Thursday, 30 October 2014

Centenary Speech


In September this year we hosted old boy and our 1932 Dux Hugh Turnbull at a special assembly to celebrate his 100th birthday. He is still remarkably spry and chipper for his years. It struck me then that one life time goes by so quickly and yet Wellesley turning a 100 seems monumental.

So much has happen since Harry Amos set up Wellesley a hundred years ago..

Since its inception, Wellesley has marched on through significant historical changes and challenges. Setting up a school at the start of ww1 was a bold move  (in anyone’s language) but bigger challenges were to follow. The great depression, ww2, fire, earthquakes, storms, global financial challenges and much, much  more.

It has been said that the last 100 years has seen “more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common language usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, drastically changed the worldview of scientists, causing them to realize that the universe was fantastically more complex than previously believed.
The 20thcentury started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with high-speed rail, cruise ships, global commercial air travel and the space shuttle.
Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology particularly the Internet has made the world's knowledge instantly available. Advancements in medical technology increased life expectancy from 35 years to 75 years plus.        
(italics adapted from Wikipedia--

Change has been constant from the inkwells and blotters of 1914 to the World Wide Web of the 1990s to 3D printers of today. Wellesley has more than kept up with these changes. The early 20th century society demanded that children were to be seen but not heard and that they were vessels to be filled with knowledge to today's fostering of curiosity, self-expression and creative thinking.

Yet for all this change from those early days on the Terrace in Wellington, our founder Harry Amos would be proud to know that his aims of teaching the boys to become self-reliant, responsible and worthy citizens are still at the heart of Wellesley today.

 It was an inspired decision to move Wellesley out to Days Bay. The location is quite spectacular and provides an aesthetic and spiritual backdrop which helps make Wellesley a jewel in Wellington’s crown.

We are a young city and country and Wellesley has grown in parallel with Wellington’s development. (best little city in the world no less) and along the way, many of our old boys have made,  and continue to make a substantial contribution to the business, sporting and cultural fortunes of the city and beyond.

Croydon had operated on this special Days Bay site since 1907 and their  raison d' etre sat comfortably with the merging with Wellesley in 1940. Croydon was an excellent school and today we honour it via one of our school Houses being named Croydon.

With minimal government support, remaining an independent school has always required fortitude.

It has taken commitment and tenacity from parents and staff to build  Wellesley to what it is today. Special people who have been the glue and gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the values and goals which have impacted so positively on so many boys are embedded in the culture of the school.

Wellesley is indeed in good heart. The facilities are modern learning environments fit for the successful 21st century learning model. Wellesley continues to be the school to beat be it in the classroom, on the sports field or in the exciting world of the arts. Tonight is to celebrate and honour the past but also to look out to the future because we want Wellesley to remain in the words of Bob Dylan, 'forever young'.

Compared to the norm, a disproportionate number of famous old boy achievers have come out of Wellesley. be it on the sports field, the business landscape, science and technology, the arts and community service. Success though comes in many forms and it swells any teacher’s heart with pride when they see the reluctant reader or the shy child blossom in their own way.

However the essence of Wellesley is the connection and rapport with staff and friends and the many stories and experiences of the boys from them crawling through the pipe leading to the beach to escape to the dairy, boys getting in the ceiling of Days Bay House and lifting the tiles to get a view,  to fishing on Days Bay wharf so matron could cook their fish for dinner to playing in the creeks and bush to the  cheeky and mischevious encounters with various staff. School life is remembered more from these adventures and experiences and the simple pleasures of the amazing natural environment of the beach and the bush than the many hours in the classroom itself.
Picasso said that when he was a child he dreamt of being able to draw like Raphael but as an adult he aspired to be able to draw like a child. I get that as young children bring an honesty and freshness to not only their art but to each encounter they have. This personal voice devoid of the influence of society's conditioning process allows their thoughts to come from the heart unfiltered and their individuality shines through.

