Sunday, August 18, 2019

Follow your bliss and don't be afraid (Joseph Campbell)

Photo by Filip Kominik on Unsplash
Follow your bliss. 

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. 

Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.

If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.

Joseph Campbell

Monday, August 12, 2019

Simply the best (Tina Turner)

Photo by Yannis A on Unsplash
Apparently, teaching is the best job in the world (it's official).

Here's why, according to Paul Moss in an article in Teachthought:

1. The potential to transform lives - we never know, really, the effect we have, but the ripples reach out into infinity and beyond!

2. It gives you the chance to be continuously creative - creativity is celebrated and we have some wonderfully creative staff and students at my two campuses. As an English teacher I join in and write poems, stories, read, watch films, discuss motivations and meanings and on and on.

3. It offers you a chance to continuously get better - in a lot of jobs the learning slows or even ceases after a while - you get good at the widgets, but teaching is all about steep slope continuous improvement. At least it is in my experience. It's a work in progress, always.

4. It is a grounding, humbling profession - every day is 'Start Again' in the teaching world! My students, and staff certainly ground me. I still remember my first Teacher/Parent meeting  at New Plymouth Boys' High back in 1983 and the huge sense of responsibility that suddenly dawned on me - I was responsible for their son's learning in English. That's big!!

5. There is always satisfaction somewhere - it comes in funny ways, often when you least expect it! My intrinsic motivation is to serve, in my own small way, and as Joseph Campbell says, "Through sacrifice - bliss".

6. It’s a chance to truly lead the world in the 21st century - all of those bright minds thirsting for a way forward in their learning. Magic!

7. The children - being around youngsters (especially teenagers) on a daily basis is a joy that I truly love. I love going to work. Keeps me young at heart!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Words, words between the lines of age (Neil Young)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Seth Godin recently lamented the idea that silo subjects in the U.S. seem to exist independently of skills that he considers important. 

He poses the question: 

What would happen if we taught each skill separately? 

I thought about this for a week or so and wrote a reply to his blog:

Thought you may be interested to know that the NZ curriculum is based on five key competencies (skills) that are similar to 6 of your list. Obedience is not something that has a place in our curriculum. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) process in your country championed by Katie Novak does a lot of what you ask. Anyway - here are those 5 key competencies:  

  • thinking.
  • using language, symbols, and texts.
  • managing self.
  • relating to others.
  • participating and contributing.

Those skills aren't addressed/taught separately but are incorporated into teaching programmes (please forgive the English spelling).

Not to say we've made much progress on multi-disciplinary approaches but that's next!


Seth's a great guy. Of course he wrote back! Saying: This is great, thank you!  

No, thank you, Seth!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Weapon of choice

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič - @specialdaddy on Unsplash

Books are my listening and viewing devices, my undersea cables, my hearing aids, my best friends in troubled times and my weapon of choice.

Lynn Jenner (from Lost and Gone Away).

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs (Qui-Gon Jinn)

Start again.

I'm still reflecting on some lessons from Chasing Great - the film about All Black captain, Richie McCaw.

That list he wrote before each game began, each time, with 'Start again'.

I love that.

I referred to it at our first assembly of the term - a new start!

Achievements are great and they are important for a time, but they mean little to the present situation where you have to prove yourself all over again (and again and again...).

Being mindful of the past and future is fine, but not at the expense of the moment - yes, Qui-Gon again.

In that way you are always aiming to improve.

Richie's list always ended with G.A.B. (Great All Black). A reminder of his goal (he barely dared to dream it and write it down - such was his humility).

Dare to dream. Write it down! Keep it!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

All the cats are at the High School rockin' (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
Phew! The holidays are over and it's back to school! 

Life returns to normal.


Yes, normal. Most of the year is taken up with work days - that's the norm.

Yes, after ten weeks of school routine I need something different but two weeks off becomes this weird land.

The first few days are always detox days, although I never get used to longer sleep ins during breaks. I'm usually still waking around 5am.

When I'm doing home stuff (clearing out blackberry and dead trees, rebuilding chicken coops, hanging new chandeliers)  I get guilty hot flushes that I'm not checking my emails or my phone enough. And the emails mount up!

So being back in harness is accompanied by a sigh of relief in many ways.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I'm just sitting watching flowers in the rain, feel the power of the rain making the garden grow (The Move)

Photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash
Week two of Term Break and I have been seeking refreshment in work around the house. That includes gardening. 

I'm not alone in finding that getting your hands dirty is a very therapeutic activity.

It takes my brain away from school stuff and centres it on getting rid of dead wood, weeding, trimming trees and generally fixing up gardens that haven't seen any tender loving care for a decade.

Frinstance: Maple Grove has some way out of control old rose bushes that demand full on concentration. even so - I was still snagged a number of times yesterday. 

All of this stuff: rose branches; dead cabbage tree and fern fronds; Macrocarpa branches; weeds etc - all went onto a large burn pile which has been burning/smouldering for three days now.

Like taking rubbish to the transfer station, tidying in this way is very cathartic.

As English poet,Alfred Austin, would have it: The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Every little thing she does is magic magic magic (The Police)

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash
Every one rowing together in a co-ordinated way can be a powerful force.

