Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holding on is like the ways of the wind (Pm Dawn)

Feel in a wild and crazy mood? Have a butchers for 'Process of Innovation chart' in Google Images - you'll get some amazingly convoluted beasts.

I found myself doing just this after reading a section of Dr Ian Hunter's Imagine. He had a great chart that I was looking for without success (hence the scanned version below).

I particularly like this chart for its simplicity (the wiggly line is deliberate - it's not a straightforward process).

For me it was interesting to overlay the chart on my inquiry into new pastoral care systems at school this year.

We are right at the application moment and so the bit that naturally intrigues me is the resistance wall.

Not surprisingly there has been a small degree of resistance already as we moved to set up for the application in term 1 next year. Small needs emphasis as the staff is generally keen to embrace change in general and keen to embrace this change in particular.

Made me wonder where the resistance comes from, and no - it's not Muse (good album though The Resistance is). Dr. Hunter has the answer!

Resistance, according to him, comes from people preferring their existing way of doing things.
People are funny creatures. Although we may profess a general enthusiasm for change, often, when change means altering what we do or how we do it, we resist. It is human nature to prefer the known to the unknown; to seek comfort over discomfort; to side with the proven...rather than the possible, because we like the comfort that certainty gives us, not the risk that uncertainty produces. The irony is, of course, that progress only comes through change. (Imagine page 43)
I must be (shock horror probe) a bit weird. Like Ted Nugent in my previous post, I am not content with the status quo - ever.

It doesn't take me very long to start looking around and thinking up ways to change things up. This has applied to jobs, places to live, and systems and processes in schools. I also admit to being a mass of contradictions - I've been happily married for over 30 years, but let's leave that particular status sleeping quo dog lie.

Anyway - back to that chart - it was a timely reminder that resistance is very likely next term. Forewarned is forearmed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I want one of them art deco halos (Pm Dawn)

WOW!! 1967!!

We are just now on the cusp of un-bewildering today's child and that's only because the technology has FORCED us to confront what we've done for decades.

Information is now ever present at the click of a mouse but disordered, and unstructured to a degree.

Ain't it great!!!

Next up? Classified patterns, subjects, and schedules are in the cross hairs.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finding [it] was the will of the force (Qui-Gon Jinn)

Call me Rogue 120.

I recently discovered Star Wars in the classroom and it's an awesome place!

In keeping with all that is excellent about the Star Wars universe, this site (curated by some dedicated educationalists) provides a great meeting place for people like me.

Who exactly are 'people like me'? 
Those who love Star Wars and can see how to use connections from Star Wars in their teaching.

The site is not just a fans convention (we are self styled as Rogues - my profile name is Rogue 120), but a great place where teachers share classroom resources that they use to supplement their lessons from Star Wars.

If all that sounds a tad geeky well - so what. Imagination is more important than information - remember!

As well as a plethora of static images, my classroom walls contain Star Wars posters and a number of quotes from the movies (yes - it's true, I love both trilogies and I'll be bursting to see The Force Awakens in 2015) 

My all time three favs: Your focus determines your reality, there's always a bigger fish (both Q-G J) and Do or do not, there is no try (Yoda).

Those are three great messages: Focus! Be humble! Carpe diem!

Not geeky at all! 

May the force be with you, always!

Monday, December 15, 2014

I don't believe in the status quo (Ted Nugent)

Time to take the school's temperature:

Leadership at mine just got a whole lot better with our move to vertical home rooms - loads of leadership potential. The key will be how much the mentors back off and allow the potential to shine!

Digital literacy - tick! BYOD and the mighty power of Schoology (our Learning Management System) see to that. We're still learning what these agents of digital literacy are capable of.

Communication - good but, mmm, maybe room for further work here. I'd love to see our staff data files cleaned up for instance.

Emotional intelligence - getting there but ditto. We are dealing with teenagers after all but the homeroom continuity will undoubtedly help.

Entrepreneurship - the structure is in place, the Young Enterprise Scheme is alive and well. As an inquiry learning scheme it's hard to beat. I'd like to see it e x p a n d into other curriculum areas.

Global citizenship - tick. Overseas challenges, exchanges. Again there is room for expansion using Skype contacts.

