Thursday, December 26, 2019

Another year over, a new one just begun (John Lennon/ Yoko Ono)

Our 2019 Year 10 girls decorated an entrance way with this chalk mural. They are an incredibly talented bunch and great leaders/organisers.

As 2020 ticks around in the coming days, it's fun to speculate about the coming year. 

Let's hope it's a good one!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Emotional rescue (The Rolling Stones)


Emotional intelligence is hugely important in my job (Principal of two campuses). I can't see how anyone could be successful in this position without it.

Here's a list  of 19 things I aim to do that are considered important components of Emotional Intelligence.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Knowing me, knowing you, it's the best I can do (Abba)

This question, posed by George Couros, is a good one.

If integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching, then the other side of that coin is doing the right thing when everyone is watching.

Integrity doesn't get to take a holiday. Unlike me.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Transformer man, unlock the secrets, let us throw off the chains that hold you down (Neil Young)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Now that it's our looooooong summer holiday break (yay) my Baggy Trousers' posts will probably centre on passing on great posts from elsewhere. Seth Godin, for instance, is a very reliable guy!

Here he is discussing how the brightest students don't transition to leadership positions (as a school struggler and a repeater of important years I am an embodiment of that belief). 

Here's the post. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

No matter where our paths may wind we'll remember always Graduation day (The Beach Boys)

Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash
Post graduation day today.

Things went really well but those events are always a kind of out-of-body experience for me. 

I somehow watch myself performing and being super critical. My mind is going haywire as I speak - little micro decisions going on about words to accentuate, ad libs to avoid or ad libs made and immediately regretted and then the critical brain kicks in: move on, how is it going?, speed and pitch, calm down!, breathe!, focus! and so on ad nauseam until it's done and I'm sitting at home. But even then phrases I've used, verbal stumbles I've made - all tumble around in my head.

A colleague sent me a picture of me speaking at the lectern and it doesn't look like how I imagine myself. I look calm.

But pictures don't lie. Or do they?

Anyway, Graduation/Prize-giving: done for another year.

That's a relief!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Life goes on graduation day oh graduation day.(Chris Isaak)

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
Prizegiving and graduation speech making is almost upon me. A week to go, as I write this - less by the time this is posted.

Today's big goal was to complete my first draft. 

Nailed it, the draft, btw and within time (I have 5 minutes of alloted time to fill with inspirational WOW - Words of Warren).

Anyway, I was doing some research on my previous speeches when I came across three I wrote as Principal of Stratford High School over ten years ago.

The last one was for the 2009 ceremony. Sadly my father had passed away a short time before my speech so it was all pretty downbeat. It was a tough speech to make because I'd also made up my mind to leave the school and do some consultancy work in Qatar.

Coincidentally, it was when my youngest was in her final year at the school. I hadn't realised it was ten years ago. Crazy!

I wonder if anyone apart from me remembers all that, and ever glances back. Too much to think anyone remembers my speech too.

But yet, the ritual of the Principal's address goes on. 

Second draft and practices in front of the horses to come (also part of the ritual).

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tid bits of intuition that I been gettin (Frank Ocean)

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash
Recently, an article by Terry Heick on TeachThought's blog resonated with me. The whole article, Why Teachers Need One Another: An Argument For Affection And Collaboration In Pedagogy, (a little clumsily titled but you get the gist) is worth reading but this is the bit I want to highlight today:
What about a teacher? Who gets to say you’re doing a good job? And above all of the formal metrics and growth plans and walk-throughs, when you go to bed at night, whose approval are you really looking for? What do you look for to let you know, deep in your own heart, that you’re doing this thing ‘right’?
Woah. Those are some really good questions, right?

Some heavy thinking required, and not just for teachers. 

The rest of the article is as good as this and I like his conclusion:
The adage ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’ is staggeringly, painfully true, no matter how hard it can be. This doesn’t imply that you have to assimilate your thinking, or that other people should change theirs for you. It means being together matters. There is love around you, but you have to open yourself to it. Be light for others, but look for their glow as well.
This is true! 

In previous posts I've mentioned how I like a motto in our campus - 'Stronger Together'.

Among this past week's highlights: watching junior syndicate teachers lead students in an interactive game; reading the staff kudos mentions of other staff; and participating in a great professional learning session involving seven staff, have all been examples of 'being together matters'.

