Saturday, December 30, 2017

It's getting better all the time (The Beatles)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Now that I've sorted out my goals for the year (easy peasy lemon squeezy - see my last posting), I have to reset and aim to be better.

Better Than Before (BTB) has been my mantra this year at school; that has all been about establishing a positive collective culture of improvement.

But it has to start with me! 

As Seth Godin says: 

Next year is almost here. And doing what you did this year probably isn’t going to be sufficient.

That’s because you have more to contribute than you did this year.

To reach your goals, you’ll probably need more effective and powerful ways to tell your story, get clients, gain market share and serve your audience.

Venerable master Hsing Yun's instructions match Seth's: 

Do more good deeds to accrue virtuous merits. Create more good thoughts in order to accomplish right thoughts. 

Those are fine things to keep in mind as I begin the pathway to 2018 - Do more. Create more.

Monday, December 25, 2017

My goals beyond (John McLaughlin)

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Holidays always help turn my attention towards what I want to achieve in the new year (which is next week). There's plenty of down time around family get togethers to reflect and ponder.

Resolutions are not my bag, maan, but setting some short term objectives mos def is (my bag). As you all know: Your focus determines your reality (Qui Gon-Jinn).

Clarity is easier for my professional goals. Here they are:

Get into more classrooms - provide better feedback for teachers - improve my appraisal for others and myself.

Personal goals are trickier. Basically, I have no idea...yet.

Dan Rockwell's post is helpful here as he asks good questions.

#1. What do you need to stop doing in 2018? (If you can’t completely stop it, how might you do less of what drains the life out of you?)

#2. What might you do that gives you energy in 2018?
  • What did you do in 2017 that lit you up?
  • What projects jazzed you up?
  • What personal values were in play when your energy went up?
Values of personal enjoyment/ learning and communicating via reading (50 books in 52 weeks) and writing (my blogs) are my answers.

This year, maintaining the reading discipline proved relatively easy compared to being more proactive with the blogs.

To help with that and reduce the vast number of bookmarks (in my education, music and personal folders) I'm going to concentrate more on writing in 2018.

So, maybe less reading (a book a week became fairly all consuming) and more writing will create the much needed balance to the force.

To have a post go viral  is my personal stretch goal, my wildly audacious goal, my goal beyond for 2018. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Killing me softly with his song (Roberta Flack)

Photo by Aaron Lee on Unsplash

Time to check my soft-skills (with Seth Godin's list):

What am I better at? I don't believe in multitasking as a thing, but I've become better at juggling multiple demands on a daily basis.

Have I asked a difficult question lately? Yes, I do this pretty regularly.

Do people trust me more than they did? Mmm, I believe so. Nothing like time and experience. I've been in my current post for a year now so people have seen me work and understand that integrity is everything!

Am I hiding more (or less) than I did the last time I checked? Less

Is my list of insightful, useful and frightening stats about my work, my budgets and my challenges complete? And have I shared it with someone I trust? No and no. Something to focus on in the new year, once I've figured out exactly what Seth means by this!.

If selling ideas is a skill, am I more skilled at it than I was? No, but I'm not sure I need to sell my ideas in the role I have. I'm more interested in letting others sell theirs, or starting an idea and stepping back (as with PBL in my school this year).

Who have I developed? A variety of people - teachers and support staff.

Have I had any significant failures (learning opportunities) lately, and what have I learned? Yeees. Plenty. Still working on the lessons learned.

What predictions have I made that have come to pass? Am I better at seeing what's going to happen next? I'm pretty good at the vision thing. The timetable adjustments for 2018 are some way along the road I've been advocating for a loooong time (as long time readers will attest).

Who have I helped? Especially when there was no upside for me...Plenty of students, and plenty of staff, and plenty of parents.

Am I more likely to be leading or following? Leading AND following.

Your turn!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Through sacrifice, bliss (Joseph Campbell)

When we [people in power] expose ourselves to the rules first, obey the rules first and make the sacrifices first, our culture is more likely to stick.

The rules that matter the most are the ones about behavior, transparency and accountability.

People might hear what you say, but they always remember what you do.

Seth Godin

Monday, December 11, 2017

I still wave at the dots on the shore (Porcupine Tree)

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Recently, in an authoritative voice, an educator said to a group of other educators: it's always the teacher's fault!