Wellesley allows boys to show their inner self and enables them to be the best they can be. Wellesley has the confidence to allow the boys to be boys where laughter is valued and grit promoted.

Like Picasso, Wellesley must also continue to aspire to see the world through the lens of a child. This honesty, freshness and vitality will keep us curious, optimistic and fearless.

Like a dog with a bone we must continue to strive to be true to our values and build on our aspirational culture. This attitude is motivational for all concerned.

Schools have a unique opportunity to be transformational or ordinary. To inspire, to excite and to create the belief that anything is possible. Kurt Hahn’s philosophy of ‘we are all better than we know’ is central to this approach. To be involved in such an environment at Wellesley is an honour and I want you to know the whole is certainly greater than all the individual parts. No single person or group can create such an energy and this evening is a great way to bring us all together to celebrate our very special school.

I have no doubt that our second hundred years will bring more challenges and change than we can imagine but I also know Wellesley's heart is strong and we are not only ready to take whatever is thrown at us but willing to step out and take control of our own destiny.

As long as we keep current and relevant, striving to be fresh, innovative and brave Wellesley will continue to launch boys into life with an open mind prepared and willing to contribute.

Thank you for your unstinting support and it is my pleasure to raise a glass to you and to our very special school. To Wellesley!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Silver Bullet?

It’s difficult to find life’s calm balance where you feel in control and at peace with the world. As you get older and take on more responsibility getting this calm balance is even more challenging. I don’t know about you but I am expert at not taking enough time out to ‘smell the roses’. I haven’t quite figured it out though because when I do take the time, damn those roses smell good. But would they smell so good if I was out there smelling them all the time! Getting the right ‘life balance’ equilibrium is one of life’s mysteries to me but I do see its immense value and importance. For this reason, I believe this concept needs to be fostered in schools. In that way I know all learning would be enhanced and the world would be a better place. I also believe that if this teaching took place in schools, combined with an enlightened and aspirational learning culture, a number of society’s problems would be reduced---simplistic maybe, but a goal worth pursuing.
From time to time I receive email from friends, colleagues or parents from our school community recommending I read some book or article. Often in life’s rush I don’t have time to follow up but mostly when I do find the time, it is worth the effort .
This was the case with a recent email from a parent who has an interest in ‘mindfulness’. She alerted me to Arianna Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’ and gave me a few links and background to Arianna  (which I shamelessly share with you below) who is the President and Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, Arianna is a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of fourteen books.  Since her 2005 launch of The Huffington Post, it has become one of the most widely-read, linked to, and cited media brands online.  In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and Arianna has been named on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. In Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world. 
According to Arianna  ‘as more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success -- money and power -- has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we're losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward. ‘       
In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we're going to topple over. We need a third leg -- a third metric for defining success -- to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don't commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes -- they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
From (
In Gordon Ching’s blog (Chief Digital Officer of AIESEC International) he quotes the fundamental lessons From Arianna Huffington's Thrive.
"Life is shaped from the inside out not the outside in." -- Arianna Huffington
Here are ten practical ways to bring more well-being to your life:
1.       Finish things: Reduce your baggage and the mental weight you carry. Arianna: "Did you know you can complete a project by dropping it?"
2.       Experience wonder: We grew up loving moments of magic and wonder, the magic of exploration and discovery -- bring it back to your life by enabling yourself to discover and dream.
3.       Remove poison If there is somebody toxic in your life, kindly remove them from your life. Don't ever hold grudges. "Resentment is like drinking poison, waiting for the other person to die." -- Carrie Fisher
4.       Natural hours of sleep: Try sleeping for eight hours at minimum as a start. You'll soon find what your natural sleeping hours are and soon begin to wake up naturally and feel refreshed.
5.       Practice mindfulness: Start taking breaks out of your day where you just become mindful. To feel your hands, your feet, to pay attention to your breathing -- just be 100 percent present.
6.       Digital disconnect: Experience digital-free hours to see things differently and experience deeper connections with people. You'll notice and realize things you didn't before because you were too busy starring at that screen. The world is full of wonders, you just have to look up.
7.       Meditate: Meditation isn't just for old people. Try a deep breathing exercise right before you sleep or the next time you're stressed. Start with a minute and eventually dedicate 15-20 minutes to meditate and be at peace.
8.       Give: Generosity is huge to unlocking happiness. How great does it feel when you help or give to others, asking for nothing back? Do something nice for somebody every day -- whether it is a compliment or a small gift.
9.       Learn to say no: Saying yes to anybody means saying no to everybody. Ask yourself, "Is it that important that you need to do that?" Don't overwhelm yourself with responsibilities that you cannot meet.
10.   Personal time: Devote time to yourself. A time of sanctuary where you can rediscover and recharge at your own pace. Take a warm bath, practice deep breathing, banish LCD screens temporarily, take the longer walk and just be in the comfortable in your own skin. Many of life's wonders are discovered when we are alone.

