Sunday, September 28, 2008


Is fun a value or is it not.
The staff have been looking closely at the NZC. The other day we ran through a few activities that would bring discussion to values. The afternoon was meant to be nothing about consensus and more about discussion and thoughts. After each activity we wrote down a few words that best described what we were talking about. These bits of paper were collated at the end of the meeting and mumbleboy beavered away in wordle to see what sort of language came from our discussions.

If we are talking about schools should we be looking at values that are relevant to learning and growing in society. 
What is "fun" doing there.
Why is "fun" a value.
I do think it is important - but should schools have "fun" as a key value. I wasn't looking for consensus but by using wordle it is fairly obvious that "fun" was the most used word when discussions around values in the classroom were had.

I can justify "fun" as a core value but will ERO ? Oh, I don't care about them but some do...
Keen on your thoughts here .......

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Teachers Contribution

Interesting observations from the funeral on the weekend of my uncle Boris Srhoj. The thing that stood out for me was that fact that many people in our family were amazed at how many people this great man had touched. Being at a secondary school for boys and being the 1st XV coach for 25 years, of course you will have emotional people and of course you will have made a big impact. Boris headed the middle school for twenty years and engaged hundreds of boys each year, watching them grow into wonderful men at Year 13. Boris was a great man with a fine teaching skill set, and he possessed the values we all respect and believe in, he lead by doing.

The thing for me is that teachers are all in the same boat as uncle Boris. We may not be in a position to get the response at our funerals but the great teachers make a similar contribution. We make a similar impact too, it is just that we don’t really realize how big. If you are sharing and practicing the similar set of values as Boris, if you possess that skill set that great teachers possess, if your actions speak louder than your talk, then you are making a massive contribution. Teachers, don’t belittle your performance, or ponder your effectiveness, just get out there and enjoy it. Its a rewarding job but that motivation comes from the inside.

By the way if you are a crap teacher then disregard everything above, because you are just clipping the ticket and getting on with other stuff, so don’t take any moral support from my ramblings.

Just while we look at the NZC and the collaborative values and beliefs that schools should consider, pause a moment, it is important. It might seem, politically correct and all these sickofantic discussions on vision and values, and all that bullshit, but it is important. So teachers drop the moaning, and the, “we’ve done this last year”, “ not the vision again” “do we have to”, and take some time to think how important it is to be on the same waka. Boris’ waka.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lead a Horse to Water

I had two ex students in the office the other day. They had been giving mum more grief and she was at breaking point. Nearing the end of our chat I asked the girls 12 and 15 if they played any sport or had any interests. They stared blankly at me, crickets chirped, tumbleweed rolled by. It was another moment of dejavu for me. My five years in the far north came flashing right back. While up there I suffered greatly from polyitis (a lack of polynesian students). Onehunga high was full of the sa's and tongans and on arrival up north I immediately noticed the difference. What was lacking was the family volleyball and cricket teams (every samoan grandma plays volleyball), the kids just didn't do things with their whole families. In the big smoke pakeha kids go to swimming, ballet, rugby, softball - whatever. Poly kids play family or church cricket, volleyball, they join clubs too. The maori kids as a whole in the cities are in the same boat, join clubs and pursue their sport. But while up there I tried in vain to get kids to be passionate about anything, to have them burning to do something that will start them off in life. I led the horse to water every week, I tried badminton, hockey, basketball, netball, sailing, rugby, cameras, movies, web design, kapa haka, tennis. I wanted to get a kid to try something that would be a hook, something they could be a star at. The talent was massive but the hook never held. I've always wondered whether it was a waste of time or was it just a matter of time before something or someone took the hook. Yes there were successes and these came several years after leaving Punaruku, but there were failures, two young men lost their lives while still in their teens.
These two young women who stared blankly at me, their favourite sport is texting. My grandmother lived well into her nineties, she was a passionate gardner, my dad is a fanatical golfer (two hip replacements, a triple bypass, a bit of cancer) and he is still going very strong. My grandfather followed horses and jockeys like religion. I think it doesnt matter what your passion is but you need something.
The challenge is for families : 
do stuff together
lead your horse to water
texting isn't a sport
a healthy mind = a healthy body

To teachers : lead by example
passionate teachers = passionate students

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I have for some time been a little bit disappointed at the direction New Zealand is headed. I have wanted to put my finger on what exactly it is that irks me and I often come back to the large gap between the “haves and have nots”. This doesn't really explain what I mean but things like the many, many “rich” people living in neighborhoods with bigger and bigger fences and the poorer neighborhoods which are now being called hoods. In the late 80’s I taught in Mangere and although the streets weren't affluent there were families, kids playing on the street, and there was a sense of pride, satisfaction and safeness in the community. Now on my recent sojourns to Mangere it is clearly not safe, dogs roam and scarf wearers walk the streets. It seems every low riding car is up to no good with its stereo blasting and a scarf being warn by a wannabe. So does this mean that in a poor suburb you have less hope or less chance of success. I’m not so sure we are that far down the track but the danger is if we do nothing then nothing will change or happen. Mrs Podgorani who avoids the web like the plague (online shopping aside) is reading a book called Affluenza by Oliver James.
It was a “nail on the head” moment for me, as soon as I heard the word Affluenza.
It is a plague, everyone wants what they cant have, or things that are out of their means. Keeping up with the Joneses in an obsessive, envious world driven by consumerism. All this is eating at the english speaking world, raising anxiety, addictions, and depression.
As I write this blog another tweet appears on the iphone and the keyboard backlight on my macbook pro kicks in, as the room dims slightly, arhhh consumerism.

