Three weeks in… 

…and I’ve been attempting to sum up the first couple of weeks of my new job for the best part of the last week! I’m finally done…

This is the start of my fourth week in my new job. It’s a new challenge in a different environment. A new classroom to get used to with different things surrounding me. A ‘new’ MacBook with a different operating system to what I’m used to. New acronyms and terminology to work out. Different faces and names to remember. A new timetable to be familiar with. A different structure to the day. But essentially I’m doing what I have done for around 16 years. Facilitating students in their learning at school. I have been made to feel welcome by all my new colleagues and the students alike. There are 14 classes, 7 each in Year 7 and Year 8. There is a half-year rotation for the specialist subjects (Art, Music, BioScience, Te Reo and Technology) and this term I’m only teaching Year 7. 

It’s a bizarre feeling when every kid knows your name and says ‘Good morning Mr Clarke’ or ‘Hi Mister’ after just a few days, even when I haven’t taught them. 

I have also had some funny moments in my first week. One of the kids challenged me to a race across the courts at morning break in my first week. I accepted this challenge. ‘Why not?’ I thought. It’s a bit of fun and he will obviously be faster than me. We both ran to halfway across the quad and to my surprise, my challenger just gave up and I won the race. No stamina! I’m walking to my classroom the next day and a polite kid says good morning to me. As I walk away, I can hear him saying to his mate “That’s the teacher that wasted Darren in a race yesterday…” 

As part of the kotahitanga (getting to know my students), I had the choice as to what kind of programme I can deliver this term. I chose to do some coding with Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). Most of Year 7 have never done any coding before so I thought this would be a great place to start. We are now three weeks in and the classes are beginning to make some connections with their learning and with each other.   


So, as I settle into my new role as a Digital Technologies teacher, I’m thinking about the next year ahead when DigiTech becomes part of the NZ Curriculum from Years 1 to 13. http://www.education.govt.nz/news/digital-technology-to-become-part-of-the-new-zealand-curriculum-and-te-marautanga-o-aotearoa/ 

This recognition is a huge step and is welcomed by everyone already teaching in this field as well as those in Tertiary institutions and the Tech industry. 

As one of the long term goals, my school aims to provide future-focussed learning to the students. I see my role as a developing one over time. I’ve always taken the stance of being an early adopter in any new initiatives. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the challenge of a new curriculum to implement, whatever that will look like. Bring it! 

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I’m Moving On…

This was only going to be a quick social media status update just to inform people of my next career move. I’ve decided to write this as a proper blog post as I feel that it deserves more than a few words on my timeline.

Term 4 sees the start of a new job in a new school. This is exciting as it will be a new challenge back in Auckland. It’s a Digital Technologies position, which is the first time I have seen such a role advertised in an intermediate school. This is indicative of how schools are beginning to change and it is what I found appealing which attracted me to apply for the job in the first place.

I’m pleased not to be starting from scratch. The school will already have some robotics kit and 3D printers to play with. There will be opportunities for the kids to tinker with other stuff such as electronics, computer programmes and experiments with sound and visuals. Most of all, it will be a chance for kids to develop their critical thinking and to work collaboratively. The role also gives me the chance to work with other teachers to integrate digital tools into their classroom teaching.

Working for The Mind Lab has been my dream job. I have learnt so much and gained an insight into learning with kids from 5 to 55! (Yes, The Mind Lab teaches adults too!) Starting this new role will just be a continuation of that. The difference for me will be I will get to teach ALL of the kids in the school. (That will be a first in my career!) I will also get to work with other teachers collaboratively like I have never done before.

Working for The Mind Lab has afforded me a great opportunity. I have reconnected with old mates and made some new friends. I’ve worked with amazing people in Auckland, Christchurch, Gisborne and Welly. I will miss the innovative and eclectic environment. I will miss the stories I tell as part of my introduction about robot spiders that crawl out of the air conditioning. Or Optimus Prime who comes out of the buildings across the carpark and throws all the cars into the sea. Or the genetically modified broccoli that tastes of marshmallows. Or George and Mildred, the naughty monkeys that take the blame for everything that fails.


