written by Marilyn Gwilliam, Principal Papatoetoe Central School
“Help”, I said to our team at school last week. “This month’s blog is due and I need your help! What shall I write about?” I said that I felt like celebrating, that I wanted to focus on the super things in our schools and as I anticipated (and hoped), their responses indeed came racing back across cyberspace. They were mostly about our very special NZC.
A number of teachers lamented the fact that the NZC has gone off the radar somewhat. They want to see it back, sitting right at the forefront of our work in schools. I think I can hear widespread agreement out there.
In 2007 we celebrated the NZC’s vision, principles, values and key competencies like never before and we had the time of our lives. In the NZC we had something that we could really work with in our own communities. Between 2007 and 2009, we saw possibly the most exciting and ‘go forward’ time in recent NZ educational history. As one teacher commented, “the walls are literally coming down”, and our approaches have become more flexible, personalised and diverse.
Another teacher said that the NZC provides us with the opportunity to create all rounders and not book worms. I thought this was a great way of looking at the breadth of our curriculum and the NZ approach to teaching and learning. Many spoke about child centred learning, authentic learning, and the key competencies in the NZC.
I believe that NZ teachers have really embraced the key competencies and they derive huge professional satisfaction from actively teaching them. There are many examples in our schools of students self managing, thinking creatively, participating and contributing in a variety of ways. We only need to attend a school assembly to see our students confidently running the show to appreciate the value of a curriculum that encourages confident and actively involved young people.
In our primary schools one of the key social developmental tasks relates to friendships. Quite often young children need help with making, being and keeping a friend and teachers do terrific work supporting them with developing their friendships. Given the sometimes treacherous social media environment these days, support with maintaining friendships has become increasingly important and friendship seems to have a whole new meaning.
Reference was made to the variety of learning experiences that the NZC promotes, underpinned by 8 foundation principles. Teachers can plan authentic experiences for their students located in their own diverse contexts and in acknowledgement of their cultural capital. Our teachers spoke about students exploring for themselves and being able to talk about their own learning and what they need to do next to make progress.
Many really appreciate the focus in the NZC on tailoring learning experiences to suit their students. They maximise access to outdoor educational opportunities like local pools, marae, botanical gardens, museums and other learning contexts. For many students, the first time they catch a train or a ferry provides the ultimate excitement! It is very special to see parents, caregivers and increasingly grandparents on these trips and the connectedness that is tangible between a school and its community when they all set out on a day’s expedition together.
While the eight learning areas in the NZC are presented as distinct, we were encouraged in our own curriculum design, to make use of the natural connections that exist between them and many schools have developed their inquiry learning programmes around this premise. The curriculum statements, we were told, should be the starting point for developing programmes of learning suited to students’ needs and interests.
So let’s resurrect the NZC. Let’s be proud of what we do. Let’s speak up about our successes, celebrate our diversity, and treasure the philosophy of our special curriculum. Let’s re-visit with our teachers and our community its values and principles, review our approaches to the learning areas, and share our insights in relation to their impact on our students’ learning.
Let’s hear it for the NZC!