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Work or Play - It’s all Learning 


From time to time I hold a student forum where I gather up 30-40 children of all ages and find out what they think about Wakefield School.  Generally I ask just two questions: ‘what’s really good at school?’ and ‘what do you want to improve and your ideas for this?’  Here, in no particular order, is the collected wisdom from last week’s forum:  

 

Things that are really good at school 

The bank (x3)                    Loose Ends                        Music programmes         

Writing                             Personal Learning Time       New Kitchen 

Friends                             Book Week                       Sustained Silent Reading 

Library - Access IT system  Gala                                Climbing trees 

Orchard                            Swimming Pool (x4)           Options (choosing learning topics) 

Wooden cotton reels           Playground (x3)                 Planning new play areas 

Art                                  Student Google accounts     Maths (x2)         

                                 

Things we want to improve and our ideas for these 

More swimming - pool open a few more weeks or for two terms 

Special fundraisers like market days 

More wheel days 

Get rid of wasps 

Problem of footballs going into the orchard when kicked over the goalposts.  We voted on moving the goalposts: For, 7: Against, 7: No opinion, 9. 

Trips - like the pirate day last year 

More camps and also for younger students. Tent City 

Bike and scooter track - perhaps a pump track 

More discos 

Swings: perhaps 2, one for little kids and one for big kids.  Have a roster of days or classes so everybody gets a turn; have a coin-operated swing. 

More Loose Ends equipment; trolleys. 

A slide for the swimming pool 

Redo the lines around the sports field

Pet days: some children REALLY want pet days

Mirrors in the toilets so we can keep our faces clean

Tairongo Time - do it every week.

 

You’ll notice an impressive range of things the children enjoy at school and probably few surprises among the ideas for improvements.  You’ll also notice there is no mention of wanting more maths or writing, which I think comes down to the children, even at a young age, separating work from play.  Literacy and numeracy are seen very much by students as the ‘work’ of school, while the things that appear on these lists would mostly be regarded by children as ‘play.’  Work often becomes synonymous with toil and drudgery, play equates to fun and adventure.  The responsibility for the distinction lies with us - teachers and parents.  It’s we who talk to children about ‘school work’, meaning the stuff that happens in classroom lessons, and establish in their minds the concept of work as something that is important largely because it is difficult, challenging and not much fun.  

 

The truth is that the curriculum - the things that are learned - encompasses everything the child engages with at school; there is as much learning in the sandpit as there is in the maths lesson.  We will shift our perspective about the value of different activities, and do better for our children, if we stopped saying ‘work’ and ‘play’ and simply referred to everything as ‘learning.’  

 

When your child comes home from school today try asking: ‘what learning did you do at school today?’ ‘What do you have for home learning?’

 

A couple of thank yous and a reminder

Thanks to the PTA for the disco last Friday - it was highly rated and appreciated.

Thanks to the Pool Committee for a stunning swimming season and a great season-ending pool party last Sunday.  You do an amazing job that brings a lot of pleasure and benefit to our community.  Remember to return your pool key to the school office and reclaim your $20 bond.

 

A reminder that if your child is receiving a report this week you will also have a learning conference next Tuesday - booking information will accompany the report.  

 

Have a good week.

 

 

 

Peter Verstappen 

Principal

peter.verstappen@wakefield.school.nz

 

 

 

 

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Here’s What We Mean by ‘Student-Led Learning’

 

Jordan, who is six years old, was recently appointed to our Student Council as a representative of Matai Kereru team.  Last week our Council meeting clashed with scooter training for Jordan.  He came to the office to tell me but I was out, so what did Jordan do?  He wrote me this letter:

 

 

To mistir vstn

Sore I cant go to the

Shooht cousool

Becose I

Got scooti

Chraning at

1.30.

 

from Jordan.

 

I love this letter, for two reasons.  First, it is a beautiful expression of a child learning to write; look at how he has made sense of the words ‘student council’, you can hear Jordan picking out the sounds in his mind. 

 

Second, it is a beautiful expression of student-led learning.  You might ask, ‘what’s he learning?’ but consider this.  Here’s Jordan, 6, as a thinker: he knows he has an obligation to the Student Council, he sees he cannot fulfil it, he comes to tell me, that doesn’t work, he decides he needs to write to me so he creates this letter and brings it to the office.  This is even more impressive because Jordan doesn’t know much about the Student Council yet, he’s only attended one meeting, but he knows he has some sort of obligation to it.  Here’s Jordan as a communicator: if he can’t tell me in person, he’ll slave over this letter to get the message to me.  Here’s Jordan as a planner: he’s thinking ahead and balancing his commitments.  Okay, Jordan will have had some prompts from his teacher, but he’s taken up the challenge and look at what he’s achieved. 

 

I value the opportunities children have to be leaders at school through the Student Council, committees, monitors and other roles.  Their work in these roles contributes to the smooth running of the school, but as well as leading others they provide real occasions for children to lead themselves, to become masters of their own learning.  And that’s what a democratic curriculum looks like.

 

Have a good week,

 

 

 

Peter Verstappen 

Principal

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