Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Got my mojo workin' (Muddy Waters)

Who knew that moderation meetings could be such fun?

The students have sat formal assessments (tests) this week in Arabic, English, Islamic studies, science and maths. Of course it is necessary to have moderation meetings to guarantee some consistency between the markers.

In my NZ and UK experience, these take place after the marking has happened and then marks are supposedly adjusted. But this is always a haphazard process, very unscientific and of little benefit to anyone.

Here I have stipulated that the moderation meetings take place BEFORE the staff get into marking.

I've had two of them - one with the English Dept and one with the Arabic teachers (until I have a full team in place I am advising both of these faculties). Both were exceptionally positive and fun experiences. The English one resulted in some great vociferous debate from the English teachers before we could settle on some benchmark papers.

Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera but I remembered for the Arabic meeting. This one was of equal value but with Abdulla's input it was also screamingly funny. Left to right, in the two photos below, we have Abdul, Shaban, me, Abdulla, Farraj (Salem is the 5th member and he's seen in a photo below). Also pictured (in the photo immediately above) are Nadal and Khalifa who helped me out with translation and advice.

After the meeting the teachers are relieved of their normal timetable and stay at school until they have finished marking!! So, on Monday, five English teachers marked 200 scripts after our moderation took place and on Tuesday it was the five Arabic teachers' turn. The next day all scripts were checked by other faculty members. A very robust system all around.

I was both fascinated and impressed by the organisation and smooth operation.

We learnt a lot from each other and isn't that what it's all about?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bring your good times, bring your laughter too, we're gonna help you celebrate (Dragon)

National Day at school was a glorious occasion - lots of games, singing, dancing as well as the serious stuff. I was dragged into some dancing and the games which was fun (I was an early exit from the balloon popping game and we - the staff - lost the tug of war to the boys who had a little help!). All great fun!

Here are some of the many photos taken , starting with Principal Mohammed addressing the boys.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunrise, shine down a little love on the world today (Eric Carmen)

I have now finished my first full week at Ali Bin Abi Taleb Middle School.
For this post (the written version of the entrance way into the school) I thought it best to do some background on the school so it's clear what I'm talking about in the months to come.

In the local parlance it is a Cycle 2 school with students at Grades 6, 7, 8 and 9. This means it is a middle school (rather than Cycle 1 - primary or Cycle 3 - secondary) catering for boys aged about 8 to 13 (but, in practicality, some are as old as 17 or 18).

The area the school is in is called Al Foah - a 30 minuite drive north of Al Ain towards Dubai. The land turns to desert about 20 minutes into the drive and it's lovely watching the sun rise over the hills to my right as I make my way towards the school.

There are 202 boys here and the staff is made up of 29 teachers. Mr Mohammed is the school Principal and it is he I work most closely with. Unfortunately his father died earlier in the week so he has been away for the last three days of mourning.

The subjects taught are: Islamic studies; Arabic; English; social studies; maths; science; I.T.; P.E.; music; art.

My job title is 'Lead Advisor'. In effect that means I co-ordinate and work with the subject advisors and work to improve the leadership capacity in the school.

So far, necessity being the mother of invention, I have had to share advisors from my friend, Graeme McFadyen's school. This isn't ideal for either Graeme or me but it is the best we can do at this stage. In effect it's meant that as well as being the Lead, I am also advising the Arabic and English departments. Unfortunately I am also without a translator and this is a real challenge. I have been very fortunate, though, that a couple of staff, notably - librarian Mohammed and an English teacher, Nadal (pictured below with his Grade 6 English class), have been able to translate for me on a few occasions.

The school day starts at 7.15 with a school assembly...

The boys warm up for assembly.

The assembly band and music teacher.

...and then there are 4 x 45 minute periods until a break for half an hour and then three more periods. School finishes at 1.15 (with a hiss and a roar as three buses ferry most of the boys out to their homes). The staff also get away promptly, leaving the advisors to work for a few hours before our hometime.

The staff and students are incredibly welcoming and accepting of me and the other New Zealand Cognition advisors; far, far more warmly and welcoming than schools in my NZ experience. I have been overwhelmed by their generosity of spirit. It is so nice to be appreciated!

