Friday, 18 January 2019

Engaging the mind via Haiku 5 7 5




Haiku is an old art form. Wikipedia tells us it started in the late 19thC after evolving from an earlier form
of writing called the hokku. The writer is constrained to use only 5 syllables in lines 1 and 3 but can be
more effusive in line 2 with 7 syllables.
Whenever I read a powerful Haiku, I feel nourished and marvel how the poet has captured such impact
with such brevity of communication.


Light shines from the sun
And travels through the white cloud
Dives into the pond
By Viet


This simple form is evocative and extremely expressive. The minimalist use of diction is actually its
strength in capturing the imagery of the moment.
Of course one could say the enforced structure of haiku constrains what is possible with more
landscape of imagery, diction and figures of speech.
This potential debate excites me and I look forward to anyone wishing to discuss it.
As the famous author Mark Twain is to have purported to have said, "If had more time I would have
written a shorter letter."
As an educator, I am passionate about encouraging children to see learning as an exciting pursuit. I
want them to realise that the brain is like a muscle which we can build and that if we are brave and
willing to make mistakes and have a go, we can be free. Free of comparing ourselves to the next
person, free from feeling silly when we don't know something but mostly free to show others who we
are without embarrassment or fear of ridicule. Being able to express our thoughts and emotions via
dance, music or writing is a wonderful gift but to show the essence of our thinking is a great challenge.
I feel a great responsibility as a teacher and principal of a school to foster these things and deliver a
curriculum where 'thinking' is at its heart. I mean deep and powerful thinking, away from the rote,
recall end but more of the higher order thinking where learners are curious and creative delving into
analysis, synthesis, evaluative thinking and  prediction.
Haiku is just one of millions of ways to engage higher order thinking. I was delighted to read a few
haiku poems recently from Year 10 boys from Wellington College. These boys attend English as a
Second Language class. To be able to write in English demonstrating their thinking so well at this high
level is very impressive and beautiful.


For your pleasure, there are two more below.


Yellow sun in sky
We are feeling comfortable
Bathed in the sunshine
                      Tony Yang


Wind blowing gently
Passing the clean blue window
Drops on my shoulder
                                    Kai
Ref: Picture from Rod Van Abbema--spirited-thinking.com


Friday, 9 November 2018

Keeping Science Teaching Alive




I recently read an article on science teaching in the DomPost and was compelled to comment via a letter to the editor. However, on submitting my long-winded response, I saw one of the key criteria of acceptance was the word limit of 200 words! I didn't have the time nor the wit to crunch down my thoughts so here it is as a blog post. I hope you enjoy.


Dear Editor
I enjoyed reading Dave Armstrong's piece in Tuesday's (30/10/18) DomPost entitled, 'Science shouldn't be a 'nice to have' in schools'. Part of me winced though as putting science experts into schools is not the ‘silver bullet’ answer. Science learning does not stand alone and should not be siloed as historically happened in many schools.

Yes, we do need innovative scientists to contribute to our economy and help solve the many significant problems the world faces. However in reality best practice suggests teachers need to take an inter-disciplinary approach or an integrated curriculum view where all these subjects are linked together in a meaningful way.

The power of combining and integrating subject matter was promoted by one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein.

He said,  “For as long as I can remember — and certainly long before I had the term for it — I’ve believed that creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something “new.” From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our “own”“original” ideas. The notion, of course, is not new — some of history’s greatest minds across art, science, poetry, and cinema have articulated it, directly or indirectly, in one form or another.” (1)

Capturing the love and passion for science and related subjects (STEAM) needs to start with our new entrants at school. STEAM promoting the core dispositions such as curiosity, collaboration and creativity traverses all that we are and do as humans. Children love getting their hands and minds into these fascinating subjects and they link so well with other curriculum areas as well. It is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world and something that you do, not something that you learn from a computer or an expert. Of course, it is great when an expert 'gets' this pedagogy and can use his or her expertise to facilitate new learning. However, you don’t need to be an ‘expert’ to facilitate powerful science engagement at the primary school level. You do need to be passionate and willing to do the ‘yards’ with preparation and provocation.