It's something greatly to be admired, and aimed for because it gives a concerted effort towards a common purpose..

Some, but not all, All Black teams have had it. The last notable time was in 2015 during the world cup under Richie McCaw's awesome leadership.

Some Arsenal teams have had it - the 2003-2004 'Invincibles' team was the clear example, but too often they have not even been all in the same boat.

Some schools have it, but this is an even rarer situation, in my experience. All it takes is a couple of staff either not contributing or worse, facing the opposite direction, and the boat feels like it's caught a crab.

Personally I've only experienced true alignment twice. Once at Macleans College under the headship of Colin Prentice. 

And now.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

It would be, it would be so nice (M.L. Ciccone)

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Last week of term before a well earned break!

As a positive close at our daily briefing LEAN meeting last week I used song lyrics for each day of the week (Monday was Monday Monday, Tuesday was Tuesday Afternoon etc).

Ten weeks of intense concentration can be exhausting and teachers need to refresh and recharge and then review.

I know I'm looking forward to Friday! Four more sleeps!

This week I'm using holiday songs to get in the mood, starting with Madonna, of course!

If we took a holiday
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I've got Friday on my mind (The Easybeats)

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash
Yes, it's Friyay.

This has been a looooong week for me. Monday morning: I drove the four hours to my Gisborne campus for two great days there. Tuesday afternoon: I drove the four hours back home to Takapau. Hump Wednesday at my Hawke's Bay campus: tough getting back into stride (I kept thinking it was Monday all day). Thursday was great - refreshed and on top of things.

And now it's Friday. I tell my students: it's a rule. Gotta be happy on a Friday. The end of the working week.

I note the following in passing:
  • In astrology, Friday is connected with the planet Venus and is symbolized by that planet's symbol ♀. Friday is also associated with the astrological signs Libra and Taurus. I'm a Libra and mum was a Taurus.
  • Though Friday has always been held an unlucky day in many Christian countries, still in the Hebrides it is supposed that it is a lucky day for sowing the seed. 
  • In Islam, Friday corresponds as a holy day to Sunday in Christianity. Friday observance includes attendance at a mosque for congregation prayer or Salat AlJumu'ah. It is considered a day of peace and mercy as well as a day of rest.
  • Black Friday refers to any one of several historical disasters that happened on Fridays, and, in a general sense, to any Friday the thirteenth. 
  • Casual Friday (also called Dress-down, Aloha or Country and Western Friday) is a relaxation of the formal dress code employed by some corporations for the last day of the working week.
  • Good Friday is the Friday before Easter in the Christian calendar. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • POETS Day is a term used by workers in the United Kingdom and Australia to refer to Friday, the last day of the work week. It commonly stands for "Piss Off Early; Tomorrow's Saturday".

Monday, June 17, 2019

Listen, do you want to know a secret? (The Beatles)

Photo by James Haworth on Unsplash

The secret to managing is to be transparent, just, and above all, fair; the best way to handle challenging situations is to understand others along with their emotions and reasoning. 

(Venerable master Hsing Yun)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Nothing succeeds (sucks seeds) like a budgerigar

This is an excellent message for students everyone!

Persistence pays off. Never give up, never surrender!

I need to remember Thomas Edison's message when I'm dealing with Spark over a broadband/ internet issue.

It's easy to give up when the chatbot leads you down a blind alley. It's easy to give up when 'book a call' freezes. It's easy to give up when no one answers the phone at the local Spark office and you have to leave a message and no one gets back to you and you feel like bashing your head against the desk in frustration.

But, then I remember Thomas' message. 

I haven't failed. I'm not discouraged. The failures are a series of steps forward.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream

Encouragement feels like someone sat beside you and grabbed an oar.

So says Dan Rockwell. He's right!

Recently a team of our bosses visited the school and the abiding result was a huge helping of encouragement.

Rather than an oar, it felt like the whole school was in the boat beside me, each rowing in the same direction.

Wow!! It hadn't dawned on me until then how much I'd missed that feeling.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Why do we never get an answer when we're knocking at the door? (Moody Blues)

My usual questions for students that I encounter in our learning centre often hover around the, "What are working on?" variety,

Not too clever, as it turns out. Recently a colleague suggested I should be asking, "What are you learning?" for a deeper dive.
One of the great secrets to fostering deep learning is the ability to help students raise new kinds of questions that they will find fascinating. - Ken Bain
Although better results have eventuated, I'm always on the look out for better follow up questions to get to some deeper understanding after the, "I'm learning about fractions" style response.

Here are some suggestions:

  • How did your learning progress?
  • What were the difficult aspects to this learning so far?
  • What strategies did you use to get unstuck?
  • How do you know that? 
  • What evidence was used?   
  • Why do you think that?
  • What are the trends/key findings you've found so far?
  • Why is that important?

Monday, May 13, 2019

It's gonna take time - a whole lot of precious time, it's gonna take patience and time, um to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it (George Harrison)

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash
Beginning life in a new school as a leader can be a tricky business. You know no one, and no one knows you.