When you don't sleep enough, you bring out the worst version of yourself to the world. In my experience you: become more impulsive and make horrible decisions, feel more lonely than usual, have heightened impatience, get frustrated and upset more easily and have lower control of emotions and self-esteem.

Eight sleep tips from Thrive:
1.       Get a new pillow and a new pillowcase
2.       Make your bedroom darker and keep it cool
3.       Practice deep breathing before bed
4.       Take a warm bath before bed
5.       Exercise or at least walk every day
6.       Banish all LCD screens at night
7.       Cut down on coffee after 2 p.m and avoid alcohol right before bedtime to give the body time to metabolize it
8.       Prevent stress from building up throughout the day -- it makes it harder to fall asleep -- every few hours take 60 seconds of recovery time -- simply stop what you are doing and bring awareness to the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, or both.

In the age of hyper-connectivity, we need to know how to disconnect and reconnect with ourselves. Because if we are looking to improve and change this world--we need to be functioning at our best to lead the change we wish to see and thrive.
Don't just go out there and climb the ladder of success. Instead, redefine success. Because the world desperately needs it. -- Arianna Huffington
Sound like a Tui ad on one hand (YEAH RIGHT) but even if we took some of the advice and became more conscious about the core themes of Arianna we would be all better off.
I think I might go out and buy ‘Thrive’!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Boys Being Boys

Like guardians the driftwood stacks sit comfortably on the sand

The boys delight in creating and recreating their forts

And the spirit of the bay smiled.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Nation of Curious Minds

A few weeks ago I was delighted to read that the Government  had  announced a new nationwide action plan to encourage engagement with science and technology. A big focus of course is in education.

Not before time as science has had a very low profile in many primary schools for too long. I have to be careful with this generalisation as some schools and individual teachers are doing a wonderful job. Too often though science teaching becomes very language based or lost in the middle of some thematic study.  Teachers can lack confidence and / or knowledge to embark on science studies or would rather focus on subjects of personal interest.

As a school we have prioritised Science and employed a lead teacher to work along classroom teachers with dedicated Science and Materials Technology facility. This is in some way a luxury but if you believe in promoting this amazing area of study and engagement, then it is a ‘no brainer’ in terms of budget considerations.

When ‘A Nation of Curious Minds’ was launched by Education Minister Hekia Parata (Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce), she said,  “If we are serious about ensuring a prosperous future for every New Zealander, we must ensure all our young people have the best possible opportunity to achieve educational success. Lifting engagement and achievement in science education is absolutely vital and the education profession must prepare all New Zealanders to be participants, and leaders, in the 21st century.”

Steven Joyce was reported as saying, “Science, and the knowledge and innovation that flow from it, plays a critical role in creating and defining our future.”

