Thursday, December 30, 2021

The system needs us, but it's trying to mislead us (Curtis Mayfield)

I'm off on my learning journey

Ten buzzwords to look out for and avoid like the, erm, covid-19 (courtesy of Dan Rockwell's blogpost):

  • New normal. (No comment.)
  • Synergy. If you plan to work together say, “We’re working together.
  • Circle back. The translation of, “Let’s circle back on this,” is, I don’t want to talk about this, and I don’t plan to.
  • Take this offline. Give me a break. We do everything online.  
  • Pivot. How important do we have to sound?Even Friends made fun of it! The word is 'change' or 'adjust'
  • Unprecedented. Nothing is unprecedented. Compared to the Spanish Flu, Covid is precedented.
  • Think outside the box. Anyone who says, “Think outside the box,” isn’t groovy.
  • Bandwidth. I don’t have enough bandwidth. You’d have more bandwidth if you stopped using stupid words.
  • Deep Dive. I’ve used several of the expressions on this list. Thankfully, I haven’t stooped so low as to take a Deep Dive into ridiculous buzzwords.
  • Thought leader. This one is a cousin to influencer.  
To his list of 10, I'd like to add another eight and a bonus ninth:
  • Game-changer - at the moment it's being applied to successive covid-19 variants - people getting sick and dying isn't a game.
  • Move the dial - the object is to improve, right?
  • Fake it till you make it and its cousin - build the plane while flying it - I'd rather not please - I'm a nervous flyer as it is. I want my pilot to be very skilled and experienced, and I want a plane that is fit for purpose.
  • Learning curve and learning journey - we're a bunch of new hobos getting on freight trains?
  • Rolling out - why? 'Implement' gets the job done.
  • Above my pay grade - cop out.
  • And a bonus one - a hardy perennial - Going forward - what are we? Sharks? Try 'in the future' or 'from now on' - same or fewer number of syllables.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

I walked out stunned and liberated, and so began my travels (Mike Scott)


Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

Don't over-improve your weaknesses. If you're not good at something, work on it until it no longer prevents your progress, but the bulk of your time is better spent maximizing your strengths - James Clear

By now I have a pretty clear idea about my main weakness and, luckily for me, I'm in exactly the right school and position so that I don't have to improve my weakness.

For most teachers the route to Principalship is via two routes in schools - an academic pathway as I followed (assistant Head of Department to Head of Department to a senior leadership role) or a pastoral pathway (Dean of a Year, a House Leader to a senior leadership role).

Neither route is too concerned with finances. Oh sure, a department gets a budget to manage but it's small and finite. It didn't prepare me for tackling a school's entire finances, while managing staffing, property, teaching and learning, student discipline, the Ministry of Education, a Board of Trustees and so on.

Jolly hockey-sticks!! My current position has no financial responsibility/burden at all. It centres a lot on teaching and learning with most of the other bits (no MoE and very little student discipline).

So, all up, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, in summary, the bulk of my time is spent maximising my strengths.

Feels good.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

You did the right thing, believe me its true, and it can happen to you (Paul McCartney)

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

As I've said many times before, I feel very blessed to be working with so many outstanding people in my campuses. In my prize-giving speech I mentioned many of them.

And I've mentioned previously how rare this feeling has been in my career of nearly 40 years in the profession.

I think part of this is the process we go through with new hires to ensure they are talented, personable, of good character and a good fit for the culture.

Even though it's Christmas week, a few of my colleagues and I have still been going through the interviewing process for 2022 starting positions. Real dedication to get it right is the common theme for our process.

That swings both ways - I've always thought that I need to be right for the school I apply to, and the school has to be right for me.

To get that right fit, I like to have an informal meet and greet with each applicant (preferably in person rather than on zoom). That gives me and my trusty lieutenant(s) a chance to explain our context a little, get a feel for them as people, answer any questions they have, and show applicants around to get a feel for how they interact with students and any other staff we meet along the way.

For me, their soft skills, their attributes as a person, their potential fit within the existing team, their receptiveness to change trump their individual skill in the position.

I don't want a new person coming in to be brilliant at their job but have no ability to work well with other staff.

We short list from there for a formal interview with a wider panel that includes a Campus Administrator (a person like a Board Of Trustees member in the state system).

