Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hey there Mr. Blue, we're so pleased to be with you (Electric Light Orchestra)

I read a pretty sad blogpost recently themed around the idea that exams are killing student creativity (

That's not the case with our New Zealand system of Internal Achievement Standards and External exams.

Students can generally pick and choose subjects/ courses that are heavily weighted one way or the other, depending on their strengths.

Our girls certainly love (and excel in) the Internal standards - they gain Exellence passes through their creativity and skill in English classes and, more and more, we're exploring how they can tap into their curiosity and creativity.

The blogpost from The Guardian (world's best newspaper - fact!) bemoaned the lack of thinking being encouraged in the UK system (I've taught A level English in a sixth form college so I sympathise to a degree) with this:
“Will this help us in the exam?”It is no wonder this is all students care about because this is all they are conditioned to care about. Every student has Ucas predicted grades, internal predicted grades, minimum expected grades, personal expected grades, AS grades, and A2 grades. It cannot be said enough that we should teach students to think, not just to learn the syllabus. All they want is to follow the rulebook and pass exams.
NCEA - love it or don't - it does allow our students to think and be creative if teachers can think creative!

I've given my Level 3 class the freedom to work on either a connections unit, and/or a critical text unit, and/or a close viewing assignment. They choose the themes, the texts, the delivery system. 

They are engaged in thinking and planning some breathtakingly fantastically creative things. Sky is the limit and it's blue and wonderful!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I'm feeling the stagnation but it's just a fabrication born out of complications with my primary vocation (The Phoenix Foundation)

Recently, I was telling Awesome Greg about a teacher I knew back in the day who was nervous in front of classes - he became so bad with it that he came to hate teaching and took sick leave to see him out until retirement. By that time he'd been a teacher for about forty years. Astonishing.

I love teaching and I can't fathom why anyone would want to keep doing a job they hated.

I know you won't believe me but that song by The Phoenix Foundation in the title (called 40 Years off Happy Ending) was coincidentally playing as I typed that first paragraph. Weird but true!!

I came across this cool list of questions teachers should ask themselves daily. It was by a teacher called rather improbably - Starr Sackstein. Wow - parents were Beatles fans! Cool!

Anyway - here are the questions and embellishments (I've edited Starr's explanations - mainly I've taken out her personal reflections - hope that's okay)

  1. Am I excited about going to school today? Rather than call my job, 'work', I look forward to the endless possibility of learning every day. This is not to say there are days where I don't feel well and that bad feelings make it challenging to get up. I am a human being and therefore bad days happen. However, if a bad day turns into many and for whatever reason it becomes a chore instead of a labor of love, it is time for me to seriously consider a shift in my career.  
  2. Do I still believe that I can learn new stuff about my content?  To me, learning through my students' experiences and perspectives makes every day full of possibility and learning. My students offer context that I could have never noticed and in doing so help me to see things differently and together we collaborate to develop new ideas.  
  3. Are my students needs at the front of everything I do? Let's face it, I'm not a teacher for me, I'm a teacher for my students. They know more about themselves than I know and therefore I need to teach them to trust their inner voice. It starts by allowing myself to trust them when they share.  
  4. How do I implement student voice and choice in my decision making for learning? Students have great ideas and I must be open to hearing them. Once empowered, students will rise to a number of occasions you didn't think possible. Step out of the way of student awesomeness and cheer them along being a great supporter and facilitator of their learning.  
  5. What risks can I take today that model the growth mindset? I can't expect students to take risks if I don't take them myself.  Each risk I take runs the risk of failure, but that is okay. The tenacity and fortitude developed through this process is invaluable in the learning and reflecting cycle, so we must model what we expect.
I really like these questions. They are questions worth asking on a daily basis!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Up tight thoughts into the state of my mind (The Phoenix Foundation)

The joy of reading!

I've always loved to read stuff (comics, books, magazines, newspapers mainly)

It came as a bit of a shock to read a blogpost recently about how teachers kill the joy of reading and find out I may be guilty of this crime.

The blogger (Mark Barnes) highlighted 6 ways we kill reading.

