Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yawn 'asal wa yawn basal * (Arabic proverb)

* means - One day honey, one day onions.

My version of it - you have to take the crunchy with the smooth!
My job is often largely done inside my head - millions of thoughts and mulling over of decisions - gazillions of synapses - trying to sort out my world. On a daily basis.

That's why I'm so often exhausted at the end of the day, and why I struggle to communicate with my wife on Saturdays. All that accumulation means I am like Jason Bourne in the car listening silently to the Franka Potente character.

I'm sorry, I can't remember where I got this next bit from but it resonated!

Anyway, it turns out that the mental load of management is primarily around experiencing failure.
Actual failure, sure, but mostly potential failure. Imagining failure in advance. All the current things that could go wrong. And more important, the things you're not doing that will be obvious oversights later. Our brains work overtime to cycle through these, to learn to see around corners, to have the guts to delegate without doing the work ourselves (even though that creates more imagined points of failure). Scan, touch, consider, analyze, repeat.
This is so on the money it's scarey!

I guess that's the binary aspect to the filter process on every thought/potential action during my day - will this work/will this do more harm/is there a better way and so on - imagining failure in advance.

Most times I find the filter works. But not always. And that's okay. None of us are perfect.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

As the fire grows we can warm ourselves, watching rainbows in the coals (Michael Murphey)

Fieldays, Fieldays, dear old golden rule daze.

Meet Terry.

Terry is in his seventies, he's an old retired farmer, from Gore (that's somewhere in the bottom of the vastness of the South Island I believe). Dressed in a flat cap, double hearing aids and tweed jacket.

We got chatting while I was supervising my Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) students in the Innovation Tent at Fieldays.

I asked him when he'd flown up, oh no, he said - I drove.

Okay. That's a long way to drive! Who was with him? Oh no, he said - I'm on my own.

Then I asked him my big question with my usual casual √©lan- Why? Why do that? Why are you here?

And he smiled and gave me THE BEST ANSWER EVER!!

Because I might learn something.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Shout it, shout it, shout it out loud (Kiss)

Super exciting developments at school today as we (the senior syndicate staff) planned for Project Based Learning in Term3 with our junior classes.

I don't often rave about after school meetings, but it was great to spitball ideas with my colleagues on PBL plans.

We built on these background articles from the wonderful people at Edutopia and pretty soon the ideas started flowing.

We have planned to start off with Year 10 and PBL on a Friday, incorporating science, maths, English, languages, social studies, and accounting. Exciting!

Next stage: to scaffold an accounting Level 1 standard and what we want to present to the students in terms of a PBL framework. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Back of the net! (Alan Partridge)

Dealing with anxious and/or defiant students is tricky and no matter what school you are working in, you will come across tricky moments.

I've learnt the hard way that raising your voice, trying to dominate, and creation of a win/lose situation does not ultimately work.

Knowledge from experience tells me that private or non-verbal, fact based praise, a sense of calm, and a positive relationship with the student goes a very long way. 

Actually, I think it's the only way.

Nipping situations in the bud, being sensitive to student needs and tailoring the curriculum to include bags of student choice is the way forward as well.

When I started at Woodford House in 2013, I was returning to teaching after a long gap - 7 years in fact (Principal and overseas consultancy stints were the cause). I was rusty, plus I knew no one and had no relationship with anyone at the start. It was tough and some tough classes (hello Year 10 and 11 girls) were merciless.

After the first few terms, though, I had learnt names, established relationships and things began to improve.

I wish I'd read this Mind/Shift article back in 2013 when I was struggling with those Year 10 girls at Woodford.

This advice would have been good: 
...a break paired with a cognitive distraction does offer respite from the “all or nothing” thinking that’s so common with anxious students. An older student might take a break and record herself reading a book out loud for a younger student with dyslexia. It’s impossible to read out loud and think another thought. Other distractions could include sports trivia, sudoku or crossword puzzles. Little kids might do a Where’s Waldo or look through a Highlight magazine for the hidden picture.

I'm particularly struck by the idea that it is impossible to read out loud and think idea. That's pretty cool.

There are 19 other tips in that article for your consideration. Even if you only think you can use 2 or 3, that's a win.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Through the windows of midnight moonfoam and silver (David Gray)

My daily routine part 2:

From 5 to 5.30pm, my end of the working day includes a check in my diary to see that I've done everything I wanted to/ needed to and some thinking about what is coming up tomorrow.