The Government’s concept of a Nation of Curious Minds is very awe inspiring and strategically very wise but for this plan to be successful, sustainable career pathways also need to be available. Historically science graduates have had to struggle to make a decent living. A PhD  graduate will spend from age 5 through to about 25 in education building massive student debt and by the time they ‘get some runs on the board’ via their research they are usually getting worn down having to battle for funding to build on their findings. Their salaries are a fraction of what a lawyer, accountant etc would get with a similar qualification and experience. So how important is science really to the nation? We have to reward these very intelligent people who commit to research and the long hours of associated work.  These are the people who progress our world with their research and development findings.

Capturing the love and passion for science needs to start with our new entrants at school. Science traverses all that we are and do as humans. Children love getting their hands and minds into this fascinating subject and it links so well with other curriculum areas. It is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world and something that you do, not something that you learn from a textbook.

For some years we have been promoting curiosity via our approach to inquiry learning. We want the boys to develop an inquisitive disposition to the point of it being second nature to them. The macro picture of inquiry can be deceiving and may be seen as simply fostering curiosity, which of course is a laudable pursuit but we also have to empower children to become independent life- long learners.

Our job as educators is to enthuse and encourage the curiosity within children and in parallel, build the skills of developing good questions for inquiry, seeking out answers, generating solutions, testing hypotheses, justifying conclusions and exploring other questions generated during the inquiry.  The skills of inquiry learning are the building blocks for all learning. This approach actively engages and empowers children allowing access to transformational learning experiences.

A key message we keep hearing is that for New Zealand to improve its competitiveness in the global market place, we must foster creativity, innovation and enterprise in all aspects of society and particularly in schools.

At the heart of making a real difference to productivity is ‘smart thinking’ aligned with the courage to push the boundaries of our imagination and dare to do something different. We need to develop this aspiration in our children.

Our job as educators is to provide contexts for creative endeavor (be it in the arts, science, maths or any pursuit), expectations of ‘personal best’ effort and a warm, inclusive culture that supports risk taking.

In short, I am excited about the Government’s initiative, not just in the science arena but as a disposition to foster in all that we do in this wonderful country of Aoteroa.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

We Can All Be Creative

How do we prepare our children for a world that is beyond our imagination? How do we craft a student’s learning journey towards a job that is yet to be created?

These are often asked questions and it is easy to trot out some glib responses. Drilling down into these conundrums it is clear that of course our children will need to know the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, but it is widely recognised that there are a collection of skills or dispositions such as perseverance, flexibility, questioning, curiosity, creativity, and optimism that are the ‘makers or breakers’ of achieving one’s potential in the 21st century.

Intelligence as we know it is not enough and the highly acclaimed ‘thinking skills guru’ Dr Edward de Bono believes that many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers.
If I had to pick one of the key skills or dispositions that will define the future, it would creativity. This is a scary thing as most adults don’t see themselves as creative. I am one of those slightly scared and insecure adults who have looked inward and decided that I don’t have too many creative bones in my body!

Traditional education has accidently discouraged or knocked children’s self belief in this area of creativity in a number of ways. The top down, chalk and talk, content focussed and testing regime have narrowed the curriculum. It is a truism to say, ‘what is tested is valued’. This is a strong implicit message to all learners, be it adult or children.

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.  

Creativity needs to be broken down so children can see we all have the ability to succeed. According to cognitive psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, creativity can be broadly defined as "...the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile." Creativity is all about finding new ways of solving problems and approaching situations. This isn't a skill restricted to artists, musicians or writers; it is a useful skill for people from all walks of life.” (from Kendra Cherry

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 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. The culture of any school needs to live and breathe these dispositions.

Arianna Rebolini  ( identified 10 habits of highly creative people giving many real life examples. Some of these habits or dispositions are surprising but most make a lot of sense and help break down the mystic of creativity.

