Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Friday, I'm in love (The Cure)

Free periods - known in the biz as 'non-contacts' - are usually times of white knuckle fevered preparation for what's just coming. Fast. And SOON! Arrgghhhh!!

Except when you get them on Fridays.

Friday frees are the best. Da bomb!

Guilt free for the most part, they are a time for doing the more frivolous, more interesting stuff. In my case - catching up on my reading of on-line articles. 

These may range from why Star Wars and The Matrix can be read as a christian movies to why girls should code like girls.

I don't care. As long as it's not getting organised for that next class.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

If we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow (Bill Withers)

I've mentioned it before - I love teaching Year 12 (and before that, a.k.a. 'sixth form').

It may have started because it was my favourite year as a student, but since then I've invariably enjoyed teaching that year group more than the others. It's certainly true of my last two years at Woodford House.

No coincidence that I'm also Year 12 Dean at the school.

Three of my current Year 12's asked me to write about them on my blog and even better- they posed for selfies!

So - as promised - here are three members of my Year 12 English class in all their glory!

Yes - you rock girls!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Man makes plans...and God laughs (Michael Chabon)

Back to work! Term 3. Yeah baby.

We spent the first part of the first day (a teacher only one) doing some future planning with a visiting guru.

Strategic planning. I've done a fair bit of it over the years in a variety of guises: studied it; made diagrams; written charters; lectured others. Which always makes me laugh.

I'm not one for making plans in my personal life as it happens.

One of the nonsensical thinks we did (sorry, but it was) was reflect on what we thought would be happening in education in the next 3 to 5 years.

After we did this the visiting guru acknowledged, correctly, that he didn't know, actually - nobody did!

So, nonsensical then.

But anyway - back to me! Much to the current Mrs Purdzilla's frustration, I have never been a planner. SHE'S a planner!!

I am much more of the moment and so I struggle with all the strategic planning until 2020 stuff. I agree we need to think of possibilities but 2020?? If we have no idea what things will be like in 3 years time, why would we know anything more about stuff 5 years away?

Concepts like future proofing are similarly flawed. I'm suspicious of that stuff. I prefer to try things for a while and adapt as I go. I like Leadership Freak's phrase that 'planning something you've never done is pooled ignorance'

I prefer short range goals/plans/objectives/aims - call them what you will. That way I can adapt as I go.Which is why I enjoyed last year's staff inquiry process so much. Tangible and anchored in the here and now, with collaboration via the change action groups, that ended in change.

But I'm swimming against the strategic tide I suspect. That's what is underpinning me if you drill down on this journey going forward with not much skin in the game. Sigh. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

The kids are alright (The Who)

So - the rise of Wattpad (previous post) is an internet trend. One of 14 highlighted in a post by Will Richardson.

The rest highlight the rise of the young at heart as global influencers. 

The trends point to increased use of 'vertical viewing' on phones, live streaming and gaming (growing a whopping 122% year on year) so that youtube is becoming 'nowtube'.

The youth demographic - 12 to 24 ers - are moving more and more to instagram and Snapchat (Facebook? fergetaboutit). 

Smartphones. In my school it would be close to 100 of the girls have phones and they are all smart! Apparently 76% of this demographic use their smart phones to post content to the interweb.
While I like to think I am young at heart, I am of the vinyl record generation. I really go apoplectic when I hear adverts on the radio (Sound FM in the Purdmobile) telling me not to buy music anymore - stream it from Spotify onto your Telecom mobile. BOO HISS!!!! 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look? (The Beatles)

I stumbled upon Wattpad recently via a trend prediction. You know the deal - in this case '14 trends we should be thinking about'.

I'll come back to these trends in another post.

For now - wattpad. Apparently, it's one of the 14 trends I should be thinking about.

What is it? 

According to them: 
Wattpad is a place to discover and share stories - a social platform that connects people through words. It is a community that spans borders, interests, languages. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.

Apparently an incredible four years worth of new reading material is posted by Wattpad authors every single day. And lots of those writers and readers are kids. 

Wattpad has 100 million stories to read. Whoa Nelly. What?? 

There are 40 million Wattpaders out there - writing, publishing, reading stories.

Don't know about you - but I find that staggering.

It sounded great. A place to get books. A place to publish - sounded like a version of (and I love So I joined up and had a closer look! 

I started with a glance at 'classics' (some cool things there to read on a device) and then 'non-fiction' and that's when the doubts started. Seemed to be a lot of stuff by/for teenage girls - anorexia, depression stories - that sort of thing.

