Thursday, October 19, 2017

80% of success is just showing up (Woody Allen)

I tend to wander about. I can't sit still. I got the hippy hippy shakes!

Seriously, I find it hard to settle to one task for long. Usually there are at least 3 or 4 plates spinning and so I get antsy.

Then I wander around. It helps!

It helps my thinking. As I wander, I see people and say stuff that I need to say. 

I will often go for a walk to see a student or a staff member in their room, rather than call them to the office. It gives me time to run over in my head want I need to communicate.

Wandering gives me a feel for the place. It was a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday and the feel was definitely up (too up for a few girls who couldn't get themselves to maths class).

Some limited exercise comes from all this wandering too. A routine blood test this week indicated I need to step up my wandering even more (literally).

So yeah. The old adage about management by wandering around is really a thing for me.

Sometimes, when those plates get a tad overwhelming I need to get out of the school and go for a walk. Clears my head, puts things in perspective, recharges me.

Now, where are my walking shoes? Liz (my walking coach)? Are you ready to go? 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Laugh at yesterday (The Beach Boys)

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash
Right here, right now: first day back at school for the sprint finish to the year, Term 4. Well, for the seniors anyway. Basically they have three weeks of school and then go on exam leave.

The revision trick is all about focus. Qui Gon-Jinn's phrase is overused by me, I know, but it's so apt: your focus determines your reality.

To help focus I offer these great ideas from an Edutopia article on 'brain breaks'.

I've heard our students use this term but they regard it as a break from study and not a sharpening of their focus.

There are some great activities in the article. Read it! What have you got to lose? And you could gain some focus. 

It's within your grasp!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The sound that I'm hearing is only the sound of the low spark of high-heeled boys (Traffic)

Still on holiday and still luxuriating in the wise words from Seth Godin's Tribes.

Here he is on the discomfort of leadership:

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.

He's right. It's not all peaches and cream! As he says:
It's uncomfortable to stand up in front to strangers. 
It's uncomfortable to propose and idea that might fail. 
It's uncomfortable to challenge the status quo. 
It's uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle. 
If you're not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it's almost certain you're not reaching your potential as leader.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My love is like a storybook story but it's as real as the feelings I feel (Mark Knopfler)

Seth Godin's Tribes is a treasure store house (I guess that's what a trove is).

Full of good stuff. 

As I read the mini chapter called Switching Tribes, his bit on what a seeker is really resonated with me.

His definition of a seeker:  
People who desire the feeling they get when they're part of a growing, vibrant tribe, but who are still looking for that feeling.
I'm a seeker.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today, and then one day you find ten years have got behind you (Pink Floyd)

I had a birthday yesterday, pish posh - the age is immaterial, and a number of colleagues, former and current, got in touch via Facebook.

That's pretty cool of FB (who also wished me a happy birthday btw - touching that out of all the millions on FB they should remember mine).

It (the colleagues getting in touch, not the FB remembering me thing) reminded me of a bit I read recently in This Is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper. 

Context - central character, Judd, is reflecting on seeing some old colleagues and saying farewell to them. 
It's quite likely that I will never see either one of them again, and the thought saddens me. They were daily fixtures in my life for the last seven years or so, and now they are gone. Or, more accurately, I am. Just like that. That's the thing about life: everything feels so permanent, but you can disappear in an instant.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race (Frank Sinatra)

End of the term and cream crackered.

I wonder (to myself) whether anyone's done any research into (the lack of) school productivity in the last week of school terms.

Oh, you over there towards the back. Ar har. You haven't done any, but think you may have read something somewhere.

Yeah, you're no help.

I'm tired, the rest of the staff are tired, and the kids are tired. Hard to imagine, when I started teaching back in the day, we had three term years. Man alive o. Tough. Brutal.

'Spech that second winter term.

Hold up. Next term is only three weeks long for the seniors, then onto externals. Revision time.

In effect, like that balloon thing in the picture, we have squeezed all of our quality teaching time into three shorter terms. 

Throw in all the disruptions that come every week in a busy school and, BAM, that creates pressure pressure, I got pressure, Oh Yeah. To quote the mighty Ray Davies of The Kinks.

No wonder we're cream crackered.

Which explains why this post is like that balloon - full of hot air, pretty, but ultimately vacuous.

Did I mention I'm tired?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

In the light you will find the road (Led Zeppelin)

Photo by David Moum on Unsplash
Hurricane Irma was not the only storm happening recently.

