga. John and Dan, Destry and I drove up the gorge to Motu where Destry and I ran the track while John and Dan waited for Colin who was driving up and rode back to town.

I found the run quite a struggle as was longest run for me since last Motu. 1 hr 36 was a good time for me but I struggled over the last 4-5 ks while Destry finished well in about 1hr 32.

Not too long after our finish Jarred came storming in followed shortly later by Dennis and Gareth, then Lea and Karl and the others in forgotten order. In the meantime Jim arrived, promptly did a U Turn and rode back to Opotiki without a pause or a hello. Karl leapt in his car and went to catch up with Hedley

Mike jumped in John's car and drove off after them, Jarred, Lea, Dennis, Gareth and Destry headed off on their road bikes, Brian drove Destry's truck with Dick on board, Andrew took Colin's car and I took the laden Hyundai and we headed to Matawai for fried sausages and coffee where we met Trev who had driven up to see if anyone needed a hand. Unfortunately there was only one sausage but I got it!

We then took off after our cyclists. We came across Gareth with a totally empty tank on te Wairata Hill and waited for everyone at Oponae. Jarred flew straight on, Gareth bailed and jumped in the Hyundai, and Dennis, Lea and Destry headed for home.

Jarred, Lea, Destry and Dennis completed a total of 100 miles! It was a bloody long day for a 96 minute run. Check the photos.Can't wait for next weekend.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Motu Training Steps Up

Last week 13 of us headed up the Motu Rd for a gruelling mtb ride. 12 left from Hanaia and we picked up Karl en route. Kerr, Barry, Jared, the Boss, Tred, Lea, Dennis, Brett, Destry, Kurt, Brian and myself were the original 12 who downed good coffee before biking off into the cold. We experienced the biggest frost any of us had seen. As we were climbing the last 100m up the Meremere we had ice falling out of the trees and landing on top of us and the fence wires were frozen. From there on we were cycling on a thin layer of ice over the clay. Those of us with booties and full finger gloves were happy.

Kerr turned around at the top of the Meremere and Kurt and I turned around at the base of the Papamoa while the others climbed to the top where they met Teleri and Hilton who had biked through from Motu.

It was great to gather back at Hanaia in the sun and drink more coffee and eat the muffins Patty had brought along with Lea's fruit cake.

It was a great weekend's training as Lea and I had paddled the bottom section of the Waioweka on the day before. It was the first time on the river in my Arrow Waka and I was a bit nervous. Apart from getting caught in the willows and losing my paddle for a while there were no major issues and I was able to keep dry despite a couple of hairy moments.

Tomorrow we have a big adventure with some mtbing to Motu, others running the track, some road cycling home and maybe some cycling right round - a logistical nightmare but we should have fun in the torrential rain.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Latest Learning Matters

Last week I had the privilege of leading a full staff development day for the teachers and teacher-aides at Wairoa College. Wairoa College and Wairoa itself have a lot of similarties with Opotiki College and Opotiki.

The obvious similarities are the low socio-economic status and high percentage of Maori in the community and on the roll. However, there were some other strong similarities. The young people I met were open, friendly, inquisitive, cheeky but respectful and hospitable. This is also how most people find our students.

The teachers and the teacher-aides were passionate about their work and, like our staff, keen to explore whatever they could to provide even better educational outcomes for their young people.

As we do, they certainly have some challenging situations to deal with with some of their young people and a small group on their staff are resistant to change. This would certainly be the case in most schools.

Like us they are spending a lot of time discussing how best to engage their young people so that they have success at school. This involves exploring innovative ways, such as restorative practices, to manage difficult behaviour and investigating more relevant and engaging curriculum models.

The last of these is certainly the focus of Opotiki College at the moment. Restorative practices are firmly embedded in our school, but we still have work to do in developing an appropriate curriculum for the 21st Century.

Currently the Aspiring Leaders Group at Opotiki College are working on an investigation into what is an effective teaching approach which will meet the needs of our students. The work they have completed to date is exciting and will form the basis of the teaching approach which will be practiced at our school.

At the same time we are developing our thinking around the junior curriculum for our school. Our work has been influenced by our experiences with our recent Three Day Wananga and with our pilot programme with a home-roomed Year 9 class with an integrated curriculum approach. The work has also been influenced by the research we have read and the exploration that was done by myself on my sabbatical last year and visits to Vancouver and Singapore this year.

We appear to be moving towards an approach which has a common theme for all junior classes across the school for each school term with the teachers of each class meeting fortnightly to plan collaboratively around the theme, discuss appropriate teaching strategies for that particular group, share assessment data and discuss class and group progress.

At the same time clear learning targets will be developed for each class based on a sound assessment of where each student is beginning from. Working in the collaborative Learning Teams teachers will work together to enable students to attain their learning goals.

These are only the first steps towards our ultimate goal of having students carry out their learning in authentic contexts, researching real issues in teams and presenting real solutions to real audiences.

This is exciting learning for our staff and learning matters.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Curriculum Planning

Go the relevant page of my wiki on Development Plans for Opotiki College (see sidebar or clicking on the post title will take you directly to the page) to see my latest plans for our Junior Curriculum at Opotiki College. I have attempted to take the best out of our Pilot Home Roomed Class idea, our three day wananga experience, the work of our Aspiring Leaders Group, my sabbatical, research I have been reading, and the posts on Bruce Hammond's Blog and match this with school structures and staff capacity and come up with something that moves us along and is doable.

You will see it is centred around the formation of learning teams for each junior form class which all concentrate on one common theme per term and there is a lot of collaborative planning, discussion of strategies and the sharing of assessment data along with the formation of clear learning goals and targets for each class based on establishing the 'where at' position for the whole class and individuals.

I would appreciate feedback both on the blog and especially on the wiki.

Learning Matters

30 July 2009

Over the holidays I had the opportunity to attend the International Confederation of Principals Conference in Singapore. It proved to be the most inspiring and thought-provoking conference that I believe I have ever attended with 1500 school principals from around the world in attendance.

The highlight of the first day was the 60 minute opening address by the Prime Minister who outlined the Singaporean education journey and its strategy for the future. His catch cry is “Teach less, learn more.” He was outstanding and exhibited the type of leadership from the top for education which this country lacks.

They have had a clear strategy which has included big pay rises for teachers in return for performance-based pay and class sizes of 40 students. They have now moved to reduce that to 30. They have also ensured a strong base of support to schools from the central agency. Schools are also very well resourced. There was no talk at all of recession which seems to be the focus of any conversation in NZ from the government. Educational spending is rising by 5.5% this year!

There was followed an excellent keynote from Sir Dexter Hutt (a knighthood for services to education!) who addressed the issue of 21st Century Leadership. He re-emphasised that we don't know what the best model is for a school of the 21st Century other than that it should be positioned to cope with change and that the curriculum should provide regular opportunities for students to research, work in teams and present to an audience. He also claimed that the most important qualities to develop in young people to prepare them for the future are self-confidence and self-esteem.