Problem solving - I'd like to see this grow with our inquiry and project work.

Team working - again tick but again we will be looking to employ the potential inherent in our home room teams in innovative and productive ways.

So - your turn! Let's see how many of these your school can tick off.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A ritual is an enactment of a myth (JosephCampbell)

Prize givings are a ritualistic part of life, and I love rituals.

Prize givings are at heart an initiation ceremony that moves students from childhood towards adult responsibilities.

As they include a graduating class, prize givings become an important rite of passage - that push out of the nest that is SO important.

Appropriately, parents, teachers, and friends watch on as the young throw off the old life and welcome in their new life. It's an exciting thing to witness and be part of.

For me, prize givings are woven into the fabric of each year, a hardy perennial if you will. By my reckoning Wednesday's formal ceremony at Woodford House was my 43rd all up. 

How come? Let me see -  
  • Six as a student at Mt. Albert Grammar School,
  • Two degree graduation ceremonies of my own (missed one by being overseas), 
  • Five for my children's graduations (KW had two), and 
  • Thirty* as a teacher (some schools have split junior and senior prize givings so that number is conservative).
[*I didn't include the myriad prize givings during taboor at Ali bin Abi Taleb school in Al Ain - they LOVED prize givings!!]

My favourite bits of prize givings tend to be the student speeches (adult guest speakers too often seem to struggle to get out of cliched, platitudinous mode). I'm not a fan of guest speakers: beyond Sir Robert Muldoon I can't think of many memorable ones down through the years.

Because they are shedding their school skin, students tend to speak from the heart and more often than not, they end up dissolving in tears (boys are certainly not exempt from being overwhelmed by the whole deal). And you can't fake that human emotional side of things.

This week's latest version went to script pretty much but given it was our Principal's farewell it also had added emotional heft. 

I've been lucky again: right place/right time as I stumbled upon the last two years of Jackie Barron's tenure. She's a gifted leader, a person of integrity, an ideas woman, a top notch communicator, and an all round good egg. I can think of no higher accolade!

But wait there's more: beyond all that she has allowed change to flourish - not an easy thing to do believe me. Managing change is one of the trickiest things to pull off. It includes placing trust in other people and allowing them freedom of thought. And that starts at the top. 

So- hats off to her!

I took a quick P.P.P. (post prize giving poll) - best moments: the dux announcement, the Head Girl's speech, and a really really REALLY extended gardening metaphor by the Principal were the most memorable aspects.

I'm always fascinated at the way prize givings contribute to the myth of the organisation. 

Woodford House ends its prize givings with the Principal giving a gift to the graduating class who then, on mass, run out of the prize giving ceremony - symbolically moving away from the old life with a whoop and a hollah. 

Last year Jackie handed out an artificial butterfly, this year it was an artificial flower. Apparently the previous Principal instigated this symbolic conclusion- it will be interesting to see whether Jackie's successor adopts it or changes it. That decision, and many others, will also add to the myth.

After the graduating class burst from the ceremony, the remainder of the remains, until the Boards and staff leave. 

Parents, and students then leave together. Nice.

I finished the ceremony by remaining behind to help remove furniture and pick up rubbish from the floor. 

The symbolic nature of that last bit alludes me for the moment, but- through sacrifice, bliss.

I am now on holiday for the summer. The rituals of my day changes substantially now and my determination to post every day on my blogs will be tested.

We shall see, we shall see.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gotta make it through the tunnel, got a meeting with a man on the other side (Bruce Springsteen)

I sometimes feel like the meeting moth (Dilbert, as always, is all over it like a cheap suit).

We have a poster in our staff room that contains this Alain de Botton quote (from a tweet): 

When someone can't be bothered to think an issue through & vaguely hopes someone else will come up with the answer: they call a meeting.

Excuse my language, but, Gee Willikers, Monsieur de Botton has this nailed!! Too often that quote is true.

Wouldn't it be great if we had a meeting code - guidelines, if you will, to see us through?

As chance would have it I happened upon this set of meetings about laws...oops, I mean laws about meetings, on Twitter, from the coolly named Dan Rockwell.

Law #1: Thou shalt always declare the purpose of the meeting before it happens.  