Sir Ken Robinson has got it right when he said, “Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mined the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t service. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. We make too much of a difference between science and art. It’s often assumed that to be a teacher you just need a good degree in whatever it is you are being paid to teach, but it’s simply not true, it was never true. A great teacher obviously knows their material, the real skill is engaging people in the material and “firing up their imaginations”. (2)

I asked a research scientist if he were to give anyone advice on how to inspire science in primary age children, what would he say? He said, “Most of all we need passionate teachers and promoting curiosity in children is the key. Kindle the scientific spirit by asking why and how. The details of figuring things out (the mathematics for example) are crucial, but if you don't have the context and the motivation any learning can seem very dry. 

I like what George Wald said, ‘When it (science) is going well, it is like a quiet conversation with Nature.’(3)

To me this is saying that in doing science, you get to ask questions about the way that things are, and get answers from nature! If you are patient, you can gain an understanding that is much deeper, richer and more complex than the way things seem superficially. Part of having the conversation, is knowing the language (the things that we learn at school and beyond), but the point of learning the language is to use to gain understanding, to be able to conduct your quiet conversation with nature.”

Einstein said ‘look deep into nature and you will understand everything’. This is great advice and I support Dave Armstrong’s fundamental motivation which is to get more science into schools but let’s not see science as a laboratory full of experts and test tubes. It is not about experts and buildings.

Warren Owen






Da Vinchi drawing: photo ref: overnitecelebrity.biz

 Bird and plane painting --Oliver Cass








Monday, 22 October 2018

Going Places





The Power of Future Focussed Holistic Education

It is now several weeks since Waterloo School’s production, ‘Going Places’ played to our school community. As a staff we all hesitated at taking on this whole school production in our modest school hall. With a roll of 555 students it seemed a daunting task to be able to give all the children a meaningful experience on stage. Initially the logistics of doing this just seemed too hard but it had been a few years since the last whole school production and we sensed the time was right to ‘give it a whirl’. We collectively decided we didn’t want to just buy in a scripted show as we felt it would not engage much thinking or ownership and only a few ‘stars’ would benefit from the experience.

The term proved to be tough with record breaking sickness amongst the children and the staff. The winter grey tones greeted most days making us wonder if the rain and cold would ever retreat.

As a staff we had settled on an inquiry theme of ‘Migration’ to delve into with the children. With 23 ethnicities in the school we felt it to be a potentially powerful topic being so relevant to our families and the children’s lives. It coincided with our country deciding to up the number of refugees we would allow into New Zealand, supporting the importance of embracing diversity.

As it turned out these decisions, firstly an end of term production and then to study ‘Migration’, proved to be a mighty combination.

With an initial whole staff planning brainstorm on the large whiteboard in the staff room, the individual teachers set off with a great deal of autonomy to ‘frame out’ with their teams how the inquiry concept could unfold. There were so many sub factors within the theme such as human migration, animal migration, the ‘push and pull’ factors of migration and so much more.

Everyone got into it and before we knew it, mid-term arrived allowing us just 5 weeks to start planning for our production. It made so much sense to use our migration theme as the focus and quickly the production title of ‘Going Places’ was settled on. A small group of production enthusiasts led the way empowering the classes to use their creativity to come up with their focus item(s) representing their learning. A child was selected from each year group to form a group that ended up being called the ‘bus stop kids’. The idea was for these 6 children to ‘bump into’ each other at the bus stop a little confused to where they were going and where they had come from. Their intermittent brief conversations were the links that merged the various items to make the production merge into a meaningful whole with the final message from Year 6 boy Archit:

Migration has brought us all together. To come half way around the world has taken courage and resilience. We all have the opportunity, but more so, the responsibility to embrace and learn from each other’s cultures. That would bring respect, peace and aroha to the world. Imagine that! Thanks for coming tonight.

It was powerful and authentic stuff, whether it was thinking deeply about the theme of migration and its many sub questions (e.g. aren’t we all migrants?) to the team work required to present the items. We all worked hard trying to do our best get all our students on stage in the old school hall—beauty came with this simplicity. What will be remembered is the creativity of the items, the expressive dance, the individual family stories of migration, the stirring singing and the musical items.