Naturally, he was challenged on this statement, but he held firm.

His point, I think, was that teachers are the adult in the room and their emotional intelligence and management of situations should be at a sufficient enough level to teach and guide and handle students' learning and behavioural needs. Even when they are at their most challenging. Full stop.

Therefore, for him, it was a simple equation: it's not badly behaved students causing problems, it's teacher failure to 'deal' with students.


Got me thinking.

Then I saw this article: kids don't fail, schools fail kids.

Three things were going for the article: the title, the source (edsurge) and the subject matter (Sir Ken Robinson's views).

According to Sir Ken: every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.”

Trust Sir Ken!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's swell of you (Duke Ellington)

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Appreciation was mentioned in my last post as something I received a lot of in my job at Westmount school.

But I wasn't prepared for this!

To be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed at the moment (can you be a little overwhelmed or is overwhelmed a thing that can't be quantified? Not sure). But I digress.

This week, I've had some lovely gifts from students, parents, the staff, the trust that operates our school, and the National Leadership team. Amazing gifts - food, wine, gift tokens, cards (a lot of peanut butter!!). 

It's been amazing!

All this in a week when we had the Magic Weavers' Awards at our national prizegiving. My Kaipara campus came up empty this year (we won two or three last year). 

But that's not the gripe from my colleagues.

The idea of celebrating a few out of the many has prompted a lot of debate within my staff. 

En Zedders like equity; we practise the tall poppy syndrome with some diligence. 

As a country, we were foundered on the concept that no one was better or worse than others and that still pervades - probably more so in teaching where we are so used to collaborating and working with others to make everyone better.

As a people, we are suspicious of the rogue ones (sorry 'bout the gratuitous Star Wars reference), the lone wolves, the popularity contest winners, the too good to be trues.

Teachers are also reluctant to adopt free market business strategies like performance pay, bonuses, and the idea that although we're all equal, some of us are more equal than others.

We just are, okay? 

Teachers like me went into the profession for noble reasons, not for money. I've tested this theory a lot and many of my colleagues wouldn't even know what their salary was.

So, back to me and the appreciation I've felt recently.

All of the gifts I received were amazing. The power of words - you can't put a money value on being told the following by your colleagues:

  • He is brilliant at sorting out issues
  • Weaves magic into the hearts of each staff member
  • Plenty of humour
  • Love working with him
  • His positive energy and solutions based attitude have been inspiring
  • Despite being an Arsenal fan, he is a Westmount Champion

Do you now see why I'm a little overwhelmed?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

You know the sun gonna shine in my back door someday (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee)

It's open letter time again people:
Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Dear Toni

Hey! It's a year on since leaving the familiar and launching myself into the mystery of 'what's next for Wozza?'

How has it gone? Well, last week I ventured up to Paihia for a meeting with other secondary school principals from Northland.

Being amongst tangata whenua protocols again was the first shock. The next was the generally dour atmosphere during the meeting.

Along the way, it was interesting to compare my life as a campus Principal at a private school with the poor saps, sorry, my fellow professionals at state schools.

Seriously, looking around the room, it took me back with a bump to my time ten years ago at Stratford High School when I would meet with fellow Taranaki Principals; the gradual beat down of demands trying to do an impossible job takes its toll.

As my Principal friends compared their heart attack histories I knew I was in trouble.

At that time, I quickly decided life was far too short to be in that situation so I left and went to the Middle East where I met remarkable people, had loads of adventures and learnt a lot about myself.

I learnt that I needed to push myself, to be busy, to be challenged, to try new things, to not settle.

As I pootled home through the beautiful Northland vistas, past some depressed looking towns in Rapid Roy I remembered how lucky I was to be living my life.

A few posts back, I included a quote from Hunter S. Thompson where he celebrates a life lived with the final statement being 'Wow, what a ride!'

When that feeling goes I start getting the 'what's next for Wozza?' vibe.

Do I miss Woodford House? At times, yes, of course I do - I definitely miss the great Woodford people (tip of the titfertat to my buddies), Bay Espresso visits, the time to pause and reflect that is so hard to eek out in the hurdy gurdy days I currently have (I haven't got that figured out yet), the twice weekly chapels (great meditation time) and I miss being in a formal classroom setting teaching English.