The most important work of the meeting happens before the meeting. Confusion about purpose is always the result of inept leadership. 
Law #2All participants shalt understand and agree that the requirements of law #1 have been fully met.
Declaring the purpose of a meeting doesn’t mean everyone understands or aligns.
Law #3Thou shalt meet to make decisions, never to discuss.

Law #4Everyone around the table shalt have a stake in the pie.

Law #5: The people closest to the work shalt talk the most.

Law #6: The most powerful person in the room shalt talk the least.

Law #7: Thou shalt engage in lively debate.
When law #6 is violated, law #7 won’t happen.
Law #8: The leader of the meeting shalt keep everyone focused and engaged.

Law #9Thou shalt silence big mouths, even if it hurts their feelings, and        engage quiet participants.

Law #10: Thou shalt assign tasks to everyone in the room.
The person who leaves the room without something to do, shouldn’t have attended in the first place.

Hard to argue with that list!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The teacher is teachin' the Golden Rule (Chuck Berry)

This photo appeared recently in the Guardian Weekly. The caption read: Palestinian girls attend a class at a school that witnesses said was damaged by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza City.

I love this photo.

Yes, it shows girls persevering with their learning in horrendous circumstances- but it also looks normal- just look at the expressions on the girls' faces as they focus, and I love the idea that a hand up to get the teacher's attention is a global phenomenon. 

Yes, amazingly, it shows how a classroom can somehow become a target in a battle between opposing forces.

But my biggest YES moment? The teacher!

I am so full of admiration for this anonymous woman who is bravely leading the way in outrageous circumstances. It makes me proud to be in the same profession as her.

I couldn't help comparing this to my classroom and the girls I teach at Woodford House, and the staff I teach with.

I love the place and the people at the school and I don't want to become complacent. I know I need a reminder from time to time of how lucky I am to be here.

I have seen similar places to that in the photo and worked with similar students and teachers - people who have no resources except for their will, integrity, knowledge and, most importantly, their imagination.

I love this photo for giving me a window into a parallel teaching/learning world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What if the water and wishes appear? (Bob Mould)

I've spent a lot of the last week thinking about our senior English courses for next year.

It became time to finally move from the theoretical to the practical and actually design the courses with my colleagues.

We ended up introducing a potential student inquiry/thematic aspect to the year's programme (and deliberately separated internal NCEA standards and external standards so that all the internally assessed work is done early in the first half of the year).

I like our aim for these courses: 
This course aims to cater to student diversity, creativity, collaboration, and to foster and reward student curiosity. A student driven inquiry in Terms 1 and 2 may be used to include the internal standards.  
With that in mind I have now turned my attention to creating a framework to help students engage their creativity and curiosity. I found this cool diagram via Twitter:

It's that first column- posing real questions, that I'll be working on next week at school using, as a starting point, a powerpoint that a colleague is designing to help students understand the possibilities on offer. 

My excitement and own creative juices are flowing!

Monday, November 24, 2014

It’s so hot, looks like you have three beaks crow (Captain Beefheart)

Meh to 'challenges'.

Challenge is such an overworked word in educational circles - most times it's used as a synonym for 'problem': as in 'she's a challenging student' or 'we will be facing a few challenges next year' or ' implementing vertical deaning in such a short time will certainly be a challenge'.

It came into vogue to eliminate the negative connotations with 'problem', but as a weasel word it has just shifted the 'challenge' sideways - it also has negativity attached to it.

I think we need to reclaim the word and use it in a different, more positive way. 

After all, aren't we talking about daring ourselves to embrace something different or difficult?

Is there even a single word for that?

How about 'opportunity'? As in 'she's a teaching opportunity' or 'we will have some real opportunities for improving learning next year' or 'implementing vertical deaning in such a short time will certainly be a great opportunity'.

For challenges read opportunities - they bring out our best when they:

  • Inspire humility.
  • Motivate preparation.
  • Drive connection.
  • Fuel growth.

  • [I got those four from Dan Rockwell's Leadership Freak blog - I think they're perfect for that last vertical deaning thing, don't you?]

