Tuesday, June 26, 2018

It just might be a one shot deal (Frank Zappa)

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash
First impressions are tricky.

It's a one shot deal. 

At Woodford House, thanks to the fact that I wore a suit and was lead through the staff room, my initial visit made it seem like I was a politician looking for babies to kiss.

At Westmount Kaipara, staff report that I came across as 'staunch' when I was introduced by the campus administrators.

I'm not a politician but I do like 'staunch': loyal, faithful, trusty, committed, devoted, dedicated, dependable, reliable, steady, constant, hard-working, vigorous, stable, firm, steadfast.

Yeah, baby!

So, my thoughts have turned to how I might come across at my new campus in September. I'm super aware that leaders design and create an environment.

What environment do I want to create? Easy one to answer!

Apparently my 'relentless positivity' tag has been popularly spread already. One Regional Principal even said it's become my middle name! Cool!

Here's five things I intend to do quickly to embed that idea:

  • No office. That might be a shock to accepted norms in the UK setting. Good. I'm keen to continue my 'no office - hot desk - never in the same place twice' policy. Patent pending.
  • Learn names. Rain or shine I'll continue greeting students and parents/grandparents with a smile and a cheery 'good morning' as they arrive at school in the vans. When they leave at the end of each day it's a great opportunity to check on their day. It's a great time for learning names and getting to know who everybody is.
  • Listen to students. Basically, this is the start of establishing relationships. When I was interviewed the students targeted student voice as their area of greatest concern. So I'll be listening and thinking and working out my next steps.
  • Regularly, drink tea at interval and eat lunch at lunchtime. Leaders who are removed from the laughter and the banter and the fun of a staff room are missing out big time!
  • Embrace positive LEAN meetings and distributed leadership. A tight ten minute review and reflection time run by different staff each day ticks many boxes.

In the fullness of time, at the end of the day, when all is said and done - it's all about relationships and communication.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Let's work, be proud (Mick Jagger)

Working in the Learning Centre can be a joy. Like right now.

I'm scheduled to cover the LC at various times of the week.

When I walked into the LC for this period I checked in with our LC manager, as per our Learning Coach guidelines. She reported that students had been working solidly all morning. Given that yesterday was a fun day (wacky hair dos) this was especially gratifying and encouraging.

Right now, I'm here - listening to a variety of conversations - many centring on accounting - right now some boys are showing me car pictures but they'll go back to peer tutoring each other pretty quickly. Others are working hard and don't wish me to disturb them. Fair enough!

The Learning Centre (LC to us in the biz) is a vibrant part of our school - students self-direct themselves to whatever location suits them.

Right now the boys doing the peer tutoring are all sitting at the large collaboration table - all in a row on one side of the table.

The Year 12's are in English, some Year 13's are in the pin drop quiet zone, so the Year 11 students are all here right now, spread around the LC working on accounting. 

It all depends on choice - no one has directed them to work at the collaboration table or to study their accounting. 

Love the buzz in the LC right now. At the end of my period a student approaches me to find out how his One School Awards are going - turns out he's at Silver level! Brilliant!

All schools need an LC!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

And all the world is football shaped (XTC)

My life is measured out in four year FIFA World Cup cycles. 

It's always held during winter in NZ, one reason why I LOVE autumn and winter!

1958 - was staged in Sweden but I was only a few months old so not many memories of that one I'm sorry to report, or the next three really. 

1962's was in Chile, 1966's in England and 1970's in Mexico. For those last two I was a student at Royal Oak Primary and then Manukau Intermediate. None of these four were televised in the backwater that was NZ and I was only dimly conscious of them, thanks to my football magazines from England.

1974 - West Germany. No TV coverage in NZ for this one either. Attending Mt. Albert Grammar School (my second attempt at School Certificate), it's the first one that registered in my teenage boy fog. I listened to the final, hoping Holland would win, on the radio at 4 Ramelton Road, Mt Roskill.

1978 - Argentina. While enjoying my second year attending Auckland University, New Zealand TV showed Argentinian blue and white ticker tape confetti stuff falling from massive stadiums. Still living at home, I sat transfixed in the family living room.

1982 - Spain. During my second teaching practice at Havelock North High School, staying with a football mad Scottish family in freezing Hastings. NZ were in this one - we played Brazil and Scotland in our group!

1986 - Mexico. My first year teaching at Macleans College in Auckland. We were about to be a family of two boys so that may explain why my memories of this one are a tad dim.

