Hi, this is Zoe! I’m writing to tell everyone about my Kiwi experience at Mount Maunganui Primary School. I’ve been a student at MMPS for 6 weeks now and I love it. I am a Year 5 student which is like being in 4th grade at home. I spend my days in Room 15, a classroom with 30 other students in both Year 5 and Year 6 (ages 9 and 10).
Here is a typical day for me at school:
Wake up at 7:30am (ok, I don’t usually get up until 7:45).
Eat breakfast and make my school lunch, still half asleep. Put on sunblock, make sure I have my sunhat (required for all students in New Zealand, totally annoying), gather my togs (bathing suit) and towel for swimming, water bottle and lunch box, and off we go! Thayer and I ride our scooters to school with either Mom or Dad walking with us. We have to be at school by 9:00 but I like to get there early, around 8:30ish. If you are early you get to play with your friends in the classroom from 8:30 on, or outside on the playground.
When the 9:00 bell rings, all the kids have to be inside and we sit down in a group on the mat in the front of the classroom. I usually like to sit right in the front, by my teacher, Mrs. Barnett. Mrs. Barnett is a really kind and sweet teacher. She never gets too angry with the class and she makes work really fun. She also knows when we are getting antsy and ready to move around so sometimes she sends us to run a lap of the obstacle course around the field outside or she tells us to “stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down” in Maori. I usually get confused because I don’t speak Maori (not taught in New Hampshire!) but I am learning. Once we were all standing in a single file line and I was in the front (of course). Mrs. Barnett told us to all “E noho” which means sit down. I had no idea what that meant, so I stayed standing while everyone behind me sat down and I had no idea I was the only one still up. Mrs. Barnett said to turn around so I did, and I saw that everyone else had sat down. We all laughed. Even me. Mrs Barnett said “I bet you didn’t think you were going to have to learn another language in New Zealand!”
The first thing Mrs. Barnett does each morning is call the roll (this how they say “taking attendance” here). She says a greeting to each of us and we have to answer back a different greeting. Like if she says “hola Zoe,” I might say, “Kia Ora, Mrs. Barnett” which is a Maori greeting that I learned. Then, Mrs. Barnett uses my greeting for the next student and on it goes like that.
Next, Mrs. Barnett reads out “notices” off the computer. These are like announcements for the school. For example, today’s notices were that the MMPS Surf Club should meet in the Hall at lunch time with their lunches, and there will be a school-wide Assembly in the Hall at 2:30.
Then, our entire class goes to swimming. Yep, every morning at 9:10am. Our school pool is tiny, not like a real pool, so we usually do races 4-people at a time. A lot of people complain about how cold the water is but I think it’s refreshing.
After we dry off, we go back to the class and are assigned our first piece of work for the day. Here are my subjects at school: Maths (they always have an S on the word Math), Topic Writing (like creative or structured writing), Handwriting, Reading (in groups), and Spelling. This week we just started getting homework assigned for the first time. I get it on Thursday and have to complete it by the following Thursday. It is 20 math facts (5 minutes allowed but it only takes like one minute), 10 spelling words, and then we have to do 15-30 minutes of reading on our own.
The academic part of my school is really different from what I’m used to. Everything at MMPS takes a lot longer to do because there are 31 kids in my class all doing the same assignment. At home I go to Montessori school and everyone there is kind of doing different things based on their skills and interests. The teachers aren’t trying to get 30 kids to focus on one project. I think it is a lot more tiring for Mrs. Barnett to keep 31 kids listening and focused! So the academics don’t seem as hard or challenging as my school back home but it’s still really fun to be in school here.
“To be a Mountie”
MMPS started a new theme this year called “To Be a Mountie.” A Mountie is a made-up character representing the ideal student at the school, and he/she is in the shape of a mountain because of Mount Maunganui. Here is the Mountie.
The characteristics that we are trying to learn are: being a communicator, self manager, learner, and team player. A lot of kids are trying to improve on these skills, but Mrs. Barnett says I’m doing really well with all of these already. She told Mom and Dad that she is going to kidnap me for the rest of the year! I don’t think so!
About my friends
Kiwi kids are really really nice. One funny thing is that most Kiwi kids never wear shoes, even when they are skate boarding or scootering! When we first met my principal, Mr. Harris, before school started, my Mom asked him what kind of shoes we had to wear to school. He said, “Oh, you don’t need shoes.” Mom thought she misheard him so she asked again what exact kind of shoes, like close-toed or flip flops or sneakers and he said, “Really, most kids don’t wear shoes to school.” And he was right! I usually wear “jandals” or flip flops on my scooter but then I take them off for the whole day. This explains why my feet are always black when I come home from school.
Anyway, all the kids at school are very interested in learning about my trip this year and about America, and they love listening to my accent. The girls are all very sweet and fun and I’ve made HEAPS of friends. The boys are sporty, tall (most of them), goofy, sometimes naughty, and most of the time annoying. My friends like to whisper about who has crushes on me but I’m not interested! One boy asked me out on a date (NO!!!). Hello, I am NINE.
