Monday, April 16, 2018

Five reasons why I feel no guilt taking holidays

A beautiful woman plays ball on a North Island beach with her dog called Jerry

As a teacher, over the years I have heard a lot of bleating and horse manure about my holidays.

Wah wah, cry me a river.

Here are five reasons why it's good to howl at the moon after 10 weeks of work.

1 Holidays  allow me to regain some energy. Being a teacher is exhausting. Leading a school is demanding. Yes, the old, recharge-the-batteries excuse. Thank you very much.

2 It's good to pause. Get some context. Establish some perspective and keep it fresh.

3 Sleep is good for my health. During term time I'm usually in bed and asleep between 9 and 9.30pm. I wake at 4.50am. Why? Because I'm cream crackered by 9 and I need to get to school early each day to prepare. These are old habits. 

4 ProjectsDuring holidays these habits shift to later to bed and later to rise. Mental labours are replaced by physical labours as I take on projects around the house and land, but, curiously, I'm nowhere near as tired!

5 Time to meet the wife. As you know, she's a nurse, and, in the past when the kids were growing up, during the week, we were often like ships in the night. Holidays are important family times. In the past it was going places with the family. These days it's going to them to do projects (see number 4).

Okay! Outta my way, I'm off to Palmerston North to do some painting for our youngest.  See y'all in two weeks time.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Through the mirror of my mind, time after time, I see reflections of you and me (The Supremes)

Photo by Kevin Noble on Unsplash
Reflective practitioner (I am a).

I see that description on CVs that come my way (actually, I think it's probably on mine), but what does it mean?

For many, it means analysing an incident and changing something as a consequence.

Wikipedia have a pithy description: Stepping back from the action permits critical reflection on a sequence of events. 

For me, it means writing these posts on my blog, in an attempt to be BTB (better than before); my reflections are much more haphazard and of the moment.

As that Wikipedia article also indicates: The emergence in more recent years of blogging has been seen as another form of reflection on experience in a technological age.

Wahoo. I'm cutting edge!

I've noticed I spend a lot more time reflecting on experience as I go on (there's a lot more to reflect on for a start).

I've spent some of this week helping out our young Head of English. She's brand new to the role and feeling her way.

Takes me back to my dream team English departments over the last 34 years of teaching. I've been in and lead some doozies.

Of recent times, honourable mentions to the mighty earth shaking Woodford House team (2013-2016), and the King John School's rock steady crew (Essex 2004-2006).

Apart from me, they all had equally passionate, funny, and dedicated teachers. Some of the other teams I have been associated with have had individual superstars but lacked cohesion.

Reflecting on that, I put it down to individual personalities and strengths.

After all, teams are all about relationships and communication. Being in one and leading one. Relationships and communication. Full stop.

Curiously, of my senior management teams the King John School was large and had disparate personalities but somehow coalesced well.

In my current role I have a great management team made up of a Junior Lead Teacher, three Community Administrators from the Brethren community and me. 

The mix of personalities, strengths and skills is widespread but effective. Within the school there is no professional leadership team as such because the flat management structure doesn't allow for one. This hasn't been a problem or concern.

Not sure what to make of that - some distance and reflection required!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

I'm gonna learn to dance if it takes me all night and day (Chuck Berry)

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash
Exciting news!!!

One term into our appraisal process for the year and we've managed to complete pretty much all of the interim interviews to check that all teachers have their goals set and are now engaged in their personal inquiry linked to their goals.

Sounds a little complicated when I write it like that and not wildly exciting, but it's nicely straightforward in reality and important man!

Remember: Your focus determines your reality (Qui Gon-Jinn).

Simply put, it's all about targeting ways of improving learning via improving individual teaching practices.

I like the following chart from Dan Rockwell via his Leadership Freak blog where he cites Bob Proctor.

In our context, personal change begins with a 'what if...' and a good idea. But good ideas aren’t enough.

According to Bob:

You have a
10% chance of making change if you say, “That’s a good idea.”

You have a
25% chance of making change if you say, “”I’ll do it.”

You have a
40% chance of making change if you set a time to do it.

You have a
50% chance of making change if you plan HOW to do it.

You have a
60% chance of making change if you make a commitment.

You have a 95% chance of making change if you set a specific time to share your progress with someone.

That's SUPER encouraging. 

Next step for me after these first term interviews is setting times to have teachers share their goal and inquiry progress.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The reasons why no one likes us!