That bit is crucial because we all see applicants with a different lens.

This process needn't take long - during the last few weeks of the term we have secured five new staff across the Gisborne and Hastings' campuses, with one role still needing to be filled in the new year.

That's pretty stunning given the current job market where there are plenty of applicants, including tyre kickers, for each advertisement. 

Having gone through this hiring process this term, I feel very confident that we have new employees who match that aim - they are right for each campus, and the campus is right for them.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Let the hour be mine. Take the high road, take the low. Take any one you're on (Bob Dylan)

Photo by carolyn christine on Unsplash

In 2022 I have decided to get a grip of my schedule.

As Dan Rockwell says:
A person who has a grip on their schedule has a grip on their life. Cramming more activities into less time is like walking on marbles. Running from one thing to the next means your life is frantic and shallow.

The secret to getting a grip on your schedule is serving the Big Rocks.

The first Big Rock is taking care of yourself. Take care of your body, soul, and spirit.

The second Big Rock is taking care of others.  

For the first time as a Principal I have decided to take my allocated release periods in 2022. Enough is enough. I'm done with covering everything that needs covering, being time poor and not looking after myself.

Every year as a Campus Principal I am allocated non-contact/release periods and Learning Centre supervision/coaching periods. In the past, like other Campus Principals I suspect, I've completely ignored those allocations and allocated myself none of the non-contacts. Actually that's not 100% accurate - I've allocated myself four and then allowed them to get swallowed up in 'needs must' scenarios.

Next year, I don't have a teaching allocation and our two distinct Learning Centres have merged into one by staff consensus. That expands our supervision and makes it a lot easier for me to take my release periods to do my job - which is to lead and manage the campus and look after my staff better - not by doing their job for them, but by being kind to myself.

I've had this aim for a number of years but this time - cards on the table - I told my staff about it. 

I'm determined to make this work in 2022.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

A person's compassionate speech and actions are like sunshine, clean water, and flowers which bring brightness, purity and joy to the world - Hsing Yun.

From one of my students (name covered)

The Recognition of Excellence ceremonies happened on Friday, the last day for students and staff for the year (although staff will continue to come into the campus during the next week and I have plenty to occupy my mind before I'm done for the year).

I certainly feel appreciated in my job - there were loads of lovely comments from colleagues yesterday that I really felt humbled to receive.

During the day, two completely unsolicited moments deeply affected me.

The message written in Sharpie on a folded up piece of A4 paper by a Year 10 student (4th form for older readers) will go into my glory box of memories.

The student in question is quiet and unassuming - I initiate a hello to them every day (I won't identify their gender) and they say hello back. That's about the extent of our daily interaction as we both get on with our days.

I was genuinely surprised when I was handed a bag of presents. Later, when I got back home I saw the 'card' in the bag.

Thing is, they are in Year 10 (a year group that is not generally noted for its sentimentality) and the student didn't need to give me anything. Didn't need to write any message at all.  

But they did. They took a moment to send me that message which, little do they know, I will treasure forever.

The second came from a staff member who recently resigned from our campus and so I farewelled her during my speech.

Once the students had all left and we'd packed up, she came to say goodbye and said, "You're the best Principal I've ever worked for".

Woh. That was a lump in the throat moment.

Both of these unsolicited compassionate words were like sunshine - they brought joy to my world and I'll tuck them away into my purer mind (as Wordsworth calls it) and recall these 'little, nameless, unremembered, acts of kindness and of love' when needed.

'Unremembered' by the sender over time, probably, but not by the receiver.

Tintern Abbey has often been a well spring for me and so I'm ending this post with some more lines from that poem, because Wordsworth sums things up better than anyone:

To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened: - that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, -
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Use your best judgment (Seth Godin)

Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

I have been wrestling with a systems problem at my Hastings' campus around where best to locate various senior year groups in 2022 - juggling spaces, numbers of students, and the need for supervision.

I've canvassed opinions, listened to alternative ideas, checked alternatives with my trustees and the big boss and mulled it all over for a few days.