The whole process was remarkably seamless and harmonious. The community absolutely loved it and we received many lovely emails and posts on social media which of course was very nice to hear.  This is quote from an email from a parent represents the type of feedback we received.

"I expected that I would enjoy the parts that had my kids in it, but to otherwise not be as completely entertained and diverted and at times quite emotionally affected by all of the performances as I was. I laughed. I at times almost cried. It was just so incredibly good that I still can’t quite believe it. Absolute credit to all of the staff, parents and students."

But the point of this article is not to ‘promote’ our school production but to focus on a few things that can get lost in the plethora of demands placed on schools.
Firstly, the whole experience was uplifting with the children loving it. They were able to ‘live out’ what they had been engrossed in with their inquiry studies. It was such powerful and authentic learning.

Accidentally we had created something that you can’t buy in from any professional learning course or from any consultant.

All educators know that once you connect children with an authentic and/or meaningful context they are intrinsically motivated. They are self-driven to inquiry (agency) and the ‘heart’ of this motivation (the theme Migration) floated on a sea of dispositions or competencies. Collaboration, risk taking, resilience, creativity, problem solving, meta-cognition, flexibility and self-management were just some of these which came into ‘active’ play during this rich learning experience.
This was ‘home grown’ from the ground up with all involved. The staff’s good will from reception through to the caretaker was exceptional and the whole experience turned out to be a very effective unplanned team building experience.

Lastly and as an aside, this experience once again proved that the arts are a conduit to the academics and are a good test of the pulse of any school.  



Wednesday, 12 September 2018

NO!

NO ! !  NO ! !  NO ! !  NO ! !  NO ! !  NO ! !  NO ! !

   
As Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want!” From my experience as a parent and as a teacher, most children take a while to understand that no means no, not maybe!

I have also observed that children feel more secure and happy when they realize that the adults caring for them are reasonable people but they are not going to ‘cave in’ under the pressure of nagging. Reasonable people mostly explain their decisions but sometimes children have to accept that parents and teachers are not in the business of justifying every decision and that they need to accept ‘no’ as meaning ‘no’! Where justification of a decision is required, keep it short and simple.

As adults we have the responsibility of building children’s ability to control their impulses and deal with disappointment. The more resilient and ‘grounded’ children are, the more likely they are to succeed. If children do not learn these lessons early in life we are setting them up for disappointment and often under achievement in their adult years.

Children want boundaries as they make them feel safe and secure.  I have met very few children who when treated with respect, fairness and kindness don’t respond well.

One clear message from all the psychologists studying children is, get it right early and set your children up for success because it isn’t going to get easier! Anyone with teenagers will relate to that.

Kia Kaha (be strong), so your children will grow up in a better position to realize their potential. Make thoughtful, reasoned decisions with the information you have to hand at the time, and stand by them.




Friday, 20 July 2018

Silence is Complicity




I recently saw another fabulous documentary on Martin Luther King’s life.  This man’s integrity and the difference he made to humanity stands out in history. He was intelligent and was able to touch people’s consciousness by his simple and clear dealing with the truth. A stinging but powerful statement was his commentary around “the appalling silence of good people.”  

To be clear he actually said,
“We will have to repent, in this generation, not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people.
“He went on to say,
 “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Another battle is now being fought and not before time. A significant moment came in 2017 with the ‘outing’ of Harvey Weinstein and the many other men who have used their position and power to sexually and emotionally abuse women. It started as a trickle but very quickly became a flood as more and more men were ‘exposed’ for their past bullying. Daily we read about more and more high profile men being ‘outed’.  In our own backyard the Law Society have acknowledged the problem that exists in their profession. (1)
A wide cross-section of society have joined the chorus of support for these brave women who have spoken out. Oprah Winfrey’s speech as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes was not only inspiring but pointed out the work to be done. “It's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace.” (2)
We know this is only the tip of the iceberg as harassment in the workplace is unfortunately common, taking many forms and often hits hardest for those operating further down the hierarchy.
Employees’ acquiescence is usually based on fear. Fear of losing your job, fear of not being promoted and fear that further harassment will take place if you don’t bow down to the bully. These bullies usually operate ‘behind closed doors’ and are clever manipulators and often outright liars. Colleagues too often ‘run for cover’ being too afraid themselves to speak out. Their silence is demoralising and hurtful but to some degree very understandable with them having career aspirations, jobs to protect and families to feed. Unfortunately this silence adds power to the bully’s position. These people are actually the very protective enablers and their silence is in fact no more than complicity.
I have seen bullying in the workplace. It was very cleverly managed behind closed doors and extremely emotionally damaging. Unfortunately this was the leader’s modus operandi so the harassment didn’t stop there with others affected. Having watched the damage from afar and trying to intervene became a bitter and depressing experience.
I was delighted by Oprah’s message in her speech encouraging the press and all of us to uncover the truth and not turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice.