Creative people:
·         Get moving. (busy schedules including exercise)
·         Take naps. (or meditate)
·         Day dream.
·         Collaborate.
·         Take risks. (willing to pursue unfamiliar territory etc)
·         Make and stick to routines
·         Explore.
·         Pay attention. (great observers and notice the smallest of detail)
·         Forgive their own bad work. (willing to make mistakes)
·         Take time to be alone. (reflective)

Imagine what is possible if children can learn and understand these habits at a young age! It is important that we ‘unpack’ what it means to be creative for our children so they can all see that with a bit of graft they too have something worthwhile to offer.

As the Principal of Wellesley I am pleased we are a school that values questions above answers, creativity above fact regurgitation, individuality above uniformity and excellence above mediocrity. We want to prepare our children to become brave new explorers in this exciting fast paced world.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Failure as a Means to Success

One Saturday in April this year I was going through my normal morning routine of reading the paper whilst having my breakfast. In the 'pull out' Your Weekend magazine there was an excellent article by Bess Manson on 'The F-Word'. She posed the question whether failure can actually help us reach the dizzying heights of ultimate success.

So often in the school environment children have to deal with perceived or real successes and failures. The classic one for the older children is gaining selection for sports, academic or cultural teams. Many children have their heart set on making some particular team or another. The reality is in life that we all will experience disappointments, some that will almost break our heart.

Obviously the key to supporting children so they can deal with disappointments is to build a 'growth mindset' where being optimistic and resilient is central. This won't happen overnight. Parents and teachers need to create a culture where children are supported to deal with the inevitable disappointments of life.

When children see that many famous people have had to deal with considerable struggle and failure, it puts their own expectations in perspective.  In Bess Manson's article she quotes J K Rowling (Harry Potter author) who said, "Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or to use failure that often leads to greater success. I've met people who don't want to try for fear of failing. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

Rowling's first book, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' was rejected by 12 publishing houses before it went on to become the bestselling book series in history. Elvis Presley faced rejection from the start and was told he'd be better off going back to driving trucks. Albert Einstein was expelled from school and was described as mentally slow. He was initially refused admittance to tertiary education and his PhD was turned down as irrelevant and fanciful. Dr Seuss' first book, 'And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry St' was rejected by 27 publishers before the 28th publisher sold 6 million copies of the book.
Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Louis Pasteur and so many other famous successful people experienced considerable failure.

Children need to hear these stories or similar. They need to experience disappointment as a natural part of life. We as adults need to support them through these times but not try and make everything right. Coping with failure makes our children stronger and gives them a chance to learn from their mistakes.

In her article Bess Manson quotes the Associate Professor of Psychology at Victoria University, Paul Jose. He says, "Don't run away from the consequences of disappointment or failure. Embrace your failure. Value failing. It's telling you something important-you need to keep learning."

It is important we empathise with our children when they experience disappointment and encourage them to acknowledge it themselves. This self -knowledge is essential in order to achieve lasting improvements in one's life, according to Professor Jose. We should help children not to catastrophise the situation but accept the reality of failure.

As parents, we deeply hurt for our children's disappointments but we have to be strong to help them become strong. Take for example a boy having his heart set on making a particular team. The boy is a good player and has represented his club or his suburb. He misses out on the school team(s) and comes home devastated. There are a couple of courses of action here. One is for the parent to step in and try and persuade the coach or selector to add the boy's name to the team. If the coach / selector 'caves in' what does the boy learn? He learns that when things don't go his way dad or mum will save the day. The parent robs the child of dealing with the disappointment rather than using it as an opportunity to build the boy's determination by encouraging him to work harder, give of his best and be humble (good advice for the boy though would be to let the coach know of his disappointment and that if a place comes up through injury, he'll be ready as he is going to work hard to 'step up').

I know we as teachers feel for the children who experience disappointments and behind the scenes look for ways of supporting these boys to use the experience to 'grow'. Often it is with hard work and pain we gain the resilience needed for life—tough but true.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The 'Grit' Factor

I read a fabulous article sent to me by Murray Blandford, a senior teacher here at Wellesley.  Have a read as it is a beauty! (Resilience: A Lesson From Sochi by Sydney Finkelstein)

The bolded sentence stood out for me: ‘The complacent and the arrogant do not accept personal responsibility. For them, failure is someone else’s fault.’