But...but, I love the way Westmount School is so keen to experiment with timetables and everything else, the balanced mix of autonomy and collegiality, the full-on environment of self-directed learning, the teacher inquiry process led by Karen Boyes, the challenge and the adventure (every day is a mystery box), the feeling that I am being appreciated and that my skills are being gainfully employed, the return of optimism and positivity (I was getting dangerously close to becoming a grumpy old fart at Woodford) and the Whole Food Cafe in Maungaturoto is a pretty gnarly substitute.

So, all up, going forward, I often think (to myself) that my skin is still in the game.

But enough about me! How was your year?

Love and peace, happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you and the family!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Celebrate good times, come on! (Kool and The Gang)

Photo by Rene Bernal on Unsplash
We've kicked off the awards season at school. The first of three celebrations was an awards assembly, to be followed by a regional prizegiving and then our local prizegiving.

For a while now, we've been having a debate at school around the content of these award shows.

On one hand we have staff who want every student to get an award, on the other, the less-is-more stance, that we reward only the most deserving.

I'll give you a nano-second to decide which stance I favour!

But being principal of a school isn't about me getting my own way. So a middle ground was reached and we all seem to be happy with that.

Having said all that, congratulations to all my students. Making it through the academic year is something to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The rain water poured up under my motor hood, I knew that were doin' my motor good (Chuck Berry)

Photo by Samuel Clara on Unsplash
Self-Directed Learning. At Westmount School we 💖 S-D L!!

Why do we 💕S-D L?

  • It taps into student motivation
  • It taps into intrinsic motivation
  • Students feel a greater sense of purpose
  • Students' learning is deeper and richer  
  • Students appreciate the value of learning 
  • Students appreciate the value of school

But don't take my word for it. Listen to a student like Nick Bain!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Get your motor running (Steppenwolf)

Slight deviation here as I celebrate Felix Baumgartner - who took a balloon ride to the limits and fell to Earth again on October 14, 2012, and Hunter S Thompson who said this:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!"

There was only one Hunter S Thompson and there is only one Felix Baumgartner and while I am certainly going to remain true to myself, I do like the sentiment.

I guess I like to live in a world where, in my one way, I'm saying “Wow! What a ride!".

[By the way, a nod to Mr and Mrs Baumgartner as well - I'm really happy that there are people in the world willing to call their son Felix!]

Monday, November 13, 2017

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness (Dalai Lama)

Appreciation - often it's best when it comes from an unexpected source.

In turn, I really appreciate genuine thanks.

Yesterday, a student asked if she could see me before school started. Sure, I said.

Not thinking too much about it - recently she was elected to a leadership position, so I thought she wanted to float an idea with me.

She came into the administration area and then my office with a large cardboard box and said her family had made me something.

I did think for a minute that it may be a practical joke - a gotcha moment, so I gingerly opened it up to find, inside, not a jack-in-the-box or a rubber snake, but a beautifully decorated cake.

I thanked her and said the staff would love it. But, no, she said, it's for you!

I was genuinely gobsmacked. Me? Really?

Yes, she said - it's in appreciation for all you've done for the school this year.

I beamed all day.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Lean on me (Bill Withers)

Photo by Maarten Deckers on Unsplash
The LEAN board. I'm not sure about it. I'd have to be honest and say I'm not totally sold on the concept as yet.

What is it?

The huddle meeting or LEAN meeting idea appears to have emerged from a business environment.

In a nut-shell, the accent is on a simple and visual style, standing meetings (hence huddle), an inventory or list approach that is the same every day, with small single items that are like a tick box.

As we've used a classic morning staff briefing style for the year (lead by me, content driven by me), it's taking some getting used to a shift away from this.

Shifting the focus from day-to-day urgent/important is a good thing. The LEAN board focuses on reflection (how things went yesterday) and the future (areas of concern, items to park), rather than the day ahead.

Shifting the focus from me to others (we are taking turns at leading the LEAN meeting and writing on the LEAN board) is also good.

Shifting the focus to simple and visual is definitely me.

Hey, this thing may be growing on me!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Just my imagination runnin' away with me (The Temptations)

The last assembly with my senior students was tricky on Friday.

Sometimes it's hard to get the tone right. In moments like that my go-to guy is Robert Fulghum.

