Principal's Blog: Term 3 Week 4
Friday, 11 August 2023
Kia ora whānau
Winter temperatures have really begun to bite, and the inevitable coughs, colds and germs have again raised their ugly heads. Science had indicated that we should expect significant illness this year, with lower immunity given the context of our Covid experiences across the past two and a half years or so, and this has proven to be the case. A silver lining of the pandemic, however, was the insistence that those with flu-like symptoms stay at home in order to avoid further infecting others. My plea is that the practice of staying at home when unwell continues, and that students do not return to school until they are symptom-free. Another silver lining of our Covid responsiveness has been our developed practice of maintaining up-to-date class materials on Hāpara, our cloud-based classroom hub across the Upper School, and on Seesaw in our Primary School. Additionally, our teaching staff are superb at making themselves available to learners remotely, with email the best way to reach out. Let's continue to bring a concerted effort in keeping our school community well and allow full recovery to enable the best possible academic achievement, including Practice Examinations, and preparation for the numerous co-curricular activities that are on the not-too-distant horizon, such as the Big Sing Finale, Winter Tournament Week and AIMS Games.

The education conversation this week turned to cell phones in schools, and whether or not they should be banned. This is certainly not a straightforward debate, with the mooted bans extending to classroom use, and the suggestion that schools manage the policing of such in a way that best suits them. The piece that appeared to be missing across the debate is where schools sit in their role as educators, and how learning safe and appropriate use of technologies can further facilitate learning, and how such contributes to preparing students for the reality of life beyond the school gates. The current Marsden approach is age and stage appropriate. In Years 7 and 8, phones are collected in each morning and stored for the school day. This encourages face to face interactions while these young people gain the social skills, tools, and maturity to ultimately better navigate an online environment. In Years 9 and 10, cell phones are stored in lockers, with students able to access them for necessary messaging at morning tea and lunch. Our senior students have greater access to their phones. This acknowledges their independence, maturity, and transition to the world beyond the school environment. We work on a trust model, helping them to grow their skills of self-regulation in a realistic context.

This term we have introduced the wellbeing practice of Digital Minimalism Challenges. Digital Minimalists are people who take charge of their screen life. They cut out any unnecessary screen use and make sure that screen time is used in a meaningful way. Challenges have ranged from taking fewer photographs, not checking phones until after dressed for school each morning, not carrying a phone from room to room at home, and this week, aiming to halve the amount of screen time from last. Rather than demonising advanced technologies, it remains our preference that we learn to harness their potential, and to support our learners in becoming responsible digital citizens who can self-manage screen-time, including being comfortable with digital detox from time to time.

Congratulations to Jellicoe for their second-straight House Music victory, adding to their redemption story of last year. Whilst competition was hot, House spirit was parochial and support for one another was the true winner on the day. This iconic Marsden event sang out the joy of our environment, where our wāhine lift one another up, celebrate one another's successes and have a wonderful time in doing so. Well done to the House Captains for their tremendous effort in preparing their Houses for their performances, with jubilant and fun-filled chosen pieces and spine-tingling renditions of our waiata, Whakataka te Hau. Ke te pai e te whānau.

Ngā mihi nui
Paula Wells