Monday, December 11, 2017

I still wave at the dots on the shore (Porcupine Tree)

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Recently, in an authoritative voice, an educator said to a group of other educators: it's always the teacher's fault!

Naturally, he was challenged on this statement, but he held firm.

His point, I think, was that teachers are the adult in the room and their emotional intelligence and management of situations should be at a sufficient enough level to teach and guide and handle students' learning and behavioural needs. Even when they are at their most challenging. Full stop.

Therefore, for him, it was a simple equation: it's not badly behaved students causing problems, it's teacher failure to 'deal' with students.


Got me thinking.

Then I saw this article: kids don't fail, schools fail kids.

Three things were going for the article: the title, the source (edsurge) and the subject matter (Sir Ken Robinson's views).

According to Sir Ken: every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.”

Trust Sir Ken!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's swell of you (Duke Ellington)

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Appreciation was mentioned in my last post as something I received a lot of in my job at Westmount school.

But I wasn't prepared for this!

To be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed at the moment (can you be a little overwhelmed or is overwhelmed a thing that can't be quantified? Not sure). But I digress.

This week, I've had some lovely gifts from students, parents, the staff, the trust that operates our school, and the National Leadership team. Amazing gifts - food, wine, gift tokens, cards (a lot of peanut butter!!). 

It's been amazing!

All this in a week when we had the Magic Weavers' Awards at our national prizegiving. My Kaipara campus came up empty this year (we won two or three last year). 

But that's not the gripe from my colleagues.

The idea of celebrating a few out of the many has prompted a lot of debate within my staff. 

En Zedders like equity; we practise the tall poppy syndrome with some diligence. 

As a country, we were foundered on the concept that no one was better or worse than others and that still pervades - probably more so in teaching where we are so used to collaborating and working with others to make everyone better.

As a people, we are suspicious of the rogue ones (sorry 'bout the gratuitous Star Wars reference), the lone wolves, the popularity contest winners, the too good to be trues.

Teachers are also reluctant to adopt free market business strategies like performance pay, bonuses, and the idea that although we're all equal, some of us are more equal than others.

We just are, okay? 

Teachers like me went into the profession for noble reasons, not for money. I've tested this theory a lot and many of my colleagues wouldn't even know what their salary was.

So, back to me and the appreciation I've felt recently.

All of the gifts I received were amazing. The power of words - you can't put a money value on being told the following by your colleagues:

  • He is brilliant at sorting out issues
  • Weaves magic into the hearts of each staff member
  • Plenty of humour
  • Love working with him
  • His positive energy and solutions based attitude have been inspiring
  • Despite being an Arsenal fan, he is a Westmount Champion

Do you now see why I'm a little overwhelmed?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

You know the sun gonna shine in my back door someday (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee)

It's open letter time again people:
Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Dear Toni

Hey! It's a year on since leaving the familiar and launching myself into the mystery of 'what's next for Wozza?'

How has it gone? Well, last week I ventured up to Paihia for a meeting with other secondary school principals from Northland.

Being amongst tangata whenua protocols again was the first shock. The next was the generally dour atmosphere during the meeting.

Along the way, it was interesting to compare my life as a campus Principal at a private school with the poor saps, sorry, my fellow professionals at state schools.

Seriously, looking around the room, it took me back with a bump to my time ten years ago at Stratford High School when I would meet with fellow Taranaki Principals; the gradual beat down of demands trying to do an impossible job takes its toll.

As my Principal friends compared their heart attack histories I knew I was in trouble.

At that time, I quickly decided life was far too short to be in that situation so I left and went to the Middle East where I met remarkable people, had loads of adventures and learnt a lot about myself.

I learnt that I needed to push myself, to be busy, to be challenged, to try new things, to not settle.

As I pootled home through the beautiful Northland vistas, past some depressed looking towns in Rapid Roy I remembered how lucky I was to be living my life.

A few posts back, I included a quote from Hunter S. Thompson where he celebrates a life lived with the final statement being 'Wow, what a ride!'

When that feeling goes I start getting the 'what's next for Wozza?' vibe.

Do I miss Woodford House? At times, yes, of course I do - I definitely miss the great Woodford people (tip of the titfertat to my buddies), Bay Espresso visits, the time to pause and reflect that is so hard to eek out in the hurdy gurdy days I currently have (I haven't got that figured out yet), the twice weekly chapels (great meditation time) and I miss being in a formal classroom setting teaching English.

But...but, I love the way Westmount School is so keen to experiment with timetables and everything else, the balanced mix of autonomy and collegiality, the full-on environment of self-directed learning, the teacher inquiry process led by Karen Boyes, the challenge and the adventure (every day is a mystery box), the feeling that I am being appreciated and that my skills are being gainfully employed, the return of optimism and positivity (I was getting dangerously close to becoming a grumpy old fart at Woodford) and the Whole Food Cafe in Maungaturoto is a pretty gnarly substitute.

So, all up, going forward, I often think (to myself) that my skin is still in the game.

But enough about me! How was your year?

Love and peace, happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you and the family!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Celebrate good times, come on! (Kool and The Gang)

Photo by Rene Bernal on Unsplash
We've kicked off the awards season at school. The first of three celebrations was an awards assembly, to be followed by a regional prizegiving and then our local prizegiving.

For a while now, we've been having a debate at school around the content of these award shows.

On one hand we have staff who want every student to get an award, on the other, the less-is-more stance, that we reward only the most deserving.

I'll give you a nano-second to decide which stance I favour!

But being principal of a school isn't about me getting my own way. So a middle ground was reached and we all seem to be happy with that.

Having said all that, congratulations to all my students. Making it through the academic year is something to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The rain water poured up under my motor hood, I knew that were doin' my motor good (Chuck Berry)

Photo by Samuel Clara on Unsplash
Self-Directed Learning. At Westmount School we 💖 S-D L!!

Why do we 💕S-D L?

  • It taps into student motivation
  • It taps into intrinsic motivation
  • Students feel a greater sense of purpose
  • Students' learning is deeper and richer  
  • Students appreciate the value of learning 
  • Students appreciate the value of school

But don't take my word for it. Listen to a student like Nick Bain!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Get your motor running (Steppenwolf)

Slight deviation here as I celebrate Felix Baumgartner - who took a balloon ride to the limits and fell to Earth again on October 14, 2012, and Hunter S Thompson who said this:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!"

There was only one Hunter S Thompson and there is only one Felix Baumgartner and while I am certainly going to remain true to myself, I do like the sentiment.

I guess I like to live in a world where, in my one way, I'm saying “Wow! What a ride!".

[By the way, a nod to Mr and Mrs Baumgartner as well - I'm really happy that there are people in the world willing to call their son Felix!]

Monday, November 13, 2017

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness (Dalai Lama)

Appreciation - often it's best when it comes from an unexpected source.

In turn, I really appreciate genuine thanks.

Yesterday, a student asked if she could see me before school started. Sure, I said.

Not thinking too much about it - recently she was elected to a leadership position, so I thought she wanted to float an idea with me.

She came into the administration area and then my office with a large cardboard box and said her family had made me something.

I did think for a minute that it may be a practical joke - a gotcha moment, so I gingerly opened it up to find, inside, not a jack-in-the-box or a rubber snake, but a beautifully decorated cake.

I thanked her and said the staff would love it. But, no, she said, it's for you!

I was genuinely gobsmacked. Me? Really?

Yes, she said - it's in appreciation for all you've done for the school this year.

I beamed all day.