How do we ensure that we pursue our needs and not our wants and how do we pass these values to our children.
Perhaps Affluenza will see a downfall of the affluent neighborhoods and the richness of culture in Mangere will again make it an area to be proud of. But I get the feeling that Affluenza is rooted too deeply in most areas of society, seemingly everyone has some sort of flat screen plasma or LCD. What can we do?

I pause a moment and think how do we keep it real.
Last night I attended the junior prize-giving at Waitemata Rugby Club. It was a “bring a plate” job. If you win a trophy you get a picture and the cup goes back in the cabinet. The club had an indoor bouncy castle, the NPC rugby was on the big screen, there was a smell of hot chips with vinegar and the bar was open for a few quiets.
All Black great Michael Jones spoke to the children about hard work, being honest, aiming high, choosing your friends carefully, and listening to your mum. Everyone stacked the local schools chairs up at the end of the night.
Today I dropped my son at the Hoani Waititi Marae for a kapa haka wanaga. Its a test night, the All Blacks are on. We go down for a look and we get a great feed of hot chocolate pudding with whipped cream. The boys go through their routine of waiata and haka and the quietly spoken twenty year old tutor congratulates with the skill of a classroom teacher. No sign of a TV but plenty of signs of laughter, mate-ship and aroha.

As schools we need to look at pursuing the needs of our children.
As parents we need to look at pursuing the needs of our children.
As adults we need to pursue our needs not our wants.
The (NZC) New Zealand Curriculum wants us to look at our values, if we don’t take this seriously and don’t consider the needs of students then Affluenza may be a plague. I get a bit annoyed at schools who claim they are already embedding the NZC and quotes like “nothing needs to change” or “we are already doing that”. Principals need to stop looking for reasons why NZC is bullshit and get on with the job of taking it seriously.

Mumbleboy pointed me to this little beauty from teacher tube

Monday, September 8, 2008

Failure to back you team will result in failure

Everyone has their weaknesses and often as Principals it becomes easy to identify weaknesses in staff. Staff too are able to recognize weaknesses in leadership. The thing though that all staff need to be able to do is to identify and appreciate the strengths. It’s I suppose the glass half full scenario.
BUT for me the most important thing is knowing when colleagues need support and recognizing that given time, opportunity and help, that success will follow.

Daniel Waaka was a very fast boy who could only take one instruction at a time. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. He was quick and was pointed at the corner flag and told to “run Forest run”. I asked his parents to stand in the corner he was pointed at and I said “wait for Daniel to score in this corner”.
The problem was that the opposition kicked a few times and Daniel got the ball in awkward situations, he was needed to do other things instead of running full tilt. By half time he was a liability and his confidence was as low as the looks of sadness on the faces of his proud parents. My wonderful assistant whispered “get him off Lukey”, before halftime. The writing was on the wall for poor Daniel.

The thing was that that the game was secured, almost, and the risk was low. Why not leave him there, encourage him, and hope the ball comes his way just once. By pulling him off his game was over, his confidence shot, and he wouldn’t play again at the tournament.
My head and heart told me he stays. So Daniel plays on, nothing comes his way, he continues to have a shocker, he leaves the field devastated, but we do win the game.

After a few ales my offsider mentions politely that Dan’s tournament is over. The next morning (and this is significant - the fact that I slept on it) we name the team for todays game. I start the meeting with “first name for me is Daniel”.
It was a game we needed to win, but Dan needed to be backed/supported more than the teams result. He needed success, we could cover for the times he got the ball in awkward circumstances, and we could give him early opportunities to run for the corner.
Dan started, and parents waited in the said corner, he scored three times before half time right in front of them. I was able to sub Dan at halftime and I watched him head for mum and dad, hugs, pride, success, confidence.

So Principals here is my inference for you:
Take your time over decisions.                                                 slept on it
Look at the big picture not at todays result.                          he needs to play again
Look for potential especially after failure.                             he can still run fast
Place a support network around if its required.                    got other players to cover for him
Line up the ducks so success becomes easier.                        called moves to put him in the clear
Measure success in small steps.                                                subbed at half time after success

We went on to win that Roller Mills Tournament in 1992 and Dan lined up with 21 others for his gold medal.