I’m glad for the chance to do what I consider to be the dream job for the last 18 months. I’m hoping to build upon what I have learnt and be a change agent in my new role. I’m looking forward to teaching Year 7 and 8 again.

That’s it. The full explanation. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading… Over and out!

Tribute – Cologne Sept 2007

Looking at my FB ‘On This Day’ time today, I came across this picture. This is an example of the memorials that are all over the city commemorating all the Jewish people that were ‘taken’ from their homes during the World War II. Each plaque represents a person taken from the residence and has their name and details stamped on it. A fitting tribute…

Brothers and Sisters… 

Quite often, you get called brother or sister by a stranger here in NZ. I love it when that happens as its a term of endearment. I miss being called brother by the boys at the school I used to work at in Auckland. I think I need to use it more often…

This brings me to a thought of the day from a friend on Facebook. I love this so I wanted to share… 

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Thought for today -language and what it says about us. On way back from another doctors trip, I passed a woman in an electric wheelchair outside ASDA, on my way out she’s still there. She’s East African, draped in Syrian flag and looking worried. I smile and she says ‘Sister can you help me? It turns out the chair is on a slope and she doesn’t feel she can move and just needs someone to hold onto while getting off the sloping road to the catch the bus. Fine no probs. 

Little chat with the lady and off I go. What struck me was the use of the word sister. Being brought up in Manchester I was familiar with Asian families using Auntie Ji, to every female adult and certainly everyone else used to refer to friends of the family Aunties and Uncles too. I’m used the’ yo bro, cuz’ slang you hear daily, but imagine if every stranger were our sister and brother, not just our biological family. Imagine if we thought of others as kin and addressed them as such. Resonated with me today, even though to the lady speaking it was a common mode of address.

Sticks and Stones… 

image

Oh, what a palaver!

I’m not one to stifle free speech. People can say whatever they want to me either in person or online. But I kinda need to get this off my chest and then put it behind me. I have an issue with those people that either don’t understand the nuances of their words or people that play the troll role when others have an opinion. Never did I think for one moment this would be so close to home and that someone I knew would actually go down this path with me.

It all stems from this Facebook status update I made:

It’s now about time SOMEONE in Govt and/or the media attempts to apologise for all the xenophobia, hatred and violence this sorry mess of #Brexit has spawned in the UK. Discuss. [10 marks]

I’m just going to post (part of) the conversation here, as is. It tells you all you need to know about how complicated this issue has become.

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Friend 1: How about the leave voters take some responsibility for throwing the UK into chaos and legitimising racism and far-right causes around the world? All I’m hearing is ‘respect my opinion/that’s not what I voted for’. Collective responsibility, people. That’s what’s happening as a result and you were warned. Don’t sit back and wait for those of us who always stand up to fight this when you’ve given everyone permission to ignore us.

Me: Absolutely! I don’t have a problem with which way anybody voted, as long as they voted with their eyes open.

Example: To blame ethnic minorities or Eastern Europeans for the fact you don’t have a job is a bit rich coming from some people, considering their communities live with a self-fulfilling prophecy of unemployment and lack of education that has been entrenched for well over 30 years… I’m old enough to hear the same rhetoric from back in the day. The same blame was laid onto ‘those darkies from the West Indies.’

My message to those relatively few people: This ‘darkie’ worked hard and got a degree and teaching qualification, despite growing up in an environment that meant statistically he shouldn’t have! It wasn’t easy, it’s not supposed to be. But it is possible. You just have to believe in yourself and change your closed minds!

Sermon over!