Hmmm...I mossied on to 'General Fiction' and the alarm bells started up - romance stories everywhere to judge by the covers (yeah - I know, not spost to) and titles. 

I don't want to prejudge them without seeing them but I'm pretty sure I know what kinds of wish fulfilment romantic lowest-common-denominator dodginess they'll be. 

I could be wrong but 40 million Wattpaders aren't going there to read Mansfield Park.

All in all I might just put Wattpad to one side for a while - I don't think I fit their demographic very well somehow.

Instead - I'll go back to the 100% awesomeness of

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Questions stimulate thought, provoke inquiry, and spark more questions...the best questions point to and highlight the big ideas (Wiggins and McTighe 2005)

I haven't interviewed for a job for a while (last time was when I got my current job - March, or maybe it was a tad earlier in February, 2013) but I think I'd like these questions next time out. 

They were suggested as a 'new look teacher interview'.

Thought I'd have a (serious) go at answering them:

Do you consider yourself to be a risk taker? (Give an example to back up your answer.)
Yes - definitely. Going to China to lead a school when no teaching jobs opened up in NZ for me in 2012. Bit scary but my wife and I were well up for it! That qualifies right?
If I were your principal and we were setting goals for next year, what would they be?
Innovative approaches to a range of things: pedagogy - UDL/ Project Based Learning, timetabling, further reduction of the industrial model, vertical pastoral care.
What is the last educational book you read? Why that book?
Books? Twitter and blogging is where it's at maan (I wouldn't say 'maan' but I'd think it)
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
An engaging school with innovative timetabling (no silos), flexible learning environments (no industrial model classrooms as we know them), innovative/flexible teachers.
How do you deal with failure? (Your own and that of your students)
As a former second year fifth former (failed School Certificate and bursary) I learned self discipline and resiliency early on. Failure was a good thing and students need to experience it from time to time to become better than they were before. It's not in the falling down. It's in the getting up.   
How will 21st century competencies be developed in your students? (Provide examples both with and without technology)
NZ education has key competencies that model effective development and prepare students for the world they will enter. Inquiry methods in our senior English courses are a case in point.
Have you built a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? Why or why not?
Yes indeedy - Twitter and blogging (you're currently reading one of my five weblogs). Why? It's where it's at maan (thinking it - remember).
In what ways will you challenge your colleagues and the principals thinking?
My blogs/Twitter/Walrus Gumboot provide the means to model what I believe to be important - ideas, personal integrity, connectedness, collaboration, creativity, student curiosity.  
How will you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in your class?
That inquiry method I mentioned, Project Based Learning and UDL.
Take 10 minutes to prepare yourself to lead the interview panel in a conversation about an emerging educational topic of your choosing.
My educational topic? I think I'd choose how we can use the YES from business studies for Project Based Learning in a range of other subjects (including English).

Fun! Yes - I definitely would appreciate these kinds of questions in my next job interview. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hello, it's me (Todd Rundgren)

Relationships matter in teaching.

I realised early on in my career that teaching is all about having good relationships and good communication. The two are inextricably linked!

Relationships are about chemistry. Sometimes it's a good mix, and sometimes it's a combustible reaction. And it's all points in between. We're human and (ha ha) they're teenagers (I teach at a girls' secondary school). I'm male and (ha ha) they're female.

Teachers don't always get it right and students don't always get it right. That's where the fun begins.

We've just had teacher parent student interviews. What exhausting fun. 

During this latest set, it struck me what a diverse set of relationships are at play in those interviews: student/teacher; daughter/mum; daughter/father; husband/wife; parent/teacher. Fascinating!

Anyway...made me think about stuff and I remembered an article  I bookmarked recently. It set out four ways to form good relationships with students:

1 Say "Hello". 
I was chatting with a colleague recently who told me she doesn't say "hello" to a student unless she gets one first. I don't work that way.

2 Have a conversation
Sometimes students react with surprise when the conversation continues beyond "Sup?" [It's a bit like checkout operators in food markets after they ask me "How's your day going?" and I launch into a conversation ("Hey thanks for asking. Well I woke up at 5am and had a great breakfast. I really like cereal on a weekday. Blah blah blah.)] Give it a go!

3 Meet kids where they are.
I always travel to where they are during my lunchtime duties - the library, computer rooms, tech rooms and so on. When I was a Principal I always did duty and went to the known smokers' hang outs. Basketball courts are popular. Amazing the effect a Principal can have when they join in the basketball games!

4 Be real.
Kids see through artifice quickly. Their BS detector is on high alert during the teenage years. Save yourself a lot of grief and be real.