'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 15 November 2013

A First Day at School


"Before I even started at my new school the man my Mum said was the principal took me into his office.  I reckon his place looked more like my bedroom than a real office.

There were hats of all shapes and sizes - like a dress-up cupboard.  One was red and green velvet like the one the joker wears in a pack of cards.  Another one was tartan and had a fluffy pom-pom on top.  The principal said it was his Scottish hat.  He put it on and spoke in a funny voice.  I laughed.

I could hardly see his desk because it was all covered in toys.  I picked up a stick that was all smooth, as if it had been washed up on the beach.  It made a sound like rain and he said his daughter gave it to him.  I liked the stick and he let me tip it up again to make the rain noise.

I looked up and saw there were all sorts of things hanging from the ceiling.  One was a little man in an aeroplane on a spring.  When I pulled it, it jiggled and the wings flapped up and down.

Then I saw it.  

Sitting on the windowsill was a big, pink, squiggly, plastic brain.  When I asked him about it he picked it up and gave it to me.  It felt bumpy.  The principal told me brains were that most interesting things in the whole wide world.  He said at his school they talked about brains a lot.

He cleared a space at his desk and asked me to sit down.  Then he told me he was going to give me a test, which I thought was pretty mean because I hadn't been at his school long enough to know anything in a test.

I was really nervous but he told me it didn't matter what the answers were.  There were no right or wrong answers and all I had to do was tell the truth.

It was an easy test because all the questions were about me.  It asked if I liked it quiet or noisy when I was working, and if I liked it dark or light.  Did I like summer or winter best and did I like reading books sitting, lying down or standing up?

When I had finished he went through it with me.  There were no ticks or crosses.  He said the test was to help me enjoy school.  Together we would do our best to make school just the way I liked it.

He put the test in his filling cabinet and told me I could look at it any time I needed to.  In a couple of years I would do another one, just in case the answers had changed.

Then we went for a walk around the school."

-  Learn, Think and Live.  pp 10, 11  by Mike Scadden and Julia Holmes.

Mike Scadden was the principal of Te Puna Primary School and my first choice for my placement when I was training to be a teacher in 2000.  His office was just as described.  An inspirational principal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bonus extra just for my loyal followers*:   A knitted brain. created by psychiatrist Karen Norberg.




* Or, even for my disloyal ones.

14 comments:

  1. He sounds not only inspirational but unique.
    A great teacher.

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    1. Adrian, he was (still is) really kind, clever, and the atmosphere in the whole school was the best I've ever been in. He is now an education consultant.

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  2. Absolutely one of a kind I would say! No one seems to have time for this sort of one-to-one these days. Was he good to work for or were the expectations very stressful ?

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    1. It was exactly the kind of atmosphere in the class I felt completely at home with. The only education system that came close was Montessori, and as I couldn't get into Te Puna School, I became a Montessori teacher. The rewards was a big thing. I was always uncomfortable handing out rewards (based on my opinion - didn't like 'playing God'). I have always felt rewards should be intrinsic.

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  3. My 3 different headmasters were all Pigs, but as we know 'all Pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others'.

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    1. There are some very very good principals out there now Cro, and I have been privileged to know three of them.

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  4. Hi Kate,
    Because Alden started blogging again I checked your blog too. And surprise, you have been blogging again already for 7 weeks. Need the weekend to check that out. My coffee breaks will be good again!

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    1. How remiss of me not to email you. But I felt it would have been presumptuous...
      I look forward to your quirky and/or erudite comments Ben.

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  5. I found "First Day at School" a fascinating piece of writing. It is a veritable slap in the face for the mechanistic, target-driven purveyors of school "progress" who seem to lose sight of the children as they pore over their spreadsheets.

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    1. YP, I wonder if you would like to read the book, co-written by Mike with Julia Holmes? There's a link underneath the writing, which is the introduction. I own a copy if you can't get one. I'd be happy to lend mine.

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  6. I would never want or need a knitted brain. Thank you, though, for all you do.

    Adrian has several magnificent photographs here that might interest you, three godwits in particular.

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    1. Robert - well, that's where we are so different. I would LOVE to have this knitted brain! I'd display it in one of those big glass bell jars, like a taxonomic specimen. It would have pride of place on my coffee table.

      I will fly over to Adrian's post immediately. I take a bet they are not Limosa lapponica baueri, tho'.

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  7. I love it. But how do you do this with 36 children per teacher?

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  8. How good it would be if there were more like him and if The System made such an approach easier (or even achievable in most circumstances).

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