Friend 1: I’m old enough to remember that too and it makes me weep to see the NF on the street again. To have to fight that all over again 30 years later. Vote any way you please for any reason you like, but if you ‘win’ and there are negative consequences as a result. It’s up to YOU to do something about it, not those who ‘lost’. And if you think the recent rise of the far right is not a consequence of a ‘leave’ vote legitimising Farage et al, you need to wake the **** up. Rant concluded!

Me: Copied from a friend’s status update. This tells you all you need to know about the current mood…

So. I’m doing my bit for the environment today and got the bus into town. Across from me sat this woman. She was having to shout to make herself heard, presumably to her friend further back the bus. Or for other reasons. I quote this accurately if not verbatim, “I’ve worked all me life. Ah work just to pay the rent really. I’ve worked in the doughnut factory all me life. What I hate, like, is…. ‘these’. Comin’ over ‘ere and gettin’ everything.” This rant about ‘these’ was repeated several times.

Nope, I’m no hero but I couldn’t let it lie. So, I leant over and asked her who ‘these’ are meant to be. Since we were both white and middle-aged, she perhaps thought I would naturally be on her side. She replied, with a circular sweep of her hand, “These Eastern Europeans, these Bulgarians an’ Romanians an’ that. They get everything for free.”

At this point, I’m trying to not lose my temper. So I asked her about her family. She said she was on her own but had two useless sons, on the dole with no qualifications, stay in bed all day etc. (Laugh).

Well, alI I can say is it all went downhill from there as she really didn’t like my replies. I finished by reminding her that despite the referendum, racism is still illegal. I felt angry that she couldn’t even bear to follow her use of ‘these’ with the word ‘people’. She stormed off the bus swearing loudly at me but by that time most people were laughing at her and joining in with me.

So, now those with such disgusting, shameful and ugly beliefs seem to feel it is safe for them to spout off their racist nonsense in public. NOT SO.

Foe: Malcolm, as you do not actually reside here the UK at present how about winding your neck in and just accept the fact that the vote went the way it did? Or is democracy not an option anymore?

Friend 2: He still has a right to his opinion. This vote will impact on many people around the world if we split the UK and the EU. Globalisation is here to stay and if we don’t find ways to connect and work with each other our isolation will harm all of us, not just the remain voters. It’s not really democracy if the campaign was won on the back of lies and misinformation. That in itself has to be fought, particularly given the rampant racism it has released. It was shameful and the consequences are shameful. I believe other democracies that use the referendum system have a cut-off point where one side has to reach at least 60%. If they don’t the debate happens again and then another referendum. It’s a process where the issues can be properly discussed, not a binary simplistic campaign where people are exhorted to ignore the experts. Furthermore, our democracy is based on parliament making the ultimate decisions, that’s why we have elections and give our MP’s the responsibility to govern.

Me: Foe: You may want to read what I have said here again…

I have no problem with the way the vote went. I have no problem with who won. I have no problem with how anybody voted, as long as they did so with their eyes open to the consequences.

When it comes to racism, xenophobia and evilness, NO! I will not stand for anybody doing that to another human being.

My status has nothing to do with the vote itself. Just the horrible consequences.

It is against the law to incite hatred. It’s an act of terrorism. I don’t want to break the law. Nobody else should! Laws exist for a reason…

So, at some point in the future, I may choose to once again live in the ‘Disunited’ or ‘Untied’ Kingdom. I’d like to know that I would be safe from attack or any other abuse, in just the same way as I wouldn’t wish you to be attacked for being a human being.

I hope that clears the matter up. I’m sorry if being a good citizen upsets you. I just remember being a child in the 70’s and having movements like The National Front making many British citizens feel uncomfortable in their own country of birth! Let’s not go back there. I just thought the world had moved on from all of that…

Friend 3: I’m the child of foreigners, and I grew up in a neighbourhood essentially filled with other children whose parents were too, and there was also a fair contingent of Maori. Hardly any pakeha per se. My parents both came out of the hell that was post-war Europe, but that didn’t mean they had to put up with racism or xenophobia quietly. The joke in our house was that when my mother learnt English (ironically the language of the coloniser, not even the indigenous language) that all you had to learn to say was ‘NZ is a beautiful country’, and the pakeha a would walk away smugly.