    An opportunity provides a more straight forward pathway to innovation and I'm big on pathways and innovations.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Just be right there when the whistle blows (The Rolling Stones)

    Forbes recently published this list of the 10 skills employers say they seek, in order of importance. 

    I love this list!! Yeah, okay, I know - I love lists but these kinds of things I especially love.

    Amazingly, it comes from a survey conducted in America by The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) a Bethlehem, PA, a non-profit group.

    It asked hiring managers what skills they plan to prioritize when they recruit from the class of 2015 at colleges and graduate schools. It gave each a rating on a 5-point scale, where 5 was extremely important, 4 was very important, 3 was somewhat important, etc. 

    This is how it washed up as a priority list:

    1. Ability to work in a team structure
    2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
    3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
    4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
    5. Ability to obtain and process information
    6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
    7. Technical knowledge related to the job
    8. Proficiency with computer software programs
    9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
    10. Ability to sell and influence others

    The good news: No matter what you have studied in school, whether economics, English, French or computer science, you will have had to learn the top five skills on the list.

    The other good news: the Velocity boys are again vindicated! Check their seven new laws again - 

    • Evolve immediately
    • Intuition is rewarded
    • Make meaningful connections
    • Craftsmanship takes perseverance and discipline
    • Respect human nature
    • Be a leader, be decisive
    • Always play from your heart

    Overlay those laws with the Forbes list and I think we've got a winning combination. 

    So - let's sway, under the moonlight, the serious moonlight.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Reach for my hand (Anathema)

    I used a quote from Mick Jagger in the previous post - you can't always get what you want but... you may find you get what you need

    Love that idea!

    It reminded me of a story I wrote about on a different blog, long ago and far away- in 2008. I figure it's ripe for a reboot. Here it is again:

             The situation we always live in is like the wise Chinese farmer.

             One day his horse ran off.

    When his neighbour came to console him the farmer said, "Who knows what's good or bad?"

    When the wise Chinese farmer's horse returned the next day with a herd of horses following him, the foolish neighbour came to congratulate him on his good fortune.

    "Who knows what's good or bad?" said the farmer.

    Then, when the farmer's son broke his leg trying to ride one of the new horses, the foolish neighbour came to console him again.

    "Who knows what's good or bad?" said the farmer.

    When the army passed through, conscripting men for war, they passed over the farmer's son because of his broken leg. When the foolish man came to congratulate the farmer that his son would be spared, again the farmer said, "Who knows what's good or bad?"...(and so on and so on).

    Mick's quote again reminded me of Japanese zen poet Ryokan's poem:
    Maple leaf
    Falling down
    Showing front
    Showing back

    Paul McCartney is even more economical - Let it be.

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    For here am I sitting in a tin can, far above the world (David Bowie)

    History is full of 'you can't always get what you want might find you get what you need' stories.

    You know the drill - protagonist turns adversity into triumph!

    Here's one from Dr Ian Hunter's excellent book 'Imagine':

    As a young boy Josiah Wedgwood was stricken with smallpox. Among his injuries his right foot was crippled which meant he couldn't operate his potter's wheel for long periods.

    Instead he turned to study - specifically, the antiquities, Roman and Greek pottery. At age 28 he started out in business. Initially, he wasn't very successful but his classically inspired works gradually caught on when he produced a new type of clay - creamware. That was a huge innovation! He became a rock star of the pottery world. 

    He still is!

    He was innovative - taking classical art and reworking it in a new form. He also had novel marketing strategies to get his product out. The guy was a genius!

    It could be argued (by me) that getting smallpox moved him into new ways of thinking. He didn't get what he wanted- unlimited time at the potter's wheel- he got what he needed- time to devote to new ways of thinking, time to be innovative.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Your eyes are shining on a beam through the galaxy of love, transformer man (Neil Young)

    I read an interesting article recently titled ' If you want to change people - change what they talk about'.

    I like that idea and I'm always game for a laugh so here are my responses. First though - here are the ten invitations to transformation:
    1. What are you good at?
    2. How did you get so good at…?
    3. How could I get good at…?
    4. How are we winning?
    5. What’s working?
    6. What do you love about working here?
    7. Tell me a story about someone who made a difference in your life.
    8. Remind me of a time when you went beyond the call of duty to get something done.
    9. What are you doing when you feel most successful?
    10. How can we get you doing more of what you love?

