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.