I live in a small country, where the English feel they still should be congratulated for invading, and there is wonderment at the racism that lurks here. Wake up! Isolating yourself from the rest of Europe will only encourage such reactions to so-called ‘foreigners’. And there are many in the world presently laughing at the former top coloniser whining about having to close it’s doors to foreigners. You were the foreigners! You came and trampled on so many people’s rights! You stole land and fought with the indigenous trying to save their homes and now you are whining! Get over it- we have a beautiful planet to live on.

Stop your poor excuses for more racism and xenophobia, open your hearts and your doors to your fellow humans… because frankly, living in a cold miserable place is often not the first choice for many. Have some compassion, as others will have for you should anything happen to your home. And if you can’t, well then you’ve got a big history lesson coming up.

Me: Thanks Friend 3! They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. I’m beginning to disbelieve that theory…

Friend 3: *sigh* that’s just tragic. Perhaps you should say that to her at some stage down the line, when the dust has settled (for more of an impact) I’m sorry😔

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Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Bring On The (R)evolution!


This: (posted on my Facebook feed…)

Polly Toynbee: What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Catastrophe. Britain has broken apart. An uprising of resentment by the left-behind has torn us in two, a country wrecked by a yawning class divide stretched wider by recession and austerity.

Anger against a London establishment was deftly diverted by the Tory right and UKIP towards foreigners – enemies in Brussels and aliens in our midst. Wherever we went, the Guardian reported that same fury among those without education and opportunity, a country served right for its gross inequality.

Day after day the Sun, Mail, Express, Sunday Times and Telegraph injected poison into the nation’s bloodstream with tales of foreign criminals, jihadists and scroungers. How Murdoch and Dacre will revel in their power.

What of the false hopes raised for poorly paid, insecure, badly housed Brexit voters? Expecting something better, they will get much worse. “Controlling our borders”, they will expect immigrants, new and old, to be gone. They were told more housing, GP appointments and school places would be freed up from migrants. But as treasury receipts fall, there will be less of everything. Will the next call be to expel foreigners already here? What dark place does Britain for the British take us to?

Farage’s victory speech about the decent ordinary people taking back control “without a bullet fired” was unthinkably crass with an MP shot and stabbed to death in the heat of the campaign.

Cameron must surely be gone, the most disastrous prime minister in our lifetime has brought this calamity. But he will no doubt be replaced by one yet worse as the country is taken over by Tory extremists and fantasists, wild free-marketeer romantics experimenting with other people’s lives, alongside Ukip’s pernicious racism.

Ahead lie years of fractious negotiation, turning the EU into Britain’s number one enemy. The more these populist leaders need to prove this wasn’t a fatal error, the more they will blame all home-grown woes on our close neighbours. Britain has turned its back on the world.

This: #Brexit vs #Bremain

In my recent past, I used to express my opinions on things political on social media. Lately I have avoided it. I think it’s polarising and I’m sure nobody enjoys a ‘winger’ online. However, the whole Brexit vs Bremain argument intrigues me. I have no real perspective of how it feels to be in the UK with all the upheaval that has happened in the last few years, such as global recession, riots, general elections, the rise of racial tension and now the reality of possibly leaving European Union. I seem to recall feeling there was tension like this in the 1970’s. Except I was too young to appreciate the full misery everybody seemed to be feeling. 

So, back to the present and imminent referendum. Should we stay or should we go? (I say ‘we’ as I still feel as if I’m part of the UK.) My gut feeling is to remain in the EU. I feel there is too much to lose if the UK chooses to leave. 