I have used a portion of his essay on the Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon attempts, that takes in Einstein's famous line (Imagination is more important than knowledge), often, at this time of the year.
These things come to mind at the time of year when children graduate to the next stage of things. From High School, from college, from the nest of the parent. What shall we give them on these occasions? Imagination, a shove out and up, a blessing.
Come over here, we say - to the edge, we say. I want to show you something, we say. We are afraid, they say; it's very exciting, they say. Come to the edge, we say, use your imagination. And they come. And they look. And we push. And they fly. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There is no keeper but the key, except for one who seizes possibilities (Patti Smith)

Photo by Amanda Sandlin on Unsplash
Just as our students have reached the end bit of their Project Based Learning, as a staff, we are now entering the final couple of weeks with our own inquiry topics.
Interesting it is, to watch staff acting like their students - agonising over instructions (too many, not enough), preparation for presentation (videoing angst, to PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint), time considerations (not enough, too much) and so on.
Funny. So many possibilities.
As Seth Godin says:
'Projects are open-ended, chosen and ours. Working on a project opens the door to possibility. Projects are about better, about new frontiers, about making change happen. When in doubt, dare'.
It's good to dare.
For the staff, inquiry presentations are also about laying themselves on the line, being open to criticism, offering change, and all that leads to over-thinking.

Projects encourage 'now' (or if not, now, 'real soon').

We have all been busy transforming our day to day jobs into how we can make our 'now' better. 

And, I love that!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Aummmmm wooo wooooo bop didit (The Beach Boys)

Groucho Marx' famous line about joining clubs aside, I belong to a Senior Educational Leadership Team or SELT for short.

We meet each term and I really enjoy the day (sometimes two) of comradeship and stimulating ideas with fellow Principals and leaders in our organisation.

What I especially love is that there is always something cooking. The current something is our timetable structure.

Exciting! Really. 

Exploring ways to minimise disruption, focus on learning time and incorporate Project Based Learning is exciting.

I've been an advocate for disrupting the timetable for a long time. For a few SELTs we have spitballed ways to do that, and now we're close to a major revamp.

The details are still being explored but what I love is our ability to put some blue sky thinking into practice.

Can't wait!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

80% of success is just showing up (Woody Allen)

I tend to wander about. I can't sit still. I got the hippy hippy shakes!

Seriously, I find it hard to settle to one task for long. Usually there are at least 3 or 4 plates spinning and so I get antsy.

Then I wander around. It helps!

It helps my thinking. As I wander, I see people and say stuff that I need to say. 

I will often go for a walk to see a student or a staff member in their room, rather than call them to the office. It gives me time to run over in my head want I need to communicate.

Wandering gives me a feel for the place. It was a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday and the feel was definitely up (too up for a few girls who couldn't get themselves to maths class).

Some limited exercise comes from all this wandering too. A routine blood test this week indicated I need to step up my wandering even more (literally).

So yeah. The old adage about management by wandering around is really a thing for me.

Sometimes, when those plates get a tad overwhelming I need to get out of the school and go for a walk. Clears my head, puts things in perspective, recharges me.

Now, where are my walking shoes? Liz (my walking coach)? Are you ready to go? 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Laugh at yesterday (The Beach Boys)

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash
Right here, right now: first day back at school for the sprint finish to the year, Term 4. Well, for the seniors anyway. Basically they have three weeks of school and then go on exam leave.

The revision trick is all about focus. Qui Gon-Jinn's phrase is overused by me, I know, but it's so apt: your focus determines your reality.

To help focus I offer these great ideas from an Edutopia article on 'brain breaks'.

I've heard our students use this term but they regard it as a break from study and not a sharpening of their focus.

There are some great activities in the article. Read it! What have you got to lose? And you could gain some focus. 

It's within your grasp!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The sound that I'm hearing is only the sound of the low spark of high-heeled boys (Traffic)

Still on holiday and still luxuriating in the wise words from Seth Godin's Tribes.

Here he is on the discomfort of leadership:

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.

He's right. It's not all peaches and cream! As he says:
It's uncomfortable to stand up in front to strangers. 
It's uncomfortable to propose and idea that might fail. 
It's uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. 
It's uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. 
If you're not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it's almost certain you're not reaching your potential as leader.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My love is like a storybook story but it's as real as the feelings I feel (Mark Knopfler)

Seth Godin's Tribes is a treasure store house (I guess that's what a trove is).

Full of good stuff. 

As I read the mini chapter called Switching Tribes, his bit on what a seeker is really resonated with me.

