The Principal's Blog

Kia Ora.  I'd like to welcome you all to my blog page. On this page I will endeavor to keep you informed about different aspects of KingsGate School, perhaps aspects of  the school that you may not otherwise know about or indeed aspects that you want more information on.  Join me as we journey together.

Your humble and dutiful servant.

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal


8th March 2020: Pet Day and Culture Day - A Biannual Rotation

 

This year we’re doing some things a little differently while keeping other things the same. One event that we have had scheduled as an annual event to date was our Pet Day. However, after much discussion with staff, and with an eye towards the future and the potential growth of the school, we have decided to put Pet Day on a biannual rotation alongside a new event in our school calendar – that of Culture Day. 

 

First, let me explain our decision to move Pet Day to a biannual event. Pet Day, and all the preparations it involved for teachers and students, in its previous form, was simply all-consuming. It meant that term three was incredibly busy, probably too much so, with teachers organizing the class with hugely labor-intensive artwork projects and all at the same time wanting and needing to ensure that their students learning was unaffected by the additional activities and requirements that Pet Day brought . What we found was that the way this event had been planned previously was indeed affecting student outcomes. Essentially, the message that teachers had received was “Okay, you’ve done testing at the end of term two, now you’ve got essentially one term to get your students from place x to place z in the curriculum, but by the way….here’s a tone of Pet Day work for you to do at the same time. This simply did and does not make sense, so we needed to change and change we have. 

 

Student achievement is one core element to our business as a school (the other being the growth and development of young Christians in Christ), so as a staff we needed to look at a more effective way of planning. We needed to ensure that our students had the greatest amount of time to achieve without being interrupted to the extent we unknowingly disadvantage them.  We have already made changes to allow this to occur with three-way chats and student reports being moved to term one. However, when it comes to Pet Day in 2021 it’s important that it is still done to the high level of presentation that we have all come to know and love. So, we have made a simple change to the way we do our artwork. One piece of artwork will be completed each term and then placed aside in safekeeping, ready for presenting on Pet Day. This, along with the other changes mentioned, goes a long way towards allowing our students to have the greatest amount of uninterrupted learning time possible, thus enhancing their chances to achieve to their greatest potential…..which at the end of the day is precisely what every teacher, every parent, every principal and every board of trustees wants for their children.

 

Staff also felt that is was important not to leave a yawning gap in the calendar because fellowship is an important part of our faith. Coming together to support one another is an experience that allows us to learn, gain strength, and show the world exactly what God is. So, Miss T-J and Mrs Farley proposed that we bring back an event that took place before my arrival to KingsGate, one called Culture Day. The event is in its embryonic planning stage right now but I have been told there is much fun in its nature and design, with parents and wider whanau coming to school to share expressions of their own culture. From those who experienced it in the past it sounds like a wonderful day of learning and celebrating and we could always do with more days like that! I’m looking forward to it and we’ll keep you in the loop with more information as it comes to hand. 

 

Your humble and dutiful servant

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal

 


29th FEBRUARY 2020: Am I Successful? Are You?

This illustration came across a social media feed and it made me stop and reflect on my behaviours and interactions I have with my students, staff, and parents.

 

I am an imperfect person but I know that through Christ's sacrifice and the blood he split at Calvary that those imperfections are forgiven. Through the strength and fortitude I find in his spirit, I strive daily to be the person who  embraces and models the actions, words, and deeds in the Green. As an example, I know that I have to read more. It's not so  much that I watch too much TV but that the busyness of the day can and does get in the way of reading time. So I am now making  sure that each day I am reading so that I can become informed about issues that have a direct impact on my work. Last week I read 3 articles, these being...

  • The Treaty of Waitangi - A Historical Background
  • Missionaries and the Treaty of Waitangi by J.M.R Owens
  • What is a Reformed Church by Rev Norman Hoeflinger

 

My question is simply this then; are there elements of the red that you are holding on to that are stopping you from becoming the successful person God wants you to be? Take a moment to contemplate this and perhaps prayerfully reflect upon how you could adjust your behaviours and interactions with those in your life and your child's life.  Go well and God bless as you do. 

 

Your humble and dutiful servant

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal


25th February 2020:  Why we are WATER ONLY School

 

What is arguably one of the best ways for your child to achieve as well as they can at school? 