1990 - Italy. My second year teaching at Waimea College in Nelson, NZ. As a family of three, we enjoyed the frosty mornings in Wakefield

1994 - United States.  My last year as Head of English at Waimea College.

1998 - France. Living in the School House at Mt. Albert Grammar where I was Senior Housemaster.

2002 - South Korea/ Japan. The third year as Deputy Principal at Cambridge High School in the Waikato.

2006 - Germany. Assistant Headteacher at King John School in Essex. Thousands of St George flags everywhere!

2010 - South Africa. The year found us in Doha, Qatar - I watched the games in our apartment thanks to a cable hook up.

2014 - Brazil. Second year at Woodford House in Havelock North. The staff interest was intensified by a sweep stake won by people with little knowledge of football. World Cups are like that - topsy turvy affairs.

2018 - Russia. My last few months being Principal at Westmount School's Kaipara campus. Watching in Maungaturoto while gearing up to leave for a return to England.

The years in between are a blur - I'm sure things happened, but they weren't up to much!

BTW - Wondering why the 2018 ball above is called Telstar 18?

Here's the answer:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

At times I don't know why (Elvis Perkins)

Photo by Mary Sill on Unsplash
Comparing New Zealand and English versions of OneSchool Global should be a fun and interesting by-product of my move in August to Focus' Kenley campus.

For one thing, I'm keen to compare the use of LEAN boards. In NZ we use them for our staff briefing each morning and then in our form classes. 

I don't even know if the LEAN meeting approach is replicated in blighty. I shall see!

Although in a past post I'd suggested that the LEAN concept was a slow grower, seven months in, I'm still not so sure.

Ironic, but now, part of my slight beef with the LEAN approach is how retroactive it is. Mostly we are forever reflecting on how yesterday was (particularly difficult if it's Monday morning - we struggle to remember Fridays). 

The aim, and worthwhile challenge, being to connect the retrospective gaze with a proactive change during the now so the future is a better one.  

That's the bit we are yet to master. It's a WIP (work in progress).

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Well we got no choice, all the boys and girls (Alice Cooper)

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash
For some reason I want to tell you about yesterday's school photo day. 

This year's version started with steady rain on the roof of the hall and a steady stream of students gathering for their class photos. A swimming-with-the-tide scene that is replicated in one form or another in pretty much every school on earth I suppose at one time or t'other.

Not a coincidence that all those fish (above picture) are presenting their best side. Apart from that one bottom right. There's always one!

At interval, after the obligatory staff photo, we had planned for a whole school photo outside on the courts. Right on cue the rain cleared up and the sun came out and dried up all the rain. And the itsy bitsy spi...

Sorry. I mean the kids.

...the kids buzzed themselves into year group rows and the photographer perched himself on top of the PE gear shed and took the shots that will become woven into the history of the school.

Shortly after that, the rain came down again. Perfect timing!

Why am I telling you all this?

Two reasons. 

One: I quipped to some boys this morning that all this effort was needed so that 30 years for now they could look back and marvel at how much hair they had.

Two: On the weekend, while sorting through my personal possessions I came across old photos from my time as a student (Royal Oak Primary, Manukau Intermediate, Mount Albert Grammar) and as a teacher at other schools. 

And I wondered. A lot. About all those people and the days when those photos were taken.

Prized possessions.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The five things I do when I don't know what to do!

What do I do when I don't know what to do?

Karen Boyes posed this question to me recently via one of her vlogs.

Robert Pirsig calls these moments 'gumption traps': moments of stuckness which sap your energy, undermine your faith or otherwise cause you to falter in your drive towards completing a project.

Here are my top tips to get over gumption traps:

1 Walk away. Give myself room to breathe. Very often - when I stop actively thinking about a problem a solution will come to me.

2 Talk it over. A problem shared and all that. I've noticed that often when people ask for my advice they will relate their issue, I will listen, I won't say much and they miraculously come to a realisation about how to get themselves out of a gumption trap.

3 Relentless positivity. This involves thinking about other times I've been stuck and knowing that eventually a solution happened. Thanks to my mum, good strong positive thinking has got me out of many a jam.

4 Deliberately go back to go forward. Sometimes I've missed a vital step and I need to retrace and adjust my approach.

5 If all else fails, re-evaluate: maybe I was stuck for a reason. Maybe I was pointed in the wrong direction. This one means I need to re-evaluate this project. I guess this one is my 'don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff' fallback position.