Monday, November 18, 2019

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet (Michael Jackson)

A timely reminder from the good people at The Guardian about educationalists on Twitter can be found here.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I went to a ULearn conference in Rotorua and attended a session by Craig Kemp. He made the bold claim that Twitter gave him the best Professional Development he'd ever had.

And you know what? He was right!!

If you are a teacher and you want to get better at what you do and you are not on Twitter you are crazy. Insane in the membrane.

Join up. NOW! 

How? That Guardian link (here it is again) will tell you how.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

War! Hah, what is it good for? (Edwin Starr)

Ever since I was a nipper I have been captivated by the example of Winston Churchill. This is an on-going appreciation (recently I watched Darkest Hour and rewatched Dunkirk on Netflix).

He features in this excellent piece from Time magazine's look at ten lessons from history of what makes a great leader.

Education is not war, but the lessons do apply to school life!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Monday, November 4, 2019

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink. I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink (The Beatles)

When I read this, I had to laugh. For a few reasons.

Number one: it comes from America and their term started in September! So after 2 months, the poor things are tired. Wah wah, cry me a river!

Hey northern hemisphere! We've been at it since January!!!

Given that - number two: these items from tired teachers ARE funny.

My favourites: 

“Wrote the date as 2015 on the board. The kids actually looked a little concerned.” —Brianna G.

“Tried to leave the house in slippers. Again.” —Katherine D.

“Tried to make coffee without water, then tried to make coffee again … without coffee.” —Stephanie T.

“Couldn’t remember my name when meeting a student and his mom.” —Nikolette B.

“Accidentally grabbed a glue stick out of my desk drawer and put it on like Chapstick.” —Kaitlin P.

Took my spouse to the supermarket and divided the shopping list. Then I purchased my items and drove off, leaving him stranded and confused.” —Yasmin M.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Your focus determines your reality (Qui Gon-Jinn)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
My attention has turned to goal setting interviews with staff and it's a thrill working through the various 360 feedback loops (themselves, their students and my observations) and supporting them towards self-improvement.

I'm big on goals. And having an opportunity to sit down with staff one on one and analysing areas of strength and growth before working through two draft goals for 2020 is huge for me and I hope for the staff.

Exhausting, but huge.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)

Colin Prentice's life and example is never far from my mind. 

His eye for talent was a start but his use of an economical phrase at opportune times was, at times, genius. He had an uncanny knack for saying and doing the right thing at the right time.

One mid eighties afternoon as we coincidentally walked in the same direction after school he said, "You could lead an English Department". 

In my fifth year of teaching, I hadn't had that as an ambition necessarily, but from that small moment a germ of an idea began to sprout.

For him, success was determined by the number of leaders he could support at Macleans College and then encourage to leave and go elsewhere to become Principals.

A staggering amount of us did just that.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Heading back to old familiar places (Paul McCartney/Wings)

Photo by oakie on Unsplash
We're engaged in redesigning our teacher work space and old library area for 2020.

Coincidentally, I came across this piece of great advice from an article in EdSurge:
The impulse to tackle aesthetics first is often premature, according to Rebecca Hare, who teaches art and design in St. Louis and has served as a design consultant for various schools. 
“So often I work with schools across the country going through this process, and everybody comes to me with the catalog and says, ‘We love these tables, what do you think?’” says Hare. “Nobody comes to me and says, ‘We have this incredible vision for learning, what do you think?’ So you really have to walk people back to the higher vision.
This is a great challenge (my emphasis in the above quote btw) and it helps by reminding me of previous higher visions like our redesigned staff area. The focus was to create a calm space that took your mind of teaching; I wanted it to be more like a cafe/lounge at home than a staff room.

With that in mind, I bought some occasional chairs, a cafe style table and chairs, and asked the staff for some art (turns out we have gifted artists in our midst).  It really worked out well!

Now my attention is turning to the old library and the terribly claustrophobic teacher work room next to it.

Bottom line: I'll now go back to the staff and trustees and ask them to give me their vision for this space.

Thanks for the reminder, Rebecca.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The amazing opening six seconds of I Feel Fine by George Harrison on guitar

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash
Feedback. Of the non musical variety.