Well, let’s start with one of the most obvious recommendations out there but unfortunately one that is probably overlooked the most. Water! It goes without saying that drinking water and brain function are integrally linked! It is for this reason that you’ll never see or hear any KingsGate School staff advocating that juice is brought to school in the student’s lunch boxes or bags. In fact, when I came to KingsGate School three years ago I very rarely saw a student with juice in their drinking bottle or the little juice packs from the super-market in their lunches.  However, these items are becoming a slightly more common occurrence now, so our water only advocacy is one that I’d like to educate parents about. 

 

Although KingsGate is not officially a “Water Only School” the staff believe the benefits of drinking water at school far out ways any benefits of drinking juice. This excerpt from an article called “Eating Your Way to Focus and Concentration” nicely summarises our support for our students to drink only water at school and for parents to nurture a water only mindset with their children.

 

“The brain comprises of 85% water. All brain function depends on water to provide it with the necessary electrical energy. The brain uses two times more energy than other cells making up the body and water is the most efficient source of this energy than any other substance. The production of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine and norepinephrine – responsible for better executive functioning) and hormones within the brain also depend on water. Therefore, when you’re giving your body the adequate amount of water, you will be able to think faster by 14%, stay focused for longer and be more creative!

 

 

Is the last sentence not what parents and teachers want for their children? Don’t we want to give our children every conceivable opportunity of being successful and to reach their potential? Don’t we want our children to think faster, to be more creative and to stay focussed longer? I know the overwhelming answer to those questions from teachers and parents will of course be YES, YES, and YES! Therefore parents, I encourage you to support our WATER ONLY culture here at school and provide the healthy water option for your son or daughter.

 

Your humble and dutiful servant

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal


23rd February 2020: 3-Way Chats and Student Reports

 

" Regular home-school communication is fundamental to effective parent involvement in schooling. Parents and teachers need to share with, and learn from, each other during regular, open, two-way communication in the interest of the child. Parent participation in purposeful parent-teacher conferences is relatively high during the child’s primary school years and the potential benefits are well documented. However, simply making parent-teacher conferences a regular feature in the school’s annual programme is no guarantee that these benefits will be realised" – From the research article “Who’s doing the talking? Teacher and parent experiences of parent-teacher conferences”. 

 

This year we have revised not only the way only report to parents but also the way we use the time we spend with parents talking about their child’s learning, success, and achievement. This first significant change is that we will be having 3-Way Chats in the middle of term 1. 

 

What’s a 3-Way chat?

A 3-Way Chat is where we encourage both the parent and student to engage in conversations of learning with the teacher, that is, it is a time to express how best the student believes they learn as well as the parent expressing how best they believe their child learns and sharing this knowledge with the teacher. It’s a time to let each other know what is and isn’t working at home and school in regard to the student’s learning and it’s a time to share how we see the student (and how they see themselves) achieving success this year and then setting a course between the three parties to best try and achieve it. When all 3 parties are working together for the greater good of the student the chances of the student seeing success in their learning and personal development multiply exponentially. 

 

Will we receive a student report at the 3-Way Chat?

The short answer is no…. but you will receive one at the end of term 1.  If you refer to my previous blog post I spoke about a very real phenomenon called the "summer learning loss". Keeping the effects of this in mind, what we would expect is that by the end of term 1 most students will be well and truly back to the levels of learning where they were at the end of the previous year. By the end of the first term, the teachers will have coloured their learning pictures of each their students by..

  • considering where and how the student was achieving at the end of the previous year
  • examining the work the student has produced in the first term.
  • having conversation of and about learning with parents and students.

 

Is this the only time parents will speak with the teachers?

The short answer is no. There will be plenty of opportunities for parents to talk to teachers. There are chances once a week, or once a fortnight, or once a month….it just depends on how often you, the parent, want to engage in the learning journey of your child. I believe that this is a mindset that parents across New Zealand need to change, in that parents have as much to offer the social and emotional development of their children as much as teachers do, if not more, even if they feel they may not be able to help so much academically. I know and fully appreciate that parents lead busy and time-constrained lives, but it is so important that as the first educators of our children that parents maintain a healthy input into their child’s education. This is why I will advocate strongly for all our school’s parents to engage with your child’s teacher in some form (face to face, email, phone call, etc.) as often as possible but certainly more than once or twice per year for a 15 minute chat.