Unfortunately confronting harassment of any sort in the work place is an uphill battle for the victims. The system works against them in a number of ways. Board and senior management members often ‘dig in’ to support the regime as any admission or ‘fronting up’ is an admission of personal and collective fault. They often also perceive it is bad for business and bad for their organisation’s brand. It is easier to hire lawyers to use the power of the law to make their problem go away. It is often a ‘David v Goliath’ situation for the victim (3).

I thought Taylor Swift comments after she won the court case against a former radio host who had groped her summed the situation up rather well.

"Going to court to confront this type of behaviour is a lonely and draining experience, even when you win, even when you have the financial ability to defend yourself," Swift told Time. "Even though awareness is higher than ever about workplace sexual harassment, there are still so many people who feel victimized, afraid and silenced by their abusers and circumstances." (4)

This view point can be generalised across all types of bullying in the workplace.

As an educator, I feel a big responsibility to ensure these values around standing up for what is right is a central part of the children’s education. Having empathy for others and a social conscience is fundamental to what it is to be human. The Weinstein case has highlighted one aspect (sexual harassment) of the ‘black hole’ of injustice and although depressing, it has helped to ‘rattle a few cages’. I am hoping it will give others strength to speak out and what a difference to the world this would make.

Meanwhile schools and families have the obligation to explicitly educate our young people with these central issues of human responsibility but most of all, ‘walk their talk’ as modelling is the most powerful weapon against the insidious nature of bullying.
 Picture: Love this pic.com





Friday, 1 June 2018

Can ‘Play’ be Seen as Work ?




Each week an email bounces into my inbox from http://thekidshouldseethis.com/   I often choose one of the videos to share with classes as part of my regular ‘cameo’ class visits as the videos are usually powerful and thought provoking.


Because a recent one was particularly good on so many levels, I strongly recommend you take 7 minutes and have a look at it. http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/the-playful-wonderland-behind-great-inventions

The video just adds enormous weight to the growing development and recognition of Learning through Play which so many schools are investigating. http://warrenowensblog.blogspot.co.nz/2017/11/the-power-of-play.html
I see so many adults shudder at the thought of their children going to school to ‘play’ and not getting down to the real work. I ‘get this’ as when most of us went through school, work was work and play was for playtime.
Many parents have come through a school system based on the transmission (empty vessel) model where the teacher helped fill the student with knowledge in preparation for exam unloading of what they had learnt. With this model in mind, it would be easy to be fooled by busy work via worksheets or other low level tasks laboriously presented with beautiful handwriting, straight lines and crafted borders.
I have to admit, with what we now know about how children learn, ‘it does my head in’ to see low level busy work whether it is through the traditional classroom lens or the learning through play approach.
There has to be a meaningful purpose (learning intention) and rigour for the learning environment to be as powerful as it should be. This doesn’t mean laughter and fun has to disappear and in fact motivation theory demonstrates that when our emotions are positively engaged we are in our optimum learning ‘flow’ which means we are very ready and energised to learn.
The video I recommended you to watch shows quite explicitly the power of play.
I often think I would love to take the word play out of the education discussion as it so often produces glazed over looks from some, annoyed expressions from others and an ethereal look from the devotees.
Some years ago, a student in my school coined the phrase ‘edutainment’(1) which in his words is a series of events sneakily intertwined with education. School should be a place of education, entertainment, friendship and memories. I would like to take this word ‘edutainment’ which I love and because it sits so well with the gamification growth in the curriculum and merge it with Papert’s ‘hard fun’ expression of all those years ago. This merger gets rid of the distracting word play and gets to the heart of the matter.