The opening address on the second was by Andy Hargreaves who mapped out his view of the Fourth Way that education and schooling was entering. This requires principals to have an impossible dream for their school, to actively seek public engagement, to involve students as partners in change and to deliver mindful learning and teaching. He outlined the three principles of professionalism which were high quality teachers, powerful professionalism and lively learning communities.

The next speaker was Michael Furdyk who is a co-founder of TakingITGlobal.com which is a youth generated website which allows young people to actively contribute to changing the world. He has just turned 27 and his address was inspirational. His goal is to make caring cool. His website and opportunities to contribute and design could easily be the basis for a full school curriculum.

The last day of the conference was opened by Professor Kishore Mahbubani who gave an Asian perspective of the world, both its past and future. He commented on the growth of China and India and his surprise when western commentators expressed surprise at this growth. His view is that Asia has been the dominant power in the world for almost all of the world's history and that it has only been the last 200 years that the west has had dominance. The world is merely returning to its natural state.

He identified 3 paradoxes. The first is that the globalisation of western education has contributed to the decline in western dominance in the world. The second is that this means that non-western elements now need to be included in the curriculum. The third is that at a time when the rest of the world is opening up the west is becoming more closed.

His suggestions were to continue the globalisation of western education as this has contributed to the growth and development of critical thinking and to a reduction in poverty, to introduce non-western elements into the western curriculum so that the west can begin to understand different cultures and that students can understand the inter-connectedness of the world, and that there has to be a two-way street of ideas between the west and east because both world views are valid.

His analogy is that the world used to be like 192 different boats (countries) floating on the sea and that we merely needed rules to prevent them colliding. Now we have 192 different cabins on the same boat with no captain or crew, but most are just worrying about their own cabin. His question to us is to imagine the limitations when the education system only teaches about its own cabin!

He got a standing ovation from the 1500 present.

The second speaker was Professor David Perkins whose topic was educating for the unknown. His big question was what is worth learning. He proposed a checklist of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Responsibility. If material did not empower people to take action and to contribute, if it did not enlighten people or did not enhance a person's sense of responsibility then it was most probably not worth learning.

His little poem was:

Taught a lot but matters not
Not taught but matters a lot.

He talked of a concept of 'flexpertise' which required one to have an understanding of the wide scope of disciplines, to concentrate on ways of knowing (thinking skills), to develop ethical understaandings (empathy, spirituality, equity), to develop personal and societal understandings (leadership, collaboration) and to include horizon themes (current important themes).

We need to reduce what is in the curriculum using his 3 criteria of empowerment, enlightenment and responsibility. His suggestion is to pick the richest topics first, work in some of the others, just touch on some and then drop some!

This conference was all about learning and learning matters.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On The Way Home Thoughts

Now sitting on the plane from Penang to Singapore. After a final fish spa at Batu Ferringhi and a couple more shirts for Leigh we checked out of our hotel, put ours bags in store and spent the last hour in and around the pool before using their great showers and waiting for our transfer to the airport.

He arrived on time at 2.30 and we headed to the next hotel to pick up 2 guests. We waited for them for 35 minutes as they had gone off for walk. We then had a mad dash to the airport through heavy traffic. It took us an hour when normally 40 minutes. I was a bit worried as we had already left 35 minutes late. However, we arrived at the airport an hour before departure and check in went smoothly.

I am now sitting across the aisle from a Chinese man who is doing what they seem to do best – sniffing great lumps of mucous continually. There's only about an hour to go so will try to block him out. Oops, there he goes again!!!!

While the last 5 days have been holiday I have enjoyed having a bit of time (when Lucy lets me relax!) thinking about how to tie together the best stuff from the Restorative Conference in Vancouver and the best stuff from the ICP conference in Singapore. I am close to pulling it all together for our TOD on the last day of this term.

I have been invited to run a staff workshop at Wairoa College on the Friday of the second week of term and will aim to trial some of the stuff there and use them as guinea pigs! I am thinking of entitling it Leading Restoratively as I think it is time to develop all staff as leaders in this area rather than them relying on others to lead for them. I reckon we are at that point and with the leadership of our Aspiring Leaders Group we should be able to move our people to the point that the natural response is one of respectful conversation at all times no matter the provocation.

I am firmly of the view that in an adult-student situation only one party has the ability to escalate or de-escalate the conflict and that is the adult. This was reinforced both by the Kaikoura boys in Vancouver wirth their presentation and at the IPC and the American wahine's presentation.

We are now sitting at the departure gate in Singapore for the final 10 hour haul home, which will be followed by a five hour drive to Opotiki. Yeehah!!!

Curry Puffs For Lunch


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
This photo shows the woman cooking our daily lunch of curry puffs. She lives in the residential flats next door and cooks and sells only curry puffs every day. She was there last year when we visited and she provided our lunch then as well.

We are now back at home. It was quite a long haul from Penang to Opotiki. The flight from Singapore seemed to be long as i had trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep. Did mange to read the complete book 'Outliers' by the Caldwell dude (The Tipping Point) which is an excellent read on what determines success.

We picked our car up OK and managed to drive home from Auckland without falling asleep. Mum was waiting for us with dinner all cooked which was great. I have just woken up after 13 hours sleep but still feel discombobulated (a great word). I will need to spend most of the next three days at school mainly dealing with emails and whatever else is on my desk so i am half ready for work on Monday.

Had a great time and no complaints from me. Looking forward to getting fit again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Our Waitress at Long Beach Food Court


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Every night in Penang we dined at the same food court - Long Beach and were seated and served by our waitress Ti who looked after us each night.

We have 2 hours before we check out, then spend an hour at the pool then catch our ride to penang airport before we start our flights home.

Last night I ate some of the hottest chillis I have had for a while. They brought on the famous Abraham chilli hiccoughs!

We bought a few final items from the hawkers on the way back and took some photos of the hawker scene which can see from the link in the previous post.

We are about to head off for a final fish spa, final shopping!!!! and final curry puffs for lunch.

The other night when I raced home early as the curries were efficiently making their way through my system I was propositioned by a prostitute hanging out in the garden near the entrance of our hotel!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wrestling with snakes in Penang


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Here's the evidence along with more photos from Penang. This link will take you to the full set with the last 12 being added since the last post.

Today is our last full day on holiday as we start coming home tomorrow. We started quite late as we slept in after another great feed of spring rolls and murtabak and chapatis and curry and noodles and veges at our favourite food court. We spend $11NZ a night on drinks and about $10-$15nz a night on food. Outstanding!

