Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You know we've got to find a way to bring some lovin' here today (Marvin Gaye)

The big buzz word around our school at the moment is INNOVATION.

We've spent time defining what we mean by innovation. As I'm a less-is-more guy I think mine was along the lines of -  new ideas/ways of doing things for changing times.

I like that this is a focus and I'm lucky to be at a place that even has a Director of Innovation.

Recently we had an interesting session looking back at how much innovation has taken place in the last few years (coincidentally, pretty much since I joined the staff four years ago). I was left with the feeling of, "OK - what next?".

For me the big three new ideas in education are - removing subject 'silo's (where subjects are taught in isolation to others), cracking open the timetable ('passion studies' is a new one on me), and changing the physical spaces.

With that in mind I came across this article from the Mind/Shift people about giving students choice during the day to create unstoppable learning

Sounds pretty groovy to me!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

One to read later...maybe

For some reason a plethora of articles on procrastination from the wonderful community have clogged up my inbox of late (yes - I decided to read then later hahahaha).

No really, I did read them and even showed some to my senior students who love to procrastinate. 

There's one about the power of procrastination, a list of ways to deal with the p word, the positive view of the p word, and finally the ways the p word can boost productivity! Yes really!

Clearly procrastination is NOT the same as laziness (although some people can be both!).

Procrastination: the action of delaying or postponing something.

Laziness: the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy; idleness.

Being a classic Libran I often like to delay and mull over things before doing - especially with important decisions. It's a deliberate action.  

Because I'm so inclined, I can't blame my procrastinating students for doing the same thing can I?  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about (John Lennon)

I was talking to a colleague t'other day about failure. Along the lines of - our students need to experience some failure.

I've mentioned this before in previous posts (I searched 'failure' on the blog and among the posts was an old prizegiving speech - fun reading that) but it can stand another thrust into the limelight: I was a spectacular failure at school

  • I had to repeat a year at primary school (my birthday's in October) 
  • I had to repeat my fifth form year (the current Year 11) 
  • I did not gain a bursary to go to university
  • I turned 19 in my last year of school
  • I failed my drivers' license the first time
  • I was turned down twice for a teachers' studentship to attend university 
  • I have truly lost count of the number of jobs I have failed to get over the years

And yet here I am. 

I have a masters degree in English with honours, I have a masters degree in educational management, I have a number of other diplomas and I have always got a great job when I needed one.

Why? Two reasons: 1 My parents never gave up on me. They celebrated my small successes when they came because they knew how hard I'd fought for them. 

2 My school (Mt Albert Grammar) never gave up on me - no one ever said to me, "Warren - you need to give up this dream of going to University and becoming a teacher". Never. Not once. Not even close.

This may strike you as an unusual story. It's not.

Every school I've taught in has contained staff like me and Michael Jordan, all with a litany of failures behind them.

That conversation with a colleague the other ended with us comparing our lengthy list of failures (I think I won).

Failure is not a bad thing. Failure can be the secret of success.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

It's so hard admittin' when it's quittin' time (Mary Chapin Carpenter)

I've been pondering on my future a tad lately.

I'm not the sort to have a five year plan. But time is passing.

I'm in my late 50's which means, as a teacher it's getting closer to the time that I need to think about an exit strategy from the classroom.

I don't want to hang on beyond my use by date and I do want to leave while I'm still loving it (which I mos' definitely still am).

The Cool Cat Teacher blog (by Vicki Davis) had a post recently headed 'When is it time to quit teaching?'

Pretty good question.

When IS it time for me to quit? Time to retire? Time to have a change of scenery? All of these things are examined in Vicki Davis' post.
I especially liked what she had to say about burn out: 

Burnout or breakdown happens to many teachers who have a long and storied history of greatness. Sometimes principals and administrators have to play the role of the doctor in this example. If you can offer a sabbatical, consider it. A great teacher is hard to find. If you can help a teacher re-find their own greatness, you’re doing the person and your school a big favor. Sometimes great teachers don’t need to get out, they just need a break so they can rejoin the ranks. 

I'm in my thirty-third year of teaching and although I'm not at burnout or breakdown stage, a sabbatical would have been great for me to get my juices flowing from different challenges but this is not available to me in my current school.

But still, a gap year is not just something for the younguns to consider.

I had a break from classroom teaching when I went to consultancy positions in the Middle East and it was a great experience.

Not only that but it rekindled my desire to get back in a classroom and a desire to be part of a staff room again.

What will happen in the near future? Like all of us, I have no idea. I do feel that I have at least one more big challenge in me though before I hand in my white board markers.

I'm keen to see where that might come from.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I can hear music, sweet sweet music (The Beach Boys)

These days our modern classrooms are awash with many different sights and sounds to those that were previously permitted. Music is everywhere!

Which, to my way of thinking, is a very very good thing.

An article I read recently on (How music affects your productivity) backs me up on this.

Their basic findings can be boiled down to:
  • Music improves your mood so helps with creativity, concentration and productivity.
  • A study in the Journal of Consumer Research has shown that a moderate noise level can get creative juices flowing, but the line is easily crossed; loud noises made it incredibly difficult to concentrate. Bellowing basses and screeching synths will do you more harm than good when engaging in deep work.
  • A 2015 study found that when it came to sound-masking with ambient noise, “natural” sounds, such as waves at a beach, also improved subjects’ ability to concentrate.
  • For low-immersion or physical tasks, music with lyrics can offer huge benefits. But for intensive work, lyrics may erode focus.
The girls in my classes plug in headphones on a regular basis and I would too given the chance.

I find it extremely difficult to work without music. Only rap and other spoken word passages, where my brain forces me to listen to the words, ruin my concentration.

So the next time you're asked if they can listen to music, say "Yes! Of course you can".

Monday, May 2, 2016

If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress (Barack Obama)

Mmmmm - coffee
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything (George Bernard Shaw).

My current school changed from a horizontal form structure to a vertical one a few years ago. This meant a change to vertical pastoral Deans for this year. With the year delay between the move to vertical forms and vertical Deans, the two progressions were not in synch but I'm trying (really I am) to 'build a bridge' (not literally).

As far as I was concerned, this move was progress, from a bureaucratic/administrivia oriented system to a new more caring/nurturing vertical system.

Seems there are still (older) students and staff who cannot change their mindset from that past system and want to return to it.

I think that's a shame, but I understand it more these days. Long serving staff members have an investment in the school's past organisational culture that I do not have. 

I cannot stay in a school more than four or five years; I don't understand how people can remain in one school for their whole career. The school culture becomes more 'enshrined', more set in stone, for older staff, than it does for me.

Many of the students come from families that have not moved from the family farm for generations. Of course they despise change. 

But the world around them all has moved on, and it will not stop moving on. When the students leave a school they have become very familiar with, they will have to adapt or else. Change happens! Move on!!

Unfortunately, because they will not be literally moving on beyond the school, many longer serving staff no longer have that perspective, or the will to look beyond what has always been in place and embrace fresh thinking.

Horizontal forms? Horizontal Deans?

That horse has left the building, the genie has left the bottle. A good starting point is this great article about (shock horror) the end of schools as we know them!! 

Mmmmm - coffee!!