A quality learning environment promotes a strong work ethic mixed with highly engaging tasks (hard fun) and inquiries where the skills of finding out and understanding (research) are incrementally scaffolded for young children. Curiosity, creativity and rigour need to be at education’s heart.
At least equally important is the E.Q (emotional intelligence) support and development in schools. Without the backbone of E.Q., IQ is undermined and meaningless. The social and emotional aspects of education are more important than ever.
I love the charts included in the appendix of this blog and subscribe to so much of what is said in the related article.
Enough from me, except to say, don’t forget to watch the video. (link repeated)
Warren Owen
Appendix: (The work place needs of the future and the relationship of play in preparing children with the key skills and competencies required)


(1) Theo MacDonald

Picture and Quote ref:      https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/14/how-einstein-thought-combinatorial-creativity/










Wednesday, 25 April 2018

In the Early World --- Back to the Future



Our new Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins has set in motion a review of NZ’s education system. He has stated that NZ has as an education system to be proud of but it now needs to change to meet the needs of the 21stC.


His vision for the education portfolio is a high quality, fair, and inclusive education system that provides all New Zealanders with learning opportunities and prepares them for the future. (1) Who could argue with that!

The minister has called for submissions on what this might look like and this is my take on things.
My thinking comes from 40 years of involvement in the primary education sector. During this time I have been a passionate observer, reader and writer on education matters. Currently I am a principal of a moderately large Wellington primary school. (Waterloo School)

 I don’t claim to have it all ‘nailed’ and I recognise and delight I am still learning as I approach the receipt of my ‘gold card’. What I do know is evidence based.

There are a few key questions to what has become so obvious to even the most cynical in the last few decades. These include how do we prepare our children for a world that is beyond our imagination? How do we craft a child’s learning journey towards a job that is yet to be created?

There is a tsunami of evidence that has been exponentially building that demonstrates the world we know today will be radically different from tomorrow. “Roughly two-thirds of students entering primary schools this year will work in jobs that do not exist yet, so the ability of countries like NZ to respond as the digital revolution accelerates depends on its future ‘skills makeup’ according to Microsoft executives at their recent Education Exchange in Singapore.” (2) This might seem a rather glib approximation but the statement is supported by reality and a lot of research and modelling including an IDC study commissioned by Microsoft which has predicted digital products and services will account for 55% of NZ gross domestic product by 2021. (last year, just 6%)  (3)

A little while ago I read a New York Times article written by Thomas L. Friedman entitled, ‘Need a Job? Invent It!(4) This provocative title deeply resonated with me as it is clearly apparent that the days of assuming our young people will transition from school or university into jobs has long gone. It’s tough out there and the ‘playing field’ has changed.

Friedman quotes an executive he interviewed as saying, “We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think-to ask the right questions-and to take initiative.”

Many of the answers to how can we prepare our children for our rapidly changing world have been proffered by some of the world’s best education minds including Sir Ken Robinson.
Despite the huge goodwill, energy and resources that have gone into New Zealand’s education system over the last few decades, many of our education outcomes have been progressively falling. (5)
We are not alone in failed approaches.  Professor Guy Claxton from Kings College, London listed the following international failures.   (6)

These countries’ visions use similar words describing the desired skills and attributes needing to be promoted in their students. Words such as ‘creative’, ‘confident’, ‘flexible’, ‘curious’, ‘independent’ and ‘collaborative’ abound. These key skills and dispositions are widely recognised as being central and critical to preparing our young for the wild ride ahead.

Claxton and others asks, ‘So what goes wrong’? (6a) Why aren’t these dispositions imbedded in our education system after so many years of talk? Never before has it been so easy to access research and best practice pedagogy via the world’s experts so what gets in the way of achieving better outcomes for children?

I believe there are two related barriers which get in the way of comprehensive and meaningful implementation.

Firstly, fear gets in the way. Everyone involved including the politicians set out to do the right thing based on the best practice but often the desire to improve learning outcomes is accidentally sabotaged and confused by each level of the education hierarchy setting out to justify their existence.