Today started with Lucy and I paragliding. We were talked into it by Joe, a clone of Rex, who worked hard to get our custom. It was cool, but more like 5 mins thn 15 mins. He dipped us in the water after take off and lucy got a jelly fish sting which we didn't discover until later. The instructions were unclear, the equipment looked suss but we hae a great flight and landed elegantly in the sand.

After that while Lucy and Leigh headed home I ordered our standard 20 curry puffs from our favourite stall holder and walked home via Uplands International School to take photos of where my next job will be!

Since then it has been lazing by and in the pool on the hottest day so far. Leigh and Lucy went to pick up Lucy's tailored Ball Dress which looks great.

I'm now supping on an Ecstacy Hour (more than happy hour!) beer and generally relaxing surrounded by both skimpy bikinis and women in full burqua!

Heading home tomorow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feasting in Penang


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Here's Leigh and Lucy at the food court we dine at each night. Last night we had satay and sizzling prawns!

Today was a full-on day as we went on an island tour. We started by visiting a batik factory where we bought some stuff. We then climbed into the hills and visited a fruit stall where we bought some fruit and nutmeg oil.

The highlight was visiting the snake temple which I visited in 1983 and when I was too scared to hold a snake. This time Lucy and I had a boa and viper around our necks!

After there we visited a flash manufacturing jewellers which was way out of our league. We then visited a Penang chocolate outlet and bought some curry and some chilli chocolate. From there we went to a coffee outlet, sampled a range of Penang coffees and bought some espresso.

Our final stop was a pewter factory which had some neat stuff and we bought some of it!

A few hours were needed recovering by the pool.

Check out the photos.

On The Beach at Penang


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Today's weather was better. We had a swim early on then went down the road to buy some gifts for Lucy's friends and my head students. Once again we had curry puffs for lunch and then walked back along the beach fighting off water sports touts - will most probably do paraglide on Tuesday. Drank coconut milk from a coconut on the beach on the way.

Lucy and I had a game of tennis then after a couple of beers beside the pool are now leaving to head out for dinner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fish Spa Treatment


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

Service at Penang Airport


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

Raffles Hotel Long Bar


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

Our Singapore Hotel Foyer


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

Lucy swimming with the fish


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

On The Beach at Sentosa


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

Fish Spa!


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz

The Food!


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Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
The food is the highlight of any trip to this part of the world. Here's Leigh and Lucy tucking into a curry at Little India in Singapore. The full set of photos of the trip to date are here.

We are in our first full day in Penang and there has been heavy rain. We had a neat feed of spring rolls, murtabak, chicken and rice and chicken and chapatis at the local hawker site last night.

The highlight of today was attending the fish spa where you dangle your feet and hands in the water and nimble fish come along and eat all your dead skin cells. Most of them hung around me! It was a difficult sensation to get used to, but once you did it was real cool.

I had to sprint back to the hotel as the various curries were making their way through my system. Leigh and Lucy stopped at a tailors and Lucy got measured up for a ball dress.

We're about to head down for a swim and laze by the pool since the rain has stopped.

End of Conference

I was really knackered after a full-on conference day but we jumped into a taxi and headed out to the zoo for the Night Safari. We began by watching a cheesy Creatures of The Night show with otters, a boa constrictor, hyenas and some cat-like things. We then jumped on the tram for the tour through the Himalyas, Africa and Asian Rainforests we got great close-uos of hippos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, deers, tigers, lions and other possumy, wombatty things. Half way around we got off and walked trails to look at leopards, flying squirrels, otters and bats. Lucy now has a morbid fear of bats after getting up close to a real squawker.

We eventually got home at 11.00pm having had no tea, but too tired to care.

Today was the last day of the conference and it started very strongly. Professor Kishore Mahbubani gave an Asian perspective of the world, both its past and future. He commented on the growth of China and India in particular and his surprise when western commentators expressed surprise. His view is that Asia has been the dominant power in the world for almost all of the world's history and that it has only been the last 200 years that the west has had dominance. The world is merely returning to its natural state.

He identified 3 paradoxes. The first is that the globalisation of western education has contributed to the decline in western dominance in the world. The second is that this means that non-western elements now need to be included in the curriculum. The third is that at a time when the rest of the world is opening up the west is becoming more closed.

His suggestions were to continue the globalisation of western education as this has contributed to the growth and development of critical thinking and to a reduction in poverty, to introduce non-western elements into the western curriculum so that the west can begin to understand different cultures and that students can understand the inter-connectedness of the world, and that ther has to be a two-wat street of ideas between the west and east because both world views are valid.

His analogy is that the world use to be like 192 different boats (countries) floating on the sea and that we merely needed rules to prevent them colliding. Now we have 192 different cabins on the same boat with no captain or crew, but most are just worrying about their own cabin. His question to us is to imagine the limitations when the education system only teaches about its own cabin!

He got a standing ovation from the 1500 present.

The second speaker was Professor David Perkins whose topic was educating for the unknown. His big question was what is worth learning. He proposed a checklist of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Responsibility. If material did not empower people to take action and to contribute, if it did not enlighten people or did not enhance a person's sense of responsibility then it was most probably not worth learning.

His little poem was:

Taught a lot but matters not
Not taught but matters a lot.

He talked of a concept of 'flexpertise' which required one to have an understanding of the wide scope of disciplines, to concentrate on ways of knowing (thinking skills), to develop ethical understaandings (empathy, spirituality, equity), to develop personal and societal understandings (leadership, collaboration) and to include horizon themes (current important themes).

We need to reduce what is in the curriculum using his 3 criteria of empowerment, enlightenment and responsibility. His suggestion is to pick the richest topics first, work in some of the others, just touch on some and then drop some!

I then headed off to a workshop on designing a new curriculum which I was really looking forward to only to find out the presenter hadn't turned up and there was a presentation on the Turkish education system. I politely left.

I cruised through the exhibitors stalls and spent some time speaking to two consultants from the UK who were like agents for Guy Claxton and his Building Learning Power ideas. They had produced some great looking resources which I am going to consider purchasing. The one I liked was a unit on astronomy which used the BLP ideas, was corss-curricula in nature and included PD for teachers. It was on a DVD but costs about 500 pounds. There was also another DVD on BLP strategies (hundreds of activities apparentl) but about the same cost. I did manage to talk them into giving me their display copy of their text Building Learning Power in Action.

The astronomy thing would be great for our pilot integrated curriculum class and the text would be great to work with the whole staff on the Key Competencies.

I also missed the next workshop because I was a bit tired but also there wasn't much on offer. This conference has been very higth quality, especially with the keynote speakers but the workshops have been a little limiting. There seems to have been little choice for secondary schools in our context. I suppose I was looking for more on school leadership, though I did get plenty of that from the keynotes.

While dodging I ran into ex REAPer Mike Scadden who is now doing consultancy work on brain stuff. He talked to me about opportunities teaching overseas which piqued my interest and could be the next move for me as I can't see myself taking on the leadership of another school (unless it was brand new, and especially if it was in Opotiki!!! - anyone can dream!)

