Sunday, January 15, 2017

Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines (REM)

A recent post on my Wozza's Place blog covered my time in Al Ain (in the UAE). It was a special time, in a special place, with special people.

And it never would have happened if I hadn't taken a leap of faith at the end of 2009 and joined the Cognition Education organisation, after resigning from my Principal job.

As I've done the same thing at the end of 2016, and about to start with the Westmount organisation, I was reflecting on this as I wrote that post

I have a good feeling about the move. Already I have been impressed by the communication I've had from my colleagues within Westmount.

I loved teaching at Woodford House with some special people and, of course, I'll miss them, like I miss my friends in Al Ain but whenever I'm on the move, the Wozza's Place chapter is called Rambling Man for a reason, and starting at new places, I've always found amazing, passionate people working in education.

It's who we are.

And taking a leap of faith from time to time, is who I am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

They circled around me, natives in a ring, and I saw their souls a-withering like snakes in chains (Patti Smith)

As I was standing in the lengthy queue to see The Walking Dead tour at Universal Studios this week, I had time to ponder on the idea of expectation.

We were in L.A. on the way home to NZ after our holiday in London. I'd read the brochure on The Walking Dead tour before we headed into it but it was all suitably vague and I really had no idea what to expect.

I like this state of being. All things are possible.

We went into a wonderfully dressed dilapidated hospital set. 

Modern queueing is all about being roped into a mazey set of lines. I marvelled at the set - fake blood on walls and floor, sparking lights in a sequence of busted ceiling panels. 

I thought about our new life in 2017  - starting a new job as Principal at Westmount Kaipara campus, moving to a new house in Maungaturoto - and the air was suddenly full of expectation and possibilities.

We eventually experienced the tour - it's hard to explain the sensory experience but so brilliantly simple in its execution (pardon the pun) as frightful zombies emerge from the shadows in the twisting corridors of the 'hospital'.

It was mind blowingly effective and totally exceeded my expectations  My pulse was racing and my legs were jelly by the end and I felt completely alive!

I'm looking forward to 2017 - it's a sea of possibilities!!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

We don't need no thought control (Pink Floyd)

I'm on holiday in London right now but I just watched a couple of Seth Godin's TED talks and my mind is back on school. 

In a good way.

Teachers never really turn it off. We're magpies, collecting bits and pieces that may be useful.

Well, these two talks were great! I urge you to take some timeout and have a go at them. 

You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup (America)

Happy new year everybody!

In the Queen's 2016 Christmas message she focused on the idea of inspiration coming from ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

It's true. I certainly gain a lot of inspiration from people around me and it's a good time to look back on 2016 and thank some Joe and Jo Normals who have inspired me.

In my farewell speech to Woodford House I paid tribute to the girls because, everyday, I could easily find a large number of students who were pushing and stretching themselves in a variety of ways - in sport or the arts or the classroom or in leadership. They definitely inspired me on a daily basis.

Some of the teaching staff at Woodford inspired me considerably, to be better and to think about things on a deeper level. In particular, take a bow: Toni Dunstan; Jane Perry; Dionne Thomas; Amy Reid; Greg Semmens - all of whom made me want to push and stretch myself to new challenges.

It's a messy process this challenge business - two steps forward, one back sometimes, and I may have got a tad frustrated and even (shock horror) grumpy at times but it was always out of a sense of wanting more for the school, the English department, Wallingford, or, myself.

So, ma'am, may I add my ordinary voice to your regal one - a huge thanks to all these ordinary people doing extraordinary things to inspire me. Go you good things!

Love and peace for 2017 - Wozza

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I read the news today oh boy - four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire (The Beatles)

My very first purchase upon reaching London for our latest trip to the country with a meaningful cultural context (hello Arsenal, Carry On..films, Stratford Westfield Mall) was what, do you suppose?

Of course! The Guardian.

Boy oh boy, do I miss a proper paper when I'm outside the U.K.