A good friend of mine was navigating a fairly brutal storm of her own.

Initially, there were a few flight or fight style decisions to be made. In the end, fight was the only option.Quitting is not an option if you follow the 'never give up, never surrender' mantra from Galaxy Quest!

Soul searching was the order of the day and she is (it's an ongoing process) weathering the tempest and learning tons of stuff about herself. 

Like what?

Stuff to do with 'above the line' thinking like owning the failure (that comes from, and leads to, greater empathy) with no blame or excuses.

And courage - she found it tough to admit she could do better; she told her students, "I need to improve. You need to improve".

Although it has tested her optimism, she has realised that stuff needs addressing if the culture is to improve.  

Finally, she has learned a valuable lesson in fortitude.

Dan Rockwell says: Own the consequences of your failures, but don’t circle the drain. Remorse for causing harm is healthy, but bags of guilt crush the spirit.

“Woe is me,” might seem noble, but it’s self-centered.

 She'll be stronger for this experience!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Though I'm dressed in these rags, I'll wear sable some day (The Animals)

Learning coaches - part three (I think)

After extensive research, comprehensive surveys of all our students, staff and parents, and considerable analysis and soul searching involving long nights hunched over results in deep concentration, with all due modesty and sobriety, I can reveal, in a world premiere kind of way, an info graphic to beat all info graphics on, fanfare please...Learning Coaches!!!

Footnote: Every place has its jargon so some explanation required - LC is Learning Centre (where our senior students study in a self-directed fashion); OA is Office Administrator; the three places listed as preferences are in the LC.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In the mist dark figures move and twist (Iron Maiden)

Photo by Harman Abiwardani on Unsplash
Currently, a friend of mine is looking the beast in the eye.

My advice? Listen to Dan Rockwell on the subject. I think he's spot on:
  • Create four options before choosing one path forward.
  • Believe in your ability to learn, grow, and adapt.
  • Remember times when you rose up and faced big challenges in the past.
  • Respond to your fear of losing by developing strategies and taking aggressive action.  
  • Think more about taking action than doing everything perfectly.
  • Hang with men and women of valor. Listen to people with battle scars. Doers are better than dreamers when it comes to looking the beast in the eye.
  • Worry more about the next play and less about winning.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Don't overthink it. Just do it.

Something like that.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Why doncha? (West Bruce and Laing)

Failure shmailure.

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash
I've had occasion this week to talk quite a lot about failure with students and parents.

Seems some people get quite paralysed by the idea of failure.

Now, as long term Baggy Trews readers know - I am quite acquainted with failure and I've bemoaned the fact a few times that our modern student types are not, to their detriment.

With this in mind, I came across this in my bookmarks: How to teach children that failure is the secret to success. Time for a revisit before deleting the link.

The main take away - when your child is struggling on something or has setbacks, don't focus on their abilities, focus on what they can learn from it.

They're watching you, you know.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What one-billionth of one percent are we going to choose to teach in school? (Seymour Papert)

Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash
At our Senior Educational Leadership Team (SELT) meetings we often discuss the curriculum we should be using in our schools.

We know our current curriculum is not cutting the mustard. 

We know we are basing our teaching and learning on an outdated structure, a hold over from the industrial age.

A hold over from when NZ opened for business as a branch of the British Empire. Some universities and some prestigious schools needed stuff to teach and it may have made sense then. 

We are perpetuating that circumstance in some form or other, and it no longer makes sense.  

We know our schools in 2017, with our desire for career ready students, have different needs to those that existed 100 years ago.

Yet, as Will Richardson reminds us, educationalists have long seemed loathe to mess with the recipe.

From the junior school until Year 8 we are holistic in nature, but then from Year 9 we introduce discreet subjects designed to funnel students into NCEA.

The NCEA boat is a canal boat going through a narrow channel; those babies are tough to turn around once they are pointing in one direction. 

But, at some point, we have to do it.

As Seymour Papert posits, now that we have access to pretty much all there is to know, what one-billionth of one percent are we going to choose to teach in school?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

You're the hidden cost and the thing that's lost In everything I do (Jackson Browne)

Photo by Philipp Lublasser on Unsplash

At present, I'm struggling a tad to be as efficient as I can be while establishing some me-time balance. It will be a neat trick when I pull it off.

I do like a challenge! 

In my current job, I knew going in that my downtime was going to be eroded, but I didn't realise it would disappear. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Finito - Kapish. 

Which was stupid of me. 

