Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Whoa! I feel nice, like sugar and spice. I feel nice, like sugar and spice So nice, so nice (James Brown)

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important and you do that by being genuine and humble.

Nelson Mandala

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult (Warren Bennis)

Thinking of my wonderful colleagues at OneSchool Global New Zealand and specifically those in the Hastings and Gisborne campuses today - hope you are all enjoying a terrific family time!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The purpose of education

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The engineer, Richard Hamming, on the purpose of education:

"Teachers should prepare the student for the student's future, not for the teacher's past."

Source: The Art of Doing Science and Engineering

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Even in our deepest, most lasting friendships, we never speak as openly as when we face a blank page and address a reader we do not know (Michel Houellebecq)

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

Like literature, music can overwhelm you with sudden emotion, can move you to absolute sorrow or ecstacy; like literature, painting has the power to astonish, and to make you see the world through fresh eyes. But only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, its limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, interesting, exciting or repugnant.

Michel Houellebecq (in Submission)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Will I feel it? (Sarah Mary Chadwick)

If you are in the southern hemisphere, our summer holidays are underway from today. Traditionally at this time of the year I keep Baggy Trousers ticking over with quotes relating to education, learning and teaching.  

Some old favourites may be making an appearance (see if you can spot them).

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The future's in the air, can feel it everywhere, blowing with the wind of change (Scorpions)

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash




  1. the act or result of something becoming different 
  2. replacing something

  3. the process of replacing something with something new or different 

One of the standing truisms around my school is that change is the only constant and, therefore, you need to be adaptable, receptive to change, to work here.

Change is messy. That's why reams (zigabits) have been written about it. Books, careers, doctorate theses - you name it - all devoted to the process and advice given to adjust or else get left behind (Dr Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese is a famous take on it that I especially enjoy reading from time to time - Move with the cheese!)

One of the key principles of the All Blacks' philosophy is - when at the top of your game, change your game.

Like I said, it can be a messy process. They find that out from time to time by losing a game (most recently to Argentina for the first time, so they changed/adapted and beat them 38 nil a week later).

Sometimes change in education feels glacial (it's a bit oil tanker-ish after all). At other times, mysteriously fast. Sometimes it's managed well, at other times - not so well.

One of the best pieces of advice I've come across when change isn't managed well (outside of Who Moved My Cheese):
 'The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.' (Steve Maraboli).

Handling change the way Donald Trump is currently doing is only leading to pain for him and others.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, when push comes to shove, I agree with Ginni Rometty who says, 'Growth and comfort do not coexist.' 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? (Dionne Warwick)

Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

As we conclude one cycle of teacher inquiries and embark on the next, it's a good time to take stock and re-establish the purpose of teacher enquiries.

What are they and why do them?

The Best Evidence Synthesis snazzily says that 'Teacher inquiry should be based on your students' learning needs, your own learning needs, and the impact of your practice on student learning and achievement'.

For me, that means finding an area that I am passionate about understanding and improving. It has to be worthwhile to me because it will likely last a year of careful reflection.

My next inquiry will focus on the motivations that drive my students to succeed in NCEA internal Achievement Standards and externals. 

I believe that the motivations are complex, and that there is a real imbalance and I want to investigate that for 2021.

As per my last teacher inquiry, you'll be reading about my progress in this blog from time to time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone else (Family Of The Year)

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

While talking to a colleague recently about her husband's twists and turns to school leadership (he was rescued from a lesser life by a teacher who saw his potential and encouraged him to see a better future) reminded me of a few things.

The question that opens this blog for one: What was the duty of the teacher if not to inspire?

For another my own background: as I failed school no one gave up on me. Ever. No one said - you've failed everything. I think you're done.

As a very young teacher, I remember once at Macleans College making a big mistake with a student - she wanted to be Head Girl and I tried to temper her ambitions because I wasn't sure it was realistic. Her sister, quite rightly, took me to task and I felt ashamed and apologised. 

You know the ending - she became Head Girl! 

And I relearnt a valuable lesson.