I am now going to do a pros and cons chart for the two main ideas and then present this to my team to make a decision (best idea wins) because, as Seth says:

'Use Your Best Judgment. Don’t wait for someone else to take responsibility. Don’t wait for perfect. Don’t wait to find this exact situation in the manual or in history. Use Your Best Judgment.'

In this case, rather than me making a decision, I need a broad consensus of agreement. There are many moving parts and many important staff members who need to have buy in to make it work. 

Stop press - a decision has now been made with 100% consensus amongst 5 staff members. Although the thinking/deciding time was relatively short, I feel the process has been a good one and now we'll get on with communicating the decision carefully and gearing up for 2022's implementation.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Come back again, it's almost easy (Avenged Sevenfold)

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

As promised, this post is the sequel to my meeting last week with fellow Hawke's Bay Principals.

I really enjoyed this chance to catch up with some former colleagues, some of whom have gone on to become Principals in a range of Hawke's Bay schools - Woodford House; Karamu; and Hastings' Girls.

It was also great to have a range of new acquaintances.

The agenda items were mostly irrelevant to my own context at OneSchool Global (a private school for Plymouth Brethren students) as they dealt with reforms in vocational education, what to do with bequests from alumni, external evaluation of schools (Ask Your Team*), and initiatives for Pasifika students.

But, it was fun listening to what is on top for my colleagues in the state system.

* Ask Your Team is a process for evaluation of programmes/ teachers by students/teachers' self review etc. It costs $10,000 but provides exhaustive analysis of survey responses. We use Dayforce at OSG to do similar things but without the analysis aspect. Interesting.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day and head back to the Milky Way? (Train)

Photo by Liam Martens on Unsplash

Wish me luck - I'm going out into the big wide world today to a meeting of the local (as in, Hawke's Bay) association for secondary school principals.

This is a rare occurrence as I spend most of my time (99.99%) inside the OneSchool Global School orbit of Campus Principals/ Associate Principals and my Regional Principal. 

Great as this is, it's important to step outside the organisation from time to time and see what's happening out in the public schools and meet other people.

Usually when these meetings are on I'm at the Gisborne campus or else my absence for a day is too disruptive to my Hastings' campus. Not that I'm indispensable you understand - more that I would need to lean on a number of staff to cover my absence and that doesn't feel right when they are so busy.

At the moment, of course, the senior students are out doing external NCEA exams so this has freed up our schedules.

I'll report back on the experience in the next post.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

You're to have not to hold (Madonna)

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

The mixture of staff in any school creates an endlessly fascinating tableau that provides a ripe ground for analysis.

Staff rooms are interesting places and the culture varies greatly depending on the make up of the staff. This creates a plethora of different cultures including, at one extreme, toxic ones.

I've been a staff member enough times to recognise a toxic one when I see one. Luckily for me, feeling knives in my back has been a super rare occasion. Mostly I've been fortunate and worked with some outstanding people in a number of different countries.

Sometimes the chemistry of personalities clicks and it's a wondrous story in a staffroom. Over time people adjust and the longer they are together the more adjustments, tweeks and allowances are possible. Everyone jostles for their space and finds their own comfort zone. Strength comes from that.

In times of adversity you get a different sense of people's personalities compared to when things are smooth sailing. People can often revert to default settings.

I noticed when my four children were growing up, if one was away at a friend's place the other three would interact in a very different way. 

The influence of one person is immense and should never be under-estimated is the lesson to be learned there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Counteract wrong thoughts through positive beliefs (Hsing Yun)

Five weeks into Term 4 in the southern hemisphere and it's been a tough 5 weeks. In fact, I would say this has been the most full on 5 weeks so far. Now - that's saying something given the turmoils of the year.

I need some inspiration to keep this pace up for another 4 weeks.

So I am turning to my good friend of mumble mumble years (we were at school together) for some inspiration.

Here he is:

Oh! One other thing from around this time… I met the most amazing guy.

It has become my party stopper. When someone asks “Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?” I think, “I got this.”

The criteria being that you have to have met the person, they have to have said your name, and you have to have talked for 5 – 10 minutes, i.e. longer than I spoke to The Edge.

I met Mohammed Ali. Shook his hand. Introduced myself. Had a chat. After which he punched my shoulder and said, “Great to meet you, champ!” To which I replied, “I know!”