My job is that of an enhanced Deputy Principal, on steroids. I had no time when I was a DP at Cambridge High School. There was (and is) no 'free period' when you are a DP.  

Regular readers will recall that I checked this particular pulse a few months ago. I knew this term I would need to carve out some me-time at school, but, has it happened? Has it heck as like.

So I re-read this article by Mark McCartney from the Guardian - How To Do The Most Work In The Shortest Time, to take stock. 

First a reminder of Mark's top tips. 

1. Disappear (Lock yourself in a room away from distractions and focus fully on one task at a time). Nope - cannae do that yet. Feels slightly off to do that - I like being accessible a little too much. This one's a case of - must apply myself harder. 

2. Don’t fight distraction  (work in short bursts, with high levels of focused attention). Check - that's the way I roll.  

3. Simplify (what can you stop doing?). Still learning. This is probably something I can start doing more next year. Needs must this yesr.  

4. Find your rhythm (spend the first 60 minutes of your day on the one or two really important tasks you need to get done). Check! I have always arrived at school an hour early. Currently it's 90 mins.  

5. Strengthen (actively arrange your role so you can focus on what you are good at). Not yet. Same answer as #3.

6. Watch the robots
(focus on being effective). My aim is true.

7. Be honest. Always!

So how did I do, compared to earlier in the year? The above answers haven't changed much...yet.  

As Mark says:

It’s often our own deeply entrenched habits that stop us from getting more done more quickly.

Basically, I could do better. I will do better!  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The strong survive, they stay alive, they always cool (The Four Tops)

 Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Version 1: The first step of my Learning Coach inquiry picked up pace this week.

Version 2: Going forward, to cover off the Learning Coach journey that will roll out because I have skin in the game I will further be unpacking after drilling down into the nitty gritty.

I hope you chose Version 1! Version two makes no sense!

What I've been doing is finding out what a Learning Coach is all about and understanding how it works - it seems there are a variety of ways people approach it, and obtaining insights from students and staff via my surveys.

This will continue into next week as I further analyse the surveys.

Seth Godin (I LOVE his succinct posts) has reminded me about a key element in my inquiry and I aim to keep it in mind after I finish a Learning Coach model for our campus.

It's this: Don't forget the second step
Step two is easily overlooked. Step two is turning it into a habit. Committing to the practice. Showing up and doing it again and again until you're good at it, and until it's part of who you are and what you do.
Right on brother!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Listen, do you want to know a secret? (The Beatles)

Seeing is believing - a strategy is required!

Why am I interested in figuring out what a good learning coach does?

As Dan Rockwell highlighted in one of his posts - managers notice environments and people.

  • How does the environment feel? Hinder? Elevate?
  • How are people interacting with each other?
  • What is the energy level of individuals or teams?
I have noticed what is largely missing from our Learning Centre because I notice what I am not doing well. I have noticed how some teachers are not interacting as learning coaches with their students.

I see and continue to believe we are lacking an essential person to help free up our teachers to become (better) learning coaches.

It's hard not to notice how the environment of the Learning Centre is geographically perfect for learning coaches to prosper.

My inquiry has now gathered together student, staff and parent voice.

Time to analyse!

Monday, August 14, 2017

So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way (Joni Mitchell)

Learning coaches, learning conferences, learning centres, life-long learners.

I like the way our rhetoric has embraced the idea of learning and moved away from 'teaching'. Although I've never really subscribed to the concept of teacher as teller and wise old holder of the knowledge, okay maybe a teenie weenie bit 30 years ago when I was kicking off my career, I now greatly appreciate the fact that teaching has morphed more and more into lead learner status.

I'm currently researching what a learning coach is spost to be all about. What does a good learning coach do, how is that different to the old model, and how does it suit our context at Westmount school?

Three good questions right?

I started with some research. Mostly came up empty but here's a bit of what I've found out so far, regarding some key points of being a learning coach and how this role can be a mutually enjoyable and rewarding relationship.
  • Coaching is a one-to-one relationship in which the coach’s experience assists the learner with their action learning.
  • Coaches can help especially with the reflection and conclusions.
  • Individuals prefer to learn in different ways and the coach should be aware of such differences.
  • The role of the coach in action learning is to support and enable the learner.
  • Building a comfortable relationship is important.
  • The will to complete the learning or be a good coach is the main success factor.
  • Teachers (expert collaborators) need to make learning visible, need to have the capacity to facilitate learning conversations with learners regardless of content
Reading this again reminded that I did a lot of coaching stuff in the Middle East while working for Cognition.