 

I hope this has informed you a little more about how our reporting cycle is developing. Please keep in mind everything we do is centred around giving our students the best possible chance of progress and success. 

 

Your humble and dutiful servant

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal


18th February 2020: The Revised Student Reporting Cycle Explained

 

“We all want our children to have the greatest amount of uninterrupted learning time they can have throughout the year so that every child can achieve to their greatest individual and collaborative potential.”  Jared Stein

 

Every year it is a requirement that KingsGate School teachers report to parents about their child’s progress on two occasions. These reports are currently provided to parents as paper copies at mid-year and end of year. However, through our school review process and handy guidelines from ERO, we know that we can offer our children a better opportunity and environment to achieve success and offer our teachers a better way of delivering the curriculum. Part of that process means re-inventing and then re-aligning and our reporting process which is the focus of this blog post.

 

The first thing I want to do is clarify a few misconceptions

Misconception 1: At the end of each year all our children are tested in reading, writing, and math. Such a test is called a summative test as it designed to identify how much the child has learned over a particular period. There is a misconception that this test, and this test alone, is used to define the progress of a child and will, in turn, be the determining factor of their end of year result. I can categorically tell you it is not. Rather, it is just one tool used for teachers to gain an insight into the achievement and progress a child has made. 

Misconception 2: Parents often think that their child’s achievement drops dramatically over the summer break so that when their child comes back to school, they effectively have to be re-taught the last 3 months of work from the previous year. Well, I can tell you that this phenomena is real and it is coined "Summer Learning Loss". Yes it happens, but it happens to different children in varying degrees. What doesn't happen though it that students don't forget everything. Rather,  most if not nearly all simply have to be reminded of what they learned. The mind is much like a muscle that when unused or unstimulated doesn’t work at peak performance levels and this can occur over the summer break for many children. However, like a muscle, once it can get back into routines and is stimulated and stretched it quickly and efficiently returns to its former healthy shape and form.

 

So, with these misconceptions gone it’s been important for our teachers to identify what process and procedures were hindering student achievement and progress. One of the biggest, if not the biggest hindrance that was identified was that summative testing and report writing in the middle of the year simply took too long and consequently took a large chunk of valuable teaching and learning time away from teachers and students . The question was then raised “Why would we do this, as it’s counterproductive to student achievement which is central to our school’s core business.” Through robust discussion we arrived at a place of consensus which will now shape both the way our educational experts teach and the way our children learn.

 

Keeping the quote from the top firmly in mind and allowing it to act as our rudder to keep us on course, the following developments will be occurring this year and into the future:

  • Teachers will continue to use the data from the end of the previous year to inform them of where each student is at the start of the new school year. Teachers, however, will not engage in summative testing except in a circumstance where a child is new to the school and we have no data on them, or they feel they need another source of data to “check” the progress or achievement level of a particular child. This means that from the first day of term one teachers can essentially and effectively engage in teaching rather than preparing for individual testing of the whole class which is time-consuming and poor practice.
  • In the middle of term 1 we will have “3-Way Chats”. This will be where the teacher, student,  and child will come together to talk about how each party can work together to best provide the most productive environment for the student so they can achieve the results they are capable of.
  • At the end of Term 1 parents will be given their child’s “Beginning of Year School Report". This will show where the child is achieving at the start of the year. Parents will need to keep in mind that it may show the same information as the end of the previous year, but this will have been discussed at the mid-term 3-way chats.
  • Inconveniently placed summative testing at the end of Term 2 will no longer take place and no mid-year report will be written because the student should be given the entire period from late January to early December to achieve success without interruption. This goal can only occur if teachers can give their full focus to teaching as opposed to report writing and testing half way through.
  • Teachers will engage the students in summative testing at the end of each year, the results of which will help inform their final overall judgement of student achievement and progress. A full and comprehensive student report will be constructed by the teacher at this stage and it is through this report you, the parents, will quite clearly see progress and achievement of your child over a full school year. 

If student achievement and progress are to continue as one of our fundamental goals as an educational organisation (as it rightly should be) then we must nurture and develop systems and practices that allow our students and teachers to become wiser, freer. healthier and more autonomous, and this new reporting cycle allows for this to occur. 

 

I understand that this may raise some questions from parents too and I look forward to answering these in future blogs. 

Your humble and dutiful servant.

 

Jared Stein - KingsGate School Principal.