(I didn’t really say that. But the champ called me champ).

Mo – that’s what his friends call him – was such a lovely guy and, what he said about himself being exceedingly handsome – it’s true!!

(When I say punched my shoulder, I mean he gently touched me with an open hand – or else I’d still be in traction).

Why do I find this inspirational? Well first there's the story teller (let's call him Greg): he's an inspiring figure - altruistic, fun to be around, and also exceedingly handsome (hi Greg!). Plus he writes extremely well, with a personal voice that shines.

The story itself reveals a lot about us - even the great and famous are human (same with Muhammad Ali); some events are touchstones in our lives that sustain us - I've heard this story a few times over the years so it's obviously something that has become a significant meeting in Greg's life. We all have these moments of clarity, although I can't recall anyone asking me this direct question, I have flashes of talismanic meetings during educational conferences that stand out; plus, of course, Ali is an inspirational, larger than life character.

Thanks for allowing me to share the story Greg. It helped me out, gave me a different perspective on a difficult working day.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Now there's two trains runnin' on that line (Little Feat)

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

A couple of quotes from The Purdzilla Show blog have sustained me in my working life this week so I'm going to repeat them here without any further commentary.

Both are from Sheldon Kopp:

You are free to do whatever you want. You need only face the consequences.

All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

I've been workin', I've been workin' so hard (Van Morrison)

A friend and former colleague of mine included some notes from counsellor/presenter Aaron Ironside on her recent blogpost.  

The basic message was: I am not what I do - I am not my job

Who am I – is a different question as to What I do.  We cannot use our job to fix our view of ourselves, to upgrade our self-esteem, to make us upgrade our self-esteem – it’s not sustainable.

We need to keep our sense of self, who am I, the real me as a private concern.  Not one that is being determined or defined by work.

It’s just a job.  You are more than your job.  One day the job will be over.  Who will be left when it is all taken away?  It only muddles it if you let your work get entwined with your sense of self.

This is interesting because the lines between self and job are definitely blurred in my experience.

The way we lead/teach is an extension of our selves in many ways. Our individual style and personality and ability to form and sustain relationships is a fundamental part of how we do our job.

Our working life is a big chunk of our time - from 7.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday in my case (luckily there is no weekend sport or evening meetings like I had when Principal at Stratford High School).

I believe that our character traits affect our success or failure in life. My time at work is heavily influenced by my character traits. I am very much what I do.

Who I am and what I do are inter-dependent to a huge degree.

To an extent I do agree with that middle paragraph - there is a private me, and I do play a series of roles at school - all tangential ones - but me as teacher, as servant leader - that's who I am - to my core.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore (Bob Dylan)

Photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash

One of our aims this year as a school was to start and end the year strongly.

As Usain Bolt says, 'There are better starters than me, but I'm a strong finisher'.

We have definitely entered the beginning of the end of the year period for senior students as they work through their practice exams and we prepare for their last school day in mid November before they start NCEA externals.

For the Year 13's their career at school is creeping towards an end, although it's a protracted end game with study leave from mid November, recognition of excellence ceremony in early December, and finally, a graduation ceremony in January. 

Always a weird time of the year in school as we go through those farewell rituals while simultaneously planning for the next year.

In this case we are interviewing for three new staff (one is a maternity cover, the other two are for additional staff). This is all VERY exciting. It's always great to introduce new staff into our dream team.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

School is out at last And I'm so glad I passed (Ry Cooder)

Term 4 has arrived and that's usually a combination of the manic and a blur. Second week now of eight. And that's almost gone.

For the students, Term 4 is all about sitting exams. Especially so in the Year of Covid-19 disruptions. First some practice ones and then the external NCEA high stakes ones.

I'd like to put Mr Exam on trial.

All up students will be on exam leave for 27 out of the term's 38 days. 

So, of those 27 days some revision will be going on and maybe some learning but it will be more along the lines of how-do-I-get-prepared-for-passing-exams?

Funnily enough though - after leaving school there are no exams for our students. So we are, in effect, training them to do something they never have to do again.

Your witness...

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The moment of truth is right at hand (The Band)

Great article on Edutopia by Chris Kubic about asking a key question that probes for deeper meaning.