That's where I'm headed next.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ar, that's a shame (George Costanza)

Sometimes, with the best will in the world, life gets in the way of my blogging schedule.

Take today.

A combination of my wife working, torrential rain, darkness, and a need for me to shift two horses from a soggy boggy paddock to a dry stand yard before heading off to school meant no post on Baggy Trousers.

I did read this great interview when I got to school though and retweeted it as fast as I could.

Here it is for your perusal. It's important. Take some time. I'll wait.

Done? I know right! 

This bit...amazing 'this week, Chinese language learning startup, Liulishuo, which uses machine learning algorithms to teach English to 45 million Chinese students, raised $100 million to accelerate its work'.

Boggles the mind!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Follow your bliss (Joseph Campbell)


Teaching in the primary school is a career pathway I deeply respect, but it's not for me.

I've been a secondary school teacher since 1983, I've always maintained that I could never have been a primary school teacher.

I like to visit, but I couldn't live there.

My patience wouldn't hold. 

Talking to primary teachers at school, they indicate they couldn't work in the secondary part.

Interesting, how we find our niche.

I respect this ability to access our own realities.

Together we make a great team. Professionals being challenged inside a niche environment of their own choosing. 

Making connections and developing relationships. 

Doing the best we can.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I feel reborn, I'm like a Phoenix rising from Arizona (Frank Costanza)

Above the line thinking by the cool kids at Teacher Academy

Time at Teachers' Academy with the most wonderful Karen Boyes has reaffirmed some long held beliefs:

  • Teachers are hilarious
  • There are some great teachers out there in Westmount schools
  • Teachers are not afraid (for the most part) to challenge themselves and give things a go
  • My colleagues are great learners
  • The group chemistry is a mysterious and wondrous thing and we had an awesome bunch. Especially the small group of Murray, Kelsi, Gina, Renée and me (none of whom I knew before starting this PD and only Renée I'd met briefly before)

How wondrous? When we were given a task during the three days at Teacher Academy and told we could go anywhere to work, we stayed together as a group without any tacit agreement to do so (the only group to do that btw) - we just liked each other's company obviously. Wondrous.

I've known this feeling before a few times. At UNITEC 1999-2000 doing a post graduate diploma I was in a large bunch of educators and we all instantly clicked. Even the co-ordinators of the course commented on it!

The power of a team that clicks. Mighty.

So - raise your glasses and salute Super G, Muzza, K Dawg, Renoir and, erm, me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Well she's walking through the clouds with a circus mind that's running wild (Jimi Hendrix)

It's conference and PD time in Wozza's World this week.

I am super impressed at the commitment by my current employer to provide all staff with quality PD opportunities. Yes, all!

These things aren't cheap - three days out of school for each staff member, accommodation for two nights, flights and so on. A massive undertaking.

With great outcomes! In all sorts of ways.

One of the things I missed at Woodford House (and I do really love you WH and I do kind of understand why but not really) was the lack of such opportunities for me personally.

This week there have been two great professional development events for me to attend. The first was about Campus Trading and the financial aspects of what makes Westmount and OneSchool Global keep on ticking. 

Sure, some of it was gobbledegook and way over my pretty little head, but it was wonderful to see colleagues getting so passionate about revenue streams and stuff. Very inspiring!

Now, okay, normally my eyes glaze over when finances are involved but I came away with new, and deeper, and more meaningful appreciation for the context I work in. And that was a good feeling people!

Next up are three days leadership PD with the delightful Karen Boyes. Rightfully world famous in Nu Zild, Karen is a superb presenter, and all round lovely person. She makes learning fun! 

Three days with Karen is a joy.

Niggles: sorry, but, going forward, if I hear one more , learning journey underpinning the nitty gritty, I will cover off a retreat...and may just scream!

Again we are positioned in rows facing forward, looking at a screen, as a talented individual lectures us (at times about the nastiness of this practice in the 21st century). The irony is not lost on them. But still it continues.

And the English teacher in me hates it when slides to power points have grammatical errors. Okay, I know most people d'o'n't' care about apostrophes but would it kill to get them proofread?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Carpe diem

What do the 13 most innovative schools in the world have in common?

Well, for a start, they don't look like traditional schools with separate classrooms and siloed subjects and they do deal with the real world and they do change the role of the 'teacher' forever.

In short they don't look like 99% of New Zealand schools.