    Cool list huh? Okay so here goes:

    1. Here's three: I'm a good listener, I keep the blogosphere regularly updated, I'm very patient. 
    2. Patience and being a good listener are innate qualities rather than skills (I used to be a good football player which happened through some natural ability to kick with both feet, having a football brain, and I loved to practice and then do more practice). Having good listening habits can also be a skill but for me it started long ago with something inside me making me interested in what others were saying. Blogging is something of an addiction. I like writing (my university career tells me I am good at that too), musing over things, and I like publishing my writing - hence the blogging.
    3. How could I get better in my teaching? The Nissan Way improvement model helps me a lot (the photo shows it's on my pinboard by my desk at school) but mostly it's the blogging, my current colleagues and Twitter that have all helped immeasurably with that one. So...more of that should do it!
    4. We're into the plural pronoun here so I'll answer this for my English department at school: we are winning by being brave, exploring new ideas, challenging the status quo and each other's thinking, giving up some control, and by adapting to new technologies.
    5. Our grades are high in internal NCEA standards, our value added scores are the envy of other departments.
    6. There is a lot of teacher driven inquiry going on, some free thinking and an environment for change at my school; being given autonomy to get on with the job always helps me; the people I work closely with and the fun staff room vibe where I work inspires me daily; the students won't let us rest on past achievements - they live in the now, they demand the best and rightly so. All of those things make me love my job.
    7. My parents, a lot of teachers and a few Principals have made a huge difference to me. One story is tough but I'm going to go with Colin Prentice, then Principal at Macleans College, walking and talking one day after school and telling me (I was an English teacher then) that I could easily lead a department. That seemed far away at that point and not even part of my consciousness but someone like him having that kind of belief in me sent me on a pathway.
    8. Our use of Schoology as a Learning Management System has allowed me to frequently respond to student requests for help after hours. Last weekend I was in Auckland for my son's wedding and a student asked for help via Schoology with an essay. I went beyond the call of duty to give her that advice.
    9. See number 8.
    10. Tough one. I love my job but I also love balance between job and my life outside of school. Truly though - I would love to be given more time to work on some special projects at school that are dear to my heart. 

    Saturday, November 8, 2014

    It's high time to fly (Roy Harper)

    Further to my post on the Universal Design for Learning: I found these 6 Essential tips to start using the UDL. 

    It's a nice little summary to keep in mind as we aim to initiate our brave new senior English courses next year. 

    1. Know the learner 
    2. Work out what we are here to do (your aims/ learning objectives) 
    3. Recognise and remove barriers in the goals, resources, assessments,                 teaching methods and in the physical and emotional environment 
    4. Identify what universal supports we could offer to everyone 
    5. Use the UDL guidelines to design the lesson/activity/opportunity
    6. Teach, evaluate, revise…

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    I got the key to the highway, billed out and bound to go (Derek and the Dominos)

    Malcolm Gladwell, John Hattie and Warren Purdy all have something in common- the belief that small class sizes have no appreciable affect on student learning.

    I'm currently reading Gladwell's David & Goliath (Underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants) wherein he expands on the class size debate.

    Interestingly, he makes the claim, based on American research, that a really really small class is as bad as a really really big class. About 18 is the ideal number to get it right re atmosphere (vibe!), discussion, rapport, and recycled teacher jokes. 

    John Hattie broadly agrees. His effect size meta-analysis indicated that class size has no affect on student learning.

    Curious then why so many people (yes - for that read PR people and parents) think a small teaching class is beneficial. Conventional wisdom is at the heart of that false perception I believe.

    A class of three might sound like an ideal but it's my idea of a nightmare.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    What is veiled now soon will be shown (Jefferson Starship)

    I noticed during the recent ulearn14 conference that my nano second scanning of a room for a friendly place to sit was completely on to it!

    I met some great people through serendipitous moments of brief contact at workshops or 'breakout'.

    It's the 'it's safe to approach others' signal to the brain that happens. Some, like me, have it in spades (hahaha).