I am also loving being back in a school context and loving being back in classrooms again - interacting with the students and assisting the teachers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Get back to where you once belonged (Beatles)

My masthead has been inaccurate of late. Since July I've not been an educational consultant in far-flung lands at all. Instead I've been a painter, a wall-paperer, a driving instructor, a gardener, and an odd jobs man around home. In short I've been unemployed and enjoying a break.

But now, after 4 months of career inaction, I'm back. Back in employment (thanks to Cognition Education) and back in those far-flung lands. I'm in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) right now, waiting for a lift to Al-Ain [pronounced Al (as in 'you can call me Al) - Ain (as in Elaine without the E)] where I am to work as a lead adviser in a cycle 2 school. These are middle schools - after primary, but before secondary.

This excites me no end. I've missed being in a school; a place I've lived in for the last 26 years. Schools are special places with their own individual worlds.

Each school world has it's own culture, it's own characters and customs and ways of doing things. There are leaders and helpers, outsiders who interact with the organisation, rules and regulations, parents and their children - all moving and working in a symbiotic relationship. The movement can be in a variety of directions but when all are working together in a positive way a school is a force to be reckoned with.

Being part of that world can be very special and for the most part I've enjoyed the experience. I have now worked in a variety of places: New Plymouth Boys' (NZ); Macleans College (NZ); Waimea College (NZ); Mt Albert Grammar (NZ); Cambridge High (NZ); King John (UK); Walthamstow Academy (UK); Stratford High (NZ).

In Doha I worked as a professional development trainer for Principals, and while I loved that work I was not associated with a school. Now in Al-Ain I will be able to rejoin a culture and work with the school and other advisers to bring about improvements in key areas.

As I said - exciting. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

He was a varsity tackle and a hell of a block (Meatloaf)

Basil Fawlty voice - Universities eh! Ter! Cor! Wicked eh!

I've been investigating three Universities, that may wish to have me as a student, with incredibly varying results.

In Doha I emailed Victoria University and had a polite couple of emails back from then. Then months of silence.

I visited Massey University in Palmerston North recently and experienced a frosty reception. The woman at the post graduate research office gave me the vague impression that I was wasting her time. I explained what I'd done in the past and what I hoped to do at Massey. She asked me about a thesis I'd written a few years ago. I started making noises like a blocked drain and tried to justify my pass mark by describing my circumstances then (part time, Deputy Principal at a large secondary school, four children, yadda yadda yadda). She almost clicked her tongue when she said I needed at least a B+ for the thesis. I felt about twelve years old and felt myself flush with embarrassment. I got out of there p.d.q.

Then came the happy experience of meeting Sylvia at Waikato University a few days ago. She didn't ask about the thesis but I told her anyway. She listened and checked with a colleague before telling me not to worry - my English degree grades met the prerequisites and I just had to fill in a form and wait and see as the University bureaucracy moved paper around. In the meantime I should work on my proposal.

She also told me there was no problem working on the higher degree from overseas!! Fantastic. What a difference. Well done Sylvia and thanks Waikato University.

Boo hiss to the other two!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goodness me

It has been a while hasn't it. The gap is because I have had little to report since returning to NZ. I am making applications to do some study. At the moment Waikato and Massey are front runners but I'm also casting the net wider - to Auckland and Victoria. I will return when I have some concrete news.

Until then I am working at home - fixing fences, chain sawing up firewood and tidying up the property.

Back soon!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Photographs and memories

Not so much the end of an era, more the end of an experience and an association: I had my last day presenting at Regency Halls, Doha, last week.

I have been negotiating my way along Najma Street to Regency Halls since December 2009. Then it was to join John Lambert to present to Ministry of Education principals in the reception areas. Last week it was to join Andrea Ford to present to The Accredited Leaders' Program in the main ballrooms.

The only constant has been the staff at Regency - the caterers, the serving girls, the managers and the sound technicians; and the food.