I'm going to keep this one in mind.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Don't rush, but don't wait (James Clear)

Photo by Johen Redman on Unsplash

Today's message comes from James Clear, who makes a distinction between speed and rushing (I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard the phrase 'more haste, less speed' when I was growing up!) 

But anyway - over to James:

There is a difference between moving fast and rushing.

You can move fast and be thoughtful. When you rush, you sacrifice thoughtfulness.

Conversely, when you are thoughtful but not moving fast, you are overthinking it. Procrastination in disguise.

Don’t rush, but don’t wait.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Take what I say in a different way and it's easy to say that this is all confusion (Yes)

See the big picture (like Ansel Adams)

It's a two week study break from school for us lucky enough to live in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

That means a couple of quick holiday posts in Baggy Trousers along the way as there are always jobs and projects to take care of at home during that time.

While working to get 90% of the population immunised, NZ continues to pursue an elimination strategy with the Covid-19 pandemic and the Delta strain. It's worth noting that one Covid infected guy has resulted in infections climbing to well over 1,000 in Auckland, so this is a good strategy to my mind.

Who knows what state we'll be in by the end of this study break. Hopefully more kiwis get the jab (more on this in Wozza's Place's next post).

We live with the prospect of lockdowns if there are outbreaks before we meet that 90% target so I asked my staff to take everything with them for the study break. Another full lockdown is a distinct possibility.

In the meantime, here's some reading to provoke some thoughts. It's a piece that intrigued me recently.

The article centres on reading habits to retire, and some better strategies to try. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm (Bob Dylan)

Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

Recently, a global survey by OneSchool Global, the organisation I belong to, asked 1,000 community business owners what attributes they were looking for in employees and the usual suspects came to the fore:

  1. Positive Attitude
  2. Self-Motivated
  3. Team Player
  4. Diligent
  5. Problem Solver
Interestingly, the top 3 attributes have remained the same as a previous survey done 4 years ago, showing that attitude and work ethic are critical.

More interesting still (to me at least as a Campus Principal and English teacher), the survey identified three key improvement areas:
  1. Humility, and a respectful attitude towards all employees.
  2. IT skills and opportunities.
  3. Professional communication skills, particularly verbal.
I'm surprised at #1 and #2 because our students develop IT skills from Year 3 onwards, but clearly not the right ones for business owners, and respect is one of our 5 key values. So those ones definitely need looking into.

The third one isn't too surprising though. Lazy speaking and shying away from speaking opportunities (often in favour of videoing a speech to a very small audience) means students often lack good verbal communication skills.

I'll be very interested in the next steps action plan that has been promised for all three of these areas.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Something's missing, and I can't seem to fix it (John Mayer)

Hey there. So, it appears there is no female version of 'mansplaining'. Go figure.

Simply put'mansplaining' is (allow me to demonstrate): the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

Yep. Okay. Got it.

But, out of the blue, apropos nothing, I wondered if there was a word that sums up the opposite, albeit extremely rarely found, situation: the explanation of something by a woman, typically to a male, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

So I looked and guess what I found? Nothing. That's what.

Ha! It appears there isn't a reciprocal term. I wonder why. It's not like that situation never happens right?

Womensplaining has too many syllables to catch on. Girlsplaining has a whiff of mansplaining about it so probably not. Euphemisms for the female gender are a definite no go I would think.

So I guess we're left with plain ole 'patronising', and 'condescending'.

Whatever you label it, and whatever the gender involved, it's not a nice feeling and is best avoided.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Someday everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece (Bob Dylan)

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Talent is the most important natural resource we have in schools!

This is according to a Futuremakers article that my boss sent around for all Campus Principals to read.

The article lists '5 priorities for education leaders in the next normal'.

Number three, which includes the talent comment, is called 'Cultivate your talent'.

Data on the recruitment and retention of staff for NZ schools in general is bleak, according to the article. They cite high teacher turn-over, frustration about limited career prospects among young teachers and high levels of burnout and diminishing job satisfaction.

The article provides an antidote of sorts and this relates to focusing on in-school coaching and mentoring programmes, replacing hierarchical management with innovation teams, and fostering effective career planning through engaging and purposeful PLD programme that meets individual needs.

