Two Weeks in New Zealand and the Joys of Term Four

This week was my first week at Havelock North High School in Havelock North, New Zealand.


The school system definitely differs from that of the United States, but the students themselves are similar in that it is now Term Four, near the end of the year, and everyone is restless for summer break!  I taught my first lesson to a Year 10 English class today on poetry.  I think it went well considering how much time they have already spent on poetry. The students in Years 11- 13 (Senior classes) will also be leaving in just two short weeks to take their final examinations with the rest of the country.

Havelock North H.S. has around 1000 students and about a 1/3 of the population is Maori.Over the last several years, they have been making efforts to create a bi-cultural atmosphere in the school with European and Maori cultures.  The picture below is the classroom where the Maori culture and language classes are taught:


They also have around 30 students who are non-native English speakers from Japan and or European countries.Students have five 1-hour periods a day with 5-10 minutes breaks in between. The reason for this is that with 7 or 8 classes, the government and school decided that too much time was wasted in a day passing between classes rather than actually learning.  After 2nd period, there is a tea break to meet with teachers and students have a break to talk with friends.  After fourth period, there is a form class each day where certain students visit certain teachers every day through their high school years. Unlike all the other classes separated by year, form classes are a chance for students to interact with other students of different years.Form classes also give the teachers an opportunity to watch and check up on the progress of particular students.  Then, it is lunch where students eat in a courtyard (like the picture below) and finally 5th period.


                            Courtyard at Havelock North H.S.

Each year the government gives funding to schools to make improvements, but instead of only giving funding to the best schools, funding is divided among schools based upon need.  Therefore, the poorer schools actually receive more funding in order to help them gain the resources they need to make their students more successful.  It is, in a way, a socialist society.  Schools are also allowed to save up their money to make big improvements and know that they will not be penalized in the future because they haven’t yet spent the previous monies.

Within the last few years, the laws have also changed to where schools need to accept and provide education for all students living in their area (because all students go to the school closest to them). This means that HNHS does support non-native speakers of English and students with special needs alike.  In the case of the special needs students (down syndrome to traumatic brain injuries), most will spend 4 out the five classes self-contained, but then have at least one class mainstream. He also said that they placed the special needs classroom in the middle of the school so the mainstream students are given opportunities to be responsible for helping their classmates out. Overall, the staff feel these students are received well by their peers.  There are extra tutoring sessions for non-native English speakers during school and separate ESOL English courses in comparison to the mainstream English courses.  In the case of the award ceremonies (similar to our graduation), they have separate ceremonies for Maori students and families because the Maori have at times felt marginalized at the regular ceremonies.

Since I had almost a full week in New Zealand before Term Four started, I have gone on some long walks (partially from walking right past where I was intending to be and not realizing it) that have resulting in finding some wonderful things like Arataki Honey.  I also have been talking with one of the Japanese students, Taki, at the high school who stays in my host mom’s house with me, stargazing and hiking up Te Mata peak with another student teacher from UW-La Crosse.  It has definitely been a unique first two weeks with lots of new challenges to explore and conquer!

Climbing Te Mata Peak in Havelock North…



 At the top of Te Mata Peak…




3 thoughts on “Two Weeks in New Zealand and the Joys of Term Four

  1. Hello Abeni!
    Wow! Your first few weeks sound wonderful! The school looks beautiful, and there are a a lot of students… Our school doesn’t have near as many as yours!
    How do they take tests? Is it similar to our standardized testing? Our students, who are Year 4 (equivalent to grade 3), took a test the first week I was here- and the teachers were really opposed to the standardized testing approach! It was very interesting their rationale and opinions about the entire process.

    I find it really interesting how your day is divided up among class time, breaks, and lunch. Do you feel the students are benefiting from having the longer breaks? Our school has a tea break as well! At first, I was a little confused and baffled that I was sitting still and talking with other teachers for twenty minutes! I now understand the importance of that time for students to go outside, and the teachers to ‘catch up’ with one another. I found the pace of the day is much more relaxed than our typical school day in The United States.

    The concept of Form Classes is really interesting! I really like how the students are all mixed up, regardless of grade level. I would think this creates stronger bonds among students, and a sense of community! How do you feel about them?
    Also, providing teachers with the time to catch up and keep track of student progress is, as we know, essential! I really like the designated time to do so. Do you find this strengthens relationships between teachers and students? Do teachers work in collaboration with students to make plans/goals?

    Lastly, how AWESOME that the government provides funding based on need… none of “the richer get richer, while the poor get poorer.” That is the ideal concept that we dream about, and you are experiencing it! The ideas of mainstreaming and inclusion are our norms, but not everywhere is embracing and making the effort to do so in our schools! It is great that your school’s staff recognizes the importance, need and supports the inclusion movement!

    I too find that getting “lost” when looking for somewhere leads to the best accidental experiences! I found the greatest Currywurst booth just up the road, 7 blocks in the wrong direction of my travels! Keep enjoying and I look forward to reading more of your amazing adventures in New Zealand!

  2. Brittany,

    The testing depends on the year you are in school. There are some internal assessments done within the classroom and a few external assessments for the younger grades, but for Years 11-13 the external assessments are all done within a three week period at the end of term four. Every student in those years will sit in these exams across the country in standardized testing centers. Out of all the years of school, it is these exams that are most important because they determine whether students move up a level or not (there are three levels) and whether they make it into university if they are a Year 13 student.

    I would say that the students do benefit from the longer breaks both throughout the day and the school year. Having longer breaks throughout the day give students a chance to get some of their energy or talking out before each class starts and I think having a two week break in between each term is brilliant because then students have that time to either work on big projects (yeah, right!) or just relax so they can come back to a new term refreshed!

    As for the form times, I’m not sure how I feel about them. I have no doubt that for some of the students, it is a good time for them to form bonds, but for most students it seems that they just sit there for the 20 minutes listening to music or not doing anything. I would think that it would be a good time to do homework or ask questions to teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case. As for teachers, I think that this is a beneficial time to see a particular group of students through school and keep them on track, making goals and plans. However, like everything related to school, a teacher can only do so much; it is the students who must ultimately participate and want to succeed!

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