“What people want…

…is a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for. ” Norman Kirk, Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1972-1974.  Reminds me of the Bible verse learned long ago from Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Tairua 2012 094.jpg

My substance and evidence of hope.  A job.  Teaching.  I hoped for this from the time of was about eight years old.  Someone to love and to be loved.  So lucky to have such a supportive husband and children of whom I am so proud.  Somewhere to live.  I am grateful to live in a beautiful land, and in a special little community beside the sea where I plan to retire.  Something to hope for: being useful in the now and in the future.  That part is a little more nebulous because who knows what the future holds.  All we can do is know the one who holds the future and dare to dream and to make the best possible choices and to enjoy the ride.  But how lucky we are to have choices, to have something to believe in, to have hope.

“What people want is a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for. ” These words were raised in the second episode of The Ninth Floor, when Guyon Espiner was interviewing Mike Moore, Labour Member of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister between 1972 and 1999, who went on to become Director General of the World Trade Organisation.  To be WTO chair and a Trade Union member at the same time shows the measure of the man and his Labour dreams of which he has never let go.

The equally good first episode in The Ninth Floor series interviewed Sir Geoffrey Palmer (MP, DP and PM between 1979 and 1990), who has since returned to Academia.  Where Moore seemed to have led from the heart, Palmer seemed to have led from the head.   Both men, however, pulled in the same direction.

Further episodes in the series will interview Jim Bolger (PM 1990-1997), who went on to become Ambassador to the USA and chaired Kiwibank and Kiwirail, Dame Jenny Shipley (PM 1997-1999), who went on to become an independent director and speaker, and Helen Clark (PM 1999-2008), who has been the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017.

The series, The Nonth Floor is, in my opinion, excellent journalism on behalf of the team led by executive producer, Tim Watkin, and interviewer, Guyon Espiner.  I am looking forward to the next three interviews.  A pity John Key has so far declined.  I’d like to hear his thoughts also.

We need more of such journalism instead of the the usual trashy offerings that swing between mindless infotainment and belligerent confrontationalism and that rob us of our dignity and hope, instead playing on such emotions as jealousy, Schadenfreude, unhealthy obsession and embarrassment.  What irritates me is that those who create such news programmes think these are what we, the people, want.  They assume we all belong to the great unwashed uneducated, and instead of inspiring us they attempt to entice us with unhealthy intrigues and celebrity or else bully us with shame and fear.  They could inspire us with hope and integrity to think and to reason.

What the media so frequently offers is certainly not what this person wants!  I’m with Norman Kirk – I want a job, someone to love, somewhere to live, and something to hope for.  The media has a role to play here, as do politicians.  That’s why The Ninth Floor is so good.  No tacky infotainment or unhealthy sensationalism. It gives us hope in our future as we explore our past.

Thank you to the team of The Ninth Floor for honouring our former Prime Ministers, who gave their all to provide us with the tangible substance of things hoped for: jobs, families, homes, a future.  The current Prime Minister, Bill English, despite being a National Party parliamentarian, he also gives me hope.  His web site says that he is “focused on tackling New Zealand’s toughest social problems, including inequality, welfare dependence and the educational under achievement of Maori and Pasifika children, aiming to give all New Zealanders the best chance of succeeding.”  That sounds like Labour to me.  That gives me plenty to hope for.

Good Parenting


Great article in the Business Insider May 6th 2016. To quote, summarise and comment:

“Good parents want their kids to stay out of trouble, do well in school, and go on to do awesome things as adults. And while there isn’t a set recipe for raising successful children, psychology research has pointed to a handful of factors that predict success. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to the parents. Here’s what parents of successful kids have in common:”

  1. They make their kids do chores
  2. They teach their kids social skills
  3. They have high expectations
  4. They have healthy relationships with each other
  5. They’ve attained higher education levels
  6. They teach their kids maths early on
  7. They develop a relationship with their kids
  8. They’re less stressed
  9. They value effort over avoiding failure
  10. The mother works
  11. They have a higher socioeconomic status
  12. Their parenting style is  authoritative rather than authoritarian or permissive
  13. They teach perseverance and grit

Against all the fashions and trends and veiled criticisms of what has gone before that fashions and trends imply, I feel vindicated!  Psychology research is catching up with common sense. Apart from the obvious, some points need comment.

Firstly, definitions: The article quoted researcher, Diana Baumride, who described the three parenting styles quoted in point 12 as Permissive, where “the parent tries to be nonpunitive and accepting of the child,” Authoritarian: where “the parent tries to shape and control the child based on a set standard of conduct,”  and Authoritative, where “the parent tries to direct the child rationally” and where “the kid grows up with a respect for authority, but doesn’t feel strangled by it”.

Secondly, good parents teach their kids maths early on. From Northwestern University one coresearcher, Greg Duncan, said: “Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement.” I wonder how many early learning skills they studied? Does early tuition in other subjects, for example, language learning, have a similar effect?