Here they are:

1 Clinging to the classroom novel - it eliminates choice. Guilty!
2 The don't-read-ahead directive. Mark -  why would a teacher ever tell a child to stop reading–especially when he chooses to do so outside of class? Not Guilty!
3 Telling kids what they can't read (as I said - comics, graphic novels - whatever gets you going - it's alright with me - so Not Guilty!
4 Not reading in class daily. Mark - Readers read daily; it’s this simple. Guilty!
5 Assigning worksheets and book reports. Mmm himm - Guilty!
6 Not celebrating the joy of reading. Not in an overt way so - Guilty again.

That makes four out of six guilty verdicts. 

According to Mark I'm killing the joy of reading. I need to stop because I love reading.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ah - sweet sensation (Midnight Oil)

I'm super amped at the moment. 

A social studies teacher at school is beginning her unit on THE SIXTIES. During her unit she gets the students to think about interviewing someone who was around in the sixties. Makes sense. I'm one of the people she suggested the students could talk to.

But that's not why I am AMPED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She told me about the following conversation:  

When she mentioned me she asked the students - what is Mr Purdy passionate about?

And do you know what their FIRST answer was?

Teaching!...T E A C H I N G !!!!!!

Oh my giddy aunt - what a moment. I can die happy.

Their next two answers were ALMOST as cool - music and football.

They get me, they really get me.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I see the light surrounding you (Evermore)

Okay - two things have driven this one:

1 As I posted about recently, I had to put together a presentation to the staff on being a mentor.

I used this quote to kick it off:

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops (Henry Adams)

To introduce this idea, I asked my colleagues to reflect on students who were still in contact with them: that would mean they'd formed a lasting bond. Clearly our students outgrow us (quickly!) but if they remain in contact via Facebook or email they want to maintain a connection.

A very small number of them actually indicated they were still in touch and no one had students from over 20 years ago.

Made me think about (all of) my former students who are still connected with me via Facebook or emails. Made me feel blessed that a number of them are way past the 20 year mark - not that they'll thank me for reminding them of that I guess.

2 I put together a PowerPoint presentation about myself for my classes (this was inspired by a lecturer at Massey who did just that when I took the Year 12s for a visit recently AND my amazing colleague Amy, who tells her students about her past which includes her James Franco story - hi Amy!). 

Amazingly, I've never thought to do that (tell my story - not the James Franco bit). So while SWMBO was at work one Saturday, I set about making a PowerPoint. In my delve into the Purdzilla archives I came across a lot of old photos from my teaching past.

My first year teaching (New Plymouth Boys' 1983) - the pre Jacky years.
That made me wonder again about my former students - the oldest of whom will be about to enter their 50s (I was only 7 years older than them in 1983). And especially about the ones who are still in contact.

Mt Albert Grammar late 90s
So here we go - a celebration of those wonderful former students and former times. 

Warning! The photos that follow are from then and are hopefully not too embarrassing for the participants (I did get permission where I could).

Unfortunately you may be missing from this line up. I keep everything. If you wrote me a letter or a note when I left the school - I have it, but unfortunately if photos don't exist - they don't exist! And if you're wondering why there are quite a few from Macleans College 1986-1990, well - there's a reason for that!

MAGS School House
That was a period of my teaching life when all the planets aligned.

In 1986 I was into my second job - my fourth year teaching, so a little more comfortable in my teaching skin, but still inexperienced.

Macleans College late eighties
I'd had my three teaching college sections in co-ed schools (Rutherford High, Havelock North High and Keri Keri High School) but I'd had most of my education so far in boys' schools, having gone to Mt Albert Grammar as a student and then starting my teaching career at New Plymouth Boys'.

So teaching girls was a newish phenomenon and I loved how they approached English differently.

Waimea College early 90s
Macleans College at that time was led by Colin Prentice with Allen MacDonald (Mac) as DP. Still the best top two I've ever come across. 