Looking on my Facebook timeline, I saw this comment on a friends status update. I’m just gonna post it here for you to read. Please choose wisely… 

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I have to say, I think the leave campaign arguments are ridiculous.
We elect our MEPs. The Council of Europe is made up of elected heads of state. Each commissioner is appointed by a different elected government. Lots of big decisions can be vetoed by our elected government. That doesn’t seem undemocratic. In contrast, the vast majority of us can’t vote politicians out at the next general election in this country – because under our first past the post system, realistically only people in a few marginal constituencies have any impact at all on who forms our government.If we leave the EU, we are never going to get a good economic or business deal. The EU don’t want more unhappy member nations thinking they can benefit from leaving, so it’s entirely in their interests to screw us over to show others they should stay in. We’ll have years on uncertainty while they try to broker an impossible deal and we’ll inevitably end up worse. Pension funds will be hit by an inevitable fall in the FTSE. Big business will not invest here to the same degree in the next few years during the uncertainty of waiting to see the outcome of trade negotiations. 

And why should we have our cake and eat it? Freedom of movement is fundamental to the single market, even to the countries who aren’t EU members, so they’ll never let us have the same free trade rights without signing up to their rules. And at the moment, we help draw up those rules. If we leave, we’ll still have to live by those rules but with no chance to influence them.

And as for shedding regulations: nonsense. This country loves having rules out of a belief they create fairness and order, we are not going to suddenly lose red tape just because we’ve left the EU. Any business that wants to export to the EU will still have to abide by their regulations anyway – it’s a waste of time and money to have an external set and an internal set. 

Foreign criminals: there are thousands upon thousands of English scumbags in this country, why are we obsessed about a relativity tiny number of other scumbags just because they’re foreign? It’s human nature that some people break the law, and frankly it’s just as irrelevant if they’re foreign as if they’re black or white, rich or poor – we shouldn’t listen to the argument of stopping immigration wholesale because of the tiny minority who are bad eggs.

Controlling immigration: despite all the really tough rules that have been introduced on non-EU people living here, which have unfairly forced some really good and bright and hardworking friends of mine out of the country after they paid small fortunes to study here, the number of non-EU immigrants is still higher than EU. So even when we have the power to ‘crack down’ on immigration, it’s not working in terms of numbers. And people come here for jobs which boosts the economy. Our public services are not overstretched because of immigrants, it’s because – rightly or wrongly – we’ve had six years of austerity cutting them back to the bone to reduce the deficit. If you don’t invest in services, they get worse. Simple as that.

Border controls: we already check the passports of people coming into this country. If we want more controls than that, we’ll have to get them to apply for visas – and Europe would impose the same on us, meaning even a day trip to Calais would need an application form.

Lastly, I’m sick of hearing this line about ‘standing on our own’ like that’s a good thing. Isolation is never a good thing in life. Talking and working with our neighbours is always better than shunning them and looking arrogant. Being part of a big club rather than a little island by itself gives us much more bargaining power in the world when it comes to major powers like the US and China. We’ve got an agreement to not be involved in more integration. We have a veto over Turkey joining the EU. Nobody is going to make us join the Euro. And if we leave the EU, the right-wing of the Tory party will have its coup and trample all over our social rights to feed their business interests.

Leaving will be a horrible, stupid, humiliating, self-inflicted disaster. And Boris will be PM.

An Open Letter To Auckland City Limits: This Festival May Have Its ‘Limits’

  
To the organisers of Auckland City Limits, 

I don’t normally take to writing open letters in this fashion. I’m not really sure this will get the message across to you. So bear with me while I outline some points.  

I was looking forward to this festival. The acts I saw were great. However, this is not about the acts. This is more about the lack of information regarding some organisational hiccups I wanted to bring to your attention. I’m just going to bullet point them here. 