Thirdly, the mothers work. Interesting. As most mothers work these days, this may be a context factor rather than a cause. However the researchers interpreted their findings as a modelling issue. The lead researcher said: “Role modeling is a way of signaling what’s appropriate in terms of how you behave, what you do, the activities you engage in, and what you believe,” and “There are very few things, that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother.”

Finally, the issue of higher socioeconomic status. Hekia Parata, New Zeaand’s current Minister of Education, needs to be listening to this. The researcher from Berkeley, Sean Reardon, stated that there are between 30 to 40% more students from higher socioeconomic contexts in the higher achievement levels. Hekia, instead of bashing teachers who work themselves to the bone, how about working at raising the socioeconomic status of those students at the tail?

The Salt of the Earth


We are newly returned home after a ten day road trip which included New Zealand’s South Island West Coast. It has been nearly thirty years since I was last there and quite a lot has changed.

The main reason for going was to visit family heritage sites. My Mum was born in this gold and coal mining area, called Brunnerton. Although the mines have closed and many of the original homes are gone, the small village of Taylorville, where my uncles went to school, and the larger town of Dobson, where the family lived and where my grandfather worked in the mine, still remain.

My mother’s family immigrated from Ireland in October 1926 and soon after, in December 1926, nine men were killed in a methane blast. I recall Nanna telling the story of standing terrified at the mouth of Dobson mine with the other wives watching the men being stretchered out, their skin and flesh dripping off them.  Granddad was lucky.  He was elsewhere and unscathed.

After travelling from Nelson and stopping by the Punakaiki Pancake Rock site, we settled into the quaint old Railway Hotel in Greymouth.  To begin with, we visited Shantytown, an award-winning heritage park.  It was just as I remembered it when I visited with thirty fourth formers on a school trip in the 1980s.  Then we drove to the site of the Brunner and Dobson mines, where Grandad had worked. I expected to find  the same wooden memorial plaque that I had encountered at the site of the mines thirty years ago. It had been planted in the long grass beside the swing bridge that my uncles had walked on their way from Dobson to Taylorville to school in the 1920s and 30s.  Instead, we found a well-kept interpretive Brunner Mine Memorial Walk and marble memorial that leads the visitor around the remains of the mine and associated brick works and fittingly honours the miners lost in half a dozen methane disasters, the most recent, the Pike, only five years ago. This insightful photographic installation straddles the Grey river and includes the swing bridge that still links Dobson and Taylorville.

After the walk, we explored the village of Taylorville by car. We found that the lovely old school block is now a bed and breakfast.  Then we drove up to the village of Blackball, the home of the Labour Party and the Blackball mine where we found another quaint memorial/art installation in two shipping containers with decking between. We drove back via the town of Dobson.  While Taylorville seems to be a quaint but average little holiday town beside the Brunner river, both Blackball and Dobson were sad and destitute. While Blackball had a few things going for it, a well-subscribed local pub and salami factory, Dobson, the larger of the two, didn’t even boast a corner dairy.  The volunteer at the Greymouth Heritage Centre, where we visited with questions the next day, told us that there is not even enough money around to support a corner store.  Purchases can be made at the petrol station.  With the closing of the mines, the people are destitute.  You could feel it.  We drove the twenty minutes back into Greymouth.

There we finished our touring day with a beer tasting and early dinner at the Monteith’s Brewery.  More of a contrast with Dobson and Blackball couldn’t be found.  A modern, cathedral-like, architect-designed  edifice that you would expect to find in a wealthy Californian wine country and where tourists are led in groups around the shining vats of the brewery and taste beautifully served craft beers and nibble on expensive whitebait fritters.

Many changes from thirty years ago, that’s for certain. Yet one thing hasn’t changed.  The people.  Everywhere we went the locals were laid back, super helpful and friendly.  The volunteer at the Heritage Centre in Greymouth was a prime example.  She bent over backwards to help us find information about my family roots. The West Coasters remain the salt of the earth.

ANZAC Reflections


25th April 2016                                                          25th April 2015




Today in Tairua we have commemorated New Zealand’s involvement and losses in WWI. There was a dawn service at the local cemetery and a civil service at the community centre after a procession of service people through the main street of town.

Today I especially remember the Somme, where my maternal grandfather, William Frederic King, who, fighting with the Irish Riflery Brigade, became one of the 40,000 men wounded on the first day of battle, who returned to the battlefield too soon after, and who lived his life as an invalid suffering from the damage that mustard gas did to his respiratory system.

I recall the trip I took last year with three other teachers and forty-two students to visit significant places in the north of France as part of a WWI commemoration project between my school in New Zealand and one in France. In the image above our students are led by our Maori teacher and sing the national anthem and the school song at the New Zealand Memorial in Caterpillar Valley. It was a very moving moment.

As usual, Maori Television makes us proud every ANZAC day. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour long programme presented by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and one of her protégés, Kawiti Waetford, as they retraced the story of his tupuna, Henare Kohere, who died at the Somme and was buried far from his family and homeland. As they visited some of the same places we visited last year, it was a moment to reflect on the privilege of living in freedom in Aotearoa New Zealand but also the privilege of being a teacher and the opportunities that the profession offers.