Whaia kia maia. Never give up, never surrender!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Motivation is what gets you started (Jim Ryun)

Last week we bid farewell to the senior students - off on study leave for the NCEA External Examinations.

It's been a tough few weeks as we've sought to motivate them to create study plans, complete practice essays, and have a revision programme in place.

The extrinsic and intrinsic motivations that are in play during the three terms that concentrate on Internal Achievement Standards, don't appear to apply to the Externals.

We need a rethink!

Interestingly, it seems the opposite is true in the northern hemisphere, affected by lock-downs and Covid-19 disruptions. There teachers are struggling to motivate students because there aren't exams! 

This (what motivates students and how we sustain and adapt for different circumstances) will be my Teacher Inquiry for 2021!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A manager is a guide. He takes a group of people and says, ‘With you I can make us a success; I can show you the way (Arsène Wenger)

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

Arsène Wenger's autobiography has an interesting section on what he thinks makes someone a coach. Here's his summary about what a coach should have:

  • A clear vision, a strategy
  • Clear expression, good communication, remains lucid
  • Action on their plans and buy in from the team members
  • Ability to handle stress, judgement, pressure
  • Reflective - able to be objective (someone who doesn't respond to stress with passivity or aggressiveness)
  • Strong convictions
  • Role models behaviour, values and words to influence others possitively
  • Experience and empathy for others' opinions, keeping an open mind
  • Be humane, compassionate
  • Seeks out the best, aims for excellence
  • Detail oriented - focusing attention on each detail

It's quite a list and very demanding. He clearly is the epitome of each bullet point.

The last one is interesting to me - when does detail oriented stray into micro-management.

In the book he says that he knows all of the secrets into the building of the Emirates stadium. He was clearly involved every step of the way in its construction but I don't get the sense that he micro-managed the project. In fact, how could he? He was managing Arsenal to 19 Champion League qualifications along the way.

Detail oriented. I like that.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Dear Mr. President, can I ask you one question? (John Mellencamp)

The United States election captured students' and staff' attention to an extraordinary degree last week.

It would be fair to say that talk in the staff room was centred around how Trump was going to lose and, therefore, it would be the end of his divisive rhetoric. And outright lies.

It hasn't turned out to be as clear cut as hoped, with a huge number of Americans voting for the Donald.

One of his supporters, when asked why she voted for him even though she knew he often had his foot in his mouth, shrugged and simply stated, "He's not a politician".

Which I guess points to a huge, tremendous distrust of politicians in America.

Watching on from New Zealand, it baffles the mind why it's taken so long to count votes and declare a winner. 

In a democracy, it's an incredible thing for the President to ask that counting votes should stop. I guess that would certainly speed things up though. Democracy is such a messy thing - all those bothersome people who vote for the other guy.

I kind of get that though - when Arsenal were winning the Premier League after one game this year (thanks to the alphabet) I thought they should have stopped the season right there - no need to play any more games. Just crown us Champions and move along. Nothing to see here.

Meanwhile we have the undignified incumbent and his family stirring up rebellion over alleged cheating without any proof. It's just unfair! 


Monday, November 2, 2020

I should have known, should have known, how everything is coming up roses (Black)

Currently, the focus at school has shifted a little to prepare for our upcoming ERO visits to my two campuses in Gisborne and Hastings.

Images from The Hotel Inspector episode of Fawlty Towers are never far away when I prepare for inspections. 

It's ripe for comic confusion as attempts to be seen in a true light are made.

Checklists and a vague nervousness akin to when I was observed by senior leaders as a young teacher are the order of the day. It's difficult to shake that feeling.

My favourite inspection was actually when I was a young teacher at Macleans College back in the late eighties. Turned out my ERO visitor was my former tutor at Training College - Ron Martin.

A few minutes after walking into my English classroom he took over the lesson. It was great! As he said to me afterwards, he can tell within 30 seconds how things are in the room and so he decided to join in the fun.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Nothings succeeds like a budgerigar

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The philosphical tension between how much self-directed rope to give senior students is quite a real one.

On one hand - the desire for students to succeed (the down side of that is the lack of desire for students to fail, and thereby learn about themselves); and on the other - the desire for them to be (or become) self-directed learners.

