Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Yeoo, standin' at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride (Robert Johnson)

This is apposite to my last posting about binary decision making. Who else but the wonderful Seth Godin. He just gets it.
No judgment, no responsibility.
No responsibility, no risk. 
There's a fork in the road. If you seek out roles without responsibility, you might just find a sinecure.

This is the hot job for undifferentiated job seekers at the placement office, the job where a famous company will tell you what to do all day. 
Alas, those are the jobs that will be deleted first. The jobs that come with little in the way of respect or stability. These are the jobs that big companies automate whenever they can, or create enough rules to avoid any variation if they can't. 
The other choice is a job loaded with judgment calls. One where it's extremely likely you'll make a decision you regret, and get blamed for it. One where you take responsibility instead of waiting for authority 
It turns out that those are the best jobs of all.

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!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play (John Fogerty)

Teachers are coaches. It's what we do - we look and learn and we coach.

Most days we get it right. Sometimes we don't.

We've moved to a coaching model for the staff, and we're about to move to a coaching model for the students under the umbrella of our new Peer Support initiative.

During the early stages we're bound to get some things wrong. Maybe Dan Rockwell's advice will come in handy.

He reckons there are five key aspects to coaching:
#1. Stay curious.(Resist the temptation to give quick suggestions. You know the answer for you. Be curious about the answer for them.Develop a few go-to questions.Tell me more about that.What’s the next step?And what else?)
#2. Be honest with your feelings.
#3. Be direct.(Say what you see.   Prepare coachees by saying, “I’m going to give you very direct feedback.”Explore the difference between intention and impact. Most people don’t intend to shoot themselves in the foot.)
#4. Practice patience.Coaching is a process. 
#5. Be timely.(Coach in the moment. Don’t wait two weeks for the coaching appointment.)

Simple and effective advice! 

Ideas to live by, never mind as a coach! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

it just keeps coming and coming and coming. ... because the mail never stops (Newman)

My daily routines need some rethinking. I'm going to figure out which of these 17 small actions from Thomas Oppong I need and tutu with my day.

So, these are the things that I need to sort out:

1. Check emails at specific times

The average person checks email 77 times a day, sends and receives more than 122 email messages a day, and spends 28 percent or more of their workweek managing a constant influx of email.

Jocelyn K. Glei, author of “Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done” says that while checking emails throughout the day may make you feel productive, the opposite is true.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Jocelyn said, “…keep work emails short, simple and if something can’t be resolved quickly on email, suggest a meeting or simply walk to your colleague’s desk to confirm a plan. You’ll be rescuing yourself and others from those annoying email threads that drag on for a whole afternoon, interrupting everyone involved.”

I need to use Thomas' action approach to clear my inbox more:

When opening an email - make a quick decision: delete/archive, act now (if it takes a minute or two) and then reply/archive, send a quick reply (and then archive). 

I tend to read and leave them, which just means they build up and build up and then I feel like Newman!

2. Focus on importance and suppress urgency

Resist the tyranny of the urgent. Urgency wrecks productivity. Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your success.

Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals.

My time is often spent on the urgent because there is so much urgent stuff to do!

3. Focus on one thing at a time

Start your day by tackling high-value tasks you can complete in the morning. This will keep you motivated to get the next task done in time.

In his book, “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” Gary Keller said, “Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.”

Charles Dickens once said “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Funnily enough, I can do this easily at home on the weekends - clear the driveway, bury a water pipe, wash the car...and so on. But at work it's trickier to keep this regime going. There are many demands but I aim to maintain the 'touch it only once' policy as much as I can.

There you have it - three key things to work on, as well as carving out some me time each day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

To let me dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free (Bob Dylan)

Seth Godin nails it (again):

The reason it's difficult to learn something new is that it will change you into someone who disagrees with the person you used to be.

And we're not organized for that.

The filter bubble and our lack of curiosity about the unknown are forms of self defense. We're defending the self, keeping everything "ok" because that's a safe, low maintenance place to be.

The alternative is to sign up for a lifetime of challenging what the self believes. A journey to find more effectiveness, not more stability.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare (David Bowie)

Week 12 - Book 14: The Future Of Learning (Mark Treadwell) 

don't often get excited about a book that centres on education but Mark Treadwell and John Hattie certainly get my heart racing.

Their crystal clear thinking aligns closely with my own thoughts, hopes and desires for education.

I've had the privilege of hearing them talk about their ideas a few times and they always challenge my thinking.

Marks' six pillars are awesome! Look at number 6 - To implement concept based learning domains and competencies, based on building conceptual understanding, with learners creatively leveraging that understanding to be innovative and ingenious.

How great is that!! I read it and thought - YES! I bet Toni Dunstan's eyes are twinkling as well at Woodford House in Havelock North.