My Masters of Educational Leadership thesis dealt with in-school coaching and mentoring* so, it's the last two of these points that I believe we need to concentrate on more. And of those two it's the last one that has the most importance and value for me.

That's the bit that talks about purposeful Professional Learning and Development programme that meets individual needs.

* I will come back to this in my next post.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Creativity is the magical human act of doing something that might not work (Seth Godin)

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

In these turbulent times of working from home during lockdown, Seth Godin's words take on a fresh resonance for me.

He says that Creativity and Leadership are related (yes, upper case):
Management isn’t. Management uses power and authority to get people to do tasks you know can be done. Management is needed, but management is insufficient.

Leadership is voluntary. It’s voluntary to lead and it’s voluntary to follow. If you’re insisting, then you’re managing…

And creativity is the magical human act of doing something that might not work. If you know it’s going to work–then it’s management.
I love the challenge in those ideas and the element of risk in creativity.

An expression I often use in challenging situations when we are short of solutions is to say to my team: Hey! We're teachers! We're creative people! We can lick this!

Good things can come from that kind of stance.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Every time I thought I'd got it made It seemed the taste was not so sweet (David Bowie)

Photo by Håkon Grimstad on Unsplash

hanges, Part 3 (and final).

Mark Manson: 

The real question is...what values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life? And are those good choices - good values and good metrics?

The following thoughts came to me after I'd written out my list of changes in the previous post.

It struck me that the value I posited in the first of these three posts on my changes - that I choose to work in education to serve others with integrity, although it sounds good, didn't reveal enough, as, in truth, I have based my personal decisions on other values, and measured my pathway in other metrics.

To backtrack a little before 1983 (where I started my changes in the previous post), I would say that my post school metric was to prove to myself that I wasn't the failure that I'd turned out to be at school. 

That drove me onward for 6 years - through a Master's degree at Auckland University and then teacher training.

From then on it became a search to prove myself to my father and seek validation from him.

Teaching didn't rate highly as a profession with him, but if I could get promotions and eventually become a Principal - then, maybe then, he'd be proud of me and think more highly of teaching.

Pushes and pulls to and from my father were a feature of my life from 1983 (the year mum passed away) to 2009 (when dad passed away).

That's why we moved back to Auckland and away from Auckland so often.

When dad remarried in 1987, Jacky and I soon afterwards went to live in Nelson (for four years, returning eventually to Auckland). Subconsciously, I think I realised a few things in those years, but I was still searching for that validation.

Of course, none of these things were articulated between us at all. Instead, I wrote a poem in 1993 called Paternity Soot which starts off:

And so here I am,

still walking toward you.

after all these years.

An old campaign, living

your impossible expectations.

When will you allow me

that elusive

pat on the back?

Eventually I became Principal at Stratford High School and I finally had some validation; although it wasn't directly from dad. Instead, he proudly told others about his oldest son who was a headmaster and then they would tell me.

When he died in 2009, I was thrown into crisis. What do I do now? Suddenly my values were turned upside down, challenged completely and my metric needed to change, but it took a few years to grasp that idea, and it took a while before I could form a new one.

First, I needed to get away - abandon teaching in the public system in NZ, go to the Middle East as a consultant, and not think about my career for a while. The following adventure in China proved that I wasn't quite ready yet. 

That would have to wait until a few years into my time at Woodford House.

That's where it dawned on me - I can continue to offer something to school leadership, some value that exists on its own terms without having the need for my dad's approval and acceptance. I'm a slow learner.

Being a Campus Principal at OneSchool Global really suits me (the UK hiccup was a good wakeup call - you can't get it right all of the time and not everyone will like my Purdzillaness).

So, I've come full circle - back to that value expressed in bold in my first of these three posts, which now makes much more sense. 

I love the fact that I've been a teacher for most of those 38 years: serving others, offering what I can, being driven by the most important value I can think of - integrity.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Still don't know what I was waitin' for and my time was runnin' wild (David Bowie)

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

hanges, Part 2.

As I was reading Mark Manson's book (a counterintuitive approach to living a good life) it got me reflecting on why I've changed schools and locations so many times throughout my 38 year-long career in education (so far). 

Mark calls these the metrics or values involved in my decision making.

