Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I find it hard to tell you 'cause I find it hard to take (Tears For Fears)

Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash
What makes a popular post on Baggy Trousers and Wozza's Place?

The answer is, "Who knows?"

Here are the popularity stats for these two blogs:

Above: Baggy Trousers

Above: Wozza's Place

They reveal two clear cut winners in the popularity stakes. So let's have a look at them, shall we?

Written while living in the Middle East, this was about mentors and some key people who have influenced me.

Only one of the three is still alive - Warwick Gibbs who is still teaching at the same school. His first year there was 1972 (my Year 10 or fourth form year in old money). He is still a huge influence!

What was it about this post that struck a chord with 3,428 readers? Who knows!

Wozza's Place has bags of posts about my personal life and how I feel about people. Mitch Albom is not that well known I wouldn't think but maybe he is. I just don't know.

Over to Baggy Trousers - I still haven't found what I'm looking for was the third most popular post on both blogs but the runaway leader on Baggy Trousers. It was also written during my experiences in the Middle East, detailing my conflicted reaction to teacher evaluations. 

Nearly a thousand people have viewed it so it must be doing something right but I'm not sure what. Like Mitch Albom, John Hattie is not that well known outside of education circles and he does polarise opinion so, again...I just don't know.

I think the lesson here is not to overthink it! Just write and let the chips fall where they may!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Five GOOD reasons to come to work on Mondays.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Mondays: yeah, I'm not a fan either.

Apparently, Mondays don't care.

And they ain't going nowhere, so Mondays need to be squarely faced, head-on, eyeball to eyeball with relentless positivity! Don't let Mondays push you around.

Ha! Last week's Monday morning was an utter disaster (cut a mole while shaving and it wouldn't stop bleeding for four hours, yes, four hours!! I eventually arrived at school in time to deal with a student discipline matter, which meant I forgot I was supervising classes in the Learning Centre, then I made a pig's ear of a supervision schedule - yes THAT kind of Monday).

So why didn't I just stay in bed?

Five good reasons (as opposed to all those weirdo nebulous copy cat reasons you read online when you google 'reasons to go to work on Monday', and there will be no gratuitous mention of John Hattie or Seth Godin in sight this time out):

1. Let's get the obvious DAH one out of the way - it's my job and I need the essentials of life to survive, like food, shelter and records. Can't get 'em if I don't have a job.  

2. Reset. Apparently, many people use Mondays as their reset button. Good idea! Wipe the slate clean, start a new week, and start off a new approach maybe? Apparently research indicates that people who start a diet on a Monday have greater success! Hmmm, food for thought (apologies if you just started a diet and that was a tad insensitive).

3. Any day above ground is a good day. I need to get over myself. Give myself a good talking to and follow my mother's advice which she most probs gave me on a Monday - deep breath! Pin your ears back!

4. That relentless positivity. I honestly believe it will get better as I go along. Two deep philosophical thoughts keep me going on Mondays (and any day that goes haywire): Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you; and You have to take the crunchy with the smooth.

5. Hey! I'm the eldest in my family: I don't shirk my responsibilities.
Bonus reason: take a look around you - maybe it's night time and the stars are out, maybe you're reading this on your phone, on a train going to work, maybe you just got your baby off to sleep and you're 'laxing with a cuppa. Wonders are all about you. It's no big deal if things don't exactly go your way on Mondays.

So, there you have it: Mondays sorted. What else would you like me to fix for you?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Five reasons why I don't need 'exciting' or gossip.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Each morning I hear, "What exciting things are lined up for today?"

Each night I hear, "So, any gossip?"

Here are five reasons why I didn't need those things during my work day.

1 Exciting in my work context means different things to what's in the asker's brain. In MY brain, exciting means little things: a Year 4 girl telling me I'm her role model; being told a troubled, argumentative student rethought her approach and did the right thing. That's exciting and thrilling for me, and inspiring. 

2 In the asker's brain, exciting means something BIG and  exhilarating like Richie McCaw landing in his helicopter on the field, or snow suddenly dropping from the sky in autumn. Those are big rush moments that are very unlikely in my day and so when they don't happen, it's a let down: "Ooh, so there's nothing exciting happening today/boring!"

3 The dopamine rush of 'exciting' is vastly over-rated. We now live in a world of instant gratification. People have become dopamine junkies - checking their phones every few minutes for the rush of a 'like'. I prefer the long-term small gain rush of working towards the goal. Not so much the realisation of the goal. One of my sons asked me once (in his twenties having ticked off a big goal), "Dad, I've wanted that for so long. What do I do now?"  

4 Gossip fits into the dopamine rush category. Only when I'm genuinely shocked by a piece of news (recently, the sudden resignation of a colleague) do I want to pass it on. Mostly it's just stuff and nonsense.