Starting with the end product in mind is key for me. Simply put: I love working in a team that has each other's back.

I'm talking about great relationships. And that takes patience and time.

According to Dan Rockwell, the first of seven competencies for success is: 

Build Relationship:

  • Create partnerships.
  • Build trust.
  • Share ideas.
Strong relationships shrink problems caused by personal agendas, office politics, and distrust, he says.

I like how he frames that with a strong verb. Build implies a process over time.

But how do you build relationships? There are no easy answers or quick fixes.

It takes time and experience for co-workers to earn trust and develop mutual respect; to create a safe climate that welcomes ideas, diversity, and the opinions of others.

Does an environment of open communication foster all that, or does all that trust and openness lead to open and honest communication.  Which comes first? 

Some people have a natural openness that creates trust quickly. When Karen Boyes set up random groups during her Teacher Academy two years ago, I joined three other staffers and we instantly hit it off and instantly had each other's backs.

Now, that was partly how Karen set up the activities and a climate of trust, but it was also a fluke of personalities.

It all comes down to relationships. And patience and time.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hey everybody yeah, don't you feel that there's something? (Little River Band)

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

My update of articles on Pocket threw up an interesting article on writing emails that I'm keen to implement.

The idea is to use a military style which basically translates as a less-is-more approach. So, yeah - I'm a fan already.

There are three points to note:

1. Subjects with keywords. The first thing that your email recipient sees is your name and subject line, so it’s critical that the subject clearly states the purpose of the email, and specifically, what you want them to do with your note. Military personnel use keywords that characterize the nature of the email in the subject. Some of these keywords include:
  • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
  • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
  • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
  • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient
  • REQUEST – Seeks permission or approval by the recipient
  • COORD – Coordination by or with the recipient is needed
2. Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). Military professionals lead their emails with a short, staccato statement known as the BLUF. (Yes, being the military, there is an acronym for everything.) It declares the purpose of the email and action required. The BLUF should quickly answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.

3. Be economical. Military personnel know that short emails are more effective than long ones, so they try to fit all content in one pane, so the recipient doesn’t have to scroll.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Up in the mornin' and out to school (Chuck Berry)

Photo by Elisa Michelet on Unsplash

Call me weird, call me perverse, call me non-controversial, but I love that feeling of returning to routine.

My alarm goes at 4.45am once again and I'm into it, arriving at school shortly after 7.00am (it's a 50 minute commute).

The day unwinds - greeting the students off the vans, cruising the LC, maybe a restorative is needed, meetings on zoom and in person, emails to answer, emails to send, people to see, things to do, fare-welling the students onto the vans.

Home around 6pm, dinner, reading, bedtime. 

B.t.w., I sleep so much better during term time - all that brain engagement wears me out of a day, in a good way.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Oh, my fur and whiskers! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! (The white rabbit)

Hey everybody! 

Top tip and lesson for today: double check you have the right details regarding dates for Teacher Only Days.

Even if you are firmly of the opinion that the first day of term is a Teacher Only Day and therefore has a later start time than normal.

Even if you write it down and then believe it for two weeks of your holiday.

Just check and check again, okay!

That way, you won't arrive late on your first day at work.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

There comes a time when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one

Currently, I'm gearing up for a return to active service with OneSchool Global.

During the last few days, a rebranding has happened, so that the NZ campuses no longer go by the Westmount School name.

Instead, we are now known as OneSchool NZ.

OneSchool is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive, truly global schools, with over 9,500 students, 130 campuses and 2,500 staff operating across 20 countries.
The 130 campuses span five regions; Australia, North America, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Europe – and cities including New York, Paris, Sydney, Rome, Auckland, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hastings and Gisborne (the last two, on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand, are now my patch).

If you want to know more, click here.

I'm really looking forward to getting back into some routines and helping to lead this innovative school as best I can.

Also looking forward to linking up with my NZ colleagues, in and out of OSG, over the remainder of this year.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Two branches of one tree (John Lennon)

Celebrating my 35th wedding anniversary with the nicest person I know - my BFF, so not thinking too much about education today.

But if anyone wants to know the secret, just get in touch. Smiley face.

Monday, April 15, 2019

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Old paint

 I'm reading Carly Simon's autobiography, Boys In The Trees, at the moment.

This quote resonates with me:

You know when you take the paint off an old canvas and you discover that something's been painted underneath it?
That's what I feel like - that part of the old is coming through the new.
Carly Simon

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Waiting for perfect is a never-ending game (Seth Godin)

Last week, I had a fantastic visit to a school in Palmerston North. The Manawatu campus of Westmount School was a vibrant, exciting, open campus with great leadership and staff. Nice muffins as well!

Gave me a great buzz of excitement about what is possible. Not talking about the muffins now.

Reminded me of this George Couros model. A lot!

Jim Seumanu, the Principal, would be that bloke with the fertile brain in the middle.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Trust your feelings, Luke (Obi Wan Kenobi)

Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash
'When something bad happens, we can revisit the humiliation and anxiety for months. But the good stuff, if we don’t work at it, can pass right by.

We get what we remember, and we remember what we focus on.'

Seth Godin