Thank you, Grandad.  Thank you Henare Kohere.  Thank you Epsom Girls.



It’s been a while…

School Gate

Yes, it’s been a while since my last post, since I finished the #23Things courses; they helped keep the momentum going.

Busyness really does sap creativity.  There has been the preparation for a pending conference presentation, the final weeks of seniors at school before external exams, prize givings and good-byes to seniors, an absent colleague whose lessons had to be sorted, preparation for junior exams, birthday celebrations, and now marking and reporting of juniors’ work.  Busy, busy, busy.  And so much still to do, especially on my research and presentation.

Yet some things are worth taking time out for.  Today the Old Girls who began secondary school together fifty years ago last January are getting together to go on a tour of the old school, to sing the old school song, and to enjoy each other’s company over a light lunch.

For me, personally, it is particularly poignant because it celebrates coming full circle; five years ago I began teaching in the school I attended fifty years ago.

So here’s to a great day with old school acquaintances over a cup of tea. Yes, it has been a while.



For many years we have had awkward and not always effective ways of drawing names for our large extended family’s Secret Santa gift giving rituals.

This year we are trying Elfster.  You may already know of it.  According to Wikipedia, it was created by Peter Imburg in 2004.  They say it’s “a social networking website for wishlists and gift-giving, and a free online organizer for “secret Santa” style gift exchanges.”

 What’s nice about it is it’s so easy!  With family at both ends of the country and in Australia, it certainly makes the pairing easier.  You also have options to create a gift suggestion list and to indicate which participants should not be paired with each other.  There is limited but relevant advertising.
Fully recommended!

Celebrating Sabbath with the School Seasons


Image from CozyKitchenChats

We lived in Seattle for seven years.  One thing I thoroughly enjoyed while there was the way my neighbours celebrated the change in seasons.  When fall fell into winter, they cleared away the last of the leaves, put up their holiday lights, and enjoyed a white Christmas; when winter melted into spring, they freshened their interior decor, aerated their lawns and repainted the stoop and garage doors; when spring jumped into summer, they got out their barbecues and their deck furniture and celebrated their nationhood with their neighbours; and when summer edged into autumn, they got out their leaf blowers and jack-o-lanterns, had their chimneys swept and booked their flights home to family for Thanksgiving.  Every year.  And with each transition, they changed the wreath hanging on the front door.

I decided that this familar rhythm was something I wanted to continue celebrating so I carried my Seattle wreaths home with me to New Zealand.  But after the first year, it felt false, even twee, in this South Pacific environment.  To begin with, the change in seasonal weather is not that marked, and Kiwis are such independent souls that they do whatever they like whenever.  So my wreaths have remained stashed in the shed.

It has been wonderful being back home with family in these sea-circled islands in the south of the South Pacific.  It’s where I belong.  I have come to realise that, as a teacher, I do celebrate different seasons of the year.  I love the rhythm of the school calendar.  You work a twelve hour day for nine or ten weeks then you collapse into a well-deserved two week break.  February to March, then the Autumn April break; May to June then the July mid-winter break; August to September then the October Spring break; November to mid-December then the December-January Summer break.

Nearing retirement, I hope this rhythm of work and rest will continue long after the bells stop ringing in my ears.  It’s a seasonal beat that reminds me of Sabbath, which is perhaps why I find it so comforting.  Six days work, one day rest.  A season of labour followed by a season of restoration and renewal.  It’s a God-given gift for which I am very grateful.

Five Generations of Family Pleasure

Zachy playing soccer for Ranui Swanson

My mother was the fifth child of seven and the only daughter of Irish immigrants.  She grew up watching her father and her six brothers play football, or soccer, for Irish Rifles in Christchurch.  Then, after we moved north, she watched her sons, my three brothers, play for Eden-Roskill, and then my sons, her grandsons, play for Albany-Wairau.

She called me today with a tear in her voice to tell me the wonder of now watching from the sideline as her great grandson plays soccer for Ranui-Swanson.  “Little children running after the ball like bees after a honey pot,” she said.  “I never knew my grandparents back home in Ireland.  What a privilege it is to stand on the sideline, watching a fifth generation play football.  Those little people have made my week.”

Go Zachy!  Go Great Grandma!

Summer Quinn

At 7am on Sunday morning, 16th August 2015, Summer Quinn Greenfield, overdue by eleven days, was finally born.  A beautiful little girl, 3.4 kgs, long legs and fingers, and dark hair, just like her Mum and Dad.  Very cute.  Although she’s my sixth grandchild, the first child of my second son, the wonder of a birth never ceases to amaze me.  Such perfect little beings.

The day before her arrival, my husband purchased tickets for us to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet dance A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.  The next day, on learning her name, I mused at the serendipity.  So then my son shared his story.  Soon after the birth, he needed to move the car and collect the baby seat.  As he turned the engine on, Seals and Crofts were singing Summer Breeze on the radio.  He had a wee cry.  More serendipity.  He is convinced they have chosen the right name for her.

Dear little Summer, you have wonderful parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great grandparents who already love you to bits. May you grow strong swaddled in the warmth of all that love.  Granne.