I say fear because so called ‘accountability’ has too often got in the way. A classic example of this which has been widely acknowledged in NZ has been the obsession with national standards data gathering which has driven schools inwards so their lens focussed on the traditional 3 Rs. This is a generalisation but unfortunately the fear of allowing ‘standards’ to fall and / or a poor ERO review caused many schools (BOT and Principals) to exhaust their staff with endless paperwork and reviews leaving minimal reflection time for teachers to see the ‘woods for the trees’.
We have a great opportunity to make change now but we have to be fearless.

Many well-meaning people worry about falling standards and the importance of the basics in education.  However what has to be realised and understood is of course we can’t underestimate the importance of the basic skills and dispositions that empower communication and knowledge building.  These skills will always be fundamental and need to be fostered with rigour wherever possible using authentic and meaningful contexts. It is not the ‘content’ of these fundamental skills that needs changing but the ‘how’ they are taught and scaffolded which is crucial.  Essentially we need a school system that values the developmental nature of learning. Young children don’t and can’t jump the same hurdles all at the same time, but we can engage their minds and capture their unique ideas and thinking. Get this right and you build real learning power, confidence and aspiration.
We need to value questions above answers and creativity over fact regurgitation with an overlay of high aspirations for all.

People like the world renowned ‘thinking’ guru, Dr Edward de Bono have always believed thinking and creativity are skills that can be taught and learnt! The exponential change our children will face, demands that thinking skills should have the same focus and currency as the core skills of numeracy and literacy.

What is exciting, is that once this is recognised, across the board academic outcomes trend upwards.
According to Friedman, Finland is one of the most innovative economies in the world and it is the only country where students leave high school ‘innovation-ready’. They learn concepts and creativity more than facts.” Intelligence is not enough. Creativity, or the ability to think divergently, can be developed and improved. It’s a learnable process. 

What are these skills or dispositions and what is the journey we need to take children on to give them real learning power? The answer to this question has been written and spoken about for years and years.
Skills such as perseverance, flexibility, questioning, curiosity, creativity, collaboration, reflection, resilience and optimism.  I like Guy Claxton’s metaphor of a school as a mind gym v an assembly line. (7)  The concept of imagining the mind as a muscle you can build is appealing.
Seymour Papert said, “Learning should be hard fun” (8)   where there is engagement, passion and purpose.

Alongside ‘fear’, the other key barrier which gets in the way of successful implementation of New Zealand’s vision for education is we haven’t unpacked what the key skills and dispositions actually mean and look like for our teachers. Many teachers do not consider themselves as creative and they need support to demystify ‘creativity’.
The word creativity is bandied about quite often in education circles but what does it actually mean? Do some have it and some not? It is a widely misunderstood word.
Creativity is not a magical quality that some have and some don’t! We have to ensure creativity and thinking skill development is a dominant part of the curriculum. Not only should it be totally integrated in the curriculum ensuring the learning tasks engage higher order thinking and age and stage appropriate ‘hard fun’, but right from pre-school, children need to explicitly know that their thinking and ideas have merit and value.  Take a subject like art as it is a prime example. Traditionally most children have received implicit and explicit feedback about their art related to how it looks and in many cases how it mirrors realism. Art is an expression of a child’s thinking and this is where the value should be put.

Part and parcel of promoting creativity and thinking is treating these skills as natural and important aspects of learning with children. Discussing these attributes and providing skill development and understanding adds enormous uplift in confidence and indirectly demonstrates to children that their thinking has merit and it is an important aspect of their development. 

Most creative achievements have come about through dogged determination. Without going into the detail there are some common ways to improve creativity in all of us and thus it makes enormous sense for schools to make time to teach these skills and dispositions. Ideally schools will have an active programme teaching thinking strategies and infusing creativity and higher order thinking into every aspect of school life.