Our San Francisco stop over meant I could read the New York Times a couple of, erm, times. I was underwhelmed. Okay, if pushed, it may have whelmed me slightly in the American sport coverage. But it's no Guardian!

The Guardian is, undoubtedly, the finest collection of daily writing to be found on the planet. And I love my daily dose. 

To continue the literary theme of this post - I'm nearly finished Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (currently being advertised as a TV show that is based on this novel).

The brilliant premise is what hooked me enough to buy a copy - what if the Germans and Japanese had won WW2? Yikes!

It took a while for it to grab hold (and sort out who was who) but now I'm reading it every chance I can get. I'm up to page 220 (out of 249) and so far, no sign of actually meeting the man in that high castle (who, in a great twist, wrote a controversial novel about how America/ Britain/ Russia won WW2).

I can't actually see how they could make two seasons of TV out of this material but that's American TV for you. Apparently it's a really good show.

Anyway - off to finish those remaining pages...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Don't look back, you can never look back (Don Henley)

Recently, my wife and I found ourselves lost in San Francisco. 

First though - some key facts:

1 At present, I can only access my iphone info if I can hook into some wifi - means cafes and large malls.

2 We had heard stories about the Tenderloin district.

3 We had decided to take the tram.

4 We are the straightest looking people on the planet.

5 I don't like to ask for directions.

We set off on our mini adventure - to find Amoeba Records on Haight Street, then on to the city centre for a look around before meeting up with our daughter (a SF resident).

We did the first part okay (and I spent a wonderful hour in Amoeba Records), but then we got back on MUNI to Van Ness and started walking.

Our decision making was 'what feels right' rather than head into a Starbucks on Market Street and check via the wifi. Oops.

Quickly, we started noticing a lot of cops interviewing homeless dudes, a lot of cops!, and fire engines, and ambulances, and then, as we walked through Golden Gate, we noticed a bad juju in the air. A palpable kind of threatening vibe.

We were in the heart of the Tenderloin. Wikipedia succinctly describes the area as 'nestled near the downtown area, the Tenderloin has historically resisted gentrification, maintaining a seedy character and reputation for crime. Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, illegal drug trade, prostitution, liquor stores, and strip clubs give the neighborhood a seedy reputation.'


This is one time when beating a hasty retreat while not establishing eye contact is deemed appropriate. 

We looked back! Retraced our steps to the safety of Starbucks. Regrouped. Headed out again for a Westfield mall and then a tram home.

Why am I telling you all this?

In education, sometimes a look back IS appropriate. Sometimes, forward progress can only be made by establishing some solid ground. 

Sometimes a reconsideration is a good place to start.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

When the lights go down in the city (Journey)

In celebration of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and Wardini Books in Havelock North: 

My first connection to this celebrated independent book seller/publisher came when I was at Auckland University doing English, way back in 1977. The university's second hand book sale was a great place to collect weird and wonderful text books and hard to find publications like Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac, and other beat poets and writers - stuff that I was somehow drawn to at this stage in my life.

Stage 1 English's 20th century American poetry course (omg - YES!!!) also had a Lawrence Ferlinghetti text as required reading - A Coney Island of the Mind. I was on board!

It's taken a while, close on forty years, but I've finally visited the store, in North Beach - still in it's original location. My second visit to San Francisco (first one was more for Samantha and Jesse's wedding so we were a tad distracted), and we cruised past the store.

Luckily, Jacky, Samantha and Jesse were waiting so I had a limited time to browse - otherwise I would have come out with loads of books! 

Instead I bought two volumes of Ferlinghetti's poetry to join Coney Island when I get back home and set up Abbey Road Four (ARF) in Maungaturoto!

In the forward to one, written by Lawrence in 1998, he bemoans the trend away from independent booksellers. Luckily, they are not dead yet!

Wardini Books in Havelock North has been a real find in the last four years. I love Unity Books in Wellington and Auckland. Hopefully, I can find another great little independent book store in Northland!