I had the privilege of going to two leaving do's the other day. Both schools. Both decile one, both predominantly pacific island communities.
So the first one, was Point England School. I was excited by it. I took to a full "peacock" mode. I had looked in my wardrobe the other day after my post on IRD and found a shirt that requires cuff links (My father and I share 2 pairs of cuff links and ties) and a couple of pairs of black pants. The black pants were arranged by size. Apparently I've put on a bit of weight. Mud pack, tending to my nails, shining my shoes etc. the night before and I was ready for it.
There was a huge feast (thanks Delwyn). In the protein category for example, there was ham, chicken, turkey, crab meat and beef. In the salad category, mesclun, bean (Awesome! Why was it taken off the menu at KFC?), potato and coleslaw. A real Christmas feast in other words.
Truth be told, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. It's the end of the year, and nothing has been said about my future with the project. There's been a few comments about an office - if I'm to be put in a broom closest, I want at least a couple of air holes. However, nothing has been said whether the project might be able to spare a little bit of money so that I'm able to afford to keep up some level of engagement which isn't just me sitting at home wondering how I'm going to send the various images (my connection at home is slow as all hell due to me refusing to pay for a connection with caps on it - I don't mind a slower speed if it means I'm assured of that speed for the entire month) to the people who need it.
Anyway, the secret Santa came about. I chose to steal the soap on a rope due to the smokers having run away when I went to join them - I figured I must smell so I decided soap wasn't such a bad idea.
Anyway, I had printed up a t-shirt for the secret Santa (The image above). A friend and I jot down ideas whenever we get a few drinks in us. This particular design is one I'm particularly pleased with. It's subtle and crude all at the time. Anyway, it was stolen once and then the person who had stolen it finally had a look at the design and looked disappointed. What a gib! Anyway, someone finally stole it. After everyone had gotten a gift, someone did walk up to me and ask "Where do I buy one?". So it might work...
Anyway, I found myself a little disappointed. Soon after the secret Santa had finished people started packing up. Except for Mrs. K still dancing around, no one seemed keen to have a few more drinks and socialise. 3pm. Poor showing really.
So I went home (after one of those rides home which was all about the conversation more so than actually getting home - I was waiting for a fight to break out as to who would take me home) and rang a friend of mine who works at another school. I've been out with this bunch before and was kind of looking to carry on the festivities.
So at 8 I went into town to meet up with this bunch.
Despite the similarities between the different schools, the people are REALLY different - and the culture of the schools as a result.
On that ride home, the guy taking me had said something along the lines of Pt. England school being a few years ahead of any other school in New Zealand. While it's hard to quantify this sort of claim, the realisation of what I had learnt over the last few months came crashing home.
About a month before going to Pt England, I had gone to this other school and talked to the principal and had told him about the "news network". His reaction was less than encouraging. He was cynical. Things like "What does it teach the kids really?" and "How much do the kids do themselves?" etc.
The thing is, the value of the technology isn't in the technology itself but the effects it has. For example, having a TV in each room and playing the day's news every day, has kids as presenters. In other words, all year they're learning diction. ALL of the kids in the school are getting a consistent message every day rather than relying on their teachers to get across the importance of some philosophy that the school has adopted.
Giving the kids laptops has the kids excited about writing. Publishing content to the world and having to consider their audience has a huge effect on the culture difference I have talked about previously. So hopefully they see themselves as part of a world community rather than just part of a small section of the South Pacific.
But more than this. Imagine having the kids excited to learn! This is nothing to scoff at.
So the culture difference. While at Pt. England I've been shaking the kids hands, and responding to "What's Up", or the more ... compact "Sup" with "hi" or "good morning", the teachers from this other school are very much fitting into the culture of the school at which they teach. It's VERY different. Point England School talks about this as "speaking to succeed".
This other school - I was a little uncomfortable truth be told. The sense of personal space was non-existent. While we were in a small Pizzeria and it was stinking hot, one of the guys put a tree trunk sized arm around my shoulders. A tiny bit overly friendly given that I had only really just met him that night and inappropriate given that it really was stinking hot.
I was trying to find another "edge to the sword". What does this school seem to do better than Point England? One of the more drunker guys was talking about the difference between kids from different nationalities. I'm not sure this counts - I think I would need to see this in action and whether it offered any real benefit in getting the kids to learn (and more importantly, learning those skills that are going to be useful in the future).
Anyway, never mind the nay sayers. If I were to pick a school for my kids to go to (if I had kids and zoning wasn't an issue) I would definitely pick Point England School - not because they have loads of technology but because they are very forward thinking - their kids are taught a whole bunch of skills that are going to be important to their lives. I've seen it and am really excited to see what happens at Point England School.
Just a quick side note: There was an image used last night on "Seven Days" from Point England school - the kids piled behind an iPad (still sounds like a sanitary product to me) while reading an email to them from Steven Joyce.