The closing ceremony was a bit low key, but the confrence has been great.

I then joined up with Leigh and Lucy and we walked off to that place I said I would never go to again – The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel (last time cost $200 for 6 drinks!). Leigh had a Singap[ore Sling, Lucy had a non-alcoholic Singapore Sling and I had a beer – only $65 this time.

We then walked off to Lau Pa Sat food hawkers and had a great feed of satay (chicken, beef and prawn)– another must in Singapore – washed down with a glass ofr sugar cane juice. We then ambled back to our hotel to pack.

Lucy and Leigh informed me that the 8GIG Ipod that Lucy had bought was for mwe and in the morning we were going to Orchard Rd to buy her a 16GIG Ipod. Aren't they generous?!

After our final sleep in our luxurious hotel (not looking forward to the bill) and final hotel breakfast we sprinted to Orchard Rd by subway, bought the Ipod and got back to check out.

I'm typing this up sitting on the SilkAir plane about 40 minutes from Penang and the next bit of our adventure.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Conference Day 2

Last night we headed off to Maggie's again for a feed of spring rolls, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, brocolli in oyster sauce and chilli prawns with a Tiger and Tsinghao beer.

The conference today was very high quality. The opening address was by Andy Hargreaves who mapped out his view of the Fourth Way that education ans schooling was entering. This requires principals to have an impossible dream for their school, to aactively seek public engagement, to involve students as partners in change and to deliver mindful learning and teaching. He outlined the three principles of professionalism of high quality teachers, powerful professionalism and lively learning communities. His 4 catalysts of coherence are sustainable leadership, schools-wide networks, responsibility before accountability and the development of targets together.

The next speaker was Michael Furdyk who has just turned 27. His address was inspirational who is a co-founder of TakingITGlobal.com which is a youth generated website which allows young people to actively contribute to changing the world. His goal is to make caring cool. His website and opportunities to contribute and design could easily be the basis for a full school curriculum. His web site www.tigweb.org and links to TakingITGlobal.com and teachers site www.TIGed.com will be compulsory visiting for those of us who intend to help redesign the Opotiki College curriculum.

I then attended a workshop entitled The Naked Principal which was run by an Irishman, Sean Cottrell, which looked at a model for a principal to gain feedback on his role from teachers, students and parents.

The next presentation was by Jane Bluestein on managing naughty kids. I did not hve high expectations of this presentation, but it was outstanding. In one hour she outlined 10 simple strategies which allow teachers to turn every interaction with difficult students in to a win-win situation, though it does require teachers to make all of the changes. Her view is that almost all poorly behaved students are 'non-traditional' learners that teachers need to teach differently. She aims to have teachers to work successfully with these students which means no punishing, no banishing, no failing and no not changing.

Her 10 steps briefly (all of which require much further investigation on her website) are:
1.Create win-win power dynamics
2.Offer choices within limits
3.Focus on positive consequences
4.Use boundaries instead of rules and punishments
5.Be consistent about follow-through
6.Focus on what they're doing right
7.Use recognition in place of praise or conditional approval
8.Increase success for all students
9.Eliminate double standards
10.Take care of yourself

I then wandered into a workshop on the NSW laptops in schools programme by mistake and got stuck there, so I had a bit of a rest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Little India and Day One of Conference

On Sunday night we went to a local food hall for dinner where Leigh and I had a nice murtabak and Lucy became adventurous and tucked into a biryani. I think some more shopping was done and we got back home and I began watching the Wimbledon Final, got hooked and stuck with it until the end at 1.30am. What a game. It certainly showed that no matter how far you are behind you just simply have to win the next point! That simple!

On Monday morning I registered for the conference and on way back to the hotel bought a pair of Asics running shoes for $95. We then jumped on the underground and went to Little India where we visited Mustafa's and lost Lucy for 45 minutes which was a bit stressful. We calmed down by dining on somosas, dahl and a melon lassa (yoghurt drink).

That evening Leigh and I put on our glad rags and walked to the Esplanade (Singapore's version of the Sydney Opera House) for the opening concert. After a couple of glasses of wine and catching up with some kiwis we took our seats (three rows from the front) and were entertained for two hours by some awesome school orchestras, choirs, brass bands and dancers. I also got a chance to talk to Belinda who is the president of the local version of SPANZ who had hosted Terry and I last year.

We then met up with Lucy at a local Noodles Bar and dined on chilli chicken udang.

Today was the first day of the Conference which has 1500 participants. The highlight of this first day was the 60 minute opening address by the Prime Minister who outlined the Singaporean education journey and its strategy for the future. His catch cry is “Teach less, learn more.” He was outstanding and exhibited the type of leadership which is sadly lacking in our country. I plan to send the link of his address to John Key and Anne Tolley.

They have had a clear strategy which has included big pay rises for teachers in return for performance-based pay and class sizes of 40 students. They have now moved to reduce that to 30. They have aso ensured a strong base of support to schools from the central agency. Schools are also very well resourced. There was no talk at all of recession which seems to be the focus of any conversation in NZ from the government. Educational spending is rising by 5.5% this year!

There was also an excellent keynote from Sir Dexter Hutt (a knighthood for services to education!) who addressed the issue of 21st Century Leadership. He re-emphasised that we don't know what the best model is for a school of the 21st Century other than that it should be positioned to cope with change and that the curriculum should provide regular opportunities for students to research, work in teams and present to an audience. He also claimed that the most important qualities to develop in young people to prepare them for the future are self-confidence and self-esteem.

I then went to a disappointing workshop on Differentiated Instruction but I managed to design some more jigsaw puzzle pieces (the symbolism we use at Opotiki College to show the linked bits of the complex puzzle of effective schooling) to show the connections between curriculum, pedagogy and relationships.

Leigh and Lucy visited Orchard Rd and I think are a bit mall saturated but Lucy had a good go at a chicken curry. She's talking about Ipod prices!

Now we just have to plan dinner.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 2 in Singapore

Sunday is our second full day in Singapore. It took quite a while to get the girls moving this morning, but we finally boarded our bus to Sentosa Island which is a fun-park-like resort.

We started with a luge ride, then took the pleasant nature walk down to the beach. It was very warm so we had a swim in the ocean along with lots of young people who are here for the Asian Youth Games and the beach volleyball which is being held on Sentosa.

After lunch we visited the Undersea World which is a bit like Kelly Tarltons.

On the way home it began to rain quite heavily. We got separated in SunTec but we all eventually made it home where we are resting before thinking about dinner.

Lucy is really enjoying herself and is doing a bit of shopping!