As I did this, I realised that there are different layers to the metrics/values.

So first up (deeper dive in the next post) - here's a rundown of the surface realities involved in my changes. 

New Plymouth Boys' High School to Macleans College

I'd met Jacky in 1983 (my first year of teaching), got married (yes, to Jacky) and had a son. My widowed dad lived in Auckland. We decided that's where we needed to be. So, we moved.

Macleans College to Waimea College

Two more children later and, even though I loved Macleans, the charismatic principal was moving on and I was feeling ambitious for some leadership. I couldn't see a route for that at Macleans and so we moved to Nelson when I was promoted to assistant Head of English.

Waimea College to Mt. Albert Grammar School (MAGS)

Pretty quickly I was promoted to Head of English, plus we had our fourth child, but Jacky became unwell with a respiratory illness, and she was keen to retrain as a nurse. Which meant either Dunedin or Auckland. Auckland had the better climate for her, and as a MAGS old boy I'd long had an ambition of returning there as a staff member. So back to Auckland we went.

MAGS to Cambridge High School

Another promotion at MAG - this time to the senior leadership team as Head of Boarding, but the full on 24/7 life in the boarding school wasn't for me long term. By now I wanted to be a Principal, and to do that I needed the intermediate step of Deputy Principal. So, we went to Cambridge.

Cambridge High School to The King John School (Essex, UK)

I'd loved being the DP and the acting Principal for a term, but it was clear that the incumbent principal wasn't going to leave anytime soon and a trip to Edinburgh in 2003 had ignited a passion to live and work in the UK. So, that's what we did.

The King John School to Stratford High School

Family back in NZ needed us home and Jacky was keen for us to be back in Taranaki if we could. So, we left the UK.

Stratford High School to Doha, Qatar (Cognition Education)

After three years as Principal, my father died and my heart wasn't in it. I was in crisis actually. Plus, many of my colleagues signed up for lucrative positions in the Middle East. I needed to get away, out of NZ, and lick my wounds. Doha in Qatar was the perfect place.

Qatar to United Arabic Emirates (UAE) - specifically, Al Ain

We had to leave Qatar when the contract ended. After we returned to Taranaki, Cognition Education pursued me to take another contract in the UAE. I was a bit reluctant as I was keen to enroll in Massey's PhD programme. But I shelved that idea; we went back to the Middle East.

UAE to Wuxi (China)

We had bought a house in Hawke's Bay (Otane) while we were in Al Ain but when we returned, there were no jobs anywhere in Hawke's Bay that I could even apply for. A friend asked me if I'd consider going to Wuxi in China to lead an English school for prospective pilots. Of course, I said. Why not? Crazy? You bet. Just before leaving Jacky had a serious health issue to deal with which delayed us a month.

Wuxi to Woodford House

All the while, I was still pursuing a more stable job in Hawke's Bay (my Chinese employer stopped paying the staff, so we all had to find new employment anyway). I applied for the Head of English job at Woodford House. My CV by this time was looking like I moved around a lot, so I needed a secure/stable job. Woodford was perfect.

Woodford House to Westmount (now OneSchool Global NZ) - Kaipara Campus (now Maungaturoto)

After four years at Woodford, I was itching to return to a senior leadership role and getting a tad grumpy in the process. That wasn't going to happen at Woodford, so we moved to Maungaturoto and I became Campus Principal at Westmount - a private school for children of Plymouth Brethren families.  

Westmount to Focus School (now OneSchool Global UK) - Kenley/ Carshalton campuses

I felt I had unfinished business in the UK and the idea of moving within OneSchool Global's worldwide network of campuses was vastly appealing. Even though I loved the Kaipara job, the urge to go back to the UK was too strong. So, we moved to Caterham, Surrey.

Focus to OneSchool Global NZ - Hastings/Gisborne campuses

Only once in my career have I been the wrong person in the wrong place. Usually, it had been the opposite story - my timing had been uncanny and my leadership/management experiences (aside from the minor glitch of not being paid in Wuxi) uniformly brilliant. In a word, I'd become complacent - thinking that my NZ style of leadership would fit in any context. I was very wrong. The blow to my ego during this experience was a good, albeit painful, lesson to learn. We returned to NZ in time for our grandson's arrival. We clearly were meant to be close by for Jade and Asher. It was a lucky break, for all sorts of reasons, including the UK's response to Covid-19 compared to NZ's.

