Thursday, June 21, 2018

Let's work, be proud (Mick Jagger)

Working in the Learning Centre can be a joy. Like right now.

I'm scheduled to cover the LC at various times of the week.

When I walked into the LC for this period I checked in with our LC manager, as per our Learning Coach guidelines. She reported that students had been working solidly all morning. Given that yesterday was a fun day (wacky hair dos) this was especially gratifying and encouraging.

Right now, I'm here - listening to a variety of conversations - many centring on accounting - right now some boys are showing me car pictures but they'll go back to peer tutoring each other pretty quickly. Others are working hard and don't wish me to disturb them. Fair enough!

The Learning Centre (LC to us in the biz) is a vibrant part of our school - students self-direct themselves to whatever location suits them.

Right now the boys doing the peer tutoring are all sitting at the large collaboration table - all in a row on one side of the table.

The Year 12's are in English, some Year 13's are in the pin drop quiet zone, so the Year 11 students are all here right now, spread around the LC working on accounting. 

It all depends on choice - no one has directed them to work at the collaboration table or to study their accounting. 

Love the buzz in the LC right now. At the end of my period a student approaches me to find out how his One School Awards are going - turns out he's at Silver level! Brilliant!

All schools need an LC!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

And all the world is football shaped (XTC)

My life is measured out in four year FIFA World Cup cycles. 

It's always held during winter in NZ, one reason why I LOVE autumn and winter!

1958 - was staged in Sweden but I was only a few months old so not many memories of that one I'm sorry to report, or the next three really. 

1962's was in Chile, 1966's in England and 1970's in Mexico. For those last two I was a student at Royal Oak Primary and then Manukau Intermediate. None of these four were televised in the backwater that was NZ and I was only dimly conscious of them, thanks to my football magazines from England.

1974 - West Germany. No TV coverage in NZ for this one either. Attending Mt. Albert Grammar School (my second attempt at School Certificate), it's the first one that registered in my teenage boy fog. I listened to the final, hoping Holland would win, on the radio at 4 Ramelton Road, Mt Roskill.

1978 - Argentina. While enjoying my second year attending Auckland University, New Zealand TV showed Argentinian blue and white ticker tape confetti stuff falling from massive stadiums. Still living at home, I sat transfixed in the family living room.

1982 - Spain. During my second teaching practice at Havelock North High School, staying with a football mad Scottish family in freezing Hastings. NZ were in this one - we played Brazil and Scotland in our group!

1986 - Mexico. My first year teaching at Macleans College in Auckland. We were about to be a family of two boys so that may explain why my memories of this one are a tad dim.

1990 - Italy. My second year teaching at Waimea College in Nelson, NZ. As a family of three, we enjoyed the frosty mornings in Wakefield

1994 - United States.  My last year as Head of English at Waimea College.

1998 - France. Living in the School House at Mt. Albert Grammar where I was Senior Housemaster.

2002 - South Korea/ Japan. The third year as Deputy Principal at Cambridge High School in the Waikato.

2006 - Germany. Assistant Headteacher at King John School in Essex. Thousands of St George flags everywhere!

2010 - South Africa. The year found us in Doha, Qatar - I watched the games in our apartment thanks to a cable hook up.

2014 - Brazil. Second year at Woodford House in Havelock North. The staff interest was intensified by a sweep stake won by people with little knowledge of football. World Cups are like that - topsy turvy affairs.

2018 - Russia. My last few months being Principal at Westmount School's Kaipara campus. Watching in Maungaturoto while gearing up to leave for a return to England.

The years in between are a blur - I'm sure things happened, but they weren't up to much!

BTW - Wondering why the 2018 ball above is called Telstar 18?

Here's the answer:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

At times I don't know why (Elvis Perkins)

Photo by Mary Sill on Unsplash
Comparing New Zealand and English versions of OneSchool Global should be a fun and interesting by-product of my move in August to Focus' Kenley campus.

For one thing, I'm keen to compare the use of LEAN boards. In NZ we use them for our staff briefing each morning and then in our form classes. 

I don't even know if the LEAN meeting approach is replicated in blighty. I shall see!

Although in a past post I'd suggested that the LEAN concept was a slow grower, seven months in, I'm still not so sure.

Ironic, but now, part of my slight beef with the LEAN approach is how retroactive it is. Mostly we are forever reflecting on how yesterday was (particularly difficult if it's Monday morning - we struggle to remember Fridays). 

The aim, and worthwhile challenge, being to connect the retrospective gaze with a proactive change during the now so the future is a better one.  

That's the bit we are yet to master. It's a WIP (work in progress).

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Well we got no choice, all the boys and girls (Alice Cooper)

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash
For some reason I want to tell you about yesterday's school photo day. 

This year's version started with steady rain on the roof of the hall and a steady stream of students gathering for their class photos. A swimming-with-the-tide scene that is replicated in one form or another in pretty much every school on earth I suppose at one time or t'other.

Not a coincidence that all those fish (above picture) are presenting their best side. Apart from that one bottom right. There's always one!

At interval, after the obligatory staff photo, we had planned for a whole school photo outside on the courts. Right on cue the rain cleared up and the sun came out and dried up all the rain. And the itsy bitsy spi...

Sorry. I mean the kids.

...the kids buzzed themselves into year group rows and the photographer perched himself on top of the PE gear shed and took the shots that will become woven into the history of the school.

Shortly after that, the rain came down again. Perfect timing!

Why am I telling you all this?

Two reasons. 

One: I quipped to some boys this morning that all this effort was needed so that 30 years for now they could look back and marvel at how much hair they had.

Two: On the weekend, while sorting through my personal possessions I came across old photos from my time as a student (Royal Oak Primary, Manukau Intermediate, Mount Albert Grammar) and as a teacher at other schools. 

And I wondered. A lot. About all those people and the days when those photos were taken.

Prized possessions.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The five things I do when I don't know what to do!

What do I do when I don't know what to do?

Karen Boyes posed this question to me recently via one of her vlogs.

Robert Pirsig calls these moments 'gumption traps': moments of stuckness which sap your energy, undermine your faith or otherwise cause you to falter in your drive towards completing a project.

Here are my top tips to get over gumption traps:

1 Walk away. Give myself room to breathe. Very often - when I stop actively thinking about a problem a solution will come to me.

2 Talk it over. A problem shared and all that. I've noticed that often when people ask for my advice they will relate their issue, I will listen, I won't say much and they miraculously come to a realisation about how to get themselves out of a gumption trap.

3 Relentless positivity. This involves thinking about other times I've been stuck and knowing that eventually a solution happened. Thanks to my mum, good strong positive thinking has got me out of many a jam.

4 Deliberately go back to go forward. Sometimes I've missed a vital step and I need to retrace and adjust my approach.

5 If all else fails, re-evaluate: maybe I was stuck for a reason. Maybe I was pointed in the wrong direction. This one means I need to re-evaluate this project. I guess this one is my 'don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff' fallback position.

Monday, May 28, 2018

You're the voice, try and understand it, make a noise and make it clear (John Farnham)

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash
Student voice. That was the answer.

My question was: what's the one thing you would like me to address if I become your new Head Teacher?

This came during my (successful) epic interview for a new job in the UK.

It was the student interview. They asked some searching questions and when they were done they asked me if I had a question for them.

I did.

Was I surprised by their answer? Not really.

My current senior students at my current school would probably have said the same thing if they'd had the chance to interview me before I became the Kaipara Principal.

Student voice.

This can be interpreted in different ways.

It may mean 'more choice', or 'getting what we want', or 'asking for our opinions', or 'our preferences'.

The simple fact is, I liked how they asked if I had question for them. It made me feel included somehow. 

Now, the reciprocal question needs to be asked of the students. Everyone likes to be listened to, don't they?

What do you want to say? (Go ahead; I'm all ears).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Baby, you've been on my mind (Linda Ronstadt)

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Meta cognition, a.k.a. learning to learn, has been on my mind this week. 

Incidentally, it's our school motto and features on our gate. So I see it every morning as I arrive at school. That constant reinforcement is pretty cool.

Why is it our motto? Well, because when students are aware of their thoughts and actions it makes them move in a positive and focused direction.

My students have set their own learning goals which they own. I check their commitment to them and they ditch them if they are not totally committed.

From then on it's a pathway to success through hard work and persistent effort coupled with thinking about what they are doing. That in turn feeds the belief that they can succeed.

The real trick I am keen to see develop more is students maintaining their focus in the learning centre when other students go off task. Because of the learning centre lay out with its variety of study locations, it does happen more and more that meta cognitive students realise they have no control of that other student but they can maintain their own focus.

I had an interesting conversation with a student yesterday who was wanting to know how he could gain enrichment (a great scheme by which self-directed learners can work from home one day a week). I explained that he needed to do just as I've outlined above - divorce himself from a tight group of other boys who distract him and focus on his own learning.

He listened carefully and nodded his understanding. Now I need to see him do it. If he does, and I think he will, he will have grown as a self-directed learner and be able to pursue a more positive path.