Colin was charismatic and inspirational, Mac was simply born to be a DP - no nonsense, direct, and a lot of fun. Throw in Sue Miller (a lovable stickler) as Te Kanawa house leader and some wacky fellow TK personnel like Steve, Pete and Kent and - woo mama - what a staff!

Ledie - Waimea College

The difference to NPBHS was vast. I'd liked starting there but the feeling at Macleans, with the whole (much younger) staff moving in the same direction, was palpable. 

It really got my blood pumping. I wanted to excel for my students, and for Colin.

I was still young too, I was still in my twenties when I joined the staff at Macleans College from New Plymouth Boys' High School.

Denene - Macleans College

Lance - Macleans College
Aaron, Lance, Dipak, Michael - Macleans
Teesh - Stratford High School late 2000s

The mighty 3PY of 1986. Jody, Andy, Kylie, Julie et al. 

1986 at 3PY camp.
The post Jacky years!

The school, the leaders, being a young dad (second son Adam came along at the end of my first Macleans year) - that's some of it, but not all.

Jynette - Macleans College
The crucial ingredient was the type of student at Macleans at that time. 

I know it doesn't make much sense, but I really believe there was an extraordinary X factor about so many of these students. There was a really concentrated awesomeness to them that I have not experienced to the same degree since.

There were many great students to come in my post Macleans future (like Rebecca and Ledie and Kim and Ecca and others) but my students from Macleans 1986 to 1990 will always have a special place in my heart.

So - here's the final round up of photos from that time:

3PYers grown up. Kylie and Jody - Macleans 
Media Studies - Macleans
Lance, Jody, Jynette et al in Media Studies - Macleans
Kylie, Robyn - Macleans
Denene - Macleans
Jody, Julie, Kylie - Macleans
Jynette - Macleans
If you're reading this and I've left you out of the photo gallery, my heartfelt apologies. When you single out some there's always a danger you'll leave out some, but, unfortunately, as I said - I have no photos of plenty of you as students.

Please know that I continue to hold dear the time I spent teaching you.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dance with waves (Anouar Brahem)

I had to put together a PD presentation on mentoring for the staff recently. 

It was hard for me to go past the definition of a mentor from Tuesdays With Morrie (by Mitch Albom): 
Maybe it was a grandparent, a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and impassioned, helped you to see the world as a more profound place, and gave you sound advice to guide your way through it.
Equally hard for me not to include the Yoda mentor-ship of Luke from The Empire Strikes Back or this Kid President from the awesome Soul Pancake folks.

Both these sources emphasise being:

•Sharing expertise
•Encouraging/ supporting
•Giving honest feedback
•Understanding, helpful
•Giving sound advice

That captures, for me, what a mentor truly is.

Monday, February 2, 2015

I was a teenage malt shop (Captain Beefheart/ Frank Zappa)

Dr Ian Hunter in Imagine directs his readers to: 
develop a greater awareness of the time, taste, fashion, and context in which you exist. A deeper sympathy toward these aspects of the world can only aid you in the work of innovation.
I've always aimed to be aware of these things. I like pulp culture and I like to know what's going on generally in the world of music, art, literature, film and such.

My Walrus Gumboot online newspaper links directly to news and current happenings in education and elsewhere that I follow on Twitter.

Feel free to go to this link to subscribe - it updates daily:

I am becoming quite dependent on Walrus Gumboot (comes from the Beatles' song Come Together which is also my ring tone!). Pulp culture is no longer as homogeneous as it once was.

Music has splintered into myriad forms and sub genres. Once upon a time you could buy a music magazine like Sounds or Melody Maker and it would cover music in all its popular rock forms. Now (apart from Mojo Magazine) you can buy specialties like Blues, Prog, AOR, Classic Rock, Kerrang!, Hit Parader, Metal Hammer, Uncut, Q and so on. Each looks at a musical niche.

A look at The Guardian's music pages online reveals that another narrow form of Indie/urban musical bands featured regularly.

It's become tougher to keep track of 'the context in which you exist'.

So - if I want to know what is currently happening in the pulp culture context of 2015 generally, I check out (plug plug) Walrus Gumboot.