Monday, March 19, 2012


Last week, for the first time since I retired twenty years ago, I spent four morning sessions in a school, i.e. Glenavy Primary in South Canterbury. Schools are quieter now,floors carpeted, chairs and tables child size and portable, and I did not hear the school bell once. Of course there will be one but the bell no longer rules the school day. At last chalk has disappeared from classrooms. The teachers use whiteboards, new entrants practice writing with A4 size whiteboards and water based markers. Technology was being used sensibly to make learning more meaningful for children. Mrs Prescott supervised water play with five year olds, feeding in an amazing vocabulary of science and maths language as they discussed capacity, differences between solids and liquids. Mrs Prescott photographed children pouring water and these were printed, one for each child, and their writing exercised was to write about their experience under the photograph. Mrs Hamilton in room 2 marked her roll on her computer, the results went to the central computer in the office and absences could be tracked straight away, leaving the teacher free to greet each child in their particular language, English, Maori, Tokelau,Tagalog, Samoan. There are nine different ethnic groups at Glenavy. Auckland is not the only multi racial centre. I am amazed at the maturity and insights displayed by Mrs Hamilton's seven year olds.One group read two Beverley Randal books; one about a truck driver who helped clear a fallen tree from a country road, the other about a girl going out into the dark to retrieve her brother's pet toy for him. They managed the reading well. Mrs Hamilton had set a writing exercise to follow. Pretend you are one of the character in the story, write a letter to another character. One boy still young enough to have all his baby teeth, wrote a page and a half as the cat, apologising for frightening the sister in the dark. One wrote as the policeman directing traffic, another wrote t the grandmother, a minor character, thanking her for looking after them. Those children were not barking at words, they understood the story and empathised with the characters. Another seven year old boy read to me for nearly an hour from a history of dinosaurs. Twenty years ago I would have hesitated to ask a ten year old to read it, the language, construction and vocabulary were so mature. But J. had no difficulty with words like ankylasaurus, jurrassic, mesazoic. It was small words whose initial letters did not agree with their sound, like 'one','this'and such which gave him trouble, but he read the whole book and then told me about a programme on fossils he had watched on Discovery channel. So I do not believe New Zealand Education is going to ruin. The children at Glenavy are well behaved and work oriented and they know a lot more than the five to seven year olds I taught in the seventies, which is exactly as it should be. Their teachers are great too.

No comments:

Post a Comment