Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celebrating the short life of Kenneth Marcos.

Sadly the school has been coming to terms with the recent death of one of our Year 12 students - Kenneth Marcos. This loss is something that has affected us all in a variety of ways. Kenneth's teachers and his friends are having to deal with the fact that they won't see him again. As a school we reflected on this at a recent assembly. I asked the school to reflect on the good times and the bad times they shared with Kenneth - the times he made us laugh, cry, feel angry or sad. I will forever remember his smile, his cheerful demeanour and his huge talent in art. When I enrolled Kenneth from Inglewood High School, Angela Gattung rang me to bemoan the fact that she was losing a great student to us. Kenneth continued to impress us here and we will all miss him.

Kenneth's funeral was held recently at Stratford's St Joseph's Catholic Church. Luke Cresswell spoke eloquently on behalf of Kenneth's large circle of friends who will need a lot of support as they come to terms with Kenneth's passing. Our thoughts are with them and the Marcos-Foote family at this tragic time.

At the assembly I also reiterated our need as a school to continue to dream big. The external standards are rapidly approaching for senior students. They need to prepare well and give themselves every chance of making a giant step towards their dreams by fulfilling their potential.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The farewell season

It is now getting to be deep in October and the end of the year, for seniors at least, is nearly upon us. For staff and students this means final preparations for examinations, a leaving dinner, testimonials, final senior reports for the year, senior prize-giving, and feverish preparations for 2010. Often these preparations involve looking for accommodation away from home, entry to universities or polytechs or looking for a full time job. Sometimes our students have to grow up fast! We nurture them for five years and then it's a final push out of the nest as they graduate on to the next stage of their lives. It is quite an honour being part of that process.

Certainly this time of ending and beginning has been brought home to us in our family. My wife and I are nearing the time that we farewell our fourth, and last, child from school. After 21 continuous years of our children being at school, this is quite an occasion - the end of an era. It is also a time of new beginnings. There is university to plan for and an empty nest scenario to prepare for as the last of our children leaves home.

Looming large for students and families are the external examinations. The academic business is not done with yet. The year elevens, twelves, and thirteens should now be engaged in following their study timetables and dusting off those poutama goals from earlier in the year. "How do I measure up right now?", and "What can I still do to fulfill my promise?", should be central questions.

My cautionary words are - leave no excuses! In the immortal words of American writer Bob Moawad, "The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflections of...

This weblog is subtitled 'the life and times' and mainly deals with my thoughts on education - the times - and less on my life. This post, in contrast, is mostly about my life at the moment. The last four weeks of my life have been hectic, eventful, and traumatic. My father had a stroke on August 18. I spent a lot of time last term commuting to Auckland with my wife to see him and spend time with him. Sadly I have to report that he passed away on September 21 from complications from that stroke. Since then my brother and our respective families have had to deal with the emotional aftermath. It hasn't been easy but we are all comforted by the peaceful, serene way he accepted the inevitable and helped us all to deal with his death. He was an amazing man and he gave us all so much.

Events like this in our lives tend to throw things in perspective. I have always told my staff that family comes first and for me this was also true. My study break was filled with working through dad's estate with my brother, and completely redecorating part of our house in Stratford. It was great therapy (like this blog) and now, back at school, I'm feeling drained of energy again.

I've always realised that I need 'my time'. Usually this takes place early in the morning before the rest of my family wakes and rises. These days I realise anew, how important some private, reflective time is to Principals. The hurley burley and toil and trouble of the day can quickly swamp us but having a few minutes to write this is really cathartic and necessary.

I often go back to material from a post graduate diploma I did at UNITEC in the 1990s. As one booklet pointed out, "reflecting on one's experiences can bring about changes in attitudes and actions". Boy - they weren't kidding!

R.D. Laing says, 'The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds'.

I have also often remembered Boydell's model of management competence. It has three (evolutionary and hierarchical) levels: level 1 - manager as technician, level 2 - manager as professional, level 3 - manager as artist.

I remember being quite taken by this when I read about it in 1999. According to Boydell if you reach this third level you've become the 'mature person' manager and have reached a full understanding of what it means to be a manager, how it fits with all other aspects of your life, including your personal standards and values.

Events of the last few weeks in my personal life have given me the feeling that I have attained this last level. But I've been wrong before.