Rotorua to Singapore

The NZQA workshop in Rotorua last Thursday was a little annoying. Some of my fears were allayed, but my concerns about the direction NCEA is moving have not been put to rest. All regular curriculum subjects will have any unit standards converted to achievement standards. There will be a greater weighting of internal standards (you will not be able to have more than three external standards in a subject). There will be 20 literacy and numeracy standards available below curriculum 6 level. Students wishing to take an alternative English or Maths pathway may be able to take a course made up of these standards, some US on Communication English and some L1 ASs. Gone are the opportunities to do USs at Level 2 or 3.

I believe the balance has gone too far towards credibility and away from accessibility. NCEA L1 is not the final qualification we are aiming for for our students and we are too angst ridden about it. We are much better served by ensuring as many students as possible gain L1 so that they are motivated to aim for L2 possibly over 2 years.

After that Leigh, Lucy and I drove to Hamilton and took Thomas out to the Curry Pot in Hamilton East for dinner. It was great to catch up with him. From there we drove to Auckland and crashed in our Airport Hotel.

Things went smoothly at the airport apart from the computer having difficulty recognising us which caused some consternation for the check-in people. The flight was straight forward, but struggled to sleep so was a bit long. Watched a couple of movies (Broken Flowers, Sunshine Cleaning and something else).

Lucy had her bag randomly xrayed at Singapore.

Our hotel is very flash (5 star I think) but they had fogotten Lucy was coming so we have had to get another bed squeezed in.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We bought a concession touring ticket which gave us 48 hours to do heaps. Yesterday we did the City Hop on Hop off bus tour, followed by the Duck tour in the bay, followed by the Heritage Hop on Hop off bus tour, followed by the River Boat tour, with time for a quick pint!

Our hotel is in the SunTec Towers area and borders the Fountain of Wealth (world's biggest fountain!) and we have never returned by the same route, often getting horribly lost in the crowds at Suntec.

We finally made it back and spent some time in and beside the pool.

At about 7.00pm we heasded off to the Singapore Flyer (35m taller than the London Eye!) where we had a great view of the dress rehearsal fireworks for National Day celebrations occuring next month.

All day soldiers in tanks, pilots in helicopters and jets, and sailors in boats have been charging around practicing for the celebrations. They do this every Saturday to make sure they get it right on the day.

After our Singapore Flyer ride we wandered over to Beach Rd and had a great feed at Maggie's Restaurant. We ate there twice last year and really enjoyed it. We had chicken and cashew, hot plate beef and ginger, spring rolls and bok choy. All washed down with a cold Tiger Beer.

Got home in time to see the last 30 minutes of the Lions South Africa test and crashed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Head Student Lunch

I have just finished having lunch with 5 of my head students (Tara, Rita, Kayla, Chad and Quentin). We try to meet every week on a Friday, but I have had a lot of meetings and courses on a Friday so we hadn't met for awhile so I took them to Two Fish.

We had a great conversation with each explaining how they were tracking towards their qualifications and their planning for next year. We have a couple heading into Health Sciences, one into the Navy, one into engineering and one into writing. What a neat bunch with great aspirations.

The best conversation was the didcussion about our recent Three Day Wananga. I know not all of them were in favour of the programme but in responding to their questions I found myself explaining my vision for the school and schooling in general in the clearest way.

All of us, students and teachers, have been locked in by the shackles of three years of high stakes qualifications which promotes credit gathering to a higher level than learning. I really enjoyed talking about this with them. I explained that we could ignore the form of assessment and get into learning and it wouldn't matter what the assessment tool was they would still be able to prove their understanding. The tragedy is that the way we structure the learning now a chunk of kids cope successfully with the qualifications system, but another chunk don't. I believe if we packaged the learning in a model similar to the Three Day Wananga all of the time, these brightest kids would still be able to prove their learning, but just as importantly the rest of the kids would have more opportunity to do so as well.

At the moment, all it seems we can manage is tinkering around.

I had a good meeting with our Ahi Kaa team last night (piloting an integrated, home room approach). I was abit despondent before the meeting, but came away re-enthused as the group talked about how they could see it working better next year. They have committed to a project-based approach in Term IV when they have "permission" to abandon the traditional curriculum altogether.

Their thinking for next year includes trialling with two classes and having two teachers teaching the full core to each class. I like the sound of it. Now...... all I need is another dedicated room, some passionate staff wanting to work harder than every one else with no extra time and with really tight budgets. Should be easy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Three Day Wananga

Last week we had a great learning time at our school when we held our first ever Three Day Wananga. This involved suspending our timetable for three days while students worked in multi age learning teams to complete a range of projects. We operated this within our House System to both generate more House Spirit and to make the organisation manageable.

Four weeks ago we held a Teacher Only Day to which students were invited (about 30 turned up!) when teachers decided on the learning projects they would offer. We then held House meetings and explained the projects to the kids who then selected which one they wanted to do. The House Leaders did a great job in running this process. Each House had a budget of $1000 to allocate as they saw fit.

On the Friday before staff had time together at our staff meeting and a further House meeting was held. It then kicked off over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week.

The projects included The Amazing Race, Beach Conservation, Reporting Events, Healthy Living and Fitness, T Shirt Design, Graffiti Art, Carved Mural, Mucking In On the Marae, Our Land Our Environment, Fitness Freaks, Life and Death For The Bush, Pests and Plants, Opo Col On Air, NZ's Next Top Shakespeare, Mountain Bike Track Clearing, News Broadcasts, Creating a School Sculpture, Boot Camp, Traditional Food Processes, Documentary of Katherine Mansfield, and Stories in Fabric.

We did a lot of learning process and structure wise. In the future we would have a set interval and lunch time as by making it flexible there were too many gaps in the fence for kids to move through. We would also have a tutor each morning to get an accurate attendance check. Unfortunately the Ministry of Education chose this week to do the nation-wide attendance survey! Normally our kids are not allowed off site at breaks, but with so many groups operating in and out of school this was impossible to enforce so we would have to think about that in the future. Also, because of the practical nature of many of the activities mufti was the best solution.

I have finished analysing the evaluations made by staff and have only partially completed the evaluations collected from 200 of our students (36%). The staff evaluations showed that 50% believed there was enough time given to prepare, 50% believed they were given enough guidance and support, 80% believed they were well-prepared, 86% believed there project was a valid learning experience, 97% believed their students largely responded positively, 92% believed they covered more than one Key Competency, and 81% believed they achieved their planned outcomes. I wonder if we would achieve these levels if we surveyed our traditional way of teaching and learning!

Staff have made suggestions for enhancing this programme and also made many positive comments supporting this type of learning including: high levels of student engagement, great student-student and teacher-student relationships formed, seeing students who often appear disinterested at school truly engaged in their activities, students achieved beyond expectations, it was a time of real discovery for me, senior students working as role models with juniors.

