Sunday, July 30, 2017

I feel reborn, I'm like a Phoenix rising from Arizona (Frank Costanza)

Above the line thinking by the cool kids at Teacher Academy

Time at Teachers' Academy with the most wonderful Karen Boyes has reaffirmed some long held beliefs:

  • Teachers are hilarious
  • There are some great teachers out there in Westmount schools
  • Teachers are not afraid (for the most part) to challenge themselves and give things a go
  • My colleagues are great learners
  • The group chemistry is a mysterious and wondrous thing and we had an awesome bunch. Especially the small group of Murray, Kelsi, Gina, Renée and me (none of whom I knew before starting this PD and only Renée I'd met briefly before)

How wondrous? When we were given a task during the three days at Teacher Academy and told we could go anywhere to work, we stayed together as a group without any tacit agreement to do so (the only group to do that btw) - we just liked each other's company obviously. Wondrous.

I've known this feeling before a few times. At UNITEC 1999-2000 doing a post graduate diploma I was in a large bunch of educators and we all instantly clicked. Even the co-ordinators of the course commented on it!

The power of a team that clicks. Mighty.

So - raise your glasses and salute Super G, Muzza, K Dawg, Renoir and, erm, me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Well she's walking through the clouds with a circus mind that's running wild (Jimi Hendrix)

It's conference and PD time in Wozza's World this week.

I am super impressed at the commitment by my current employer to provide all staff with quality PD opportunities. Yes, all!

These things aren't cheap - three days out of school for each staff member, accommodation for two nights, flights and so on. A massive undertaking.

With great outcomes! In all sorts of ways.

One of the things I missed at Woodford House (and I do really love you WH and I do kind of understand why but not really) was the lack of such opportunities for me personally.

This week there have been two great professional development events for me to attend. The first was about Campus Trading and the financial aspects of what makes Westmount and OneSchool Global keep on ticking. 

Sure, some of it was gobbledegook and way over my pretty little head, but it was wonderful to see colleagues getting so passionate about revenue streams and stuff. Very inspiring!

Now, okay, normally my eyes glaze over when finances are involved but I came away with new, and deeper, and more meaningful appreciation for the context I work in. And that was a good feeling people!

Next up are three days leadership PD with the delightful Karen Boyes. Rightfully world famous in Nu Zild, Karen is a superb presenter, and all round lovely person. She makes learning fun! 

Three days with Karen is a joy.

Niggles: sorry, but, going forward, if I hear one more , learning journey underpinning the nitty gritty, I will cover off a retreat...and may just scream!

Again we are positioned in rows facing forward, looking at a screen, as a talented individual lectures us (at times about the nastiness of this practice in the 21st century). The irony is not lost on them. But still it continues.

And the English teacher in me hates it when slides to power points have grammatical errors. Okay, I know most people d'o'n't' care about apostrophes but would it kill to get them proofread?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Carpe diem

What do the 13 most innovative schools in the world have in common?

Well, for a start, they don't look like traditional schools with separate classrooms and siloed subjects and they do deal with the real world and they do change the role of the 'teacher' forever.

In short they don't look like 99% of New Zealand schools.

And that's a worry. And it needs to change. And it needs to change now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's stopped rainin', everybody's in a play and, don't you know, it's a beautiful new day (Electric Light Orchestra)

Decisions decisions.

Recently, I wrote about my daily decision making. Sometimes decisions can come back to bite me, but I can't travel back in time via Rapid Roy (Skoda Rapid), my version of a DeLorean, and do over. Gotta live with a bad decision and endeavour to learn from it.

I like to continually remind myself of Buddhism's eightfold components to the path (which it itself is the fourth noble truth). 

Right Mindfulness is one of the eight.

Right mindfulness means being aware, mindful and attentive to three things: the activities of the body; sensations/ feelings; thoughts/ideas.

The head and the heart are clearly key components to Right Mindfulness.

Earlier this year, The Leadership Freak (a.k.a. Dan Rockwell) weighed up some of the head and heart-based questions that lead to decisions. I bookmarked the post and (like the noble eightfold path) return to it from time to time.

His judgement is that heart-based questions like:

  • What does integrity/honesty/openness tell you to do?
  • What does respect for others tell you to do?
  • What does compassion/kindness tell you to do?
  • What does courage/confidence tell you to do?
should rule the day.

He's really talking about Right Mindfulness, and asking some brilliant questions.

The way is clear.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Knock me down get back up again (Tom Cochrane)

I would say that I'm an optimist. My lovely wife of 34 years, the present Mrs Purdy, however, is not!

We balance each other.

I'm not sure if we inherited those traits. Thinking about our parents, I don't think so. 

Instead, we grew into them over time via our experiences. 

According to an article in Edutopia by Marcus Conyers and Donna Wilson, research has demonstrated that optimism, traditionally considered to be an unchangeable trait, is a way of thinking that can be learned and enhanced. 

Which is a good thing because people with a positive viewpoint have less stress, better creative problem-solving skills, and better health outcomes than less optimistic people. 

This all has a spin off for education because, as Conyers and Wilson point out, 'optimistic learners are more likely to persist in the sometimes-hard work of learning, motivated by the belief that they can accomplish their learning goals'. 

Good stuff, right! As students get more optimistic  they are motivated to progress through learning difficulties and to attain higher levels of achievement. More optimistic students also have greater resistance to depression and the negative effects of stress.

Okay, so, how do we grow the optimism trait. Positive reinforcement.

Conyer and Wilson again: 
Emphasizing positive emotions helps students become more resilient and more likely to persevere with learning tasks. Their persistence is fueled by the belief that they will triumph over difficulty, learn from their mistakes, overcome plateaus in their performance, and progress. The mantra "I think I can! I think I can!" from an all-time favorite story, The Little Engine That Could, illustrates practical optimistic thinking.
The emphasis we have at school on positive relationships, restorative practices and a Not Achieved grade being a Not Yet grade are all part of emphasising optimism.

I've been working on the present Mrs Purdy's natural inclination towards pessimism for 34 years. Some things take time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

There's a time a for joy, a time for tears, a time we'll treasure through the years - we'll remember always Graduation day (The Beach Boys)

Schools are incredible places.

Great meeting places and melting pots for so much creative energy. 

I've spent a few days watching, with great pride, some talented students pull together a Graduation ceremony for last year's Year 13 students. 

[Why do we do that in July? Don't ask. But we do (or, we did - this is its last year - instead we'll be combining graduation with prizegiving in December from now on)]

Anyway - young people are constantly amazing. With a minimum of adult supervision, our Year 12's and 13's have pulled together, pooled their considerable talents, and transformed our gym into a worthy theatre of celebration.

No mean feat, let me tell you.

I am blown away by their skills and abilities. Whether it be performing (guitarists, singers, choreographers, drummers) or a support role (riggers, sound tech, stage design, painters, set decorators, electrical tech and so on). Pretty much everything has been done by our amazing students.

Great real world learning as they problem solve, communicate, collaborate, visualise, and do.

I take my hat off to them!!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Silver people on the shoreline, let us be (Crosby Stills Nash)

Google published some meta-analysis results recently from within their own organisation about what makes a great Google manager. 

Here they are in ranked order (first to last):

  • Be a good coach;
  • Empower your team and don't micromanage;
  • Express interest in employee's success and well-being;
  • Be productive and results-oriented;
  • Be a good communicator and listen to your team;
  • Help your employees with career development;
  • Have a clear vision and strategy for the team; and
  • Have key technical skills, so you can help advise the team.
I like this list.