© Magdalena Urbankova

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schooling

Updated: Mar 16

Schools in New Zealand are truly children's realm. Yes, there are teachers here too, but many functions are performed by the children for the children themselves. The philosophy of children learning from children is wholeheartedly embraced here.


At the beginning of the school year the oldest children are given an instructions on how to serve as a crossing guards. These children then take turns throughout the school year to supervise the crosswalks. The school crosswalks are made particularly visible by black and white striped poles with a bright orange globe at its end. The "school patrol STOP" signs are attached by moveable hinges onto these poles. When the crossing patrol is not present, these are slid behind school signs and are neatly stowed away. At the start and end of the school day the children who are the patrol slide these signs out and use them to direct the traffic. A routine verbal exchange accompanies this: "signs out," calls a kid on one side of the road and the signs on both sides of the road are swung out to stop the traffic; "check," calls out the other student in response as both children make sure all the cars had stopped; "clear," called by both of them, gives a signal to the hoards of children and adults to cross the sidewalk.


There is a teacher present during this, but so far what I observed, this adult is not involved in directing any of this activity except stopping the clueless new immigrant stepping into the crosswalk as soon as the signs were out, not knowing to wait for the call of "clear." Yes, that trespasser was me.


Another kids run event is the weekly ice block sale during the warm season. The school week is concluded by the senior students setting up tables, cash boxes and coolers with ice pops, anticipating the last bell. Once the bell is rung children swarm these tables clutching their two dollar coins to buy ice blocks from their classmates. Parents picking up their children line up likewise.


My first impression is that the children here have much more freedom and are intentionally led to self-sufficiency. The school's gate open one hour before the school's start. The children can arrive early and socialize with their classmates in the school's main courtyard where they can climb the jungle gym or engage in other kinds of gross motor activities, all that without adult supervision. The first bell let's everyone know the classrooms are open and it is time to come in, the second bell commences the school day, at that time everyone is expected to be in the classrooms and ready to learn.


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