Saturday, September 27, 2014

Long you live and high you fly (Pink Floyd)

A banana update

I am balanced on the ladder, hand on the banana. I'm close; I can almost taste it.

I may have struck upon the right method to secure those bananas that I started writing about in March.

Slow and steady is the answer. It's been an eight month effort so far but I sense the school will be moving to a vertical pastoral care system for next year. Not only that - the vertical forms will be within the House structure.

The whole bunch of bananas is safe though, as I suspect the horizontal deaning structure will remain in place for a year to make for a successful transition. I was shooting for the whole bunch - vertical, House, House deans in a fully vertical structure.

I'm happy if this transpires though because, personally, I think this is one of those times where it is easier done than said.

This was one of Olander/Ahmed's seven new laws for a world gone digital.

Basically 'it is easier done than said' means - get going and then get better or 'do and learn, don't wait and see'.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Here in my car I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors, it's the only way to live (Gary Numan)

So, we dodged a bullet a while back with bad weather causing Hekia Parata to abandon plans to visit our school for an election eve photo op.

After a series of gaffes, she has kept a remarkably low profile in NZ politics of late and so the clearly politically motivated visit didn't sit well with me and many of my colleagues. There was nothing we could do about the situation, though. She is the Minister for Education.

On the other handbag, it would have been interesting to hear what she has to say about leadership, specifically female leadership. I heard her speech to a Principal conference a few years ago and the experience was underwhelming so a second chance to form some opinions would have made the ultimately doomed visit interesting.

It has to be said, that as a Minister of Education she has hardly covered herself in glory. 

Apart from the botched increase in class numbers for intermediate schools, the misguided call for performance pay, the politically expedient introduction of charter schools (from an earlier election deal with ACT), the poor handling of the Christchurch schools closures and the introduction of Novopay which was nothing short of disastrous, what have the Romans - doh, has Hekia really done for us.  

I tried to search youtube and NZ TV for an inspirational clip of her addressing educational leadership issues but I came up blank. Plenty of reactionary news spots and reactionary government question time moments instead though.

Post election Hekia news could be something to watch out for.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Go ahead baby, go ahead, go ahead and light up the town! (The Rolling Stones)

Surprisingly, after 31 years of teaching and management positions, I find myself as a dean in charge of a year group.

Yeah, I know, I know (as Graham Norton would say). Woah Nelly - what happened?

Well the current year dean has resigned, leaving four weeks next term that need filling. I agreed to do it. Simple huh?

Well, not really. You see the deaning structure at school is horizontal, so I will be Year 12 Dean for next term: effectively four weeks until the seniors go on exam leave. "Yeah - so?" I hear you (who don't read my blog regularly) ask.

I like vertical, remember? Not horizontal. I would be happy(ier) with a vertical House Dean position but not horizontal. So a dilly of a pickle that I can handle for a term but not longer than that.

Why has it taken 31 years to get into a year Dean position?

It hasn't really been deliberate - rather than a pastoral care route, I moved into English department management, Boarding School management, and then senior management. Some would say being Senior Housemaster at Mt. Albert Grammar's School House was very pastoral and they would be right but looking after the hundred boys' in a hostel was not horizontal, or restricted in any way.

I was responsible for their academic progress, their day to day living and their discipline. It was an autonomous role that I really enjoyed. Autonomous in the sense that I was left alone to get on with it.

I'm hoping I can say the same by the end of next term. Certainly, being responsible for 50 Year 12 girls will provide some comparisons.

The other thing about it, is that some reinvention is never a bad thing for me. I've been following my bliss with teaching since I was 12 years old and being on that pathway has lead to some amazing places so far, so, I trust in my instincts that this is a worthwhile diversion.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I will stay with you if you'll stay with me, said the fiddler to the drum (Neil Young)

Recently, as part of a professional development session, one of my awesome colleagues, let's call him Greg, did a nifty Prezi on the technological transformation in teaching from when he started in 1992 up to right here, right now.

It resonated with everyone in the room at Woodford House because we've all experienced the same feeling of being happy slapped by a technological jellyfish (I could have said 'teaching journey' but then I'd have needed to slap myself). 

There was quite a range. Mine started in 1983 (hello blackboards, chalk in my contacts - fun, Gestetners , banda machines and, eventually, putting marks into the Apple 2E) , one person in the room is a student teacher (so ipads, Turnitin, smart phones, laptops, smartboards and so on). 

Doesn't matter when you got on board this speeding train - teaching and learning continues to change.

Now would be the most exciting time for change in my time as a teacher!

Here's a quick video primer to get you up to speed with what Greg was on about: 

For me, the biggest part of that change, so far, has been learning to use a student learning system to the students' advantage. We use Schoology and it is transforming my teaching.

It really is. 

Learning is breaking out all over the place, literally! Anywhere, anytime. My students 'talk' to me from anywhere, at any time they like. And I can respond in kind.

Friday night last week, Jacky was working and I had a sugar load of marking to do. One of my students started a dialogue with me on Schoology that lasted for about 3 hours on and off as she aimed to conquer her connections standard (appropriate standard huh). It was quite a buzz to be privy to her thinking and discoveries. In between marking, I kept up my part of the deal by making suggestions and listening to her concerns and problems until she had resolved them to her satisfaction. 

It was the sort of thing that would be impossible to do in a class of 20 vivacious, effervescent, demanding Year 13 girls that lasts about 50 minutes on a wet Friday afternoon.

Clearly, course design and timetabling will be affected to a increasing degree in the future because of this new technology. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

I want to adjust to these changes now. I'm impatient, yes, but I think it's doable.

I want to design our English courses so that we cater much more for student diversity, creativity, and their need for collaboration. Starting with fostering and rewarding student curiosity.

I've made some proposals to my English colleagues that are exciting me. They build on those things I mentioned in that last paragraph.

The basic idea is simple: to tie a number of internal Achievement Standards into a student driven inquiry in terms 1 and 2. Then spend terms 3 and 4 preparing for a reduced number of external standards. I'm keen to include a lot of student choice in those external standards as well.

When I suggested these things to my colleagues they had the same reaction my Year 13 students had - affirmative noises and head nodding. I'm encouraged enough to see if it's going to fly. 

Today I worked out my 'breakouts' for the ulearn conference that I'm heading off to in my October study break. I focused on the kinds of people who were giving voice to these matters.

Should be fun. And I get to share the experience with some bright young things from school. 

Clapclapclapclapclapclap YEAH ALRIGHT WAHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!