Let's turn the tables on the question a few times:
1. Your child is a guinea pig already. As parents you and I had little idea when we started out how to be a parent. Sure, we had our parent's examples (we all critiqued our parents quite heavily at times and thought we would do things differently, better, more kindly...). So we set out as parents not really knowing what we were doing but with a whole lot of love and a very strong commitment to learning and doing our best. As a parent I observed parents of happy successful children and got all the tips I could. I read, I asked, I thought, I tried, I made mistakes, I modified my approach.... and I am still doing it. Now I am learning how to be a parent of five independent 18-26 year olds. They are my guinea pigs still!
2. Every child or young person in a traditional school or college is a guinea pig, even though they have been doing it this way for a long time. In fact especially because they have been doing this for a long time. The world has changed and schools have often not changed adequately to prepare children and young people for the world they will be contributing to. So every year a new set of guinea pigs leaves these schools - these schools are still testing to see if the old ways of teaching will work for this generation even after there is plenty of evidence that
- stress-induced illnesses, drug and alcohol abuse, dropping out of college etc have increased significantly
- NZ has the highest youth suicide rate in the world
- many students who appear successful in their NCEA credits have burned out or lost their passion by the time they get a year or two into college.
That is not my idea of success.
So let's put a stop to the guinea pig fear. Let's try to put a stop to fear full stop. Let's try to think well about how to prepare our learners for their futures rather than our pasts. Let's help them to live in their future right now - with creativity, critical thinking, a disposition towards solving probems rather than creating them or just passively accepting them. Let's think about how we can create an environment in which young peope are highly valued for themselves instead of simply as a contribution to making the NCEA data look good for a particular school. That is a huge reason for the stress NZ kids are under. NZ is one of the most highly examined school systems in the western world and it makes teachers teach to the test rather than to consider what wonderful uniqueness resides in this child and how we can tap enthusiasm for life and learning.
At Horizon, we are about creating an environment for wholehearted young people to develop in - young people who love life and iive loving loves, live their faith, and look forward with hope.
We will do NCEA when we get there and we will ensure that our kids get the best support possible to get excellent grades.
But our focus will not primarily be grades. Because that is like treating kids like guinea pigs in a science experiment when we already know that the experiment has failed too many young people.
At Horizon we are creating an environment in which our learners can become
Curious, Courageous Global citizens
Innovative, Resilient Changemakers
Self-Aware, Empathetic Lovers of life
Those are our values, and that is our mission. It won't suit everyone. It certainly won't suit people who want a controlled experiment with proven outcomes. These people don't realise that in changing times and with uniquely different young people, it isn't possible to create controlled experiments with outcomes for a future that is completely different from now.
We love the opportunity to intentionally create an environment in which a certain kind of person can develop, rather than merely a certain percentage of NCEA passes.
And we are confident that curious, courageous, innovative, resilient, self aware and empathetic young people who evidence faith hope and love will also result in good NCEA results.
But at this point, we are laying the foundations... let's not get stressed about teaching to the test before we have to - life and learning and 'becoming' are much more imprtant at this stage of life!