Those background details bring us roughly up-to-date for Jacky and me: living in Takapau, both of us commuting an hour to work in Hastings, and roughly an hour to Palmerston North where Jade and Asher live.

I notice that I haven't yet really touched on the underlying metrics, the values involved throughout this pathway up to now...

I'll get to that on the next post.

So, stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

So I turned myself to face me (David Bowie)

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Changes - Part 1.

Having just finished Mark Manson's book that presents his counterintuitive approach to living a good life, I've been reflecting on the metrics (his word) that drive me and govern my approach to life in Wozza's world as it relates to my work (the mahi).

Here's my initial instant thought - I'll be interested to see if it holds up after my next couple of posts where I intend to test this thought/metric/value statement to the max.

It is that I choose to work in education to serve others with integrity.

Full stop.

Except that it doesn't really tell you much.

So - let me take you on a journey through the next two posts while I discuss the last 38 years of my life: the mahi and the metrics.

Next up - background details. Then after that - the crux of the biscuit.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

In my mind I see a mirage on the wall, but unfortunately it's not there at all. (Iron Butterfly)

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

Recently, I had occasion to reflect on my reflections on coaching (it's a room full of mirrors).

I've been posting on this blog since 2008 and in these last 13 years I've put up 16 posts on coaching. That's a fair amount.

I'm a solid believer in the idea that coaching happens in many different forums, mostly when I'm conversing with staff around the campus.

As a young teacher Colin Prentice had two coaching discussions with me as we walked around the Macleans College campus. I can't recall any kind of formal sit down with him but those two informal occasions changed my life. Yes, they did!

After that, as a middle and senior manager (starting as Head of English in 1990 at Waimea College and then as a senior manager in 1996 at MAGS) I have had many coaching and being coached sessions over the years.

As a professional development trainer and consultant in the Middle East (2009 to 2012) I led discussions of coaching with senior Qatari and Emerati school leaders.

Did I always get it right over those last 31 years? Do I know all there is to know about coaching? Ha ha. Of course not!

As Mark Manson says in his book (subtitled, a counterintuitive approach to living a good life):

Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new we don't go from 'wrong' to 'right'. Rather we go from wrong to slightly less wrong.

He goes on to say:

We shouldn't seek to find the ultimate 'right' answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways we're wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.

It's in this spirit that I participate in coaching sessions in 2021 - still aiming to be a little less wrong as a coach.

Which brings me to the best coaching session I've had this year. It was with a colleague who I trust, having previously worked with her on professional development for staff in our organisation. She's a fellow Campus Principal so she knows the territory.

During the coaching session she asked excellent questions (we're following a GROWTH model this year) and it led to me making some interesting changes towards developing students as self-directed learners in my own campus.

It's like anything, a work in progress, but I feel like we're on the right path of being less wrong each time we discuss it as a staff.

And that concludes my 17th post on coaching since 2008.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

For all the shut-down strangers and hot rod angels (Bruce Springsteen)

Photo by Dev Asangbam on Unsplash

The blurring of home and work is still a thing for me during New Zealand's second full lockdown to eliminate the Delta variant of Covid-19 from our shores.

So far, this time around doesn't seem as bad, however (this is Day 6 of a seven day lockdown).

There was a novelty value to the first one a year ago, as it was uncharted territory.

This time, we all know what to expect. Plus we all suspect it is not over yet (from 1 case, Delta has spread to 72 in two cities with around 10,000 close contacts being traced).

My zoom class, which I've had since the start of the year, is doing a research assignment which makes things a little easier. Plus all teachers and staff have the Dyknow programme on our devices. This allows me to look at the screens of any of my Year 9 to 13 students in Gisborne and Hastings, as well as my Year 10 English class who are spread over 5 different campuses.

Dyknow has some great features - I can send a custom made message to a student or students and I can block material and/or lock a device if I need to.

This remote facility is awesome as it keeps students focussed and on track. I can then relax somewhat knowing that for the huge majority of them (for the majority of the time) they are doing just that.