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 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.