Photo by Colin Rex on Unsplash
While painting the horse float during this Easter weekend, my wife (a nurse) and I discussed a range of stimulating subjects. Along the way we spit balled reasons why we our professions are so disrespected.

Here I modestly present our theories regarding why the teaching and nursing professions have never been valued as they should be (and therefore why skinflint governments don't pay up). 

As my wife is never wrong, you should sit up straight and pay attention:

1 The if-you-can't-teach... myth. This perverse notion has, at its core, the idea that if you don't quite have the chops then you can teach others. Think of tennis or golf coaches or music critics - very few, if any, were stars in their own right.

2 The old uniforms. Cartoon shorthand for teachers is a pompous old git wearing a batman cape and mortar board and nurses: a stout women in a heavily starched nun-like white outfit with an origami headpiece - you know what I mean. This bizarre get up has no relationship to reality but it makes us a figure of fun and therefore, something that can't be taken seriously. 

3 It's not a real job. Anyone can do it. Unlike say doctors, chemists, pilots, and computer software engineers, the popular perspective on teachers and nurses by older generations (okay - our fathers) was and is that taking on life in a service career is akin to dressing up and playing house.

4 There's no money in it so, why, you know, would anyone want to do a lowly perceived job for crap money. Instead - become a professional sportsperson and earn quadrillions. The altruistic impulse to battle it out in an under-resourced environment like a school or a hospital seems glamorous in comparison huh.

5 We're always on holiday. It cheeses people off. So teachers are lazy and should work harder. And be grateful for the allowance they get.

6 Glorified nannies. At heart, teachers look after children and that generalised stigma applies to nurses as well. They look after us when we're sick - like our mums do. These stereotypes persist deep in the psyche.

7 Teachers are trendy lefties: long haired, bearded, pipe smoking, sandals wearing tree huggers. That image has legs. 

And so the perceptions continue. Perceptions are hideous blue meanies - hard to battle, and the poor pay continues, unless you happen to live in Finland that is. Ah, Finland...

Bottom line: So, because we're not valued, is it any wonder that NZ is desperately short of attracting men and women to nursing or teaching?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

If you got the notion, I second that emotion (The Miracles)

Photo by Franck Veschi on Unsplash
As a leader, it's important I have a large dollop of emotional intelligence.

What exactly is it?

emotional intelligence
  1. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

I was discussing this with a colleague recently. After I'd explained the concept, she laughed and said, "Oh - I have very little of that".

She's a good listener, which I regard as a crucial skill, but she was right about her EI.

In our heart of hearts, I think we know whether we have much EI or not (you could try this little online test to check against your idea of yourself). 

Generally, there are three key skills involved:
  • Emotional awareness 
  • The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving 
  • The ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.
Okay then, so you can see why leaders need it, right? How does your leader stack up?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Just take what you need and leave the rest (The Band)

Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar on Unsplash

Don't get me wrong, I love change.

In my working life, I've lived and worked in a number of countries (England, China, Qatar, UAE). In New Zealand I've lived and taught in many regions: Taranaki, Auckland, Hawkes' Bay, and Nelson). During those jobs, five years in one place is still my record and that was during last century.

All that adventure means: different cultures, different restrictions, different climates, different geographies, different colleagues, and different bosses. 

All of these different organisations brought about a lot of change.

Adaptability and flexibility are therefore deeply ingrained in my psyche along with relentless positivity.

So, when I wonder if there is such a thing as too much change, you should listen because I'm worried about that tipping point, when the rate of constant change becomes counter productive. 

The analogy of a barrel of water is a good one: there is a limited capacity for water (change); change disruption is how much water is in (and is being added to) the barrel.

How much water in the barrel can an organisation handle before saturation happens?

Luckily, quite a bit is the answer.

Except it's not the abstract idea of 'an organisation' that needs to be considered. It's people who feel change saturation, not a school.

When the water barrel is overflowing, the potential for disengagement and apathy, frustration and increased stress, fatigue and burnout, resistance and confusion, cynicism and skepticism are present. 

In addition, there is the potential for any great on-going initiatives to suffer as well; exciting existing projects may, and probably will, fail to gain or maintain momentum because everyone is cream crackered, and over it! 

And that would be a tragedy.

So, what needs to happen if that saturated bloated water gorged barrel is overflowing?

Someone with the overall vision (possibly/probably from a group often referred to as 'The Powers That Be') needs to step back and consider the collective impact those changes are having. Everyone else has either vested interests or is too close to the change implementation process.

Just take what you need, and leave the rest, is one way one looking at it, or, as William Arthur Ward says, "The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails".