Thursday, December 8, 2016

In celebration of life (Nosound)

School end of year ceremonies are endlessly fascinating rituals, are they not?

The pre prizegiving brekkie was a highlight!
This last week has been chock full of them with truckloads of emotion along the way.  

On Tuesday, I went to the senior Christmas dinner and enjoyed the company of staff and students (special shout out to GG). Then it was on to the senior carol service and some jaw dropping singing from the chapel choir. At one point I just closed my eyes and gave in to the sound.

Wednesday was my last day at Woodford House, my school of the last four years. BTW, I went back in today (Thursday) to get some forms signed and it was a little like when you leave home and then return - you can't just go to the fridge and help yerself, can you.

The day started with a pre-prize giving breakfast in my honour at Bay Espresso in the village. Great pancakes (thanks to Toni Dunstan) and great company with my Woodie buddies!

The year's official prize giving ceremony was the last official occasion of the year and I really enjoyed it, although it ran long.

The guest speaker - prestigious alumni, Judge Jill Moss, was a treat. A tad lengthy (the speech, not her) and softly spoken, she held her audience with some personal and universal truths. Although she did retread some familiar 'shift happens' territory at times (that stuff's in danger of becoming a tad overused).

Toni, Dionne and my thumb!
Again the outstanding highlight was the Head Girl speech but there were other terrific moments. 

For me: watching Montana lead the Kapa Haka, the great controlled singing of Christmas Santus from the chapel choir, and the School Hymn (a personal favourite) - all firmly lodged themselves in my memory banks.

It will be interesting to compare it to my new school's annual prize giving, this time next year. With Westmount being co-ed and ranging from new entrant to Year 13, it will be a different kind of experience, I'm sure.

And so to the other end of year tradition - the school magazine (Woodford House's version is called The Chronicle).

Jo, Greg, Amy and Janey
The editorial promised a new look - away from it being, erm, a chronicle, but more towards story telling.

And, except for it straying close to a glossy public relations brochure at times, it largely does what it says on the tin. It certainly shows off the girls in their best light. Although it was a little light on staff presence, overall, the colourful pages and clean modern design contribute to a bright product.

So, that's it.  The last blog post on Woodford House (unless something comes to mind on a random Tuesday afternoon down the track). 

It's a great school with some real characters. I wish her well, and all who sail in her!

For me, though, it's farewell to my safe harbour of the last few years as my little boat, with a small crew, heads away, with a mind for further adventure out on the ocean.

Love and peace - Purdzilla 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

If I were you, I'd make it better (Al Green)

Painful leadership vs inspirational leadership.

The Leadership Freak blog by the wonderful Dan Rockwell recently highlighted this distinction.

His painful list included:  

  • Nit-pickers  
  • Ball-droppers  
  • Drama-makers  
  • Down-in-the-mouthers  
  • Hand-wringers

These unattractive characteristics don't require any further explanation. 

According to Dan, on the other side of the leadership coin (yes, I know, it's not a binary situation but this is still cool and relevant) are leaders who:

  • Care deeply about relationships - (it’s not just results) 
  • Invite and act on feedback 
  • Advance the agenda of others, without sacrificing your own 
  • Understand the difference between advising and advocating 
  • Say what others fear saying

I'll be aiming to keep these two models in mind as I move back into a senior leadership role for 2017.

Monday, November 28, 2016

When it comes to leaving, I hope you understand (The Allman Brothers Band)

Recently, like yesterday, I resigned from my job and took a new position at a school in northland, NZ, as Principal.

I was simultaneously offered another position at a school in the UK.

It was a dilly of a pickle. Which one of these great opportunities to go for? 

Both of them offered a Hobson's choice - take what was offered, or walk away. My head and heart went to battle.

As you know, I'm a huge believer in Occam's Razor - the simplest solution is often the best one. And in the end the most sensible and simplest solution won out.

Having made that decision (finally), my wife and I  found two properties we really liked in the area. Again - we faced something that all humans are famously bad at - deciding among multiple options.

Occam's Razor again came in handy. When I applied it, only one property was really fit for purpose in terms of being horse sport friendly for my wife. So we bought it.

Seth Godin recently added a third concept to my decision making armory - Wheeler's which.

As he points out -Wheeler's which* teaches us that the answer to "one egg or two?" is usually 'one', while the answer to, "do you want an egg?" is usually zero.

In my case, it wasn't a case of, "Do I want a fresh challenge?", rather it was, "Which challenge do I want?".

*[Elmer Wheeler was a sales trainer nearly a century ago. He got hired by a chain of drugstores to increase sales at the soda fountain. In those days, a meal might consist of just an ice cream soda for a nickel. But for an extra penny or two, you could add a raw egg (protein!). Obviously, if more people added an egg, profits would go up. Wheeler taught the jerks (isn't that a great job title?) to ask anyone who ordered a soda, "One egg or two?" Sales of the egg add-on skyrocketed.]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This tune is home grown (The Guess Who)

'Here’s the thing: people actually want to do a good job. They want to be proud of their work, they appreciate being engaged, they thrive when they have some measure of control over their day.'

Seth Godin.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I been hangin' around libraries, I been learnin' 'bout books (The Guess Who)

New learning is calling me.

I'm a lifelong learner and that's important.

It's been a while since I did some study, or attended a conference...or even had some meaningful Professional Development come to think of it. 

My last conference was a goody, Ulearn in October 2014. Last course I completed was the Certificate in Aviation run by English Airways NZ 2012. The last university based learning was the National Certificate for First-Time Principals via Auckland University from 2007-2008.

So, it's getting time to become a student again in some capacity or other.

These days I can sit in my Abbey Road Three, or wherever, and tune into distance learning.

There are also a huge number of online places to access that exist for the love of learning.

There is even an open university with no fees!! Amazing.

Apart from that, there is the wonderful Twitterverse, my Walrus Gumboot newspaper, Daily Pnut, Vox Sentences,, and so on.

What a world we live in!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I believe in a promised land (Bruce Springsteen)

It's a dilly of a pickle.

The Unfamiliar Texts standard is proving to be more trouble than it's worth for many New Zealand teachers and students.

It's certainly given us in the English department at Woodford House some gyp!

The standard is externally assessed (an examination which is timed for an hour but I'd struggle to answer it in that time and be confident of top marks).

It contains three essays which are aggregated to give a grade. Aggregation is tough at the best of times.It pushes marks into the middle - it is very hard to fail this standard, but it's also very hard to excel as well.

To get an excellence a student needs to be firing on all cylinders constantly over the three essays.

Level 3 students need to analyse two previously unseen passages quickly and expertly. Then apply their knowledge of literary techniques to ANSWER A SPECIFIC QUESTION. The third aspect at Level 3 is to compare and contrast - another tough skill.

  • Failure to understand the poem or prose piece is disastrous.
  • Failure to know literary devices and techniques is disastrous.
  • Failure to apply knowledge to answer the specific question is disastrous.
  • Failure to deal with time pressures get my drift.

No wonder many of our students are struggling, no wonder our top students are failing to get the excellence grades in this standard and, therefore, no wonder schools are pulling out of offering/teaching to this standard.

I like the skills the standard is developing - critical responses to what we read is an important skill in my opinion, but I have questions 67, 68, 69 and 70 to ponder on.

  • Why does it have to be an examined standard?
  • What are some better ways to teach these skills?
  • Where can I get a decent cheeseburger?
  • Will we get any Excellencies in Level 3 Unfamiliar Texts this year?

Stay tuned!