At Whenuakite School we have some school-wide beliefs and practices that guide how we are developing our class and school learning cultures.
We encourage life long learners to rely mostly on internal motivation rather than external motivation, as the primary incentive to give of their personal best in learning and behaviour. We have a tradition of developing practices that will assist learners to become self disciplined and responsible. Our expectation for all pupils from Year 0 to Year 8 is that they learn that the greatest reward comes from the satisfaction of one’s own effort.
Our practices have developed around the belief that for children to achieve to their potential or above their potential ( in all areas), they need to be deliberately and explicitly taught how to identify and use positive mindsets to meet the challenges they face in learning and in interacting with each other. We have used the ‘You Can Do It’ programme to clearly teach the children about confidence, persistence, organisation, getting along with others and emotional resilience.
The Key Competencies are wider in scope that the 5 mindsets (foundations) above but the foundations fit easily into the competencies and they are still priority areas we will focus on. The purpose of the Key Competencies is to formalise something that successful teachers have been doing for some time- explicitly teaching children the capabilities they will need to succeed at school and in life.
At Whenuakite School we expect our teachers to always be developing effective behaviour management knowledge and strategies so that classroom time is maximised for learning rather than spent on classroom management. We try to be proactive in encouraging pupils to want to behave responsibly and we have a strong focus on setting expectations plus on being fair and firm in ensuring there is accountability. We realise that if teachers and children are experiencing difficulties with the behaviour or attitudes of individuals, parents or caregivers probably are also. We endeavour to work in partnership with families in the best interest of the child.
We give weekly awards at Assembly to celebrate and acknowledge some individual achievements and often children contribute at classroom level to select these. We try to emphasise that the awards are of value but they should never be the prime incentive for achievement. In any one week, if everyone is doing their personal best, and some children are even achieving excellence, we would expect the majority of students to be worthy of an award for something. By choosing some, we may not be choosing the most worthy but rather we are choosing a sample so that we can enjoy the experience of celebrating some successes, as a whole school.
We avoid as much as possible the use of house points, group points, sticker charts, pupil of the week, stickers, prizes, over reliance on rules, coercion, or reliance on unrelated consequences. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world and we do live in a society that is strongly conditioned towards external motivators – positive and negative. Anything can be used as a one off, means to an end or a special treat etc but generally we rely heavily on intrinsic motivation, genuine feedback, and recognition for effort and success. We do have clear boundaries and accountability and we value the importance of working closely with parents and caregivers. Achieving our personal best is the essence of mutual respect between children, teachers and caregivers.
We have all known for some time that school has steadily taken over many responsibilities that once rested with families and society. Teachers have to be much more explicit in teaching many expectations and procedures that once we may have assumed children would ‘already know’. This is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching because unless children have these capabilities, they are likely to struggle to fulfil the goal of becoming successful, life time learners.
A classroom is like a large family and a school is a small community of families. It takes effort and energy for parents to develop and maintain happy, strong, resilient, family units. We admire and value our school parents/caregivers and their commitment to their families and the greater community. The greater their success, the greater our success as teachers at school. Even though we are very fortunate in this area, the reality is that modern society is so diverse and complex, families have considerable pressures, so school increasingly also has many challenges.
The Government, Ministry of Education and parents have high expectations of schools. Schools (teachers) are expected to provide safe and caring learning environments. They are expected to establish values and behaviours of a higher standard than exist generally in our society. This is an enormous challenge but unless each teacher can achieve this in their classroom, learning may struggle to flourish and the wider school culture may suffer.
The Ministry of Education provides support for learning and behaviour largely through Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour (moderate needs), Resource Teachers Literacy, Truancy Officers, Emergency Assistance, Speech Therapy and Special Education. Unfortunately MOE create a level of unrealistic expectation that these services are sufficiently resourced to provide the assistance required to quickly solve behaviour and learning problems. Our experience has been that even with these services, a disproportionate level of time, expense and effort has to be continually given by teachers and management to meet many of these individual needs. This is always to the detriment of our preferred focus which should be on teaching and learning.
If regular sleep, nutrition and secure and sensible routines are well established, children will be more likely to do well. Tiredness, unhealthy nutrition, excessive media/digital activity, irregular attendance, hearing and speech problems, anxiety, depression, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, autism are some of the more common ongoing difficulties children in every classroom can be presenting. At best the MOE is only able to offer advice or partial assistance in most cases so teachers and management are left to cope, the best they can. Despite our considerable success in coping admirably, with current resourcing, the time and energy devoted to behaviour and special learning needs, is probably the single most significant impediment to quality teaching and learning, on an ongoing, daily basis.
The good news is that our teachers and families work hard to overcome challenges and for most people, most of the time, our school is a happy, positive, rewarding place to be part of. Children look forward to coming to school and they appreciate and genuinely like their school.
We have found the most effective way to help children who are experiencing continued difficult problems is to ask their parents to take them to their local GP. From there they are referred immediately to counselling and in most cases they get the specialised help they require. The RTLB and Health Camp are also effective avenues but both have application processes that can be lengthy, depending on case loads. Reading Recovery successfully helps individuals who have struggled to find early success in literacy and our Resource Teacher Literacy is a practical support when we require help to support individuals or groups.
If we are able to put a large investment into meeting needs early, and meeting them fully, we have found that the short term investment pays huge dividends later on. Behaviour problems are more manageable, pupils are more self- motivated, teachers have better strategies and the curriculum is able to be more effectively implemented.