What is it that has a school achieving great academic standards, and no stand downs, suspensions or exclusions for the last sixteen years? Apart from a very small difference in reading results, Tokoroa North School, a decile three school, has students outperforming National results, with a higher percentage students reaching, or are above National Standards in Reading, Writing and Maths. Maori students are achieving at this same rate. It doesn’t happen by chance.
Tokoroa North School has been recognised as having something special in the way that all staff and students treat each other and what they expect of each other. From the principal to the newest teacher and youngest student in this school, everyone has worked very hard to make the school a good place to be.
The principal uses William Glasser’s Lead Management as his preferred leadership style. He is consultative and cognisant of the needs of his staff, ensuring that each person who comes through his door is heard.
While this is one key to the school’s success, everyone has input into this achievement. A high level of trust has been developed between staff members, teachers and students and amongst the students. This is a vision that teachers have been inspired by and something they have worked very hard to achieve.
Classroom are abuzz with opportunities for children to meet their need for fun, freedom, power, belonging in an environment where they feel safe. Children are developing competence and confidence while they are work alongside classmates to achieve. They are given the skills to make responsible choices and there is evidence the children really enjoying being at school.
It sounds idyllic. In reality there are issues, as in any school. Some students make less than effective choices, some parents can be absent or over-demanding, staff can become overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the job. Just how do you achieve this sort of result; the ability to retain children in the school and keep them learning well.
For the last 40 years the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study has tracked all babies born in 1972 in Dunedin. The results of this research is the subject of the television documentary Why am I? This study has shown that self-control is the key to physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending. Self-control is central to the work that many teachers at the school do in their classrooms.
Raewyn Whiteman Thorne holds the dual role of SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) and APSEL (Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator) at Tokoroa North School. She not only supports staff with her ability to share her vast experience of working with students, but she also works with a colleague, Karen Tyrell to facilitate ongoing staff development around Choice Theory, the underpinning psychology of the school.
Raewyn has been a major factor in the extraordinary results of the school in achieving high academic standards alongside the fact that children are at school rather than being excluded. APSEL – Social and Emotional Learning is a long-standing initiative that successfully provides responsive support for children and whanau.
Her commitment to helping the students find a way back to being self-managing that has been central to achieving this result. She works skillfully, caringly and with “consistent persistence”, believing in all children’s ability to make more effective choices. She gives them the skills to be better learners and better friends, with strategies that support them as they develop emotional regulation and self-control.
In her office she has set up a learning environment. I was able to watch her as she worked with a group of four boys whose choices in the playground had resulted in needing to spend some of their lunchtime with her.
This was not the stereotypical caricature with the teacher punishing the students. It was a fun filled time of sharing and learning and planning for change
It was obvious to me that she had their trust. She continued to develop mutual respect giving rise to a willingness for these boys to self-evaluate and plan for better choices. They were able to address the behaviours they had chosen by taking responsibility for them. They got it. They did not blame or complain about others. They chose to be accountable for their actions.
At the end of the time they spent time in the playground to practise the skills they had been talking about with the plan to report back just before going back to class.
This style of intervention leads to a safe and stable play environment and this spills over into the classroom when students return after playtime.
The impression one got looking out into the playground was one of sheer enjoyment with several ball games going on in the same space without any issues arising.
This is a school that values learning highly whether it be for classroom learning or learning to get along well together. It is truly a good place to be.
Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Napoleon Hill
November 4, 2016
Bette Blance is the president of William Glasser Institute-New Zealand. She and other Glasser Instructors have worked in the school over a number of years. The principal of Tokoroa North School, Stephen Blair has acknowledged the impact the approach of internal control and motivation taught by these instructors on their results as a school.