How much do we intervene when they are poised to fail? Riddle me that. How much?

I checked my previous posts on self-directed learning on this blog and I think there's a real danger, from time to time, of forgetting the central precepts of SDL.

I wrote this two years ago: 

What conditions need to exist to improve S-DL?

Great question. Here's my response!

  • Environment (personalised places/conditions to do it)
  • Learning goals (set by the student and owned!)
  • Choice (what to study and when to study)
  • Self-reflection (How am I doing? What needs to change?)
  • Support: Learning coaches (help is on the way)
BTW: Those last two are linked. Self-reflection is tough for kids and that's why a coach is a crucial ingredient.

When one or more of those elements are missing there's an imbalance in the force.

There's also potential imbalance when the desire for results becomes a primary driving force and coaching becomes something else.

It's a dilly of a pickle.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this (Andy Grammer)

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

School Inspections can induce a number of emotions.

This week, the powers that be paid a visit to my two campuses.

Cue emoticon city Arizona: apprehension (that we'll be seen in our true light - sometimes a one off image can lodge in the brain); pride in our campuses; elation at showing off the great people at our workplace.

I love them (really) because an inspection means you see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes - a bit like showing someone around your home. You appreciate anew what you have!

They are also a great chance to get other's impressions of how we are doing and what we could do better.

In this case, this week, it was an excellent experience with valuable input from a hugely supportive team, and great preparation for an ERO visit that is scheduled for November. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

What a day for a daydreamin' boy (The Lovin' Spoonfull)

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

I'm a day dreamer from way back.

You know that opening scene from Boyhood, with the boy on his back looking up at the sky? That was me at his age.

Jacky often asks me what I'm thinking when I'm gazing out of the window at home.

The answer is often, "I'm just looking at the clouds". True fact!

A colleague of mind posted this International Cloud Atlas on his site three years ago - and it's still cool.

Everything you may wish to know about clouds is right there, and it's fun to use the compare clouds function as well.

Look up!

Monday, October 12, 2020

I don’t look at the passport of people; I look at their quality and their attitude (Arsène Wenger)

If you're looking for a leader to learn from, may I suggest you consider A
rsène Wenger, the former manager of Arsenal F.C. for 22 years.

He has a new book out (today in fact) that I can't wait to read, and learn from.

Yes, I am an Arsenal fan, but I am also a leader and if I want to improve (and I do) then I need to learn from the best.

This Guardian article is a good place to start. It features a terrific interview with Wenger, the questions coming from a wide range of celebrities, including a certain Chelsea and now Spurs manager.

But I still want that book!

It's called My Life In Red and White. Brilliant title. I need a copy. Fast!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The brain acts as a promiscuous encoding device (Oliver Hardt)

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

The brain is amazing. 

To remember, the brain must actively forget (I recommend reading the whole article).

Oliver Hardt notes that at night many people can recall even the most mundane events of their day in detail, but then they forget them in the following days or weeks.

The reason, he thinks, is that the brain doesn’t know straight away what is important and what isn’t, so it tries to remember as much as possible at first, but gradually forgets most things. “Forgetting serves as a filter,” Hardt said. “It filters out the stuff that the brain deems unimportant.”

In the southern hemisphere generally, and NZ specifically, we're into the second week of a study break between terms.

After we return, students will have roughly 4 weeks to prepare for external exams.

How much will they remember from the last weeks of Term 3, let alone from pre-lockdown, or during our Alert Level 4 Lockdown?

Our outdated, no longer fit for purpose, rationale for having external exams needs re-examining at least and, hopefully, abolishing in my brain's opinion.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Another pleasant day in the countryside (Crowded House)

Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

Marking student work is something I'm a little rusty at, but it came back pretty quickly today.

It feels good to have this done, half way through my holidays. 

My original thoughts were to have this completed before heading off to New Plymouth on holiday but, predictably, other, more fun things, took my attention away.

Anyway, it's done, as is my mid holiday catch up with emails (39 of them).

