Thursday, August 25, 2016

Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh (Pink Floyd)

Dear Emily*

Yes - this is an open letter to you, Emily. Even though you won't read it 
(unless I send you a link that is) because 'reading my blog' is not a priority in your life. 



Therefore, Emily, I feel the need to perform an intervention.

Emily, you have a problem and I want to help you out. Your slavish addiction to 'to-do' lists has me concerned.

Hence this intervention via the open letter.

Let me be clear: To-Do Lists Are Not the Answer to Getting Things Done!


We have argued about this vehemently over the last week and I feel that your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fort.

Why do I maintain this stance, Emily? I shall tell you! And, b.t.w., I acknowledge the help of Shane Parrish and Cal Newport in the construction of this argument.

To-do lists are a terrible daily planning tool. They are missing two key pieces of information:
  • How long each task requires.
  • How much and where your free time is available for the day.
Without these two facts, you are stumbling blindly, hoping your random decisions of what to do (or not do) at a given moment will lead to an efficient schedule. Here’s the thing, Em: it won’t. 

To-do lists make it easy and that's a bad thing. They make it easy because it’s so simple to add things, and so these lists tend to grow and grow.  

To-do lists are a form of procrastination. Oh, yes they are! Rather than 'just do it' and act fast, to-do lists slow you down! Instead of action you are making a list of things to do in the future! Tut tut!

The solution to the to-do list problem is actually pretty simple. You have to make one change: schedule it! That’s how the most successful people use lists … under a specific time block.

When you schedule things, you are forced to deal with the fact that there are only so many hours in a week. You’re forced to make choices rather than add something to a never ending to-do list that only becomes a source of anxiety. And you can’t just schedule important work and creative stuff. You need to schedule time for rest and recovery and mundane things like email.

So...ditch the pen and paper, open up your calendar on your phone and block time.

Your other option, Emily, is to adopt the 'touch it only once' policy. Avoid procrastination! It is the thief of time!! Work smarter, not harder.

Here endeth the lesson (you'll thank me one day)

Fondest regards, love and peace - Wozza

*Name changed to fit the Pink Floyd song and to protect the innocent, which is ironic as her real name is, actually, Emily!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sank, swam, go down with the ship, but use your freedom of choice (Devo)

Drinking Coke is a matter of choice, right?
Debate is raging at school right now about compulsory subjects, freedom of choice and even if subjects should exist at all.

Okay, 'raging' is a stretch, so is the bit about 'if subjects should exist', but a debate of some kind, is happening. Or maybe it's not - sometimes it's hard to tell these things. 

In NZ, a national curriculum makes some subjects compulsory up to and including Year 10. For Year 11, students need basic numeracy and literacy (which schools often interpret to mean English/ maths, but science is usually throw in there as well). After Year 11 nothing is compulsory (yet schools often make English something everyone has to do).

From what I can tell there are clear reasons for and against the dilemma of making subjects compulsory.

And here they are...

On one hand - some subjects should be compulsory because:

  • We know best
  • The country needs skilled professionals in areas like engineering and I.T.
  • The number of students willingly studying maths and science is declining
  • We want to produce well rounded, informed, citizens 

On the other hand, Freedom of choice is better because:

  • It supports self-directed learning
  • It supports the desire for greater student satisfaction...
  • ...which leads to improved academic performance
  • Universities are interested in academic performance rather than performance in individual subjects
  • With the rapidly changing workplace of the modern world, a wide range of transportable and transferable skills is preferable

It's a dilly of a pickle for some people. But not me. At a recent meeting I advanced an opinion (which came as a shock to no one).

Largely because of reasons one, two and three, I firmly believe in the freedom model

After further discussion, lo, it came to pass.

None of the siloed subjects in our senior school are now compulsory. Some are 'strongly recommended' and that's cool!

Next stop - the end of those pesky siloed subjects!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I will be your knight in shining armor coming to your emotional rescue (The Rolling Stones)

You all know what I think about meetings.