The big question is where to from here?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Learning Matters

Before the last election I expressed some concerns about National Party education policy. My concerns were focused on the policy in relation to national testing of primary and intermediate students. My observations on my sabbatical last year convinced me this was a flawed policy which had not contributed to increased achievement any where that it had been tried.

My concerns right now are quite different and announcements since the recent budget have made me feel we are in a state of siege from this government. Three different pieces of correspondence that I have received over the last 2 weeks threaten schools in general and make it particularly difficult for Opotiki College.

The first concerns the Extending High Standards Across Schools contract we have with the Ministry of Education. This is a contract we have to support 9 of our contributing primary schools to adopt restorative practices so that students feel less alienated from schooling and are able to engage more effectively with their learning. We are in our second year of a four year contract and we have recently been able to gain some traction.

In the first year we trained all principals, senior teachers and some BOT members. This year we extended our training to more teaching staff and have begun to form implementation teams within all schools.

I have just been informed that the contract is going to be terminated at the end of this year and all funding withdrawn. This puts seriously at risk the progress that we have made in our community of schools.

The next piece of correspondence informed us that Adult and Community Education is going to be slashed by 80%. Schools will only be able to offer community classes in literacy and numeracy. Gone are all the skills and interest based courses that help build our community and provide life-long learning opportunities for anyone from our community regardless of their educational background.

This is going to have a huge impact on our community.

To make matters worse our local Council proposed to abandon their 30 year contribution of $7500 to provide reception and administrative support for our Community Activities Office. After making a submission it appears that they will continue to provide support if the governement continues to provide Adult and Community Education funding.

So our local Council is doubling the impact by saying they will qwithdraw support if government provided support is withdrawn. Surely this is the time when the community needs to rally and look for ways to increase rather than reduce support!

The third, and most probably not the last piece of correspondence, informs us that staffing will be reduced by 1.5% at the end of 2010. This will mean one less teacher at Opotiki College. This may not seem much but at the moment our BOT is funding 2 extra teachers to support our curriculum. This is a high cost and cannot be sustained. The BOT will certainly not be able to support a further position.

While making these cuts the government has said it will provide $35 million for the private school sector!

The public education sector is under attack from this government and we are starting to reel. Education and learning is the key to our contry's and the Opotiki community's future: learning matters.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Final Conference Notes - Part Two

After getting off the ferry I decided to take the skytrain to the BC Stadium and visit the Sports Hall of Fame. When I got there I saw it cost $10 and didn't look that flash so I gave it a miss. I was looking for some present for Lucy who is quite hard to buy for. I then walked back along a main shopping street to my hotel stopping to check out music on the way.

I then decided to do a run around Stanley Park which I thought would be about 8k,in fact it was 10k. It's a great place to run, beside the sea all the way around and under Lion Bridge which links to Nprth Vancouver. Near the end of the run there were a few beaches which were packed solid with people. You had to watch when running because there are hundreds of rollerbladers and cyclists charging around as well.

When I got back to the main beach it was packed but no one was in the water. I couldn't figure out why so I leapt in anyway. It wasn't too cold but quite murky. After drying off I headed back to the hotel and began packing my bags. At about 7.30 I picked up a kebab and headed to the beach for tea where the boys from Kaiapoi found me. We chatted on the beach until the sun went down just before 10.00.

The next morning I joined them and Tim from Hamilton for coffee and breakfast before I had to head off to the airport. Thankfully at the airport I found a Winter Olympics bag for Lucy and when I arrived at LA I texted her and bought some LA T shirts which I thought she might like.

Unfortunately the plane from LA left late. I had a spare seat beside me and got quite a bit of sleep during the 13 hour long haul. About an hour before the end they realised I was going to struggle to make my connection to Whakatane so moved me into Premium Economy to be closer to the door. I wish they had done that earlier!

I had a mad sprint to the domestic and after some check in hassles made my plane only to arrive at Whakatane 15 minutes before Leigh!

It was good to be home!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Final Conference Notes - Part One

The Conference dinner was pretty good with great company, beautiful food and a disappointing guest speaker. At times, the conference has been a bit earnest with not enough celebration and humour. The dinner was when we should have had such a speaker. The band was great and a group of us danced most of the night.

My presentation was in the final slot on the final day and it went down very well. Lots came up afterwards to ask questions and to get my business card (which I later found had an error on it!). I was the invited to be part of a panel at the final conference session to answer questions from Howard Zehr on our thoughts of the conference. That was OK, but some of the academics on the panel pissed me off as they rambled on using long words. I mentioned that when I could get a word in!

That night the New Zealanders, and Aussie Glenn, went to a Japanese restaurant to plan our hosting of the conference in 2011. The food was outstanding and the conversation great.

The next morning I jumped on the hop on hop off bus and began a tour of the city. The tour was quite disappointing and I got off at the ferry terminal and cruised across the harbour to North Vancouver and boarded a bus for the 20 minute ride to Grouse Mountain. It was a very hot day - about 32 degrees (in fact the whole week has been great weather).

I enjoyed a cramped gondola ride up the mountain and discovered myself surrounded by large patches of snow. I spotted a bear in its cage then caught the ski lift to the summit. The views were outstanding and I was disappointed I didn't buy a ticket for the massive flying fox ride that looked quite terrifying.

After a nice coffee and some souvenir buying I headed down in the gondola, back on the bus and then over on the ferry again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Leaving Vancouver


Kiwis
Originally uploaded by mlabraham@xtra.co.nz
Check out my last lot of photos. Fuller story to come. These photos are of the Kiwis dining together on last night of conference as we begin the planning process to host the next conference in two years time! There are laso photos on this link of my visit to Grouse Mountain and my run around Stanley Park. It's now 12.30am and I need some sleep before the long haul home beginning tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Squirrels


Can you see the squirrel in the garden outside the front door. Opotiki Opossums feel kinship!

Conference going OK. The best workshop so far was by Greg and Richard from Kaiapoi who have some wonderful PD activities to work with staff to keep the process moving along. Another dude, Ken Pierce, who seems slightly crazy in a good way, challenged us to look at bullying (and any traumatic incidents) in a different way. Start by asking victims what have been the good things for them about the incident! Sounds weird but he explained things well and I bought his book.

The conference dinner is on tonight and the final day is tomorrow with my presentation in the last workshop session in the afternoon!

Have met some great people, including a further meeting with Howard Zehr the acknowleged founder of Restorative Justice as an area of study. We presented together a couple of years ago in Auckland. He has used some of my material in his work and wants an updated copy of our Restorative Handbook for staff!!!! The boys from Kaiapoi had to acknowledge me in their presentation because their workbook was heavily based on ours, but quite enhanced so I will steal some ideas back!!!

