Saturday, June 27, 2020

She comes up with the morning sun and tells me life has just begun, oh what it is to be young (Barclay James Harvest)

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Teachers as writers.

Confessions right off the bat: I'm an English teacher; I love writing (you're reading some of it right now!); and I love the Level 2 writing folio Achievement Standard.

It's six credits for producing two final pieces from a range of drafts that are taken to publication standard. The writing can be anything. How cool is that?

The opportunity to sit with students and write is heaven for me, and it's not for everyone - I do understand that. But it can be!

The great thing about it - by the time Level 2 NCEA rolls around, everyone has pretty much already done the first step (learning how to write), so the second step is much easier: turning it into a habit by writing (like a blog post a day frinstance).

'Committing to the practice. Showing up and doing it again and again until you're good at it, and until it's part of who you are and what you do' (Seth Godin).


Monday, June 22, 2020

To say good morning and really mean it (The Mamas and Papas)

Recently, while cleaning up my bookmarks, I came across the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers list again.
You're busy, so just a quick refresher for you - the top five (and it's in order of importance) are:
  • Be a good coach;
  • Empower your team and don't micromanage;
  • Express interest in employee's success and well-being;
  • Be productive and results-oriented;
  • Be a good communicator and listen to your team;
I love this list!
The top habit is be a good coach.
Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
What does that mean?
Luckily, I can tell you, because I have always had this list pinned to my wall (or in my teacher's planbook).
Here's what it says:
  • Talk with your employees, not at them!
  • Don't exaggerate situations or behaviour
  • Talk about behaviour, not attitudes
  • Aim not to assume stuff (seek first to understand)
  • Follow up!
  • Reward improvements.
I love this list too. I gaze at it frequently.
Be a good coach!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Good times never felt so good (Neil Diamond)

Einstein's advice on learning to his young son, Hans Albert:

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don't notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Too often, in the senior school, students are not doing things for enjoyment. As I look around the Learning Centre right now, five minutes before lunchtime - students are working quietly on set tasks, but even without bells, students are hyper aware of when lunchtime rolls around.

In contrast, I can recall plenty of occasions when teachers in the junior school have had students continue their work when break times happened, blissfully unaware of the time.

This aligns to what John Hattie calls the thrill part of  'skill, will, and thrill':

“In fact, if we can increase their sense of love of learning, the thrill, we can increase their sense of self,” John Hattie.  

Saturday, June 13, 2020

I got the blues, please come see what your loving means to me (Blondie)

Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash 

Burnout was mentioned in the media this week and was a discussion topic at work.

Got me thinking/wondering. 

As a term, Burnout as a concept is relatively modern it appears.

According to Elizabeth Scott in her excellent article, it was first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.

Basically, if you feel exhausted, start to feel cynical about your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, you are showing signs of burnout.

What with the emergence of Lockdown levels and the adjustment to working from home, then the return to school and a semblance of normality during a 12 week term, no wonder many feel like this year has been endless and we're only in June.  

Relentlessly positive as I aim to be, there are solutions to these symptoms.
  • Providing enough time to do jobs (reasonable deadlines). According to Scott, employees who say they have enough time to do their work are 70 percent less likely to experience high burnout.  
  • Clear communication and support from managers and others. Employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70 percent less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  • Role clarity and consultation. As Scott points out, when expectations are like moving targets, employees may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing. Consultation brings buy in and good will.
  • Manageable workload. When a workload feels unmanageable, even the most optimistic employees will feel hopeless. Feeling overwhelmed can quickly lead to burnout.
  • Fair treatment by treating employees equally. Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. 
Scott's article is well worth a look; it certainly made me reflect and prepare for the remainder of this term and beyond.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

You're the only person that's gonna pull you through - Ooh, with your attitude (The Kinks)

Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash 

One of my students told me today that she doesn't like reading - that there are so many other, better things she could be doing with her time.

I'm struggling to understand that attitude.

Given she doesn't have access to social media, television, youtube or a phone I'm not sure what she means by better things (I didn't like to pry).

This has been a situation I have come across before - how to attract reluctant readers to embrace the joys I feel when I read books.

Whether I've been successful in the past is largely an unknown, but it remains one of my goals and a challenge that I keep embracing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Southern change gonna come at last, now your crosses are burning fast (Neil Young)

Slight deviation for today's Baggy Trousers' post, because it's hard to concentrate on worthwhile things like education when all the noise from America is hatred and division and chaos and violence. And that's just the President!

It's hard to focus when the American President is so shakey - advocating the ingestion of detergent to combat Covid-10 was a recent low point. A President who one minute is fleeing to a bunker (for an 'inspection'), the next going on a bizarre photo op with a bible. A bible? I guess symbolism is important, but what does a divisive scaremonger holding a bible mean? 

In the current climate it's hard to see how America emerges from the on-going spiral of violence fueled by the deep seated racism that has existed since the country was founded.  

There has to be hope though, doesn't there! The Roman Empire eventually ended (Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire couldn't conquer the blue sky - Neil Finn). The troubles in Northern Ireland eventually ended (at one point it seemed impossible that catholics and protestants could coexist). Thanks to some outstanding leadership, and a policy of reconciliation, apartheid in South Africa ended when it seemed it would go on forever. Germany emerged from two world wars to change itself.

So, I have to believe that there is hope that America can emerge from the current climate of fear. Unfortunately Donald Trump is most decidely NOT the individual to unite and heal. Just the opposite.

Unfortunately, Martin Luther King's dream is still as relevant as ever in 2020.

Here's a good teaching moment: King's I Have A Dream speech.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

Task: Compare and contrast with any coherent speech Trump has made on ending racial inequality. Good luck finding one.