I also make some quick notes in my diary of things which happened in my day that my Community Administrators (C.A.'s) might need to know. They asked me to do a weekly email to them of these things, to do so, my diary notes have become crucial.

I can now pack up my stuff. I tidy up the paperwork into appropriate folders (I hate leaving current work lying on my desk - for some reason my brain dislikes the idea of half finished jobs).

Sidebar: Without consciously thinking about it, I have subscribed to the 5-S Principles Thomas Oppong mentions in his post on end of day routines - the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: Sort (Seiri), Set In Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke).

  • Make work easier by eliminating obstacles (Sort)
  • Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use (Set In Order)
  • Clean your workplace on daily basis completely or set cleaning frequency (Shine)
  • Maintain high standards at all times (Standardize)
  • Self discipline, also translates as “do without being told”(Sustain)
Having done those things, I leave school, head home and my brain starts forgetting about my working life.

Only in an emergency will I take work home. I got out of that habit when my children started coming along. It was okay with one (Keegan was very placid) but from January 1987 onwards (hello Adam) evening school work became nigh on impossible.

Keegan, Adam, then Samantha and Jade (and my wife, Jacky) made the need for work/life balance a new consideration back then and the need has continued to this day.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Oh won't you stay, just a little bit longer (Jackson Browne)

I like this from Marcel Schwantes - writing about
Exit Interviews

His suggestion - rather than an exit interview - why not try a 'stay meeting'. The idea being to forestall the actual exit and improve a situation before it gets to that point.

That seems to make sense to me. During the Stay Meeting Marcel suggests the five questions.

It got me thinking...

I found the exit interview at Woodford House, in December 2016, a very strange, surreal experience. It may have helped the school, but it didn't help me at all!

I would much rather have answered two of Marcel's questions in a 'stay meeting', at any time along the way.

Here's the first:

"Do you feel your skills are being utilized to the fullest?"
Marcel: Best case scenario here is discovering that the employee has skills the company or leader never knew about, which is a win-win: The employee wins by using personal strengths that raise personal motivation and engagement; the leader wins by offering new opportunities to tap into those strengths, which releases discretionary effort that will benefit the company, project, or team.
Would have been great if someone at my last school had thought to ask me that. Instead I felt my skills were being under-utilised and diminished.

Apart from me, no one noticed that, so I had to start thinking about fresh challenges elsewhere.

And the next one:

"Do you feel you get properly recognized for doing good work?"
Marcel: A leader will gauge frustration levels by courageously asking this question and openly accepting the response and, if it's negative, brainstorming solutions together. As Gallup has observed in its extensive research, praise and recognition for accomplishments have been repeatedly linked to higher employee retention.  
Maybe I didn't do good work. Maybe I just thought I did. I'm not sure. Maybe they didn't know either.

My best moment was at an early check in with the Principal (Jackie Barron) in 2013 who told me I'd made a good start; she loved that I was 'low maintenance'. I liked that because I do like to just get on with it and I'll check in if and when I need to. I also subscribe to the idea that if you employ good people and they are good at what they do - get out of their way.

The English department at Woodford was a case in point - three exceptional teachers, each of whom could easily lead a department, who had great ideas and got great results. Why would I want to micro-manage them?

I digress...

I've certainly received more positive and encouraging feedback in my new environment from colleagues, students, and parents in 6 months than I did at Woodford in four years. Nor do I miss Woodford's Staff Star and Extraordinary Teacher draws (given the criteria, I never had a look in). 

OfficeVibe, used by Westmount, keeps me thinking about things as well.

I'm going to use these 5 questions during the year with my new colleagues. 

Who knows what power I could unleash.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

You may say I'm a dreamer (Dr Winston O'Boogie)

Are you a DOER, a DREAMER, or a FEELER?

These are the three categories Dan Rockwell names in his blogs.


oers: Plan, organize, make lists, and find energy in finishing things.

Dreamers: Figure things out as they go, love new ideas, bristle at organization and find energy starting things.

Feelers: Despise conflict, display deep loyalty, do things themselves rather than ask others to do hard things, and find energy in relationships.

Me? All three at various times.

Here's my revised look at the above list but with the bold stuff being me (by me):

Doers: Plan, organize, make lists, and find energy in finishing things.

Dreamers: Figure things out as they go, love new ideas, bristle at organization and find energy starting things.

Feelers: Despise conflict, display deep loyalty, do things themselves rather than ask others to do hard things, and find energy in relationships.

Now - your turn!