  • It was not clear that we had to obtain a seperate ‘Over 18’ wristband as well as our  wristband loaded with cash. 
  • We queued in the line for some drinks at the Golden Dawn bar for at least 25 minutes only to be told by the lovely barman we need to get verified. ‘Really sorry about that. We are an external service and as such we have no control on this. You can do that next door at the cashless booth just over there.’ 
  • After waiting 10 minutes at the said Cashless Booth, were told that we had to go to to the guys at the entrance with the black t-shirts to get the armband
  • They obliged with giving us a wristband. These were the same guys that were checking everyone had ID. At this point my enthusiasm for a beer had waned. 

So, here are some points to feedback to you: 

  • There were at least five opportunities for various staff to verify / inform / check wristbands before festival goers queue up for a while.
  • The cashless wristband technology has the capability to be loaded with could be ‘Verified Over 18’ tag, just like the guys on the gate had to do for us. The same wristband could also contain our ticket info too. 
  • Some clear signage explaining the need for a verified wristband would be great. Preferably at the main entrance. Some clarity on where this can be done would be useful too. 

On a slightly different note regarding your free smartphone app. It would be great if you could have a version that did not rely on smartphone data for the main operation. I found it difficult to read some of the pages. Similarly the map relied on using the google Maps technology and therefore also needed data to work. There was a lack of signal due to too many festival goers using phones at the same time. 

I am sure this is not the first instance of someone wanting to send feedback to you regarding aspects of this festival. I hope you can consider some of these issues and how they can be improved for the next time. 

Regards

Malcolm 

An academy by any other name is a school…

  

academy
əˈkadəmi/

noun

1. 
a place of study or training in a special field. 

“a police academy”

synonyms: educational institution, training establishment, centre of learning; 

2. 
a society or institution of distinguished scholars and artists or scientists that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field. 

“the Royal Academy of Arts”

This week, I posted this Guardian article with a Facebook status update of “Will this be a wise decision in the long term? Discuss. [5 marks]”

Every English school to become an academy – http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/15/every-english-school-to-become-an-academy-ministers-to-announce 

I then saw this article via the TES and I posted this with the status “If I ever contemplated going back to the UK to work in a school, that thought has just left my conscience…”

‘I will be the last person in England dragged kicking and screaming to be an academy head’ – Geoff Barton – https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/i-will-be-last-person-england-dragged-kicking-and-screaming-be

The original academies were established around the early 2000’s as a way of turning around the worst-performing schools and schools in disadvantaged areas. From my perspective, this was a good idea. My first teaching post was in such an academy. It is doing well today. 

But the headlines I have seen in the last week seem to be worrying. I have friends who are still teaching in the UK and some of them may be concerned for what will happen to their schools in the near future. One friend posted this as her FB status update this morning:

“I have taught for 16 years in inner city schools I have tried really hard to be a good teacher as the system became more restrictive. I have always tried to see my students are individuals with likes, interests, talents, passions and hates. To see them as people. Over the years with the data it became more and more difficult, in fact over the last three years I have had little time for this.  

I have learnt such a lot from my students, about their experiences, about how they learn, what motivates them, resliance, determination and along the way there have been laughs, tantrums, arguments, frustrations and hilarity. 

I have attended their gigs, exhibitions, I have visited them in hospital when they were ill, been their advocate with social services, sat in in psychiatric assessments, taken a phone call when one of them went into labour, I have listened to them tell me about terrible situations at home, or listened to them when they were stressed and upset and listened to their joys, and succeses and along the way, I have tried to teach them.  

I have seen them struggle with ideas, and come out the other side, I have seen them succeed both in terms of the qualifications and their own learning. I have enjoyed hearing about their lives after school, their graduations, children and marriages and their careers. 

Sometimes, I have been a rubbish teacher and sometimes I have been a good teacher. But the one thing I have done unlinchingly is to try; and to dedicate my 16 years to giving young peope an education in the state sector, which has been comprehensive. I believed in it. I worked for it and in it, and this week all I have ever worked for has been destroyed. Its been coming year by year but now its over.”

I feel she has explained what most dedicated teachers feel in the most profound way…