Here are some commemorative pictures from the last couple of sessions:

The ballrooms at Regency are obviously for weddings. So Ian, Rami and I did a soft shoe shuffle on one of the stages.
The full National Professional Standards Leadership team - Reem and Rami (translators), me, Ian and Ande.
Reem snapped me kicking back between gigs

The dream team at Regency - me, Ande, Reem and Rami. Below left is Julie - our faithful helper (now back in NZ), also pictured are Caroline and Ken from Cognition.

Some of the food areas - we had breakfast at 10am and then lunch and prayer time around 12.30. Sessions finished at 2pm. Below are pictured some of the Academic Vice-Principals during the course (permissions sought and given!).

Next week I'm off to work with Ande to present to an Aspiring Leaders group at a new location - The Marriott Hotel. But for now it's goodbye to Regency - thanks for some brilliant times and memories.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let's go surfing now, everybody's learning how (Beach Boys)

I mentioned a number of links during a presentation on Professional Development to some Qatari leaders.

On the left hand side there are a number of internet links and catalogues. There are also links to some fun and interesting weblogs that I follow.

In addition to these I would like to add the following sites:

The Accredited Leaders wiki and the Diploma in Educational Leadership wiki are found at http://sites.google.com/site/accreditedleaders/ and

I have looked at the open course content at Yale University for a few years now. They continue to upgrade and expand their services and are well worth a look http://oyc.yale.edu/

The best evidence synthesis material from the New Zealand Ministry of Education (MoE) at http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/series/2515 has a number of reports, including The University of Auckland findings on School leadership and student outcomes - Identifying What Works and Why: Best evidence synthesis iteration (BES).

Also from the New Zealand MoE comes a site dedicated to professionally developing educational leaders - http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/

The Australians have an interesting site about Principals leading and learning at http://www.principalsaustralia.edu.au/servlet/Web?s=157573&p=LL_LEADERSHIP_STANDARDS

If you are looking for stimulating videos you might like to try http://www.teachertube.com/ or stimulating discussions and talks (many translated into Arabic) at TED Talks http://www.ted.com/

Those sites should keep you busy for a while; I hope they help (thanks Munira for asking me for this - it reminded me of a lot of useful places to go in the interweb).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Baby we are all a star (Prince)

I am reading another book by Paulo Coelho at the moment - Warrior Of The Light - a kind of companion to The Alchemist. It is a manual for living (his own life) that has a lot of benefit (for the rest of us).

Here's a powerful section that I need to share and ruminate on:
The Warrior of the Light has the sword in his hands.

He is the one who decides what he will do and what he will never

There are moments when life leads him into a crisis and he is separated
from things he has always loved; it is then that the Warrior reflects. He checks
if he is fulfilling God's will or if he is merely acting selfishly. If this
separation is really part of his path, then he accepts it without

If, however, such a separation was provoked by someone else's perverse
actions, then he is implacable in his response.

The Warrior possesses both force and forgiveness. He can use each with
equal skill.

I've been running that around in my brain all morning! I think it's going to stay there for a while too.

Also in this post...word has reached me of some further success for my former colleagues in Stratford, NZ. Both Maria Potter and Barbara Gall have now joined Phil Keenan in gaining promotions since my departure. This is fantastic news and I am thrilled for them.

The ripples from two decisions (my leaving Stratford High School and Graeme McFadyen's departure from Spotswood College) continue. Mark Bowden is now at the helm at Spotswood and that meant a vacancy at Opunake High School which Maria has now filled.

I am sure Maria will be a brilliant Principal and, it may be a cliche but nevertheless it is true -Opunake is lucky to have her.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers (Henry V)

When I leave the Middle East I can leave safe in the knowledge that I helped bring Shakespeare to the Qatari principals; specifically I used the pre battle speech from Henry V to provide a shining example of transformational leadership. I am so glad I did - I knew it was risky and the fact that there was an attentive audience during my explanation and reading of the text says a lot.

Rami, one of our superb translators, was able to provide a version for the audience and I used a youtube clip to support the text.

