Thursday, April 30, 2020

A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh (The Pretenders)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Have I mentioned that I don't enjoy working from home (WFH)? I have? Okay. But it bears repeating. I don't wanna be a WFHer.

My brother has done this for 23 years. Twenty. Three. Years.

After 5 weeks, I've had enough.

Funnily enough I seem to be in a minority (hahaha) - given that most of my teachers are keen to WFH.

I have coped. Just.

My four top tips for coping? HYG.

1 Even though I no longer have a 50 minute commute I wake at the same time (4.45am) and follow my usual getting ready for school routines. My commute time? Reading. As in books. I 'arrive' at work at my usual time (around 7.00am) and check emails before the first Zoom meeting of the day - usually at 8.15am). Routines man, routines.

2 I dress for work. In my case, as a school principal I always aim for a professional look, as in - I wear a tie to work, so I put my tie on. After my dress shirt.

3 I'm doing urgent important work pretty much exclusively. I don't know about you, but the email flow has gone ballistic. Rather than check my emails 3 or 4 times a day, I've upped that to about 10-12 times a day to keep up. Those emails often generate 'work' so that has taken up a large part of my day (along with Zoom meetings, calling into zoom classes and phone calls). That 'work' often generates sent emails - so I'm part of the problem as well. Anyway. I digress. Needs must is the order of my day. Needs must.

4 At the end of my work day I remove my tie, change clothes and aim (aim) to avoid checking work emails until the next morning (fear of them mounting up is why I included the stress on 'aim').

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Teacher, I love you (Elton John)

Great teachers in more relaxing times
Sometimes teachers question what they are about. 

We suffer from a lot of guilt generally, on a daily basis - am I doing enough for ----, I wish I'd tried ----, if only I had ---- and so on.

This site should help - coming to you via Diane Ravitch's blog, it features prominent educators explaining why and how teachers made a difference for them.

Good time to reflect on those teachers who have affected your own life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Riding on a long blue paper plane (Status Quo)

Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash
'Building the plane while flying it', is a saying I've heard a lot lately. 

As an aviophobia, I've never been a fan of the phrase (surprise surprise).  

To me, the idea of making it up as you are going along implies instability, freakish luck, impending disaster, unpredictability, precariousness, frailty, fragility, amateurism, a lack of confidence. 

In short an unhappy time.

I get what the concept is about, though.

The idea aligns with Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander's phrase in their (awesome, brilliant) book - Velocity.

As I've discussed elsewhere in this blog, their view is that it's easier done than said.

That is, intuition, gutsiness and iteration (as in a sequence of operations which yields results successively closer to a desired result) are rewarded.

In my opinion, a better phrase would be their idea of GET GOING, THEN GET BETTER.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (The Who)

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash
As you know, I'm a big fan of Seth Godin. I even used one of his quotes as my positive close yesterday (when someone tells you what you need to hear, instead of what you are hoping to hear, you've found something priceless).

A recent post of his was very on point, given our working from home situation. 

He had this to say:
There are three ways to tell if people are hard at work in an office:
  1. the boss can watch them go to meetings. And they can watch each other in meetings as well.
  2. the boss can watch them sit at desks in an open office.
  3. we can make promises to each other and then keep them.
It seems as though only the third one is a useful, long-term way to allow us to do our best work together. The first two can help along the way, but if a meeting or an open office exists as a convoluted way to do surveillance, you’re probably wasting precious energy and trust.
And while transferring our work to home makes #1 even easier and #2 irrelevant, I’m still lobbying for #3.

This aligns to one of my core beliefs: that if you employ good people - get out of their way and let them do what they are good at.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sign o' the times mess with your mind (Prince)

This image from Eric Sheninger comes via George Couros' blog. I like a lot of George and Eric's material.

This list is worth bearing in mind when we return to 'normal' school from lock-down.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Mr. Blue Sky please tell us why you had to hide away for so long (so long) (Electric Light Orchestra)


Meddling? I thought I was done with this topic, but then I read this great article about not answering your kid's questions and - there it was again - meddling.

Here's an excerpt:

Child: “Why is the sky blue?”
Parent: “Can you think of any reason why it might be?”
Child: “Umm... maybe someone colored it with a blue crayon.”
Parent: “Maybe. How big of a crayon would they need?”
Child: “A crayon as big as our house!”
Parent: “Wow! That’s really big! Do you think there is a crayon that big? Who would be able to lift it?”

Medding right?

Anyway - check out the article, it's pretty cool.

Friday, April 3, 2020

High on a threshold yearning to sing, down with the dancers having one last fling (Patti Smith)

Photo by ZEKERIYA SEN on Unsplash
Here we go then, one last fling regarding meddling!

Here's my learning reflection on what I've learnt from this inquiry:

When I mentioned the whole meddling thing to a colleague, an English teacher I've known since Woodford House days, he said - that's what I've always done - been a provocateur - i.e. someone who has engaged in provocative behaviour (without inciting criminality yunnerstan) to provoke thought and discovery in his students.

I've seen him at it, so I can confirm it as a true fact.

When I began my teaching career I was lucky enough to have some real meddlers as my English tutors at Auckland's Secondary Teachers' College. Among them was one, I believe it was Ron Martin. who told me about Charles Weingartner and Neil Postman's Teaching As A Subversive Behaviour (you can upload it here). 

It was published in 1971 and is as relevant in 2020 as it was back then (my first year of secondary school incidentally).

What the authors had in mind was - a new education that would set out to cultivate just such people - experts at 'crap detecting'.

And that, it seems to me, is what being a meddler similarly involves. Creating successful crap detectors, who think and analyse and sift and theorize and test their thesis and don't sit still.

Active and inventive meddlers have to challenge and support students on their crap detecting road.

I certainly aim to continue my teaching peregrination along that pathway, a meddling and a roving as I go (if we ever emerge, that is, from this zombie apocalyse of self-isolation to again enter our classrooms again post Covid-19).

It's entirely possible to meddle via zoom, mainly within break-out rooms, I would suggest, but there is something about the cut and thrust and informal meddling while seeing the whites of students' eyes that is lost on zoom.

Here endeth the lesson on meddling!