We subscribe to a magazine, ‘Teachers Matter’(1)  and I was delighted to read three articles based around the theme of promoting resilience in children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what is so obvious. Hard work pays off. Michael Grose in his article entitled, “True Grit” (p23) asks the question, ‘Talent or persistence? Which would you chose for your child?’ Most parents when asked this question opt for talent. 
Grose’s conclusion is that ‘in the long run conscientiousness serves a young person well when it is their default position because when the stakes are high, and they really need to work hard, they will automatically make the right choice.’ 

Thomas L Friedman said, “I live by the motto that PQ + CQ is always greater than IQ. You give me a kid with a high PQ, persistence and passion quotient, and a high CQ, a high curiosity quotient, and I’ll take them over the kid with the high IQ, intelligence quotient…In a world where all these tools are out there now for everybody, the big divide in the world is not going to be the digital divide, it’s going to be the motivational divide”

So how do you promote the traits of ‘true grit’ into our children without stealing their childhood or promoting a life of ‘hard grind’.   Grose  encourages parents to actively promote grit and persistence in children by making character part of the family’s brand.  Parents “…. can focus on character in conversations. They can share experiences where character has paid off for them in their lives.” In short, the values and language around persistence should be part and parcel of the family’s conversations.  Clearly parents would need to model such values.

 Robyn Pearce (Why Kids Need To be Resilience Proofed )2 magazine argues that from an early age let children feel the consequences of their actions. If children fail to complete a task around home or work at school and they have the time and intellectual capacity to achieve the task, insist that it is completed before any ‘goodies’ are provided.  She also argues that parents should link pocket money to tasks. I tend to agree because this not only promotes ‘taking responsibility’ but it also promotes financial literacy. Learning to save for the treats of life or just dealing with the necessities is an important lesson that many young people struggle with as an adult if they have not had these values supported in their childhood.
I am a strong supporter of promoting resilience in children and this small but powerful word of ‘grit’ is a word our boys here regularly. If we want our children to evolve and grow to be the best they can be, we must provide a learning culture of high expectations encouraging personal bests.  No pain, no gain! This sounds harsh but this is the reality of life. I am not advocating ‘nose to the grindstone’ stuff but providing the conditions for learning that insist on children pushing their own boundaries. If we provide a thinking curriculum (hard fun) which appropriately challenges the individual then follow up with the right encouragement and expectation, then we have created a powerful learning environment. If parents join us in this approach, we set children up for success.

Some of the best parenting advice I have seen is from D.A. Hutcheson, Head of Nightingale-Bamford School in NY city. She said,

“Life can often be a struggle, and mostly we don’t enjoy that struggle. Yet life would be dull without it. As a parent myself, I don’t like seeing my children struggle but it is in that struggle where children learn the most. Really, as much as possible we should let our children negotiate the bumps and ups and downs of school themselves, rather than sweeping in to negotiate it all for them. That’s the best gift we can give our children----so when we are not around, they can be successful on their own.” 

These are wise words which really say it all.

Ref:(1+2) Teachers Matter, Issue 24

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What it is to be a boy!

NZ artist Wayne Youle-'What little boys are made of'.  Some people don't like the gun but I think Wayne is just saying, many boys love running around playing games with sticks, water pistols etc playing 'cops and robbers'. (this fantasy play doesn't make encourage them to be aggressive)

                                                                What it is to be a boy!
We have to be careful not to put boys in the same ‘box’and assume they all fit the same learning profile because they don’t!  However, to try and understand these wonderful beings, I have attempted to provide a basic and generalised profile below. There are of course so many other factors that come into play. Underneath this profile is a wonderful and brief insight into the differences between boys’ and girls’ brain development by Nathan Mikaere-Wallis.