So, I now have no excuses for some home projects: secure the back paddock so that the chickens don't get into Jacky's gardens - they love digging up her bulbs; a sandpit for Asher; gardening - loads to do here; figure out the irrigation system so that we have some water getting to the plants this summer. 

That's enough to be going on with.

Aside from all that stuff, I also want to lounge around next week, listening to music, and reading some things from my stockpile of books, and blogging (of course).

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Start spreading the news (Frank Sinatra)

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Seth Godin in his blog explains how to bridge the gap between early adopters and the larger group who want to get involved with something that’s proven, popular and effective. 

The early adopters ask, “is it new?”

The early majority ask, “did it work?” and perhaps, “what’s everyone else doing?”

Interestingly, my father was an early adopter - whatever was new in the electronic range was of interest to him. In contrast, I'm more inclined to be one of those who follows the early adopters. 

For instance, when CDs came out in the 1990s I was a hold out. Records were/are my big love but I eventually had to give in when vinyl became hard to get, as they'd been virtually replaced by CDs.  

Interesting to note, that I was not someone who got rid of my vinyl, or my CDs when the next thing - non tactile music files/ streaming services began busily replacing CDs.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I do my work for early adopters. OneSchool Global, as an organisation. loves change and loves to keep innovating. That makes work an exciting place to be.

If you're not willing to go along with that, you may feel some tension/a chasm between the 'is it new?' and 'did it work?' questions.

Whatever your preference, Seth says that if you delight the early adopters within an organisation, they spread the word. 

That is how the chasm is crossed–not with fancy ads or clever hype, but because the people who are engaged do the generous work of telling the others.

As always, it will be interesting to observe this process in action for the next set of organisational changes in 2021. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Imagination is more important than knowledge (Einstein)

Photo by Karine Germain on Unsplash

We're knee deep in election coverage in New Zealand; everywhere I go there are billboards advertising political parties and leaders; all the noise is about the changes that need to happen! So buy our brand!

An aspect that is sometimes forgotten when change is mooted in any forum is the one that articulates a dynamic vision for the future.

It's always advantageous to provide a vision story, one that explains where we're going. It grabs people's imagination and let's them board the train to a worthwhile destination.

According to Paul Smith, “A vision is a picture of the future so compelling, people want to go there with you.” 

All it takes is a story that captures the emotion of the vision and connects people to what life will be like when you get there.

As Einstein knew in 1924, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution".

Pretty simple really, but it's a story that is not often told I find.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Listen, do you want to know a secret? (The Beatles)

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

It really bothers me when I'm talking to someone and they are scanning the room looking for the next person to talk to.

Whenever I attended parties back in the day (okay, yes, it was a long time ago, I admit) it was often a girl or guy distracted by the pretty face entering the room.

I like to feel valued. Who doesn't?

Here's some useful advice if you're easily distracted or not a good listener:

Pretend that every single person you encounter has a sign around their neck that says, ‘make me feel important.’

Here's some more (mostly good advice) courtesy of Dan Rockwell's blog:
  • Put away your cell phone.
  • Notice something good about everyone.
  • Stop looking around. Eye contact signals interest and respect.
  • Ask, “How did you learn to do that?”
  • Speak hard truths with forward-facing kindness. [Yeah, I don't know what that means either]
  • Seek input/advice. “What do you think?”
  • Provide useful feedback.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Through a glass eye your throne Is the one danger zone, take me to the pilot for control (Elton John)

Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

Being a mentor and/or having a mentor is a fundamental part of teaching, leading a school..actually - leading a fulfilling life!

I've had this article from 'TED ideas' in my bookmarks for a while: looking at the five types of mentors you need in your life, Time to trot it out.

Mentor #1: The master of craft

If you want to be the best teacher, Principal, Head of Department...ask yourself, 'Who are the most iconic figures in that area that you have access to? This person can function as your personal Jedi master, someone who’s accumulated their wisdom through years of experience and who can provide insight and fine-tune your skills. As a Principal I often reach out to fellow Principals for advice. In my current position I'm part of a network of ten other Campus Principals. Three of them are my sounding boards for advice when I've needed it.