    I tested it a few times - sussing out where the receptive people were sitting. Clearly some folk send out a 'buttoutskidon't mess with me' vibe, but in others there's something more positive, more empathetic going on.

    I always manage to gravitate towards those receptive ones.

    Apparently there's a neurochemical called oxytocin which is the key. It's produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it activates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing our ability to experience other's emotions.

    Freaky huh! Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe being in an all female environment is rubbing off on me.

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

    It takes two to tango, like an orange and a mango (The Phoenix Foundation)

    At ulearn14, Dr Katie Novak was a shining star. We all fell in love with her. 'We' being the fearless foursome from Woodford House.

    Let me just dwell on that a sec: the foursome comprised three females and me; one mathematician, one scientist, one elearning/business studies expert and me.

    I repeat: we all fell in love with Dr Novak! 

    That's some feat. How the dickens did that happen?

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides the answer. It hit a collective nerve.

    So what is UDL?

    The fundamental principle behind it is revolutionary - we are all different!

    We all learn in different ways. We understand things in different ways so we all require different ways of approaching content. Some learn some things faster than others so providing options is essential.  

    We all approach learning tasks in different ways. Some may be able to express themselves well in written text but not speech, and vice versa so providing options for action and expression is essential.

    As learners we all differ in our engagement and motivation Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while others are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. Providing multiple options for engagement is essential.

    The solution according to Dr Novak is simple: adapt your teaching to cater for these differences in three ways:

    1. Present information and content in different ways
    2. Stimulate interest and motivation for learning
    3. Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know

    Dr Novak's slides from ulearn14 are here:

    So - that's the orange. The mango?

    Well, this all plays into our desire in the English Department at Woodford House to be much more flexible with programmes and approaches in 2015. See what I did there?

    The only fly in the ointment, joker in the pack, gnawing voice in the back of my head is John Hattie and his meta-analysis regarding the effect size of inquiry based teaching as a strategy (in his book Visible learning for teachers). Inquiry based teaching intersects with UDL from what I can see.

    That dilly of a pickle is explored in one of my next posts.

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    Don't surround yourself with yourself, move on back two squares (Yes)

    Have a purpose larger than yourself- the seventh new law (of seven) for a world gone digital from Ahmed and Olander. It reminds me of that great Yes song (I've seen all good people) that I've used in the title.

    Let your imagination go wild, and play from your heart but don't surround yourself with yourself.

    This is a great law to finish with, it certainly plays into my prejudices:

    • Always play from your heart (trust your feelings -yes- from Star Wars
    • Be alive to being alive (Buddhism- be here now
    • Do the right thing (Spike Lee also listened to the Buddha)
    • Love what you do (Thoreau- You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake. You must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand-heap. You must have so good an appetite as this, else you will live in vain)
    • Your job is to serve (Joseph Campbell- Through sacrifice - bliss)
    • Dream in widescreen, then push on in pixels (John Lennon - Imagine...
    • Heroes can guide, teach, and encourage you (A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-Yo Silver') 

    As you can tell I've loved Velocity. Here's the website with all of the seven laws again:

    A big thank you to Ahmed and Olander for an inspirational conversation. Bravo and more...more...

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me (Pink Floyd)

    Velocity's sixth law for a world gone digital: 
    No good joke survives a committee of six (or 'have the balls to make the calls' according to Ahmed and Olander).

    So this one is aimed at leaders really. 

    Guess the captain and the co-pilot from flight 1549.
    The guys mention a wonderful story about the captain on US Airways flight 1549. You'll remember the flight that landed unscathed in the Hudson River after a bird strike? The story goes that the co-pilot lifted off and the plane quickly ran into a flock of geese and lost thrust in the engines. As soon as that happened the captain said two words: "My aircraft".

    That is the guy I want flying my plane. Always!

    Ahmed/Olander use the story to illustrate the idea that when it comes to it somebody has to take command, make the decision.

    [In a business sense, companies who want to make a shift from good to great can't do so via consensus.

    In education, schools who want to improve, make a gear change from great to outstanding, can't do so via consensus.]

    I think they've pointed to a great truism in life: people resist change to their routine or challenge to their expertise for the usual reason: fear.