Boys are different from girls and have some different learning needs.
Traditionally it was assumed boys did sport and physical stuff and they were meant to be tough and stoic showing little emotion. This meant many boys strived to meet those expectations and thus never had opportunities to grow as a whole person.
Boys, like girls want to be loved, and to feel valued.
Many boys like and need physicality, rough and tumble, mudpies, bows and arrows but all this doesn't, have to be in a macho environment.
Boys are creative spirits so they need an environment and learning experiences that foster this.
Boys love being challenged and they love what we call hard fun, i.e. engaging tasks that engage their higher order thinking.
Boys need and enjoy a culture of high expectations as long as other conditions are in place to support them. E.g. Appropriate age and stage learning scaffolding.
Boys love humour and laughter.
Our fundamental philosophy is built around the phrase, be kind, be happy and be brave.
Boys love hands on stuff like science, constructing/building things.
Boys love the natural world and enjoy outdoor pursuits such as camping, tramping, sailing etc
At the end of the day it is not so much the ingredients of the mixture but the cook (teacher/parent) who makes the difference.
Boys like structure knowing where they stand, not in a shouting top down way but in a calm, orderly way. They relate well to core values and want to be good. They relate well to good manners teaching. They yearn for acknowledgement and praise and when things go wrong they need quietly bringing back into line.
They read you quickly and if you are uptight, they will reflect that. It is a fine line we walk.
They need good role models.
Boys are loyal and take great pride in being part of a team or group they respect. They thrive with this as they are like dogs, very loyal and willing to do what it takes to honour the value system.
Boys’ brains are wired differently to girls and often we don't see them fulfil their potential until their mid to late 20s.
The really successful teachers of boys know them well and connect with their individual spirit.
                                                                                                                                     Warren Owen
A brief insight into the differences between boys’ and girls’ brain development.

Females brains generally grow faster.  We can argue to the cows come home if this is because we talk to baby girls more, are more attentive and nurturing towards females, or if it is a genetic characteristic, an epigenetic feature or (more likely) some bizarre mix of all of those - the fact remains the same that generally female brains grow faster.  When we say the average age the brain reaches maturity or finishes adolescence and has an adult brain is 25, this is an average of both genders.  If we divide the genders, for females there is a broad range of about 18-24 yrs at which they reach maturity, and for boys this is an even broader range of 22-32.  So on average it is about 25.  This is an end result, I know, so let’s look at some biological differences we can measure and know for sure.
Females have a 30% larger hippocampus (memory) than males and it comes "on line" earlier for females than males.  This is clearly central to the learning process and could go a long way to explaining a physiological aspect of why girls seem to engage earlier with the curriculum.
The Amygdala (emotions -esp anger) is typically 20-30% larger in males.  This may make the male more prone to being reactive and overwhelmed by the HPA Axis or human stress response system for a longer time in development than females.  This is basically because the "alarm system" or Amygdala is larger in males. It goes off easier.  This leaves less hours for calm, centred and focussed learning.
It’s a complex system as the next biological difference between males and females is the bundle of fibres that joins your left and right brain called the Corpus Collosum.  The literature doesn’t agree how much larger a female’s corpus collosum is (it ranges from 30-300%) but it all agrees its larger!  The corpus collosum helps to integrate learning and "bring it all together", as well as playing a major role in helping to calm the amygdala, so clearly it has a role in children staying on task and focussing on learning.  It starts to paint a picture that a boy starts out with a hair-trigger alarm system (amygdala) and only a little circuit to control it with (corpus collosum).  Girls are the opposite.  A smaller emotional centre and a larger circuit to control it with - a brain much more able to focus on learning at an earlier age.
In addition there is a less known process called Lateralisation where the brain learns to effectively use one side of the brain more than the other.  This specialisation is needed for higher intelligence and some evidence suggests it happens earlier for girls (and first-borns typically!).
                                                                                    Nathan Mikaere Wallis (X Factor Education Ltd)