5 Gossip implies games and secret agendas and a lack of openness. You know that place, where whispering takes place, and the room quietens even more when a boss walks in and people look guilty because they've been gossiping. I don't like that junk. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We may never pass this way again (Seals and Crofts)

Photo by sergee bee on Unsplash
After the first round of my Four Minute Walk-Through (4MWT) process/regime for the year I have a few random thoughts to share:

My writing is hard for people to read but, meh - my brain is reading/ decoding/ reflecting/ observing/ synthesizing/ concluding/ questioning and you want to read what I have written? I get that, but something has to be sacrificed.

Questions. I aim to provide one or two questions to get staff to reflect on their practice. Nothing heavy, mind. Nothing existential LOL. More like, what will you do to...?

 Or, How do you know...?

I have John Hattie in my ear as I visit: 'Teachers can and usually do have positive effects, but they must have exceptional effects'.

Via the 4MWT I can get a sense of what is really happening. Teachers often get a mini fright when they look up and register my presence in the room (having entered as unobtrusively as poss).

Younger kids love seeing a visitor in the room - they rush to show me what they've done; older kids are wary of visitors and are reticent to show me their work. Why is that? When did that change?

Back to my hurried scrawl as I visit: do I need to take notes as I go? Pretty much yes, I forget stuff. But maybe I should wait - I don't want the 4MWT to be evaluative if I can help it.

This is where learning takes place and as the leader of learning it's where I can help make a difference. Once I'm in the 4MWT groove, I don't want to stop.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I'm her two penny prince and I give her hot love (T Rex)

Photo by Breather on Unsplash
"So, how are the hot desks and hot offices going," you ask? And, "How about that goal of getting out and about more, huh"?

Interesting you should ask. 

Even though I've been in to visit Year 3 a couple of times, I've yet to get into senior syndicate classrooms after three weeks. BUT! I have two formal observations of new staff to do in the coming week and this will spur me on to delay the administrivia that flows my way on a daily basis and shift myself to observe all teachers! Yes, indeedy.

As to the hot seat approach? Well, it appears, in Nu Zild offices at least, it's deemed not so hot!

Research indicates interesting types of archetypal behaviour:
Hot-desking tends to affect different employees in different ways. There is often a subtle division between those who can "settle" and reliably occupy the same desk every day, and those who cannot.
Settlers arrive first, choose their preferred desk, and by repeating their choice over time, establish this desk as "their" space. Settlers can secure the best desk space (often near the windows), can furnish their desks with all the materials and equipment needed for work, and can sit near their closest colleagues.

I've avoided becoming a settler by moving to a different office/desk each day (the one time I didn't, it was noticed and commented upon). Hence I've become a wandering hot-desker, even though I arrive at school first.

On one hand: without a base, a home, a place to lay my hat (and put up my Arsenal flag), at times, I've struggled a bit these first three weeks. Yes it is, it's true.

As a senior manager, for many years my English classes always fitted in around other staff timetables and I seldom had a room to call my own. Sad face!

It can be unsettling and destabilizing being always on the move. No roots get put down and no one knows where to find me on any given day.

On the other hand: the less is more, minimal approach makes me light on my feet; everything is reduced to essentials; goodbye clutter (apart from my stress ball) and the lack of ownership is a freedom feeling - no roots provides for a more altruistic existence.

And no one knows where to find me. Happy face.

Monday, February 19, 2018

It's that same old dizzy hang-up, I can't do with you or without, tell me why is it so (Isaac Hayes)

Photo by John Reign Abarintos on Unsplash
We talk a lot about Self-Directed Learning at our school.

To get to there, our students need a certain degree of self-awareness. Staff debate at the moment is centering on the readiness of many of our students to be Self-Directed Learners, as they appear to lack this requisite self-awareness.

Awareness of our selfness. That's a big ask for anyone.

According to Hsing Yun (366 days of wisdom), it incorporates estimating our value in accordance to our:
  • morals
  • knowledge
  • working skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • achievements
  • family and educational background
That's some list.

As he says, if we don't know ourselves, we will end up without any value.

From that starting point comes self-discovery, then comes self-confidence, then comes self-empowerment, and finally self-independence.

And THAT'S where my direct job ends, and where my influence takes over.

That's MY goal. Always has been.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I'm starting with the man in the mirror (Michael Jackson)

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
Lesson 2: Accept your mistakes. 

Somewhere in the lead up to the plans I devised for our second PBL day, there was some crucial information that I glossed over. Then, on the day, I had to be in three places at once and things turned to curdly custard. Fast.

Like getting stuck in quicksand: the more I struggled to get out, I deeper I dove. 

Lesson 6: Sometimes you just need to focus

So, what did I do? Closed my eyes and focused. Breathed. Accepted my mistakes. Built a bridge.

In the end, other staff rallied around, and older students came up trumps and a lot of positive learning was the winner on the day.

Who knows what's good or bad?

P.S. If you, my young padowan, want the other 10 lessons - go and have a squiz at this list).