    It's been interesting tracing the move to vertical forms within our existing vertical House system at Woodford. As you know I've been posting about it since April. 

    In seven months we've had many meetings, a Change Action Group, staff inquiries, consultations with staff students and parents, we've had more meetings.

    Left to a consensus we would do nothing - some of the girls don't like it; some of the staff don't like it. They fear the change. 

    Finally, the decision was made recently to change some of the horizontal systems for next year. The decision: vertical forms within Houses from next year.

    It took a while, but it's the right decision. 

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Set the controls for the heart of the sun (Pink Floyd)

    I promised a post on Dr Harpaz's ideas on the ideology behind education (and Dr Novak - I haven't forgotten you either - will get there soon). 

    [Both were stand out performers at the ulearn14 conference]

    So here it is.

    The Doctor tells us that there are three mutually exclusive* super aims of education.

    *BTW many people at the ulearn14 conference didn't believe this - including Mark Treadwell, although they didn't articulate why.

    When education serves the society, its aim is to adapt the students to society by imparting tools – knowledge, skills, habits, behaviors – that will benefit society. When education serves the culture, its aim is to cultivate the character of the students in the light of the values and truths which constitute the preferred culture. When education serves the individual, its aim is to 
    enable him/her to fulfill him/herself.  

    In the first type of education – socialization – The Educated Person is 
    a person who is adapted to her society and directs herself within it successfully. In the second type of education – acculturation – The Educated Person is 
    one whose character reflects the values and beliefs of the prevailing culture. In the third type of education – individuation – The educated Person is one 
    who realizes her unique personality in her course of life. 

    The ideology of socialization comes with the pattern of imparting, which is based on techniques of exemplification and practice; the ideology of acculturation comes with the pattern of molding, which is based on techniques of modeling and attraction; the ideology of individuation comes with the pattern of development, which is based on techniques of enabling and guidance. 

    If you're super keen on reading more, the full text of the good doctor's thoughts on the subject are at

    At the ulearn conference Dr H held a poll on what ideology we wanted at school and what we have as a default. Individuation was the overwhelming favourite for the former and in the overwhelming minority in the latter (Socialization won out).

    The challenge for us in this 21st Googled/Twittered/Facebooked/Teched Up world we live in is choosing what is right for us and our students.

    Again, according to Dr H 'Good teaching... involves constant care 
    for the logical match between ideology and technology".

    To me - individuation's time as (a dominant) ideology has come. I'm not sure, though, if schools can have their socialization cake and eat it up in an individuation way. I sense they can't but they'll try anyway in the special control freak way teachers and administrators have.

    I'll be a keen observer and yes, as much of a mover/shaker as I can be, to see if we can free up our socializationistic rules and timetables and enable students to embrace Dr Novak's Universal Design for Learning (coming soon to a post/tweet near you). 

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me (Aretha Franklin)

    The fifth law of Velocity is as simple as it is groovy: Respect human nature.

    Part of why I'm loving reconnecting to Twitter is the human contact with people I'd otherwise never know. 

    I have been getting loads of follows from musicians who seem genuinely pleased to reply when I tell them they delighted me so I'm sending them a message of encouragement. 

    I don't do it lightly. Their music is amazing and I've never heard of them. A very humbling experience.

    Anyway - back to Velocity.

    The thrust of this law is that Velocity doesn't get blinded by technology - on the other end of a tweet or an app or an anything is a person.

    In terms of education this means that behind every student in my class is an extended family of people.

    I well remember when this dawned on me. It was 1983. 

    My first teaching job was as an English teacher at New Plymouth Boys' High School. 

    When my first parent-teacher evening had finished I was pleasantly exhausted and fizzing. My students had parents. Who knew?? Parents who cared about them enough to meet me. I looked like I was 16 but I was now the 'expert' who was giving a report and advice on their son.

    It was seriously cool!!

    We recently had some PTSIs at school - Parent Teacher Student Interviews. It was, again, a wonderful experience.

    I had indicated to the parents who I REALLY needed to see but loads more came anyway. Fab! Again - fizzing and pleasantly exhausted - and long may those feelings continue.