If you haven't grabbed a copy yet (it's only just out, so, like, I forgive you) then go to his website and prepare to be amazed and dazzled!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

I'll reach out my hand to you, I'll have faith in all you do (The Jackson 5)

Apologies first up! I am in the middle of organising a peer support programme for the school and it's not as easy as it sounds. This post is an attempt to sort through some ideas.

Hang in there.

Some research on the concept reveals that there are some consistent themes that schools are keen to target in their peer support programmes.

Overview of Peer Support Session Themes Used by Schools

Session Theme
Number of schools using the theme (n=121)
Orientation to school
Getting to know you
Building the group
Self awareness/self esteem
Cultural awareness
Friendship and trust
Peer Pressure

Instead of these things, my students appear to be more focused and positive about the effects of peer support for goal tracking, and providing practical help between students. So, not so keen on the touchy feelie themes outlined above.

They see peer support operating in the following ways:
  • Small groups of 3 with mix of levels
  • Having games and activities for form time (board games, debates, conversation starters)
  • Older mentoring younger Y13 - Y7; Y12 - Y8; Y11 - Y9
  • Need for peers to be on the same wave length
  • Peer mentoring/tutoring/ counselling of another student
  • At least a 2 year level gap between mentor and mentored
I like this accent on academic help and peer tutoring

I was first introduced to the concept and impressed by it at Cambridge High School back in 2000. Subsequently, I set up a clone of it at King John School in 2004.

Now it appears timely to revisit those ideas and combine them with some of the items in that chart to create a bespoke Kaipara Campus version.

I've ordered the manual from Peer Support NZ so we'll see what that can add to the mix as well and maybe adapt some things to our particular needs.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads (Dr Emmett Brown)

Obsolete - no longer of any use, past its use by date.

As promised - a revisit of those 21 things Tina Barseghian says have only three years left to run (Mind/Shift article - 21 things that will be obsolete by 2020).

The vast majority seem pretty clearly obvious but here are the ones I don't necessarily agree with: 

  • PAPERBACKS (reading by old technology, i.e. books) 

And, these ones are contentious (at least, in my head the debate rages on):

A taking of Westmount's pulse on all 21 items is interesting. Gratifyingly, many are being, or have been, made obsolete already.

Here are the ones still in the mix, that are worthy of further thought:

  • CURRENT CURRICULAR NORMS (the silo effect)

That's the great thing about education - we're always aiming to improve, to question things, and to look for solutions!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What goes on in your mind? (The Beatles)

Because of the general busy-ness of my working life these days, I've been hording some interesting articles from the good people of Mind/Shift

Here is a bespoke selection of recent bookmarked gems that I can recommend:

21 things that will be obsolete by 2020 (that's only three years away!). I'll come back to this one next time out. I'm a sucker for these kind of lists.

Why giving effective feedback is trickier than it seems. I am always in need of advice for giving feedback! It's something I find has to be tailored to the individual and that's tricky.

What's going on inside a dyslexic's brain - a very useful piece for me, as a number of my current students are in this position.

and finally, why teachers say practising mindfulness is transforming the work. I'm a big fan!

Monday, April 17, 2017

No more working for a week or two (Cliff Richard)

School holidays and time for some levity courtesy of the brilliant Rowan Atkinson as the school master. Never gets old!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Visions of paradise in cloudless skies I see. Rainbows on the hill, blue onyx on the sea. Come see (The Moody Blues)

Time and Space (maan).

Both elements are fundamental components of school life and both are under seige in education.

Being stretched thin and doing a lot of stuff quickly is not how I operate best. 

New thinking leading to new ways is only possible if time and space is generously applied.

Otherwise the status quo and old ways remain in place.

Andrew Douch is a case in point. Given time and space by his Principal, he was able to radicalise his teaching and vastly improve how he went about things, leading towards uncharted territories for teaching biology and uncalculated influence on his students and education as a whole.

Time and space.

It takes some bravery, some David Bowie like vision and experimentation, and a whole lotta resolve...

...but the rewards are immense.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Every picture tells a story (Rod Stewart)

Pernicious myths are those having a harmful effect in a gradual or subtle way.

This little quiz was an eye opener for me - I thought I was pretty good at spotting myths around education. Pffff!

Have a go - you might be surprised. Away we go!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Let the sun climb, oh, burn 'way my mask (Pearl Jam)


I stumbled on the word while proofing an essay by one of my colleagues - let's call her 'Mandy', who's fighting her way towards a Masters degree in educational leadership/management, bless her little cotton socks.

Anyway - I noticed the word and quietly choked on my peanut butter encrusted crusket. I am NOT a fan of these buzz words.