Yeah, nah - I've never been a fan. Whether it be good or bad. Except on very rare occasions (Roger Moses, Terry Heaps, Colin Prentice: all were great at it).

Why is that?

Well, it all comes down to two things: relationships and communication.

Because, as George Couros says - to be effective feedback on my performance would need to be 'anchored in fairness, focus, and frequency'.

Fairness is about trust. Yes: Relationships. When trust and fairness are absent, I retreat into protection mode. Therefore, generally, in the past I have tended to associate feedback with criticism. 

Focus is about making the feedback specific, targeted, and brief. Yes: Communication. I appreciate bite-sized portions of off-the-cuff gratitude or recognition thanks.

Frequency is the accelerator. Informal and spontaneous is the secret to frequency.

Even with these three in place, I still find feedback tough to receive. My problems are that I either get very defensive minded, or I haven't believed the feedback is sincere (beware false flattery), or I don't believe the hype.

The trick in giving feedback to others would be to prove that I am trying to help guide them forward because I value them and have their backs. 

In other words: get the relationships right, then communicate effectively and appropriately!

And that, my friends, is worth doing!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

My goals beyond (Mahavishnu John McLaughlin)

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
Week two of the Term 3 into Term 4 study break and time to look ahead a tad.

  • Improvements to the Learning Centre procedures - daily study planning for students
  • Prep for external examinations and life after the seniors leave
  • Plans for the teachers' work space
  • Timetable for 2020
  • Goals for 2020

These are some of the things I'll be focusing on in the coming weeks.

Term 4 is always a weird time. The current year winds down and the focus shifts to the next one in many ways, as can be seen from that list. Most of them won't kick in until 2020.

Term 4 always seems like the time of year to catch up on things that all during the year we thought - I can do that in Term 4.

But it seldom works out that way, huh?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

School is out (Ry Cooder)

In my fanciful moments, while ironing, cutting trees, mowing lawns, pootling around in the Purdsmobile - that sort of thing, interesting metaphors bubble up to the surface,

For instance - I can think my school staff is a band.

Not a brass band or an orchestra. A rock band!

But the other bands work too. Because everyone is a musician but everyone is unique - with their own instrument and style of playing.

The lead singer may change over time but the band plays on and the road goes on forever.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

You're the apple of my eye (Badfinger)

We're into our last stages on settling on some 'low hanging fruit' from our recent campus gap analysis.

Collaboration and buy in are essential for the results of the gap analysis to gain traction as goals for our PD.

With that in mind, it's been a worthwhile process to gain the voice of students and staff on what how we are delivering on lessons, study and the all encompassing assignment that forms our educational process.

At the end of that analysis we are left with three areas that will be the source of our on-going focus in professional discussions.

These involve how to improve the Learning Coach conversations to get to deeper learning, teacher differentiation and concentration on a student-centred approach.

I'm excited by this impending concentrated focus on these three areas.

For me they tick a lot of crucial PD boxes:

  • They are relevant and personal to us
  • They will involve hands on strategies
  • It will be teachers learning from teachers (organic - using our campus expertise) 
  • It will form our long-term PD - from Term 4 onwards into 2020 
  • It treats teachers as professionals 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bring before me what is mine the seven seas of rhye (Queen)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

This post is inspired by Dan Rockwell's seven reasons why humility is a brilliant idea.

Here they are:

  1. You’re not as smart as you think. Make room for ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know. I am reasonably comfortable with this.
  2. People that seem stupid become smart as time passes. I definitely got smarter when I had my own children and even smarter since my daughter had her own child.
  3. Compliments are only partially true. People smile and tolerate your unattractive qualities. I'm very, very suspicious of compliments. Beware the insincere!
  4. Self-made is an arrogant myth. We all stand on the shoulders of others. You’re reaching too low if you aren’t standing on someone’s shoulders. Again - very comfortable with this - I have acknowledged my mentors plenty of times in this blog.
  5. Control is illusion. You live a life of dependency. Absolutely! 
  6. Success, in large part, is good fortune. You were at the right place at the right time. This is true for me. I've been lucky, but I've made my luck a lot too. I've also been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that resulted in my coming back to Hawke's Bay and being in the right place at the right time. Weird how things work out!

Monday, September 16, 2019

The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves (Joseph Campbell)

And what a job that is for some students!