I won't bore y'all with another diatribe, but I will provide you with this nifty diagram from Sarah Cooper, looking at the ways you can cope with meetings and even better than that - appear smart at them!

I've used a few already - and I can recommend them whole-heartedly!!

#4 NOD CONTINUOUSLY WHILE PRETENDING TO TAKE NOTES is a personal favourite!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'll be your savior, steadfast and true, I'll come to your emotional rescue (The Rolling Stone)


According to an article I read recently by Katrina Schwartz on Mind/Shift, it appears that... 
'Sometimes English class can seem like an endless litany of literary devices and structured argumentative essays. But that’s not why most English teachers love what they teach — they love the way art reflects real life in all its confusion, pain and difficulty. In fact, some argue that the emotional side of literature should be explicitly taught as part of the curriculum.' (My emphasis btw).
Boyhood is the film that my Year 13 English class have decided on for their Response to Film external examination.

It's a brilliant film that I am loving more and more every time I see it.

There are no really big dramatic moments in it - just the human ups and downs of life - all the confusion, pain, difficulty, moments of failure, moments of success that make up a life. 

The things we all experience.

One of my students doesn't connect to the film (although she connects to Paul - the weird kid in the street who swears back at the kids when they ask him, mischievously, to tell them a joke). Not everyone will. I knew that going in. But she gets that I do. She knows that it's a Purdzilla film. And she's right.

Okay, yes, there are the popular culture references between the generations that I love, and the chemistry between the characters is obvious, as well as the content that is largely positive and real (the discussion about social media as Mason Junior drives springs to mind), all contribute to make a great film.

Finding the 'right' film to study is never easy. Having taught my favourite film before I can confirm that it doesn't really work. Pelle the Conqueror to a senior class at Mt Albert Grammar in case you were wondering.  

Boyhood, even though it's rapidly becoming a favourite film, is working out for the most part.

Teaching English is GREAT!!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Imagine all the people living for today (John Lennon)



Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.

Imagination is the root of creativity.

Creativity is putting your imagination to work. It is applied imagination.

Innovation is putting new ideas into practice.

Sir Ken Robinson

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone else (Family of the Year)


According to Sir Ken Robinson, great teachers fulfil three essential purposes for students:

  • Inspiration (inspire students with their passion)
  • Confidence (helping students acquire skills and knowledge)
  • Creativity (enabling students to experiment, inquire, ask questions, be curious) 

Simple huh!

Happily, there are many great teachers out there. We have all had them! 

Me? Sure thing... and I have learnt from the best. 

Warwick Gibbs at Mount Albert Grammar gave me that confidence in 1974 while I was recovering from illness (details coming on Wozza's Place).

His passion for languages and his interest in my progress was instrumental in helping me become a teacher.

Roger Horrocks, Wystan Curnow, Margo/Clay and others at Auckland University followed up and brought a new world to view.

Roger Moses, Colin Prentice, John Clarke, Jackie Barron along with current colleagues, like Amy, Greg and Toni, continue to inspire me, give me confidence to experiment and enable me to be better.

And so it goes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I went down to the crossroads (Robert Johnson)

Engage, enable, expect, empower.

No, not the new scrum instructions from the referee. No indeed, these are what Ken Robinson says in Creative Schools are the roles teachers need to fulfil.


Engage needs little commentary.

Enable, though, does. 

Sir Ken explains it (brilliantly) thus: Expert teachers constantly adapt their strategies to the needs and opportunities of the moment. effective teaching is a constant process of adjustment, judgment, and responding to the energy and engagement of the students. 


So...expert teachers enable engagement and learning to happen.

Expect - Sir Ken: The key to raising achievement is to recognise that teaching and learning is a relationship.

We are lucky if we have teachers who believe in us. I've told you before about my teachers at MAGS who never stopped believing in me. It's REALLY important!

Empower - having mentors and guides who believe in us and give us confidence is a valuable commodity for students (junior learners) and teachers (senior learners).