Mentor #2:
The champion of your cause

This mentor is someone who has your back, who will talk you up to others, and it’s important to have one of these in your current workplace. Of those ten colleagues, Jim Seumanu would be my go to guy here.

Mentor #3: The co-pilot

Another name for this type: Your best work bud. The co-pilot is the colleague who can listen to you vent over coffee. This kind of mentoring relationship is best when it’s close to equally reciprocal. Sadly, the role of Principal doesn't lend itself to this one easily. Actually my wife is both my co-pilot and my anchor (as outlined below). 

Mentor #4:
The anchor

This person doesn’t have to work in education — in fact, it could be a friend or family member (Jacky is both). While your champion supports you to achieve specific career goals, your anchor is a confidante and a sounding board. Because the anchor is keeping your overall best interests in mind, they can be particularly insightful when it comes to setting priorities, achieving work-life balance, and not losing sight of your values.

Mentor #5:
The reverse mentor

Pay attention to learning from the people you’re mentoring, even though they may have fewer years in the workplace than you. I've definitely learnt a lot from my colleagues over the years.

Well, that was fun. Have a go yourself, if you think you are clever enough. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

It keeps changing fast and it don't last for long (John Denver)

In 2020, nothing is off the table.

Colorado just went from a massive heatwave to a snowstorm in 48 hours.

This, plus Donald Trump has been nominated (luckily, along with over 200 other people) for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was nominated by a right-wing Norwegian. 

Who says right-wing Norwegians don't have a sense of humour?

Sunday, September 6, 2020

I've seen this place before, a thousand times or more (Joe Molland)

Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

An interesting week
 has just passed at school with a couple of almost noteworthy thoughts entering my consciousness that, for some reason, I feel inclined to share with y'all.

  1. First thought is around exam invigilation. Yes, it's that time again - mock exams/ practice exams/ benchmark exams/ mid-year exams - whatever you want to call them it still adds up to braindead invigilation for teachers. It struck me again how things haven't changed since the days I was doing these things. In fact, the only difference I can see is the appearance of water bottles. All students have these now, lined up on their desks with their pens and test papers, but back in the seventies I would have been laughed out of MAGS if I'd fronted up with one. Funny old world innit!
  2. On Tuesday, I had to attend a three hour zoom on risk management for my Hastings campus, then, a day later, I had to attend another three hour zoom on risk management for my Gisborne campus. I hadn't been looking forward to it especially - nor was I dreading it. It was just something I had to do. Then the unexpected happened: I actually really enjoyed each one. Why was that? Well, during and afterwards, it struck me as a vitally important thing to be concerned about, and as my name is attached to each action I was an especially eager participant. I was also included in all the discussions, as, sensibly, the presenter didn't lecture us for three hours. For me the time went quickly and now I'm heavily invested in getting the risk management side of things nailed down for both campuses. Extraordinary. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

RIP Sir Ken Robinson

Sadly Sir Ken Robinson passed away recently, but his influence will certainly live on.

Sir Ken's TED Talk (Do schools kill creativity?) is justifiably well known. If you haven't heard/seen it you are in for a treat.

Here's his lesser known, but also funny and brilliant, sequel to that stellar speech:

Tread softly.

Thank you Sir Ken Robinson.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Quality is the goal of Art (Robert M. Pirsig)

Photo by Raquel Martínez on Unsplash

A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who's bound to have some characteristics of Quality.

Robert M. Pirsig (in chapter 24, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation! (Thomas Oppong)

Photo by Rubén García on Unsplash

It's our duty to read; a responsibility, really. Without reading = poverty of thought.

In our staffroom at school, we talk a lot about reading. What we're reading, where we read, how to teach our students reading, when we are reading, our favourite books, book club books and events...

But we don't often touch on why we read.

Thomas Oppong wrote an interesting piece that I have bookmarked to read in my leisure. His claim is that reading rewires parts of our brain. 

He cites Maryanne Wolf's explanation in her book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain:
Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. . . . Our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of the human brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.
This is all important for educators as reading involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more.