But it isn’t going to happen by osmosis. Schools and teachers need support, the mandate and the expectation that the culture of their school needs to live and breathe these dispositions.
We need this education change not only because it has been proven without doubt that children will benefit in all manner of means (not only academically but holistically) but also for survival. The world is facing unprecedented challenges such as population explosion, significant climate change, significant human conflict via religion, politics and greed and of course our growing resistance to anti biotics and the threat of super bugs. It is a no brainer if for nothing more than making schools a place of true learning where young people are set up wanting to learn and create for the rest of their life.
It is time to focus on learning and not schooling. Education should not be seen as something that starts at kindergarten and finishes at university. Even from a practical point of view, a university degree is no passport guarantee for a job anymore. The 19th and 20thC roadmap for success has been disrupted by exponential change, much of which has been brought about by technology.
This of course applies to us as educators. We must not be swayed by fads or pressure to do things for the wrong reasons but follow what our hearts, experience and quality research is telling us. Data is so important!  Good teachers are natural ‘inquirers’ constantly gathering important qualitative and quantitative data because they know this will provide rich information so they can provide the best programme possible. They are not driven by top down expectations unless of course it makes good sense. 
Sir Ken Robinson gets it big time when he said, Of course technology is important as is science, maths, engineering (STEM) but they are not enough! STEM is at risk of becoming a fad and a diversion away from the heart of the matter. Students need equal doses of the arts, the humanities, physical exercise and play. But more important than any subject content is school culture. (9)

So enough talk! Why would any country ignore what all the research is showing and in particular the common view points of the best education minds in the world? Why ignore the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, our own John Hattie, Professor Guy Claxton, David Perkins, Art Costa, Sugata Mitra et al.
A central part of this ‘culture’ is recognising the immense importance of teacher connection and building self-belief in students (relationships), combined with fostering an exciting and rigorous thinking philosophy where ideas are celebrated and questions valued over answers. The role of the teacher is more complex and demanding than any time in history. The walls of the class room have to be metaphorically and in some ways literally broken down.

Interestingly enough there is nothing ‘earth shatteringly new’ with what we know about how children learn and thrive. From 1949 to 1962 Elwyn Richardson at Oruaiti School with the blessing of the then and now famous Director of Education, Clarence Beeby,   discarded the official syllabus and turned to the children’s lives and immediate environment for the basis of his curriculum. Using the children’s natural curiosity and interest, Richardson taught them how to observe closely the world around them and to record their new discoveries and their own responses to these. From here, he developed a school programme that was anchored in the children’s surroundings and real lives. Through environmental study the children learned the basis of scientific method, and brought these skills to bear on studies that spanned all subjects. His method was a revolt away from science as a separate subject to an integrated programme of arts and science. Richardson wrote In The Early World (10) at Oruaiti School published by The New Zealand Council for Educational Research NZCER in 1964. The book tells the story of how Richardson’s students became increasingly aware of their own capacity for personal expression, while collectively establishing a shared understanding of aesthetic values.

Richardson’s holistic philosophy capturing the children’s thinking and creativity has stood the test of time and is an inspiring story. The aesthetics and the power of nature holding the secrets of so much are as relevant today as ever.  Our best internationally acclaimed educationalists continue to champion such beliefs. For most children up to the 1960s their world was their neighbourhood but now technology has shown us a global neighbourhood which our young people are embracing. It is time to thread this holistic and constructivist philosophy through our schools leveraging and integrating the powerful digital tools of the 21stC. How exciting would that be!

Let’s get on with it with rigour, high aspirations and passion. Let’s really create a nation of curious and creative minds combined with empathy and good will. (E.Q.)  Let’s be fearless in the pursuit of what we have known for a long time.

How do we do this? It won’t happen overnight and I have already said enough but our biggest focus needs to be Whole School Professional Learning building the capacity of our current cohort of teachers to take on this exciting challenge of building a ‘thinking culture’ in schools.  Let’s find the people who already exist in our school system who deeply understand these dispositions and use them to work with schools to support them to providing transformational education that will not only excite students but set them alight to achieve more than they thought possible.

Warren Owen

(2)    Adele Redmond, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, DomPost 31/3/2018
(5)    NZ Principal March 2018 pp33-34 https://issuu.com/nzprincipal.co.nz/docs/nzp_t1_2018-web
(6)    (+6a) Professor Guy Claxton, Kings College, London, U.K.
(7)    Professor Guy Claxton, Kings College, London, U.K.
(9)    Sir Ken Robinson, p19
(10) Elwyn Richardson, In the Early World, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwyn_Richardson  

Picture Art by Olivier Tallec from This Is a Poem That Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre SimeĆ³n