And that's a worry. And it needs to change. And it needs to change now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's stopped rainin', everybody's in a play and, don't you know, it's a beautiful new day (Electric Light Orchestra)

Decisions decisions.

Recently, I wrote about my daily decision making. Sometimes decisions can come back to bite me, but I can't travel back in time via Rapid Roy (Skoda Rapid), my version of a DeLorean, and do over. Gotta live with a bad decision and endeavour to learn from it.

I like to continually remind myself of Buddhism's eightfold components to the path (which it itself is the fourth noble truth). 

Right Mindfulness is one of the eight.

Right mindfulness means being aware, mindful and attentive to three things: the activities of the body; sensations/ feelings; thoughts/ideas.

The head and the heart are clearly key components to Right Mindfulness.

Earlier this year, The Leadership Freak (a.k.a. Dan Rockwell) weighed up some of the head and heart-based questions that lead to decisions. I bookmarked the post and (like the noble eightfold path) return to it from time to time.

His judgement is that heart-based questions like:

  • What does integrity/honesty/openness tell you to do?
  • What does respect for others tell you to do?
  • What does compassion/kindness tell you to do?
  • What does courage/confidence tell you to do?
should rule the day.

He's really talking about Right Mindfulness, and asking some brilliant questions.

The way is clear.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Knock me down get back up again (Tom Cochrane)

I would say that I'm an optimist. My lovely wife of 34 years, the present Mrs Purdy, however, is not!

We balance each other.

I'm not sure if we inherited those traits. Thinking about our parents, I don't think so. 

Instead, we grew into them over time via our experiences. 

According to an article in Edutopia by Marcus Conyers and Donna Wilson, research has demonstrated that optimism, traditionally considered to be an unchangeable trait, is a way of thinking that can be learned and enhanced. 

Which is a good thing because people with a positive viewpoint have less stress, better creative problem-solving skills, and better health outcomes than less optimistic people. 

This all has a spin off for education because, as Conyers and Wilson point out, 'optimistic learners are more likely to persist in the sometimes-hard work of learning, motivated by the belief that they can accomplish their learning goals'. 

Good stuff, right! As students get more optimistic  they are motivated to progress through learning difficulties and to attain higher levels of achievement. More optimistic students also have greater resistance to depression and the negative effects of stress.

Okay, so, how do we grow the optimism trait. Positive reinforcement.

Conyer and Wilson again: 
Emphasizing positive emotions helps students become more resilient and more likely to persevere with learning tasks. Their persistence is fueled by the belief that they will triumph over difficulty, learn from their mistakes, overcome plateaus in their performance, and progress. The mantra "I think I can! I think I can!" from an all-time favorite story, The Little Engine That Could, illustrates practical optimistic thinking.
The emphasis we have at school on positive relationships, restorative practices and a Not Achieved grade being a Not Yet grade are all part of emphasising optimism.

I've been working on the present Mrs Purdy's natural inclination towards pessimism for 34 years. Some things take time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

There's a time a for joy, a time for tears, a time we'll treasure through the years - we'll remember always Graduation day (The Beach Boys)

Schools are incredible places.

Great meeting places and melting pots for so much creative energy. 

I've spent a few days watching, with great pride, some talented students pull together a Graduation ceremony for last year's Year 13 students. 

[Why do we do that in July? Don't ask. But we do (or, we did - this is its last year - instead we'll be combining graduation with prizegiving in December from now on)]

Anyway - young people are constantly amazing. With a minimum of adult supervision, our Year 12's and 13's have pulled together, pooled their considerable talents, and transformed our gym into a worthy theatre of celebration.

No mean feat, let me tell you.

I am blown away by their skills and abilities. Whether it be performing (guitarists, singers, choreographers, drummers) or a support role (riggers, sound tech, stage design, painters, set decorators, electrical tech and so on). Pretty much everything has been done by our amazing students.

Great real world learning as they problem solve, communicate, collaborate, visualise, and do.

I take my hat off to them!!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Silver people on the shoreline, let us be (Crosby Stills Nash)

Google published some meta-analysis results recently from within their own organisation about what makes a great Google manager. 

Here they are in ranked order (first to last):

  • Be a good coach;
  • Empower your team and don't micromanage;
  • Express interest in employee's success and well-being;
  • Be productive and results-oriented;
  • Be a good communicator and listen to your team;
  • Help your employees with career development;
  • Have a clear vision and strategy for the team; and
  • Have key technical skills, so you can help advise the team.
I like this list.