For a sec I thought she may have coined it herself but, no - she assured me that it was a thing. To prove it, Mandy gave me a book called 'Teacherpreneurs -Innovative teachers who lead but don't leave'.  Oh my.

Coincidentally, I read an Edutopia piece on it and, lo - it does, alack alas, appear to be a current thing.

What is a T*r? Well, according to the three people who co-wrote this book, it's a teacher (doh) who has 'time, space, and incentives to incubate big pedagogical and policy ideas and...execute them'.

These lucky t*rs spread new ways and approaches as mentors, action researchers, blah blah blah. While still teaching. 

Really? As a concept, it all sounds a tad forced to me. 

While reading the book, it was tough to get a feel for how a T*r is different to a decent Specialist Classroom Teacher (shout out to Greg) or a Director of Innovation (shout out to Toni) or an expert teacher who has cool ideas (shout out to Ange, Mandy, Greg, Amy and on and on).

I guess their definition wipes out a lot of worthy teachers who don't have the luxury of 'time, space, incentives' to innovate. Of course provision of these things can allow expert teachers to shine, to be innovative. Not rocket science, is it!

Ultimately, it appears that t*r is a bit like mercury - just when you feel like you have a bead on it, it changes shape on you and becomes liquid - like that quicksilver like dude in Terminator 2 who goes about morphing into other things.

I suppose I just don't see the point in the label. 

Maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, I guess it doesn't do any harm. If you are involved in thinking how things can be done better while putting in the hard yards as a practitioner, frinstance: maybe you're part of a change action group in your school, then - hurrah - you may very well want to give yourself a teacherpreneur label.

Or you could be really innovative, and just get on with it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share (Led Zeppelin)

Originally, this quote seems to have come from hunting but it's since morphed into all sorts of applications. 

In my situation it means that sometimes I have a great day and sometimes it's not so great. I particularly like the Yin Yang/ do or do not binary aspect on offer. Seemingly opposite, the two states are actually interconnected. There is no one without the other.

In my Al Ain days, my Arabic teachers had their own version - Yom asal, yom basal, which means ‘One day honey, one day onions’. 

Same basic principle applies - one day you're winning and one day you're scoring own goals.

I tend to use these expressions in hindsight. Rarely during a day, and never ever at the start of a day.

At the start of every day I expect to eat the bear!

As Groucho said:

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Just what makes that little old ant think he'll move that rubber tree plant? (Frank Sinatra)

Not everything is a BIG initiative in life. Mostly it's all incremental small steps, both forwards, backwards and forwards again!

Recently, our staff has been discussing ways we could implement some of the initiatives that were suggested at the Leading Remarkable Learning conference.

We came up with five things we want to see implemented at our campus:

  • Innovative learning environments (inspired from Mark Osbourne's keynote)
  • Coaches (a buddy/ reciprocal sounding board) (from Sir John Jones)
  • Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) (from Sugata Mitra)
  • Assessment for the future (also Sugata Mitra) Where do we want to head? What does success look like for our Westmount students? How do we get there in our context?
  • All the while following the concept that 'Relevance and context is everything' (Frances Valintine) (This may involve Mindlab's Postgrad Cert in Applied Practice – digital and collaborative practice; taking students to Mindlab facility; Self-directed learning (SDL); and innovation – what is next?

'What is next?' indeed! Anyone wanting to lead innovation must travel via this question.

Well here are some thoughts gleaned from Dan Rockwell's blog about our next moves and what initiatives need:

  1. New initiatives need to inspire energy to survive and thrive. Does the new idea generate enthusiasm in current team members?
  2.  New ideas need committed champions. Who on the team is ready to lead the charge? 
  3. Look for champions who aren’t already leading. Include new employees and people with untapped potential when exploring new ideas. See who steps up.
  4.  Listen to the concerns of dedicated doers. People who are already getting things done, understand what it takes to get things done.
  5. Cut stretch goals in half and move forward. Small choices are easier than big.
  6. Keep everyone in the loop. People on the fringes grab the rope after first-movers generate a win or two.
  7. Give life to new initiatives by giving them flesh and bones. Give enthusiasm a job. 

I could tick quite a few of these five initiatives for these seven principles of success (or needs).

Our five initiatives came from group choice and they each have their champions. Possibly the next stage, for me, is to discover the doers and the champions and see how they match the ideas. 

The loop sounds easier than it is in practice - some people like to know everything and the other end of the continuum are those on a need-to-know basis. All up, that one sounds like one for me to look after as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.

Giving flesh and bones is well placed at number seven. If the other things happen then meat and potatoes...erm...flesh and bones, will flow (that all made much more sense in my head).

Anyway, FORWARD!