A Travellerspoint blog

The Year of the Rabbit

Bugs, real estate, kayaking, and high school assessments

semi-overcast 25 °C

In the spirit of the Year of the Rabbit, this post will hip hop all over the place! One web site declared that “the year of the Rabbit is known for a placid year, very much welcomed and needed after the ferocious year of the Tiger. We should go off to some quiet spot to lick our wounds and get some rest after all the battles of the previous year.” Let’s hope so! http://www.theholidayspot.com/chinese_new_year/more_zodiacs/rabbit.htm

BUGS! BUGS! BUGS! In Colorado we had mosquitoes, flies, worms, gypsy moths, and probably many others. Here in NZ we have Daddy Long Leg spiders, flies, fleas, moths and certainly many more. Interestingly, in NZ people do not appear to have any screens so the bugs are quite at home in your home. The spiders are not harmful but I still don’t like them. Overnight webs can stretch across the INSIDE of your cupboards. When Kenzie and I walk in the AM, sometimes we walk through giant webs strung across the path. It’s so creepy! The flies are plentiful and annoying. This year, with a La Nina weather pattern (hot & humid), we have more flies than ever, how exciting for them! As evidenced by sales at hardware/ home/grocery stores, many folks buy wall mounted, automatic poison dispensing, and battery operated canisters whereby toxins are dispersed through your home on an automatic and regular basis. No thanks! Oh… what was that about clean and green? Apparently flies become immune to it anyway so it ceases to be effective. I use a newspaper. Howard is very excited with his high tech fly swatter! He uses a battery (yes!) operated plastic tennis racket thing emitting a small current to offer electric shock to the fly; and we thought electric shock was for keeping cattle and mental illness at bay! Sometimes we get those really gianormous coach roaches, the ones people euphemistically call water bugs; as if they could be used as surf boards? Recently, I had a suitable for YouTube Bug ‘n Bowl of Nuts exhibition in the pantry. None of the insects here are toxic; another feather in the proverbial Kiwi cap comparing ourselves in the Kiwi/OZ friendly rivalry. Go Kiwis!

SCHOOL ASSESSMENT: Recently in the news there has been brouhaha about high school assessments. Most of the nation now uses NCEA. Some schools use Cambridge. The conflict has been over some schools choice to use both; some parties said that was not right and should only use the New Zealand based (created) assessment NCEA. The Minter of Education got involved and it got a bit ugly; some called the school using Cambridge exams elitist and unethical, potentially illegal, and implied lapses of integrity.

NCEA is partly an internal assessment thus subject to much subjectivity. Teachers give the exams & grade them as the year progresses. One class could have 6 Papers to equal the NCEA assessment. Funny thing though, the questions are leveled achievement, merit, excellent. (easy medium hard) but of you don’t get the low level correct you don’t get any points even if you get the excellent (hard) section correct. That is just not right! NCEA & Cambridge are very important exams and are used for university entrance. Cambridge is an international assessment given at the end of a yearlong course. Over 150 years old, Cambridge is used in 160 countries and is an end of year exam vs. a process of assessment.

Speaking of his school’s increased use of the Cambridge Exams, the principal of Auckland Grammar School says “It is not elitist; it’s something that works better for our kids. I’m not telling schools what to do, or that we should all do it, but for us it works really well. If it didn’t work for us then we wouldn’t do it – we’re not STUPID”. I love how he is so frank and outspoken for his students, staff, and Board of Trustees, who have spent 10 years analyzing and discussing the two assessments. They want to offer both; more students now opt for the Cambridge. So what? In a small country, with literally no districts at all, it seems silly not be enable schools to offer a variety of assessments to students according to their needs, interests, and goals. One size does not fit all in New Zealand….. or anywhere else.

The focus and conversation about student learning in NZ shares some similarity to the US yet is still vastly different than here in NZ. Refreshingly, overt corporate interest is minimal here. The undercurrent of wanting to dismantle public schools is also not blatantly evident. Schools and teachers work hard, and some suffer, but not as badly as many places I have witnessed in the US. The US right wing attack on public schools, and a single minded focus on assessment (to the detriment of so many others areas important for student success) are not evident here either. There is even some money for schools. Schools are not perfect and there are many kinds of schools just like there are many kidns of students. AND …. the conversation is obviously shifting around assessment and standards.

KAYAKING: Last week end, we drove to a small river in the little aptly named town of Riverhead, NW of Auckland. While I avidly read the wonderful book, THE HELP, under a shady tree, Howard kayaked. He could have signaled for help at one point….. After about an hour or so paddling into the big bay, Howard made a dramatic and fast rushing finish. He sailed into view, waved his paddle, and proceeded to cross over a rapid. He sailed over the rushing white water, gave me a big smile, and then went head over tea kettle SPLASH! It was so funny! I cracked up and so did the assorted people in the park, immediately he bobbed to the surface and started to laugh. All was well with the world.

REAL ESTATE: We are looking for a place to move - maybe. We absolutely love the location of our current house yet think we might find something a bit nicer for a similar price. We do not want to move for the sake of moving as this place has many of the features we appreciate and want, like the beach! Our house has not been maintained in 20+ years which can be depressing when you are used to something a bit more “together”. It has one area of complex mustiness covered up with a lingering cheap scent. The carpet is literally threadbare. We wonder if we will freeze in winter. The list goes on. Now that we have lived by the beach however, with a bit of lawn (or section as they say here) we are spoiled. Not sure what will happen so we will see & fingers crossed; wish us luck!

Posted by Hilary G 18:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged education kayaking bugs teachers living_abroad clean_ and_green real_estate daily_living educational_assessments ncea cambridge_exams

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