It's why we teach our students to read and encourage them to keep up the habit for life.

As an adult, I crave that mental stimulation. I'm proud to say, I'm a reader!

Want another reason it's a good idea to read? Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brain healthier (according to Oppong).

Okay, off to continue reading more of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Quality...you know what it is, yet you don't know what it is (Robert M. Pirsig)

Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

It's time to celebrate noodling!

Here's Seth Godin on the subject:

If someone offers you “feedback,” your Spidey sense might start to tingle. Feedback isn’t often part of a warm and fuzzy feeling.

“Advice” is better. If you ask someone else for advice, you’re engaging them in your journey.

But, as Peter Shepherd points out, “noodling” is the best of all. When we start noodling over an idea, we can be sure that no one is going to get injured.

Currently I'm reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the fifth time. I'm a fan of Robert M. Pirsig's book and in particularly his noodling style. 

He writes his chautauqua (noodling his way through thoughts  on things like 'quality') interspersed with his noodling travelogue from Minnesota to California with his 11 year old son, Chris.

I come back to his thoughts about teaching writing and 'quality' again and again because I find my thinking develops each time I read it in my own noodling way.

And, Seth/Peter's right - no one is getting injured along the way.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Now, is, be here now (George Harrison)


Motivation is a big part of our lives and our jobs (there is a link isn't there).

Whenever I feel truly valued, I feel that my skills are appreciated and that there is a force pushing my thinking on where I could go.

The best Principal/mentor I've known (Colin Prentice) always found the balance of appreciating me, giving me his time but asking me questions and pushing my thinking on where I could go. Combined that would give me the feeling that I was on the right path, but I had work to do.

I once met with him at Mt Roskill Grammar after he'd left Macleans. He had an appointment coming up and had to get to some embassy, so he was checking the clock in his office during my meeting with him. But somehow I went away from that meeting feeling like I'd had his complete attention and was energised with possibilities. 

He was right in the moment. At all times. A rare thing.

Giving students that same undivided attention is a difficult, but worthwhile pursuit.

It's difficult because there are many clambering for attention, all the time. But it's doable. If you have the attitude.

Now, is.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

It's make believe until it's only a matter of time, and some might have learned to adjust but then it never was a matter of trust (Billy Joel)

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash

Recently, I was asked a 'what if' question. 

My policy is to answer direct questions as honestly as I can, so I did.

Specifically, the question was, what if you had a magic wand and could bring about one change. What would it be?

I wrote the first thing that came to mind - which was, 'more trust'.

Co-incidentally, after submitting my response I reread this article from George Couros.

It's about the one trait that distinguishes effective teams: trust.

George mentions a finding from Google's research into team effectiveness:
In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.
In other words, great teams thrive on trust.

My spur of the moment thought was a good one.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen (Winston Churchill)

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Listening is a skill, and like any skill it needs tending to from time to time.

Because, let's face it, listening to someone else's point of view can be tricky at times.

Listening is often hard work. Zoom meetings do NOT help in this regard.

Impatience is a factor. Zoom meetings do NOT help in this regard.

And, patience can be stretched to the limits. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to be heard.

I sometimes struggle with people who love listening to the sound of their own voice.  

What to do in these situations. What to do?

I like Dan Rockwell's advice. His three C's.

Two in particular resonate with me.

Calmness - listening requires a calm spirit (I aim to tell all my restless thoughts to go forth and multiply)

And, compartmentalisation. As he says, "Set a fence around your listening space. You don't have anything else to do except attend to the person speaking."

This last one is much easier to do in person. Zoom is not so easy. 

But I'll work on it. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Thirty minutes of cheerful ritual humiliation of the old and greedy. And could we have our first contestant, please! (Monty Python)

Being in a staff skit at school is a well accepted ritual.

It goes with the territory.

This week the staff is performing as a bunch of Fred Daggs as we recreate the Gumboot Song during a cultural day celebration.

Each class was assigned a country by the Year 13 students and obviously we landed Aotearoa.