For those who miss my normal food postings will be glad to know I had a beautiful Malaysian takeaway on the beach last night.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vancouver Photos

This photo sort of shows how steep the climb was this morning. The rest of the photos are a bit boring, but they show the beach at the end of my road, the view from my hotel balcony (tall buildings, some sea, mountains with snow). The other photo is of Richard (from Kaiapoi) and Sharon (Welshwoman from Howick). We had a kebab on the beach at 9.30pm after the conference opening.

I'm a bit worried about the number of presenters here compared with the number of attendees!

24 Hours in Vancouver

All phone and laptop issues have been resolved. I can now make and receive calls, but cannot send or receive texts!!!

I spent hours trying to get EEEPC left mouse button to work. I emailed ASUS and they told me to reboot which meant I lost everything (thankfully I copied my photos first) and it still didn't work. I then prised the button off the computer without breaking it and cleaned it. It now works. Must've been Lucy or Leigh eating biscuits over it.

Yesterday afternoon (Sat) I strolled to the info centre then onto Steamworks which is a brewery/bar/restaurant. I started with a pint of India Pale Ale (was the best), followed by a pint of Pale Ale and then 1/2 pint of Porter (very nice). At this point I started talking to strangers and realised on slightly older than me couple wanted to buy me drinks and go out for a meal with them. They were pretty jolly so I declined and wobbled my way back to Hotel. By now Tina and I had missed each other three times on phone.

I then headed down the road and found a Vietnamese restaurant and sat at my table for one and had beautiful calamari, spicy chicken and a Canadian beer. I was now 'tired' so went home to bed.

I was about to leave my room at 9.00 for a run around Stanley Park when Tina rang and arranged to pick me up at 10.30 for a MTB ride. I dashed out for a quick brakfast of fruit and bagel (without the fruit because they forgot it but didn't charge me anyway.) Must be something to do with my accent as at lunch today I ordered a bacon and mushroom filo and they tried to give me a vegetarian one!

Tina picked me up and drove skillfully for about 45 minutes to SFU (Simon Fraser University). I had Greg's bike and I forgot to see what it was, but it was very nice! Brakes are on the other side though!

We started off with some very gnarly, gentle uphill single track - lots of roots, rocks, narrow bridges etc - and I only fell on my broken rib side once as I couldn't unclip. After about 20 minutes of that we had a steep granny gear climb up a gravel road to the top - about 30-40 minutes steeper than Amokura and it was very hot. Who told me it was going to be cold over here?

Then the fun started! From there there was about 20-30 minutes of downhill single track with the aforementioned rocks and roots and narrow bridges with some high drop offs thrown in. Once I realised the bike could cope with anything in its path I relaxed and only dismounted twice.

I was absolutely buggared but it was a great ride. No bears or cougars! I took my camera and only took one photo. Tina just kept going!

Tina took a wrong turn on the way back and we headed off in the wrong direction, but we soon got back.

Will post a couple of photos later.

I've registered and am about to head down to the welcome.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Vancouver

After what seemed days and days I have arrived in Vancouver before I left!

I had trouble sleeping on the flight to LA mainly because there were too many neat films to watch. I saw the Topp Twins, then The Reader, tried to sleep and then two episodes of Go Girls (I should have been watching that at home).

Terry, I had a pizza in the same place at LA airport!

The flight to Vancouver was OK as I had 2 seats to myself. I dozed most of the way but enjoyed a great view coming in towards Vancouver. We touched down at about 9.00pm (still light) and got to hotel at about 10.00pm.

I can't get my phone to work, though it worked in USA and my EEEPC laptop is playing up and the cursor/button combo doesn't work and everything has to be done with tab and arrows. Did this once before and I can't remember how I fixed it!?

Slept till 11.00am and have just finished a walk along the sea front and a bagel and fruit lunch with a surprisingly nice coffee. It's very summery, about 22 degrees, with a cool wind.

I'm going to try to solve the phone and laptop problems by visiting their websites and then go for a jog along sea front and through Stanley Park.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Off To Vancouver

Well, this Friday this country boy jumps on the plane and goes to Vancouver to run a workshop at the International Restorative Practices Conference in Vancouver. He's a little nervous and a lot excited.

I'm a bit nervous about taking off by myself without either my mate, Terry, or my wife, Leigh. I'm also a bit nervous about making sure the workshop is one of quality as I know I am one of the first to complain if a workshop or presentation is poor!

I am excited because I think it is a huge honour for our wee school to get this recognition. It's another reminder that the work we are doing in managing student conflict in such a positive manner is world-leading stuff - and we need to remind ourselves of that from time-to-time!

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Adventure Race Success!

What a great sense of satisfaction and achievement! This was a very challenging event but our team, Opotiki Opossums, comprising myself, Lea, Barry and Trevor just stuck at it and completed the event in just over 27 hours.

It was exciting setting up camp the night before. We even managed to pick up the course notes at 5.00 and had the course plotted by 7.00. Barry, Lea and I headed into New World Kawerau where we made use of Dave's computer and printer to print maps and calculate distances. We were in bed by 10.30. 3 hours ahead of last year's schedule.

The raw stats are: 24 teams entered, 6 pulled out (25% attrition!), we crossed the line 18th out of 18, but our bonuses for finding checkpoints moved us to 14th! Our goal, established by Captain Possum, Barry, was to finish 15th or better! Goal achieved!

We started with a kayak on Lake Tarawera where we headed along the north side to a mark and then across the lake heading towards the track to Rotomahana. One check point was abandoned by the organisers because they were concerned the conditions would deteriorate. The paddle across the lake worried me but the conditions in hindsight were very good. I can't wait to get more confident in my boat! Lea paddled strongly to lead us across the lake. We then trekked over to Rotomahana to pick up a checkpoint and then back to our kayaks. We decided then to miss the next two checkpoints and head back to the transition at the camp where we started, picking up 2 check points on the way.

It was great to see Marg, Joc, Kate and Lyn joining our support crew of Leigh and Ted at the transition. George provided great support as well.

Thankfully we missed the rogaine and headed off on the first trek in about 3rd place! We trekked along the shore towards Okataina picking up all checkpoints before we took a bearing and headed straight up the bluff! Apart from one small error when we shouldhave listened to Trevor we navigated very well and picked up the next checkpoint. This was followed by a clamber down a dry canyon to the Tarawera River and a tramp along the river bank to the falls carpark. On the way I elected to do the swim across the river, scramble up the rocks to collect a checkpoint and return. It was only when I dived in the river on return that I remembered I still had my glasses on.

We had a bit of a boost after our 6 hour trek to see our supporters now joined by Lucy, Kurt and Hine as we transitioned onto MTBs just as the sun was setting. We were about 30 minutes behind the A Team of Destry, Karl, Hedley and Teleri. They looked to be going really well.

The MTB leg was a low point for most of our team though Lea seemed to cope OK with it. She did have some almost falling asleep moments. I thought this leg might take 3 hours as it was only 60ks!