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Sunrise over the turquoise mountains (Phish)

    It's amazing how much I keep coming back to Velocity - the conversation between Ahmed and Olander. I've posted on their seven new laws for a world gone digital a few times now.

    It seems that every day, something happens that makes me think about one of their laws.

    Law four is Convenient is the enemy of right.

    The basic message is that doing something worthwhile takes imagination and commitment.

    One of my dad's favourite sayings is burned into my psyche: If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right!

    Yeah baby! I agree!

    Think about this though: the caveat is IF it's worth doing...

    Along the way in this Velocity chapter they use a quote from Brian Wilson (yes of The Beach Boys - are you wondering any longer why I LOVE this book so much?): Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you'll suck forever.

    Currently I am engaged in a curriculum mapping exercise. It was a goal that the English department had this year, something the school believes is a priority. It's a concept that I'd never come across before.  

    So - what is it? Curriculum mapping takes place within a grade level and between grade levels. Mapping serves as a detailed lesson plan for the school year's curriculum.

    We already had a plan for the individual year levels so this latest exercise was to make a chart showing how various skills in English progress from Year 7 to Year 13.

    It took quite a while to compile and my eyes are feeling the effects of concentrating on a computer screen for hours with multiple pages open.

    So - is it worthwhile? 

    Short answer is a, well...yes. 

    Thanks to Greg Semmens for this one
    Long answer is a, well...yes, if it helps identify gaps in progression (stuff that is left out or ends in a cul-de-sac), if it prevents repetition and if it helps the alignment of the standards, content and methods across year levels. If the school takes all of the various department maps and looks for alignment between subjects then it will have even greater value. That is what a Change Action Group within the school is proposing to do so...great! 

    Given that we are embarking on a shake up of the English assessment standards used in senior classes from 2015 onwards this can also be seen as a valuable activity.

    So, bottom line (literally) - it's worth doing right. Hence my bleary eyes and a (shock horror probe) proposed English meeting to discuss the draft map.

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    I'm tied to him, or him to me, depending who you ask (Phish)

    The more I delve into the nether regions of twitter's interweb universe the weirder it becomes. 

    People I want to follow like, say, Arsene Wenger, have a number of parody accounts which is a waste of time as far as I can see. 

    Why spend your on line time doing parody tweets? Bizarre. Boo hiss parody accounts - even if you're THE UNIVERSE parody tweeter who responds to those who use the words 'the universe' in their tweets: What a jolly jape.

    Galactus gets to grips with twitter
    People I'd like to follow like, say, George Lucas or Nick Hornby have no twitter presence. Hello!! You're a writer Nick! Yes okay 140 characters is a tad limiting for someone of your genius but you couldn't even maintain an interesting blog. I don't get it. Bizarre. Still love Fever Pitch though.

    People who I thought would have little time for twitter, like, say Steve Carell, actually do! The man's hilarious.

    The other bit I find weird is the sheer volume of stuff being tweeted. It's a Galactus sized never ending stream of stuff and I've yet to figure out how to sift and find the time to read the good stuff. Must be a way. 

    Fun though. Most definitely fun - so thanks again Toni for the not so gentle prodding to get reconnected.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Connection, I just can't make no connection (The Rolling Stones)

    Staff at Woodford House taking a break from the classroom
     pose in normal day wear - nothing embarrassing here!
    Just the opposite actually - I seem to be making more and more connections the older I get.

    Let me see - I have a presence on Linkedin, facebook, my three weblogs of course, and twitter.

    But wait - there's also google!

    Some of my Year 11 students searched my name yesterday and came up with a load of mentions. It led them to my blogs and that in turn led them to some embarrassing photos that I have long forgotten about. Nothing was inappropriate or dodgy but old photos in particular can spookily reappear to haunt me from time to time.

    The message is clear. Beware! Things put on these blogs and the messages and photos sent out into the blogosphere via the interweb in moments of innocence - all of that has a long shelf life.

    Why this has not really dawned on me until now I have no idea.

    I do self censor but time flies like an arrow and something posted during my experiences in the Middle East or China or England just stays in the blogosphere until a student clicks a mouse button.

    Anyway - the above photo shows that I'm not alone. Embarrassment comes with the turf when you're a teacher.