This is an amazingly powerful speech and it has an often overwhelming effect on me. I can only guess what the Qatari men and women thought and/or felt when they watched it. Maybe...maybe a fraction of that power moved from the 16th century Britain to 21st century Qatar one morning this week in Doha. I like to think so.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I caught Maybelline at the top of the hill (Chuck Berry)

Bizarre moment recently = I had to do some presenting on the topic 'motivation' to 90 Qatari leaders (the word 'bizarre' has zero zip nada currency here). This is a group of conservative men (dressed in thobes) and conservative women (dressed in abayas and hijabs).

I stood up (I'm in a suit wearing a Madonna style headpiece microphone jobby) and I start singing Maybelline - 'As I was a motivatin over the hill - saw Maybelline in a coup de ville'.

I got a few looks let me tell you (no record contract yet thru as I type).

Monday, April 12, 2010

There's no success like failure

The delay in posting is due to the work of late - I've been preparing presentations for the two groups and presenting to them after the translating process is finished - at times it's felt a bit like being an air traffic controller with some planes stacked up on the runway waiting for take off, others in a holding pattern waiting to land and still more coming out of the hanger getting ready for flight.

That sounds more dramatic than it is but the idea is true. At times I've lost track of who's landing when and so on. I now have a few days to get prepared for a presentation in two weeks time and that's a good feeling. It's on transformational leadership to the Accredited Leaders' programme and I'm working with two Qatari Principals (Mubaraka and Sara). They have great ideas and add a really important facet to the presentation.

I thought I'd share another TED talks here - it's short, witty, has Arabic sub-titles for my Qatari friends and makes some excellent points in around three minutes on gaining success. We ALL need to remember these things from time to time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ABC is easy (The Jackson 5)

I've continued to be involved in presentations to two distinct groups of Qatari leaders. On Mondays I join a fellow Kiwi (Andrea) to present an Accredited Leaders' programme to 90 leaders, on Wednesdays it's a different group of about 60 doing a Diploma course (these leaders have previously completed the Accredited programme). Our leader is Aussie Ian. Go you good thing!

Each group has a very different feel - they are committed to the reforms and serious about their studies. They are very conscientious and want the best out of themselves for the benefit of Qatar. I am slowly getting to know them and relax a little into the role of professional development facilitator to this university standard course material. It has certainly opened my eyes up to current research again after a few years of being a school Principal.

I have harboured an ambition of doing a doctorate for many years. Indeed shortly after I finished at Auckland University in 1982 I began considering it. 'Harboured' is the right verb too - it feels a bit like a ship that's been at anchor for many years now. It's a sheltered cove with NZ bush coming down to the waterline, jagged rocks and mostly calm waters.

On my return to NZ (whenever that is) I intend to again explore the possibility of further study at Massey or, ideally, either Victoria or Auckland University. I'd love to be doing some study while my eldest son Keegan does his masters or daughters Samantha/Jade do their undergraduate work. We shall see (inshallah).

I've heard via the grapevine that my old job (Principal of Stratford High School) has gone to one of my former Deputy Principals. I wish him well! Being a Principal is a tough job that the acting Principal role doesn't really prepare you for. The Principals in Qatar face the same scrutiny and workload demands but in contrast they also have a large degree of uncertainty about their tenure. I take my hat off to anyone who takes on the role. I'm certainly enjoying helping the Qatari leaders who have that as an aspiration or who are new to the job. It's a great challenge but a very worthwhile one.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Watching my life, main attraction (Hard-Fi)

The two week break has come to an end and the first day back at work has been eventful. I've moved into the National Professional Standards team in Qatar that is training Principals via a PD program called 'Accredited School Leadership'. It's still a Cognition team and I'm lucky to have been another opportunity to help the Qatari leaders.

Sadly I've had to leave the Leadership Training team, superbly led by Colin. I had a terrific time with John Lambert et al but that contract ended before the break. That group continues in a different form and luckily I'll keep seeing them each Thursday at Al Khalij.

My new colleagues in this new team are Aussie Ian Smyth and Kiwi Andrea Ford (along with Denise and Julie as support staff) and we're at Regency Halls so I'm pleased at that continuity. Reem is also one of the translators which is great too.

I do miss my Qatari friends from the MOE group though and will aim to keep in contact with them via email.