It took us almost 7 hours. It was dark. It rained some of the time. The fog came in. There was lots of climbing. The roads were made of sandy pumice. Our lights were useless. I forgot my gells. I was sick of bars. It was relentless!

We decided to miss the first checkpoint but when it looked like we might decide to miss the next one I suggested it was the compulsory one, so we headed off-road and Barry and I eventually found it. We seemed to be back on track again as we turned north and headed largely downhill towards Kawerau from near Rerewakaiatu.

We eventually ended up at the shooting range where I hit 5 from 5!!! Barry missed one and blamed my minder for bumping him. The others got 5 from 5 too! A Highlight! This lifted my spirits a bit and we headed off through farmland, took a wrong turn and rode through the streets of Kawerau at 11.00pm to finally reach transition at Tui Glen where we were fed and looked after by Ted and Leigh.

Our spirits started to lift as we made the midnight deadline. We were saddened to see the A team come in and Hedley, who had had a big cold all week and Teleri who was a bit knackered after 17 hours had to pull out. It was good to have destry and Karl join us for the final trek.

So at midnight, after ODing on Coke the 6 of us headed off aiming for the Rotoma highway which had a deadline of 3.00am. Once again, our navigation through difficult country was spot ona nd we arrived at the checkpoint at 2.30am where they tried to convince us to pull out as most teams were taking 8 hours from there to the finish. After a great feed of soup, biscuits and coffee I asked each of the other 5 if they wished to continue. They all wanted to go on so off we went. Not too far down the track Destry and Karl pulled the pin and headed back, The country on the map looked difficult.

The four of us pressed on and we made very good progress and navigated really well picking up all of the checkpoints. A bit of hallucinating was going on, but I insisted on regular food stops and we made the last manned checkpoint at 7.30am. Unfortunately we still had 2 hours of walking to the Falls carpark and then back along the Tarawera Falls track to the finish.

The falls are outstanding and were worth another look! I found the last hour and half the most difficult and began to flag abit. It was awesome to be met by Aaron and George on the track 500m from the finish and then to see Leigh and Ted on the bridge as we finished after 27 hours.

It was a challenging and brutal event. There were moments when we all struggled and we all had low points, but our team morale was strong. Barry did a great job making sure everyone was going OK and even during his low moment on the MTB kept the navigating going. Lea kept the positive vibe going throughout the full race and the silly things she said kept the humour level high. Trevor was simply outstanding in the bush. He can sniff his way and end up in the right place.

We all won a spot prize! Leigh and Ted were great support crew and we dined on great stew and soup!

Best one I've ever done! Never felt the broken rib either! Told you that wouldn't stop me!

Check the other photos.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bringing It All Up at Toi's

What a horrible day's training. I felt as if I had a bit of a chill coming on - possibly from Thursday evening's MTB ride without a jacket and a cold day at work on Friday. Wasn't feeling right on Fri afternoon so I am positive the 5-6 whiskeys at Kurt's watching the rugby wasn't to blame.

Barry, Lea, George, Aaron and I went over and walked the first part of the Toi's track from Hillcrest over to Otarawairere and back up through the village and along the top to the trig and back into Hillcrest. I found it bloody hard - sore legs on the uphill, a bit breathless and nauseous. I really dragged the chain.

We managed to find somewhere to eat in Whakas and gobbled a baked spud and coffee before we headed off to the rogaine where we met up with the A Team. Bugger! A quick look at the course and we were headed back into Toi's again. We could have done the clues on the flat but decided to make it a training opportunity. Otarawairere at high tide was tricky. I really struggled on the hills again and as were were heading up from Otarawairere I got the keys off Barry and told them to go on and get as many clues as they could while I headed straight back. I was not feeling good.

Unfortunately they stopped just out of Otarawairere to put on 6heir jackets so they had a great view of me chundering my guts out. I managed to keep my spotlight focused so they got a great view. At that point they decided to stay with me. What great mates. Would've been scary ggoing back by myself, especially with Barry talking about sex offenders lurking in the bush!

I was stuffed.

We ended up at the Ohope Club watching the rugby where I sank a couple of cokes while they dined on beer and chips. All day I had eaten one bowl of porridge and one baked spud and hardly drunk anything. Something's not right. Plan to take it easy all week because the race is on next weekend.

It's Mothers Day and poor Leigh has taken Lucy and Opes to Taupo to play soccer. I'm trying to do housework as my mothers day present but I'm not very good at it and I don't think she'll notice. Perhaps I'd better point it out!

Even though I have lost my appetite I'll have a nice chicken and chick peas mel ready for when they get home.

Time to vacuum!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mangapumarumaru Epic

After Saturday's scary paddle we thought we'd try something gentler. So considering it was Lea's birthday we decided on a later start. After coffee at Lea's Lea, Barry, george and myself set out on our MTBs up the Gorge and battled a very stiff southerly to the Owhiritoa Bridge where we stashed our bikes and headed off up the road to the Mangapumarumaru Stream. We bounded up the stream and then completed the massive climb to 600m and then along the ridge. I was certain we were on the correct track as it matched our compass and George kept finding markers. Even when the markers disappeared the compass said we were going the right way. As it was we ended up in a creek which Barry remembered the last time he was in the area. After clambering down the creek we were faced with a 5m???? leap over a waterfall. It was most probably only 3m but we want to make it sound scarier. The pool at the bottom came up to Barry's mid riff so you can imagine how deep it was for poor old George! We decided to head on to Brill's for lunch which was a bit of a mistake as it took longer than expected. We didn't have lunch until about 2.40pm so we were feeling a bit empty.

However, it was a great place to take Lea out to birthday lunch.

We then headed up the grass cliff face out of Brill's which I found a bit nerve-wracking as it was so steep and open. George did a great job leading us back up over 600m again. All his tipuna were at work guiding him through the bush to each marker. After a couple of rests we made the top and started the long steep downhill to the road. The highlight was George's tumble and roll over the edge and into the undergrowth.

At some point Barry mentioned he was supposed to be home by 3.00. At 3.00 we were still over an hour from our bikes and we still had the ride home. After hitting the road we had a 3k walk back down the highway to our bikes. Marty went past in his vehicle and stopped to ask what a pack of mad buggers were doing at the time of the late afternoon walking down the road so far from anywhere!

We found our bikes and set off at about 4.45pm. Luckily Lea had a headlight and three of us had tail lights. We sped down the gorge with the southerly behind us and got back to Lea's exhausted but on a bit of a high. Barry and I managed one quick beer to celebrate her birthday with her family before I dropped Barry at home and finally got home about 6.30pm.

What another great day. What a great day to spend your birthday, eh Lea?

I found it difficult to sleep that night despite crashing at 8.30 so was abit tired, sore and not grumpy, but measured, for the day.

Just finished a marathon 12 hours at work so need to head home to farewell Mum who heads to Greece tomorrow.