Monday, June 27, 2016

Check your pulse when I speak (Nadine Shah)


That pretty much describes my work method currently.

I like keeping on top of paper work and being as up to date with my marking as possible.

An example? (you ask). Sure.
Thursday I received an email about collecting some random samples for external moderation of three internal Achievement Standards. Luckily, I lead the best gosh darned English department in New Zealand, so, by Friday afternoon I'd collected the work, completed the paperwork and mailed three packages off to NZQA in Wellington (yes, okay Dionne, technically YOU mailed it off).

So this article from Mark McCartney about how to do the most work in the shortest time hit a chord.

His top tips:

  • Disappear (see my previous post)
  • Don't fight distraction (short bursts of focused work)
  • Simplify (less is more)
  • Find your rhythm (I arrive at school an hour early and do a couple of jobs, rather than spend a wasted hour after school)
  • Strengthen (get better at what you're good at)
  • Watch the robots (be effective, rather than efficient)
  • Be honest

Thursday, June 23, 2016

No recess (Nirvana)

Here are some factual statements about school reports for students:
  • A report communicates a student's performance academically. 
  • In New Zealand the Ministry of Education requires schools to provide a written report on at least two occasions during the academic year.
  • A typical report uses a grading scale to determine the quality of a student's school work. 
  • Reports are now frequently issued in automated form by computers and may also be mailed to parents and students. 
  • Traditional school report cards contain a section for teachers to record individual comments about the student's work and behaviour. 
  • Some automated systems provide for teachers' including such comments, but others limit the report card to grades only. 

At my current school, we do all of these things and more. 
  • Some reports are automated,  some aren't.
  • Some have comments, some don't.
  • We have more than two written reports a year.
  • We use a variety of grading scales.
  • We don't just report academically.

The opinion bit
My main issue with the school report process is that, to have maximum effect, feedback needs
to be as current and as detailed as possible.

Feedback! It works!! Just ask John Hattie needs to be focused within individual lessons. Really focused!

I've searched for data on the effect our three week old teacher comments have on students' learning but have come up blank. However, I'm reasonably sure that a bland report comment that is three to four weeks old is not going to have the same effect as more immediate and focused reporting that parents can see on Schoology (or some other platform) as soon as I've written it!

Our latest report process took most of June to complete.

Can we do better? Ar-ha ar-ha - I think so.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Art for art's sake (10cc)

I buy a mochaccino from Bay Espresso each day. It's delish, too. Recently, the girl who serves me asked what I teach at Woodford House. Very proudly, I said, English.

I've been its Head of English since 2013, but my first Head of Department position was way back in my fourth year of teaching in 1986, at Waimea College in Nelson.

'English', as a subject, is very different to what it was like in the 1980's. 

Art and graphic design are an integral part now, under the guise of  creating and analysing visual text.

The field has been blown wide open. Students can do anything - they are only limited by their imagination.

The possibilities are endless:
  • a static image sequence 
  • a graphic story/illustrated text 
  • a filmed sequence/scene 
  • a display  
  • a digital essay 
  • a pod-cast or online text, such as a web site or screen cast.
  • Or....whatever you're thinking right now!


All of this is GRRRREART from my point of view. Not only does it give scope for a HUGE variety of things while it improves visual literacy, it's also HUGE fun, and,  it's good for you!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

I need you like the flower needs the rain (America)

Ten things I need from a team

Loved this article on quantum team management written by James Everingham, Head of Engineering at Instagram, recently.

It boiled down to addressing managers' proclivities, or 'common motivations', that include: thinking your idea is the best; not trusting your people; or thinking you’re not doing your job unless you’re weighing in all the time.

James suggests a different set of instincts.
He says an effective quantum manager will do everything in their power to organize teams strategically and then step back.

Seems simple and, er, obvious but it's staggering how many times this advice is not followed. 

All this made me reflect on ten things that I need when being part of a team. Not so much wants, NEEDS. Must haves. Non-negotiables. Deal breakers, if you will. 

Got it?

I wrote quickly in one sitting, so the list may evolve over time but this is my current snapshot:
  1. I need to be part of a team
  2. I need to be consulted and
  3. I need collaboration
  4. I need to feel the integrity of others
  5. I don't need things imposed on me and
  6. I aim to not impose things on others
  7. I don't like feeling powerless
  8. I need to feel needed
  9. I need new challenges
  10. I need to work in high trust models
Just sayin'.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Follow me down to the valley below (Porcupine Tree)

It's report writing time at school. I know - you're waiting for another rant about the uselessness of this exercise, arncha!

HA! Instead I give you my version of the pirate code so that you have FIVE ways to survive the process:  

1 Be yourself

A colleague, Awesome Greg, proofread a set of my comments and wrote on one, "You're playing with fire here, Wozza" (actually the great man doesn't call me Wozza, I used poetic license - that's how I roll). 

Be yourself? "Der", you say, using that dumb as voice, "Who else am I going to be Wise-N-Stein?" Bear with me. Too often we are not ourselves on report comments - we write euphemistically (a.k.a. weasel words) about students. I heard one staff member say recently that she really wrote some tough comments for some students. Yeah, right, (I thought to myself in my brain).

Obviously the message needs to be tempered a tad, but, please, first guideline - to thine own self be true (that's pompous me being Polonious from, you know, Hamlet).

2 Challenge the proofreader 

I always throw in a couple of curly grammar constructions and wait to see if my comment gets bounced. It keeps me on my toes!

3 Parents ain't dumb 

So don't patronise them. Always imagine you are the parent who is going to read your comment. I hate being patronised!

4 Pedagogy Smedagogy

By the same token, parents are not (usually) teachers so make your comments as much of a jargon free zone as poss. 

5 Chuckles 

Keep your sense of humour - in all regards. You'll need it AND you'll write better comments!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

People are people (Ray Columbus)

Personalising learning IS the way to go.

All you need to know to personalise like a boss is right here - BAM!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Yaaaaaaa Ya Ya Ya Ya, Ya Ya Ya Ya (Th' Dudes)

Photographic proof that Greg sucks his thumb when he's thinking!

My desk opposite Awesome Greg - with lappy open. 

Our staff workroom is open plan and I've got to say it can be equal parts blessing and a curse.

The good bits - banter and witty repartee from my colleagues in the English department (the aforementioned Awesome Greg, Invisible Girl Amy, Andrew the human torch) and honorary members Jo and Toni and Emily (we have a love/hate relationship).

The bad bits - the noise and the disruption (the phone calls, the loud conversations taking place right by my desk and so on); nothing is private  - my comings and goings, the scrutinizing of my computer screen; and the germs - it's all communal space. 

The situation has been likened to flatting where you share stuff and have to adapt to others needs. But I haven't lived in a flat for thirty years!

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Aside from Amy who hunkers down in her classroom, these interweb guys succinctly indicate the problems.

I shared an office once before, but with one person. I was an Assistant Headteacher and there was no free office space so I shared with a Deputy Headteacher. It was great. I was new to the school and we had lengthy conversations about staff, students and issues, as well as sharing our personal stories.

So, it CAN be a great experience but when there are seven of us, in an area the size of a large office, it can get uncomfortable at times.

The solution? Combine the good stuff of the open plan with a private place. This week I moved into a Deans' Office - a kind of interview space, but also an under-utilised area with a door!