His definition of a seeker:  
People who desire the feeling they get when they're part of a growing, vibrant tribe, but who are still looking for that feeling.
I'm a seeker.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today, and then one day you find ten years have got behind you (Pink Floyd)

I had a birthday yesterday, pish posh - the age is immaterial, and a number of colleagues, former and current, got in touch via Facebook.

That's pretty cool of FB (who also wished me a happy birthday btw - touching that out of all the millions on FB they should remember mine).

It (the colleagues getting in touch, not the FB remembering me thing) reminded me of a bit I read recently in This Is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper. 

Context - central character, Judd, is reflecting on seeing some old colleagues and saying farewell to them. 
It's quite likely that I will never see either one of them again, and the thought saddens me. They were daily fixtures in my life for the last seven years or so, and now they are gone. Or, more accurately, I am. Just like that. That's the thing about life: everything feels so permanent, but you can disappear in an instant.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race (Frank Sinatra)

End of the term and cream crackered.

I wonder (to myself) whether anyone's done any research into (the lack of) school productivity in the last week of school terms.

Oh, you over there towards the back. Ar har. You haven't done any, but think you may have read something somewhere.

Yeah, you're no help.

I'm tired, the rest of the staff are tired, and the kids are tired. Hard to imagine, when I started teaching back in the day, we had three term years. Man alive o. Tough. Brutal.

'Spech that second winter term.

Hold up. Next term is only three weeks long for the seniors, then onto externals. Revision time.

In effect, like that balloon thing in the picture, we have squeezed all of our quality teaching time into three shorter terms. 

Throw in all the disruptions that come every week in a busy school and, BAM, that creates pressure pressure, I got pressure, Oh Yeah. To quote the mighty Ray Davies of The Kinks.

No wonder we're cream crackered.

Which explains why this post is like that balloon - full of hot air, pretty, but ultimately vacuous.

Did I mention I'm tired?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

In the light you will find the road (Led Zeppelin)

Photo by David Moum on Unsplash
Hurricane Irma was not the only storm happening recently.

A good friend of mine was navigating a fairly brutal storm of her own.

Initially, there were a few flight or fight style decisions to be made. In the end, fight was the only option.Quitting is not an option if you follow the 'never give up, never surrender' mantra from Galaxy Quest!

Soul searching was the order of the day and she is (it's an ongoing process) weathering the tempest and learning tons of stuff about herself. 

Like what?

Stuff to do with 'above the line' thinking like owning the failure (that comes from, and leads to, greater empathy) with no blame or excuses.

And courage - she found it tough to admit she could do better; she told her students, "I need to improve. You need to improve".

Although it has tested her optimism, she has realised that stuff needs addressing if the culture is to improve.  

Finally, she has learned a valuable lesson in fortitude.

Dan Rockwell says: Own the consequences of your failures, but don’t circle the drain. Remorse for causing harm is healthy, but bags of guilt crush the spirit.

“Woe is me,” might seem noble, but it’s self-centered.

 She'll be stronger for this experience!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Though I'm dressed in these rags, I'll wear sable some day (The Animals)

Learning coaches - part three (I think)

After extensive research, comprehensive surveys of all our students, staff and parents, and considerable analysis and soul searching involving long nights hunched over results in deep concentration, with all due modesty and sobriety, I can reveal, in a world premiere kind of way, an info graphic to beat all info graphics on, fanfare please...Learning Coaches!!!

Footnote: Every place has its jargon so some explanation required - LC is Learning Centre (where our senior students study in a self-directed fashion); OA is Office Administrator; the three places listed as preferences are in the LC.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In the mist dark figures move and twist (Iron Maiden)

Photo by Harman Abiwardani on Unsplash
Currently, a friend of mine is looking the beast in the eye.

My advice? Listen to Dan Rockwell on the subject. I think he's spot on:
  • Create four options before choosing one path forward.
  • Believe in your ability to learn, grow, and adapt.
  • Remember times when you rose up and faced big challenges in the past.
  • Respond to your fear of losing by developing strategies and taking aggressive action.  
  • Think more about taking action than doing everything perfectly.
  • Hang with men and women of valor. Listen to people with battle scars. Doers are better than dreamers when it comes to looking the beast in the eye.
  • Worry more about the next play and less about winning.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Don't overthink it. Just do it.

Something like that.