Sometimes teachers are asked to bring an unruly child into line and this usually means dealing with a degree totally unreasonable behaviour, mixed with recalcitrance topped off with a generous dollop of a degree of total self-centred behaviour. None of it is usually reasonable nor is there any understanding that you simply cannot run a school with this kind of unruliness. I used to give such rare displays of temper and indolence a bit of rope and when I came to see that such behaviour is also irrational and the umpteenth aggressive challenge of “Why should I…….? do whatever is being requested would be met from me with “Well it is really a simple case that I am the principal, and you are in Year 8.”
But I am going to have to re-consider my strategy after the exhibition of the gathered people in the grounds of Parliament Buildings. Clearly the behaviours that we would once have called childish, arrogant and selfish are OK. Stopping the good students from working with the teacher and seemingly they would rather work against them, instead of with them.
Overall students are more reasonable that that. Schools that work alongside their students enjoy an atmosphere that is collegial by and large. Many a school has built a structure that involves the students who respond in a reasonable manner adding the value of their ideas and enthusiasms. And during the various iterations of Covit school students have demonstrated impeccable behaviour. This has been supported by teacher displaying a commitment to their profession at a time when it would have been easy to give up.
In the previous endemics that education has had to deal with, teachers have stood out with keeping the programmes moving along. That tradition has for the most part been maintained. And that applies to all sector – early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary.
We would do well to pause and consider the great good fortune that teachers and educators, and those working to keep the education system going. bring with them each day of the year.
Yes, changes have been necessary – new ways of programme delivery for instance, the places where instruction takes place, the role of parents, and so on. It is hoped that the system considers these and build on the best of them.
I was astounded when the letter arrived from Parliament Building advising that I was to be promoted from the rank of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit to the next rank – Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Once is a big thrill, twice is unimaginable.
But I don’t want to talk about all that. I want to spend a few moments to reflect on the congratulatory comments and thanks. Of course, the honour is focused on a single person but that must not be allowed to hide the fact that the thrill is a great personal one but the it resounds across many many people.
At one point I shared the firmly held belief that I have talked about for many years. That is the conviction that we can not achieve anything on our own and that the best of our work is when we allow things to see the things achieved through collaboration. At the school level the best teachers work collaborative with other teacher, with students, across the wide compass of activity. I used to point out, often on the last assembly of the year when I was in full verbal flight, how important students doing great things are rewarded with what leads to schools claiming being able to claim greatness.
I have had the pleasure of ideas catching the wind and moving faster than I could and further than I could have imagined. One very special example of this was the idea, cooked up on the leafy lawns of the University of California at Berkeley to be served up as soon as I was back home. It was the simple belief that all students could succeed if we caught then early enough and excited them enough and opened their eyes to the offerings that are waiting for them. Now this was a big bite to take and swallow.
Over the course of 2009 the numbers who gathered around the idea. The then Secretary for Education, Dame Karen Sewell, put several of the top MOE officers to see how far the ideas would stretch and gradually the ground shifted from What! to How? Teachers, school trustees, parents, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and students all started to think collaboratively and collectively – realising that opportunities that appear only exist when actions follow! New Zealand education had something of a reputation once summed this up in the witticism that “The road to Hell was paved with wisdom and failed education programmes.”
There are many times in my career that I have experienced the joy of collaborative action but fewer opportunities to adequately embrace the educators who saw wisdom in getting on board and build the future – I would like to think that all those messages that I received were written in the spirit of collaborative action.