People measure success in many different ways and on many different levels. When setting goals in life or education, it’s important that we identify what success means to us personally, so that when we succeed we will know it.
I became a teacher to make a difference. I had dreams of teaching children to go beyond their immediate backyard, to offer them an opportunity to peek out at the possibilities the world has to offer. Having been bought up by a single mother of four, and living my early childhood well below the poverty line, it became my goal to provide the love of learning, joy of school and excitement of teaching so that the next generation could have better opportunities, experiences and options than I had. My life goal was to work toward creating a positive difference, by nurturing, encouraging and challenging the children (and later the staff) in my care, and thus add value to their lives.
We all have tales to tell and histories that make us who we are. These histories do not have to define who we can become. If this were true I too would be a solo mother of four still living below the poverty line, struggling to provide the basics for my children. My love of learning, and dedication to education has seen me overcome those odds. I measure my success against my own dreams and goals. However, that does not mean I have reached the pinnacle of success nor does it mean that my journey stops here. I have more dreams and more goals and more successes to strive for. This Growth Mindset message is one we have been emphasising with our children for some time now. We hope it has become embedded in their psyche and will help carry (and push) them to personal success throughout their lives.
Throughout my time at Woodhill School we have been encouraging and supporting children to realise and see they can be what they want to be, and they can achieve whatever they want to achieve. It requires a Growth Mindset and Grit in the Learning Pit. This is also supported by our school values - Together We Care Learn and Grow. These values hold a simple yet powerful message. We only need to stop and think, what does it really mean?
CARE - for ourselves, others and our environment.
This starts at home and is extended beyond ourselves. It is about being self-less and caring about everyone rather than only those close to you. It means having empathy and an understanding of and empathy toward other people and their cultures. It also means caring beyond today and looking at tomorrow, because what we do now, will impact future generations.
As an example, through the power of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori are now in a position to think and plan for future generations.
LEARN - to be curious, creative, collaborative, critical and reflective.
This starts at home and is extended locally by working together. Encouraging, co-operating, collaborating, sharing and accepting others' ideas and opinions. Encouraging children to have an open mind and have the courage to ask questions. Creating a supportive environment where everyone is inspired to ‘have a go’ and accept that we all learn from our ‘mis-takes.’
GROW - by Dreaming, Daring and Doing
This starts by ‘Dreaming’ - a goal starts with a dream.
To become a goal you must Dare - have the courage to ‘have a go’.
Dreaming and Daring are important but they must lead to action - to Doing. We put our dreams into action by ‘doing’.
Everyone has their own definition of success in life. It’s not my job to live up to someone else’s idea of success. My accomplishments and successes are mine, not theirs. And I get to measure success by my own standard. We teach our learners to set high standards and have high expectations and then to strive to meet them. This leads to my definition of success - the inner satisfaction that comes from putting your heart and soul into something.
I am so proud of our children, our school, our learning programme, our classroom environments, and our progress as learners who Care Learn and Grow. We set high standards, held high expectations, and then exceeded them.
The one area where we did not meet a measure of success is our school roll. Sadly with the decision to end the bus service, no local Kindies or Kohanga and no stream of new children coming into our catchment area, this was something absolutely beyond my control.
A challenge somewhat related to that is our small roll. This means we need to rely on parents to take individual children to inter school events when they compete. Those individuals have often absolutely shone - winning events from Young Farmer Competition to Speech Competition to Discus as examples. As the manager of a small school, it has been unfortunate and simply unrealistic to take a teacher away from full class responsibilities to supervise one or two children at a sporting event. This is one of the many realities I have to face as principal of a small school. Fortunately we have passionate parents who step up, provide transport and encourage their children as they compete at these events.
In the areas we could control we shone. We went from:
- a starting financial deficit of $50,000 to a small annual surplus each year
- a one year ERO Review cycle to a three year ERO review cycle
- a Limited Statutory Manager to a self governing school
We have upgraded our classrooms and implemented an Innovative Learning Environment.
Visitors - including the newly appointed Commissioner - have been hugely impressed with our learning environment and learning resources. We introduced one-to-one iPads and ChromeBooks for our children. Installed Apple TVs, Flat Screen TVs and data projectors in every classroom.
Woodhill School has done amazing things in the short time I have been there.
I wish the new staff and children at Woodhill School the best of luck.
They are set up for success with the right frame of mind and support from the community.