Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We could be lifted from the shadows, lifted (Lighthouse Family)

I bookmark alotta stuff! 

Generally, from to time I dip into my bookmarks to get some inspiration for posts. Invariably, I go to the end and think about the last thing I bookmarked.

In this case it was a list of '20 signs you're actually making a difference as a teacher'.

So how many will I get? And you?

1. Your students are asking questions, not just giving answers. TICK! My students ask me a billion questions, every day!

2. You have used your authoritative role for inspiration, not intimidation. TICK! My intimidation days are long gone.

3. You have listened as often as you have lectured. Another lesson in authority. Hey - this is going well...TICK! I'm a good listener.

4. Your shy students start participating more often without being prompted. TICK again. The climate in my school helps here as well. Credit where it's due!

5. A student you’ve encouraged creates something new with her talents. This is getting slightly embarrassing...TICK.

6. You’ve been told by a student that, because of something you showed them, they enjoy learning outside of class. Okay - back to Planet Earth now - no, I can't think of an instance of this.

7. You’ve made your students laugh. Hahahaha - all the time! TICK!

8. You’ve tried new things. Yes, TICK!

9. You’ve improvised. See 7! TICK!

10. Your student asks you for a letter of reference. Yes - too many of them! TICK!

11. You have taken a personal interest in your students. Inevitable that you warm to some students more than others. Some students make this easy, others don't care. A few don't want it (that's fleek). TICK!

12. You’ve let your passions show through in your lessons. Ha - see 7 again, TICK!

13. You’ve made students understand the personal relevance of what they’re learning. Yes - every lesson has this as an aim. TICK!

14. You have cared–and shown that you cared. Big TICK!

15. You have helped a student choose a career. Much more so when I taught media studies. Hasn't happened at my current school. So...a small half tick.

16. One of your students becomes an educator. Same answer as 15. Another small half tick.

17. A parent approaches you with kind words. Phew, Yes - big TICK! Back on track.

18. Your students visit you when they don’t have to. Yes - in person this year (first time while I've been at Woodford House) and on Facebook (students from other schools). TICK!

19. You can be a mentor when you need to be. TICK!

20. You practice strength and patience. Every day! Huge TICK! 

Hey - that's pretty good! 18 ticks out of 20. Nice!!

How did you do?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our hopes and expectations black holes and revelations (Muse)

Don't you love it when you happen upon a piece of research that dovetails EXACTLY with your own thoughts!

In this instance, I'm talking about success factors. Specifically, the argument that says success is mainly about intelligence rather than emotional intelligence.

Research points to the factors around emotional intelligence being more of a contributor to success. 

And I say, a hearty hear hear to that!!

In fact, research suggests that intellect may not define success nearly as much as we’ve thought. Being smart can take you far, but emotional intelligence may be even more important than an exceptional intellect.

Dr. Arthur Poropat, senior lecturer at Griffith University, conducted reviews on the “Big 5” personality factors: conscientiousness, openness, emotional stability, extraversion, and agreeableness.

The results suggest people with high levels of these traits were more likely to achieve high grades than people with high IQs.

This is interesting! 

When I was at school, I would have ranked reasonably well in four of the five (conscientiousness, openness, emotional stability and agreeableness).

The one I bombed in was extraversion. This one's about how outgoing and social a person is. A person who scores high in extraversion on a personality test is the life of the party. That's not the way I see myself. 

Even so, I failed a load of stuff until university - where I matured and became more outgoing. Successful.

It's interesting considering my students and their emotional intelligence.

This is another area I don't think schools tackle enough. We kind of just assume we can't do much in this area so we don't. Instead we load up on content. In siloed subjects.

We need to look at the pursuit of success in a different way!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Freedom, paint me a picture, show it to me right now! (The Guess Who)

What's the most important skill a school can pass on to its students?

That seems like a pretty good question to my less is more brain. The most important skill. Single. Just one. 

What do you think?

I'm sure we could all come up with various answers to create a list. It might include one of these skills  from Mr Kemp: creative thinker; problem solver; collaborator; effective communicator; being ethical and empathetic.

The Evangelical School Berlin Centre (ESBC) is a German school that has become very successful by working from that point (deciding on one skill) and making the school fit around that one skill. 

Interestingly, it's not one of Craig Kemp's.

So, what is it?

Well, the school’s headteacher, Margret Rasfeld, argues, the most important skill a school can pass down to its students is the ability to motivate themselves. 

I like this!

She goes on to say, “The mission of a progressive school should be to prepare young people to cope with change, or better still, to make them look forward to change. In the 21st century, schools should see it as their job to develop strong personalities.”

I like this too!

Recently, I wrote a post about the lack of motivation/ urgency from students asked to study during a recent break between terms. Not for the first time, I was laughed at for suggesting we change our semantic stance from 'holiday' to 'study break'. 

The intrinsic motivation within the great majority of my students seemed to be completely lacking during the study break. To clarify further: I'm hopeful that some students in other classes did study - it's just that none of mine did anything for me to mark or to provide valuable feedback.

As for change - my current school is like many others, I guess. Many of the students do not like change and that's, if anything, an understatement. Of course, many of the staff do not like change either. 

Two years after changing the organisational culture of the school from a horizontal system to a vertical one, and still the students can not adapt to that change. More than that, they want a return to the previous system of horizontal form classes.

To my way of thinking, this is a great pity. As Don Henley knows, "Don't look back, you can never look back!"

I've not come across this unwillingness to change to this degree at any of my previous schools.

We should be better at making our students look forward to change.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I been workin' on words, phrases (The Guess Who)

Words. Language. Communication.

As an English teacher, those three words actually mean something to me! As in, that's my life's work - to explore words and language; to improve communication. 

When I tuned in for a few minutes to the YouTube live stream of the second US Presidential debate, I heard Mr Trump say, "It's just words".

This in response to a question about his misogynistic 'locker room banter' (his words, that don't really matter, according to him).

I then turned it off. Luckily I had to go and teach an English class. Year ten. I kept thinking about that glib phrase of Mr Trump's. And shuddered!

What? So all my life has been a waste? Words and language mean nothing? Communication means nothing?

Then I realised. The giant con. Hiding in plain sight - he was talking about himself. HIS words mean nothing. His marriage vows clearly, mean nothing. HIS promises - nothing.

HIS words...are just words and they mean - nothing.

He's not shallow. He's empty.

Today, I read this and it made even more sense.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oh, do it. Oh, do it. Do it. Do the hustle, do the hustle (Van McCoy)

Uh oh. The holidays, the fun and games, the beer and skittles, are coming, quickly, to an end.

Seth Godin is a wise man. Recently, I bookmarked a post of his about signals. It's worth a read.

You know signals, right?...no? let George enlighten you:

So, this post is about signals.

Here's a rough list of the current signals I'm picking up right now, as we speak:

  • Spring is here - I've broken out the jandals (flip flops or thongs if you're an alien) and put the shade sails up
  • I've had one (single) message from a parent (about a student) needing her (the student) to get stuck in next term
  • I've NOT had any Schoology messages from any of my students about any stuff they've been working on during the study break

Okay - according to Seth - What we choose to do (and what we choose not to do) turns into a signal to the people around us.

What do I take from my three signals? Worrying signs. That's what. Apart from the jandals and the shade sails. Those are good signals. Apart from them. The other ones. Well, not the parent one either, actually. That's another good one. He cares. No it's not them. It's the students and their lack of connectiveness and sense of urgency to their situation. That's the worrying sign.

The external examinations are coming people!!!

Let's hustle!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Last night I didn't get to sleep at all, no no (The Fifth Dimension)

After being hacked and deleting my account, I recently returned to Facebook. Just in time to build up my friends list for my birthday on October 1.

Like many, I'm sure, I have a mixed attitude to Facebook. 

It was great getting all those birthday greetings. For a day, my name went to the top of the list of pending birthdays on my friends' Facebook pages.

And I love sharing my blogging progress on Facebook.

The but? The but is the amount of daily distraction..

I am not a gamer and my days of web surfing are long gone. But checking my FB feed has become a thing and the distraction bothers me.

The multitasking myth has been on my mind of late. 

An article on multitasking by Olivia Goldhill, with the catchy title, Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain, makes some great points. 

It's so good you should go read it RIGHT NOW!

Okay, I know, it's pretty distracting (and draining) going to the source...so here are the salient points:

When we attempt to multitask, she says and I agree with her, we don’t actually do more than one activity at once, but quickly switch between them. And this switching is exhausting. It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task.

Along the way she quotes Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University. He found that people who take 15-minute breaks every couple of hours end up being more productive. But these breaks must allow for mind-wandering, whether you’re walking, staring out the window, listening to music or reading. Everyone gets there a different way. But surfing Facebook is not one of them, he says. Social networks just produce more fractured attention, as you flit from one thing to the next.

She also quotes Gloria Mark, from the University of California, who says that when people are interrupted, it typically takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to their work, and most people will do two intervening tasks before going back to their original project. Apart from a build up of stress, clearly focus has shifted BIG TIME.

But wait, there's more from Olivia's article (yes I hyperlinked it again because nag nag nag):

Hal Pashler, psychology professor at UC San Diego, points out that not all attempts at multitasking are equally draining. If you’re doing something on autopilot, such as the laundry, then it makes perfect sense to read a book at the same time. But attempting to do two challenging tasks at once will lead to a drain in productivity. “You can’t do two demanding, even simple tasks, in parallel,” he adds.

So - back to Facebook. It can destroy focus! But not just Facebook. Oh no! Online notifications on my iphone (yes I love my iphone) are bad too. That little chirpy ping that tells me a new Twitter follower has joined the ranks, or an email from Medium.com that just wants to alert me to some great articles (like Olivia's) takes me away from...what was I saying?

Back to Gloria Mark - she believes that we’re being conditioned to increasingly check social media networks and email - “Whenever you check email, every so often you get a hit, some great email received. That happens on a random schedule. In psychology, that’s called random reinforcement and that’s enough to reinforce behavior.”

She's found that after being frequently interrupted, people often develop a short attention span.

The solution is to give up on multitasking and set aside dedicated chunks of time for each separate activity. So only check your email first thing in the morning and again at midday, or set aside 10 minutes per afternoon for Twitter.


What's that? Oh, you're welcome!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Holiday, celebrate (Madonna)

Wahoo! Holidays!!

For me that always means doing the jobs that came along during the term and I thought (to myself) - I'll do it in the holidays.

So far, that means redesigning my music room - a.k.a. Abbey Road Three (ART) or The Vault. 

As a kid I'd love redesigning my bedroom into various configurations. It's a great way to do a big tidy up, and conduct a 'Ray clean' - you know, vacuum all those out of the way areas and dust stuff to an exacting detail 

  (BTW, 'Ray clean' references Seinfeld in The Statue episode).

In this case, two days have been devoted to reorganising my prized possessions.

Holidays are also great blogging times. My Wozza's Place blog is currently contemplating the start of my teaching career and life during my first three schools: New Plymouth Boys' High School, Macleans College, and Waimea College.

While doing this I've been reading old school yearbooks and digging around the photo archives. Some great memories with a load of great people that I've had the pleasure to meet (and teach) via my career.

I realise what an honour this is - to pass through many people's lives and maybe have an influence.

I. Love. Being. A. Teacher!