Other Cool Stuff
There are so many extracurricular things that I’ve done at MMPS that I haven’t done at my school back home. For instance, we did a week-long bike safety course last month. On the first day we watched a safety video and talked about bike safety and what we’d be learning over the next four days. The boy in the video actually DIED because he made bad choices while cycling, but it was a made up story. At least it taught us what NOT to do! For the next two days we were practicing riding our bikes on the netball court. We learned our hand signals: left, right, stop, and straight. And we were also learning our SSS (stop, signal, scan). The next two days we were on the road! We even got to cycle past our house and Mom and Dad saw me on the road. Parents were invited to volunteer so Dad came (mom gladly “volunteered” him) and rode on the road with us for about an hour. It was so fun! We even learned how to go around a New Zealand roundabout on our bikes, which is tricky. We had to hold our right hands out the whole time to signal where we were turning off the roundabout, which made it even trickier! I’m probably going to have to learn all my skills again when I get home because everything here is on the wrong side of the road for me. I was a bit confused for a while there. I even went around a fake roundabout on the netball courts the entirely wrong way because I forgot that I was not at home. Mrs. Barnett and I had a good laugh.
I actually learned a lot of things during bike safety that I never would have learned at home. For example, which vehicle has the right of way and what to do when you get to a T intersection, left turns and right turns on NZ roads, and how you have to ride with the traffic etc. I feel way more comfortable riding my bike on the road now and I think it was a fun, great, and educating activity to do at school.
Another really cool thing that all students do at MMPS each year is a Try-athalon. We compete by grade level and gender, and you can choose if you want to be in a fast group (Greyhounds), a proficient group (Alsatians), or non-competitive group (the Bulldogs). I wanted to be an Alsatian because I’ve never done a try-athalon before but Mrs. Barnett encouraged me to be a Greyhound instead and I’m SO glad!
Here is how they do it. We are placed in a heat of 3 or 4 kids. We start in the pool and swim four lengths (laps).
I was in a group with two other girls who were both really good athletes. I was last out of the pool in my heat, but was really quick to get on my bike and was first on my way to the bike course. We had to ride on the road outside of school for a pretty long way! Bike safety really helped us with this. It was like a 2km bike ride, all by ourselves. Maybe more. I’m not sure, but it was far.
After the biking, we ditched our bikes and did our run, again off school property and around the neighborhood. Who knows how long it was, but to me, it was LONG. I stayed with Char (in photo above) again which really helped. She is a great athlete and kept me running.
At last, we finished the race but we had no idea how we did for our time because they calculate it all when everyone is done. I knew I was just behind Char. Later, I found out at Assembly that I actually came in third place out of all the Year 5 girls! I was really excited!
The last thing I want to write about is when I went on a two-day overnight with my class at the Lazy Tramper Lodge in the Kaimai Mountain Range. It was a 30 minute drive through the hills to get there. I was REALLY nervous to go camp because I thought I would be homesick and also I didn’t know any of the grownup chaperones besides Mrs. Barnett and one other teacher. I don’t have any actual photos from camp because we weren’t allowed to have cameras. It turned out to be the best camp ever! I had so much fun with my class and we played a lot of fun games like Bush Flags (capture the flags in the bush) and other team-building games. On the first night we made hamburgers and my team got awarded 80 points for having a great meat patty that we filled with new and unusual ingredients like garlic, onion, rosemary and herbs that I brought from home. There was also a water slide made out of rubber laid out over a track, ending in a big mud pool. It was FREEZING! I went 20 times each day. For real. There was also a water hole. There were two pools that you could swim in, also FREEZING, and two rock slides that you could slide down. It was so amazing. I wore my wetsuit which really helped. There was also a really beautiful small waterfall that made it even more exciting.
At camp, we did something called The Burma Trail. You follow a path through the wilderness in the pitch dark, in groups of four or five, holding onto a rope to keep you on the path. The parents hide in the bushes around you but you can’t see anything. They rustle the bushes and jump out at you, trying to creep you out. It works. One of the teachers (I don’t know who though) said “I want one of you” in a deep and scary voice, and grabbed my shirt and pulled me back! I shrieked, and he let go. After the Burma trail we got hot “milo” which his like hot chocolate and biscuits (cookies). I think the Burma trail was all about building your courage and getting you into trying new things, and finding out things about yourself that you never knew (like you were really scared, or you could do it despite being super scared). I was relieved after I finished the Trail because I didn’t think I could handle it and it was all so new for me, and I feel really glad that I accomplished it. Now I want to do it again!
Even though I don’t have photos of camp, I DO have this one photo of my baking preparations for what I decided to share with the group. Dad was my baking assistant.
I have two weeks left of school here and I really don’t want to leave. I’ve had a great time learning about public schools in New Zealand and I would love to come back here another time and continue at MMPS. I love being a Kiwi student – it’s been a really cool experience along this 10 month trip. I’ll miss my friends a lot when I leave but I know that I’ll never forget them!
Thank you for reading my blog post. My Mom made me write it as a chore. I hope it wasn’t a chore for you. I know you’re laughing.