The Honour that keeps on Giving

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.

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