Our recent Three Way Conferences exposed a few students who don't see as much vitality in themselves as we do.

Motivation is such a key ingredient. So much comes down to how much self belief and zest we have for things.

In my time, I've seen plenty of capable people who doubt themselves and don't therefore launch themselves and accept the adventure before them.

BTW: what a great word - vitality.

It wraps up two key aspects: the state of being strong and active; and, the power that gives us life (Star Wars calls it The Force). 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Three little birds pitch by my doorstep singin sweet songs of melodies pure and true (Bob Marley)

Photo by Tom Hill on Unsplash
Three Way Conferences are underway this week.

Three-way conferences involve a conversation between the student, their parents and their teacher. This approach gives students an opportunity to share with their parents their growth as a learner; an opportunity to accept accountability and responsibility for their progress and achievement, and an opportunity to demonstrate a growing understanding of their development as independent learners.

They are exhausting, but I love them.

They reduce me to the essentials that I feel as a teacher: a key worker; a servant leader; a crucial part of a crucial team; a self-evaluator; a reflector; an encourager!

They're always a demanding, draining experience which leave me wired for hours after wards as I go over conversations in my head.

What I love about them is they put me in my place: responsible to parents for the development and growth of my students.

That's a heavy load.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

If you look for problems you will find problems; if you look for solutions you will find solutions (Andy Gilbert)

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash
Recently, I've twice used the "Everyone has 83 problems" line to staff at school, so it's time to revisit an old post from my Wozza's Place blog to explain it further.

Here it is:

There is an old story about a man who came to see the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddha was a great teacher. He told the Buddha that he was a farmer. "I like farming," he said, "but sometimes it doesn't rain enough, and my crops fail. Last year we nearly starved. And sometimes it rains too much, so my yields aren't what I'd like them to be." The Buddha patiently listened to the man.

"I'm married too," said the man. "She's a good wife...I love her, in fact. But sometimes she nags me too much. And sometimes I get tired of her." The Buddha listened quietly.

"I have kids," said the man. "Good kids, too...but sometimes they don't show me enough respect. And sometimes..."

The man went on like this, laying out all his difficulties and worries. Finally he wound down and waited for the Buddha to say the words that would put everything right for him.

Instead the Buddha said, "I can't help you."

"What do you mean?" said the astonished man.

"Everybody's got problems," said the Buddha. "In fact, we've all got 83 problems, each one of us. Eighty-three problems, and there's nothing you can do about it. If you work really hard on one of them, maybe you can fix it - but if you do, another one will pop right into its place. For example you're going to lose your loved ones eventually. And you're going to die some day. Now there's a problem, and there's nothing you, or I, or anyone else can do about it."

The man became furious. "I thought you were a great teacher!" he shouted. "I thought you could help me! What good is your teaching then?"

The Buddha said, "Well, maybe it will help you with the eighty-fourth problem."

"The eighty-fourth problem,"
said the man. "What's the eighty-fourth problem?"

Said the Buddha, "You want to not have any problems."

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The bliss of solitude (William Wordsworth)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
While gearing up for Daffodil Day this week at school, I thought I'd do some daffodil themed positive closes during our morning LEAN meetings. 

Yes, Daffodil Day is actually August 30 in NZ, but our seniors have been on exam leave since then, so we decided to wait.

Today's close: Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything you do - Coldplay.

Then: As we live a life of ease, Everyone of us has all we need (has all we need), Sky of blue (sky of blue) and sea of green (and sea of green) - The Fab Four

After the yellow theme filters through, a brace from WW:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance - William Wordsworth

And some of the best few lines ever written:

In vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon that inward eye, Which is the bliss of solitude - WW

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw - a hundred billion bottles (The Police)

Back in the day (1973)... now (2019)

It's examination time.

As I did a recent exam invigilation I thought about what had changed since my days of sitting school exams.

  • Pens writing on exam papers? check
  • Times written on a board? tick
  • Rows of desks? you bet
  • Quiet students? check

As I did this mental tick box, I realised that only one thing had changed.


Every student had a water bottle on their desk from which they took a slurp every so often.


Apart from that though...

The tragedy of the last hundred or so years of education in NZ has been THAT NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

It's crazy. Crazy, I tell you!