Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ring, ring goes the bell, the cook in the lunch room's ready to sell (Chuck Berry)

I recently gave a presentation that had me as the topic. More specifically - what made me so special?

New Zealanders don't generally like blowing their own trumpet but this was a rare opportunity to sell myself.

I did some research and along the way I came up with some groovy pictures from the past that cried out for inclusion on the blogosphere.

Here are the first lot - photos that appeared in Mt Albert Grammar's Albertian magazine way back in the mid to late 1990s when I was Senior Housemaster at School House. When I was a student at M.A.G.S. the School House was a really mysterious place ruled by Ron Hemus and hirsute senior boys who were gods (of sport in particular).

It was a terrific experience being allowed into that arcane boarding school world. It dovetailed with a resurgence in fortunes for football in the school. I'd been in the 1975 team that won the Auckland competition and it had been a barren time since then until Kevin Fallon brought talent into the team - boys who were mostly boarders, drawn to the school by Kevin's reputation and chutzpah.

A special time.

What a front row! Some amazingly talented men and women!

Jacky is between me and Harry.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take, pointing a finger at eternity (Bruce Cockburn)

I receive regular updates from the NZ Teachers' Council under their Food For Thought umbrella. The latest one was talking about something important (I'm sure) and it casually dropped in the statistic that 76% of registered teachers in NZ are female.

Wow! I am in a real minority. Less than a quarter of teachers are male. This was a shock. I had no idea that things had progressed to this point.

Clearly the figures for Primary school teachers will have been a significant factor as only a fifth of Primary teachers are male, but this is obviously a factor for secondary as well now.

One of the main reasons I became a teacher myself was the example provided by male teachers at Primary (Mr Lindsay at Manukau Intermediate) and secondary (Warwick Gibbs and Barry Gough at Mount Albert Grammar). I seriously doubt this would have been an avenue for me without these gentlemen.

The feminisation of the profession is beyond doubt.

The number of women in primary teaching in New Zealand has
over the decade between 1992 and 2001 increased by 13%, while the number of men has decreased by 9 percent.
This situation has not changed over the 2002-2012 decade as far as I can tell. Upshot is we need more male teachers! 

Why? For at least four reasons according to that report I've cited above:

Academic: To help address perceived learning deficits of boys
Social: To cater better for perceived social needs of boys
Environmental: To reduce an overly “feminised” nurturing ethos in primary
Representational: To make primary school staff more representative of society at
I would add that we need male role models in schools because males and females are different. We think differently, we act differently, we talk and listen differently and we have different learning needs.

At what point do we as a society think enough is enough? When 15% of teachers are male? 10%? 5%? Zero?

Friday, May 18, 2012

You know the answer sure ain't there (Cold Chisel)

I have written quite a lot in recent times about bonus pay incentives and the risks attached to morale among other things.

Blow me down if I don't return to NZ to learn that the current Minister of Education (Hekia Parata) is advocating performance pay for NZ teachers.

It's one of those crazy ideas that I'm sure sounds like manna from heaven for politicians. Why not reward the best performing teachers? Sure - let's do that. Sounds good. I repeat - sounds good.

Forget the research, forget the dangers, forget the practicalities, forget collaboration, forget good will, forget common sense and let's announce it and work out the pesky details later.

Lordy lordy - what an utter disaster a business model idea like bonus pay would be for teaching.

I listened with increasing concern and bafflement.

This news came with a sleight of hand move by the government to increase class sizes and thereby reduce teachers on the ground.

Cause for concern. Staff rooms in NZ school will be interesting places to be as this brainwave is digested.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who is right, who can tell, and who gives a damn right now (Joy Division)

Betamax's failed strategy
 The Duncan J Watts book (Everything Is Obvious, Once You Know The Answer) which I've mentioned in recent posts has an interesting section on the strategy paradox.

In a nutshell this is a strategy which possesses great clarity of vision that is decisively acted upon but yet fails miserably.

The example he cites is Sony's Betamax videocassette tapes vs the VHS format from Matsushita. We all know what happened - the cheaper, nastier, poorer quality VHS tape won the day (before DVDs came along, rendering VHS tapes obsolete).

And the reason why a genius corporation like Sony failed when they had a vastly superior product?

Sony thought people would tape TV shows at home using blank tapes. That seemed a perfectly plausable strategy decision. They didn't think that people would want to own pre-recorded cassettes in great numbers.

But the video rental market exploded (all those video hire places that are now closing down just as quickly). VHS gained an advantage and the more machines that were bought, the more stores stocked VHS tapes.

This is a strategy paradox in action - the main cause of which is not bad strategy - just great strategy that happens to be wrong!

I've been thinking about this in conjunction with my devotion to the evidence based inquiry methods which I believe work brilliantly within a school's strategic vision. The inquiry cycle (do the search on the right to find my other posts on this) is quick on its feet, can adapt to new findings, has its eyes focussed closely on data/evidence and is reactive.

If a Betamax vs VHS scenario ever crops up within a strategy the inquiry method immediately sounds the alert.

Why aren't more school administrators implementing inquiry cycles? I can't see a down side.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'm gonna keep on walking till I find my way back home (Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee)

Duncan J Watts makes a good point in his book Everything Is Obvious (see the previous post).

I banged on about bonus schemes a while ago. I have a thing for intrinsic rewards over extrinsic ones and I wondered how successful a business model of performance bonus pay would work with a bunch of educational types.

Watts makes the point in his book that 'a number of studies, in fact, have found that financial incentives can actually undermine performance. Financial rewards can also generate a "choking" effect, when the psychological pressure of the reward cancels out the increased desire to perform".

In summary he says:
The upshot of all these confusing and often contradictory findings is that although virtually everyone agrees that people respond to financial incentives in some manner, it's unclear how to use them in practice to elicit the desired result. Some management scholars have even concluded after decades of studies that financial incentives are largely irrelevant to performance.
I often wonder what the thinking is at company HQ when financial incentives are discussed and then thought to be a good idea.