Exciting times in Doha!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Please release me, let me go (Engelbert Humperdink)

The thank you celebrations took place t'other day with our would be principals at Regency Halls. They presented all of the Cognition people with gifts and praise for the course they've received. It was an emotional experience as they've been working closely with all of us for a long time. The end of this week also marks the end of my association with this group and with some members of the leadership team.

I've waxed lyrical about this bunch of Qatari leaders already but they really are a remarkable bunch of people who I've grown to love. Mmm - that's right - the l word. Clearly this post is going to be somewhat touchy feely - cos I'm also going to give some big ups to my colleagues John Lambert and Colin Donald. Without doubt, these two exceptional gentlemen would have been fantastic, inspirational Principals at their New Zealand schools. They have certainly given me a terrific leadership example since I've pitched up in Doha.

This post is, therefore, dedicated to them - my two bosses. Colin is in NZ for his break and John flies home to Kay this week. I'm posting this before he goes and before he eats humble pie after the Auckland Blues beat the Hurricanes on the weekend.

I've really lucked out because I have been able to see John Lambert working, up close and personal, over the last ten weeks. It's been a special experience that will live long in my memory. His sincerity, passion for the job, and love for the people he's teaching is clear for all to see. And they love him. And I mean really love him. He has earned their respect and that is no mean feat.

I've found him an inspirational presenter and I've learnt an awful lot from him. It's been a real privilege and I'll certainly remember John's words of wisdom and his singing voice, long after he's returned to New Zealand.

Me as padowan learner between the two kabeer zaeems (big bosses) - Colin is on
the left and John is on the right.

John shakes hands with the class' volleyball veteran.

The great man - always ready to help, always with a chuckle and a story (he's
been everywhere, man).

In his honour I present the following singalong. Why? Because John loves the microphone and at every opportunity he will break into his idiosyncratic version of the Humperdink favourite. It's a singalong so...sing along!

Please release me let me go
for I don't love you anymore
to waste our lives would be a sin
release me and let me love again.

I have found a new love dear
[ Find more Lyrics on http://mp3lyrics.org/Xw ]
and I will always want her near
her lips are warm while yours are cold
release me my Darling let me go.

Please release me can't you see
you'd be a fool to cling to me
to live a lie would bring us pain
release me and let me love again

Here's to John and Colin - as salam alaykum, alaykum as salam.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Go lightly from the ledge, babe, go lightly on the ground (Dylan)

It's been an interesting week at Regency Halls. Jacky has come out a couple of times to see what I've been up to and has got a great sense of the energy in the room.

The final results from our Green Schools' project were also announced - the top three groups were The Falcons, The Wolves and The Candles.

The pictures show the two male groups receiving their trophies from the CEO of Cognition Consulting - Dr John Langely who was visiting us at Regency Halls and did the honours. The female winners - The Candles - respectfully asked that I not take their photos, which, of course, I've complied with.

We have only a week left with this remarkable group of Qatari leaders. It will be an emotional week as John Lambert is returning to New Zealand as well. He's a remarkable person and we'll certainly miss his advice and good humour. When things turn all entropic on us, John always has a wise word and a laugh to carry us through. The phrase - he'll be missed - is a cliche but in his case it's going to be very real.

Ka kite ano.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can't you see the light in my eyes? (Todd Rundgren)

The presentations have continued from our teams at Regency Halls (see last post for details). Before I get into some more photos of the action here I am with an awesome bunch of Qatari leaders, aka The Honey Bees (formerly known as The Killer Bees) - left to right - Mohammed, Mohammed Rida, Kalfan giving the thumbs up, me in Beatle tie and Adel.

And so on to the action, beginning with Kalfan who led the presentation for the Bees

The Falcons in full flight with one our translaters - Refka from Tunisia - in the foreground.

Some of The Wolves are seen putting the finishing touches to their model of a solar powered e-caravan (or 'smart-bus') before Khalid did his presentation on behalf of his fellow Wolves (another of our translators - Reem from Iraq - is on the right, along with Dene's left ear and Karin's back).

Ka kite ano/ma'as-salaama for now - Wozza