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!