My first involvement in this form of ritual humiliation was in my first year of teaching - 1983 at New Plymouth Boys' High School. The staff had to do a performance as part of an old boys' day. We elected to do a Monty Python skit - the secret service/ cricket one. A lot of laughs!

There have been many memorable further staff shenanigans over the years - often at school camps and assemblies.

My last one was at Woodford House, 2016 - the staff did ABBA's  Mamma Mia in seventies garb. Hilarious.

It's all part of teaching - just another role, where you check your dignity at the door - you have to get involved and shed your inhibitions.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Well she got her daddy's car and she cruised through the hamburger stand now. Seems she forgot all about the library like she told her old man now and with the radio blasting goes cruising just as fast as she can now (Beach Boys)

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

Seth Godin tells us that most of what we do at work is one of three things: 
  • Fun: It's engaging, it gives us satisfaction, people smile.
  • Urgent: Someone else (or perhaps we) decided that this paper is on fire and it has to be extinguished before anything else happens.
  • Fear-based: Most common of all, the things we do to protect ourselves from the fear we'd have to sit with if we didn't do them.
  • Not on this list: importantA day spent doing important work is rare indeed. Precious, too.
Today was a good one at work for me (must be, because that's what I told a fellow Principal who rang me on the way home today to check in with me).

Fun - staff meeting at 8.15 is always fun times, plus I had fun teaching my Year 10 English class and learning some dance steps for a staff item after school. I smile a lot at student actions during the day - one boy today was hilariously wearing surgical gloves - when I asked why (DER!) - he said, with a grin - 'Covid!'

Urgentchecking the UE status for my Year 13's and getting rulings on various requests HAD to be done today. 

Fear based - Thursday is my deadline for filling out a weekly report for my Board of Trustees equivalent (called Campus Administrators in our context), plus a weekly report for my immediate line manager (called a Regional principal), and responding to all of the staff reports that are due every Thursday. This all takes me a few hours every Thursday.

Important - doing a report on a professional discussion about MAP Growth data today was in this category - it was a polite request from a colleague, but an important one because it got me thinking about next steps in the data analysis. That will have positive repercussions for student learning.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

This dream can pass just as fast as lightning - oh Cindy incidentally, baby I ain't putting you on (Faces)

Watching my grandson (aged 15 months) go about his daily learning is fascinating!

A lot of his time is deeply involved in incidental learning*. 

To wit: He was carrying around a clothes peg which my daughter fixed to his jersey. He tried to get it off - couldn't.

She unclasped it and gave it to me. I put it on the table within his reach. He grabbed it and tried to replicate what he'd just seen my daughter do on his jersey. 

Fantastic. Incidental learning! Big fan!!

* Incidental learning is unplanned or unintentional learning. It may occur while carrying out an activity that is seemingly unrelated to what is learned. 

For many people, mobile devices have been integrated into their daily lives, providing many opportunities for technology-supported incidental learning. Unlike formal education, incidental learning is not led by a teacher, nor does it follow a structured curriculum, or result in formal certification.

However, it may trigger self-reflection and this could be used to encourage learners to reconceive what could otherwise be isolated learning fragments as part of more coherent and longer-termm learning journeys.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Long ago and far away I heard your voice (Blue Oyster Cult)

Our post covid-19 world will take some bedding in for lessons to be learned.

However, Dan Rockwell's poster statement (above) bears thinking about right now, as he says - Leadership is all about people, now more than ever.

Why is forward-facing kindness important? 

Because education is all about relationships. 

George Couros also mentioned this in a recent blogpost:
"You have a focus on relationships first (staff and students). – One of my favorite principals in the world stated that if you were exceptional with connections but weak with content, you could last a longer in education than if the reverse is true. Of course, we want educators with both, but focusing on the relationship piece is paramount, this goes beyond students as well. I know some very gifted educators, who are great with children but struggle with other adults. The focus is on finding school teachers, educators that are focused on the benefit of every child in the school, not only ones they teach directly. If the word “relationships” does not come up in your interview, I would be concerned."
Relationships and communication. Without those two elements, good will struggles to exist.

Have a think about how you were treated during covid-19.

See what I mean? Relationships right?!