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!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify. (Henry David Thoreau)


Every social situation is fraught with ambiguity, knee-deep in complication, hidden meanings, veiled power-struggles, passive-aggression and paranoid confusion. We seem perversely determined to make everything as difficult as possible.

That's Kate Fox, talking about English people in general in her book 'Watching The English'.

Sounds terrible, right?

I read that passage and thought how some teaching situations for staff, and probably more to the point, for students, are potentially pretty much like that. 

Hey, we're all human, but it's exhausting for all involved.

I'm lucky, I've never experienced anything that bad, but, from time to time, I've seen people feel like that is their situation.

Being solution focussed, I'm bound to suggest an answer to the question - what's the antidote?

Be  more direct, more upfront, live without agendas, don't play games, and simplify, simplify.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What a dream I had, pressed in organdy (Simon and Garfunkel)


This may be an ever so slightly unsexy topic to post on but Professional Development is all about life-long learning.

I place great value on stretching my learning, so it's partly why I changed jobs to a school environment that more fully supports my unique PD needs.

Already, in the past 6 weeks, I have been to a two day conference and participated on an interview panel to find a new Regional Principal.

In addition, every Wednesday we close the school at 2.10pm for a staff PD session. I like how this central location and time allocation is deemed a vital part of our week. 

As Samuel Mormando wrote recently, 'for PD to be meaningful and relevant, it must constantly be reshaped to meet the needs of every teacher-and C.H.O.I.C.E can help'.

C.H.O.I.C.E stands for Constant Progress, Honoring Professionals, Ongoing, Individualized, Collaborative, and Energizing. 

It's the aconym used at Garnet Valley school and it also applies to our endeavours at Westmount (Kaipara Campus).

We need to keep it in mind, and apply it as well as can, for every Wednesday session.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ch ch ch ch ch changes (David Bowie)

An open letter to a former student at Woodford House:

Dear Zoe


A big howdy from a REAL New Zealand town. As you turn off State Highway 1 onto State Highway 12 you'll see a sign for Maungaturoto and underneath it is the legend - A REAL NZ town. So it's official.

Mr Semmens for lemons sent me your winning entry in the wide reading standard and I enjoyed, as always, reading your thoughts. In this case - your thoughts about my earlier post on the concept of change.

Change is a BIG thing in my current school. Change is the new normal here. 

Curious thing I've noticed when there is lots of constant change - some people love it and thrive off it (picture me with a cheery thumbs up), a few are resistant (paradoxically - the older, the more resistant, generally speaking), and many go with the flow (Mr Semmens is a great go with the flow exponent).

All this change has been great for me because it means we are all learning at the same time. A few times, I've assumed something has always been done that way but then people quickly set me straight, which is great!

Why? is a great question, Zoe. Why is it done that way? Why don't we...?

What if? is also an excellent question. What if we pulled down those walls? What if we changed the timetable structure?

Most change/decisions start off with a what if or a why.

I urge you to adopt these questions, Zoe. You will be leading change (rather than reacting to someone's imposed change) before you know it.

Anyway, loved your written response to my blog post. Say hi to all my friends at Woodford House and keep reading the blogs!

Love and peace - Purdzilla

Sunday, March 5, 2017

This is just a wild guess, Chief, right off the top of my head (Maxwell Smart)


Past colleagues and students know my cultural markers (touchstones if you prefer) well. I am now teaching at Westmount's Kaipara campus, where the students are all from the Christian Brethren Church. 

Lately, it slowly dawned on me that the students and I don't share all of the same cultural markers.

Music, and the Beatles' ties I wear? Tick. Positive comments, of the 'I like your tie' variety!

Sport and the Arsenal jackets and ties I wear? Tick. Already there has been some good natured ribbing from the boys, in particular.

Star Wars quotes, the Jedi references? My Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions? TV references such as 'Good thinking 99'?

All have been met with a kind of quizzical expression and a polite smile.

One of my students looking at my Twitter profile said, "What is gee-day?"

The light bulb in my brain went from dim to bright at that point.

Although our students can watch films and videos in class (I saw a really old video showing Vietnam War footage in a history Video Conference recently), they don't watch TV at home. Nor do they go to the movies, and even if they did, cosmic space dramas like Star Wars wouldn't be on their radar.

During our recent educational conference (much more coming in the next few weeks), a call came from Frances Valintine to allow students to use their phones at school and from others about the value of YouTube and using the internet during exams.

These things, like my other cultural touchstones, are simple not possible in my new context.

So, as we pilot our way into the future, we will need to consider all of that along with what is possible, so that our students can embrace the many changes to learning that are coming, and keep their way of life intact.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Livin' in a home in the heart of the country (Paul McCartney)


Yesterday, as one of my senior students got out of a school van, I couldn't help notice that he was carrying a small chilly bin. I made a quip about - that's a big lunch!

He opened up the lid and showed me the contents - ripe fat juicy blackberries. I guessed he and his family had collected them on the weekend. I supposed he was bringing them in to share with his classmates.

He asked if I wanted some and I laughed and said - bit early for me, but if you have a few left at the end of the day, sure. I'd love some.

I didn't think anything else of it until after school. As he went to get back on board a school van he mentioned that he'd left some for me in my office.

He wasn't kidding - and the 'some' turned out to be rather a lot!

I have just enjoyed some on my breakfast and look forward to eating the rest in a pie tonight!

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the generosity of spirit impressed me greatly, for one thing. 

This wasn't like an end of year type gift from a student whom I'd taught, this was hard earned (blackberry picking is fun but time consuming and the prickles hurt) and given spontaneously.

If he hadn't left them I would never have given it a second thought, but he'd obviously remembered the earlier conversation and thought about things enough to leave them for me.

I really appreciated the realness and sincerity of the gift and, bonus, they were delicious!