Sunday, June 28, 2009

everything is bigger

The highlight thus far on the ISTE conference was meeting a taxi driver from Cameroon. He has a twin brother and many many family members still living in Cameroon. His brother wants him to send some new Puma soccer boots so he can be the envy of the local soccer field in Cameroon. Why are taxi drivers such philosophers, wow did this dude have a sharp eye on life. He says all of his family wants to come to America and he has been here 20 years and has the ability to sponsor any of his family to start a new life here. he wont bring anyone to USA, he says they have a better life there, simple, but better. He says that in cameroon his brother has no debt or money issues, plays soccer everyday, never eats processed food and looks 53 years old. He said he looks like his father and is terribly sad. He says he thought after 20 years in America he would be Bill Gates, alas he is a soccer mad taxi driver in DC. This guy was amazingly well educated, spoke beautiful english & french, and had an amazing grip on world affairs.
Sometimes bigger is not always better.
More soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Who reflects your schools culture

Kind of a discovery and kind of a bit of realism that slapped me in the face this week.
In writing a school statement for ERO I floated into a sentence about the "culture" of the school.
This got me thinking, who carries the culture of your school? Sure we have a joint philosophy and a belief in one another and what we want for our kids. Lots of schools have these thoughts and ideas but the proof is in the pudding.
To me it really did dawn on me that at our school the kids carry the culture of the school, teachers facilitate but kids articulate. Every kid that walks in the door at your school takes a lead from the other students, their actions, their words, their aroha. Think about the kids in your school, who do your new students actually take their lead from?
We have tonnes of amazing kids who carry the culture, they set the standards in work habits, in friendships, in respect, integrity, relationships-teamwork and more. The thing is, the way to judge the culture is to recall the stories where kids carry that culture. I have heaps of amazing little anecdotes from the actions of children that reflect our culture. Somewhere adults have had to do the hard work, and this happens over time and every day, but the rewards are so satisfying.
So teachers take note those great kids in your class are GOLD they not only keep you sane but they are shaping the success of your whole school.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Life Long Learners

Do you believe there is one set of knowledge that every kid should learn? If this is the case what is that knowledge.?And what should schools do to ensure every kid gets that knowledge.?

Now if you were at primary school you may have a reading writing and maths answer.
If you were at secondary you may have an "application of knowledge" answer.
If you believe in Cambridge Examinations you may answer - a really good strategy for memory.

Maybe the KC's are the answer = managing self - thinking - relating to others - participating and contributing. If this is so then how can we teach these.
Its a complex issue, specific teaching of KC's is possible as a very small part, gaining understanding through doing, showing, living the KC's is an enormous part. It really comes back to loving learning. Teachers are funny animals, we are so different in many ways but scarily similar in the things that matter. We can argue over assemblies, prize giving, bike days, sand pits, dutys, timetables (my list is quite long, hmmm a bit too much information here) but we always seem to agree that teaching kids is more than just imparting knowledge.
Good schools have flocks of these teachers who give everything they have for their kids. I have heard many conversations where someone is having a dig at a kid who has been an egg, only for another teacher to pop up and defend the little sod.
Having a deeper understanding of our colleagues, a shared respect for the way everyone in your school cares for kids, knowing that everyone has a bit of the "fight for kids" inside them is so important as a teacher and as a principal. We may have our spats but nothing changes the respect we have for colleagues who live a shared philosophy, not hung on the walls, but a deeper respect for the actual daily implementation.
This is where these rambled thoughts are going.

If we are going to make it as a life long learner, if we are going to encourage all our kids to be life long learners then there isn't one skill set.
Every kid needs someone who will "fight for them". Leaders need to practice their own philosophy of life long learning. I know we aren't all perfect and we get things wrong on more than one occasion but shutting the door is not an option.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Teachers can be the worlds best coaches

gold tooth and a mate

Sport is ridiculously important. As a teacher or coach you have a profound effect on kids by working with them on a completely different level. I must have coached 200 teams over the years. Coming to this realisation seems to be stating the absolute obvious but I have a chap at school who has one avenue for success, sport. Through sport he and I have built up a relationship. Tomorrow I am off to see him play for the first time and I'm really looking forward to seeing my little mate give it heaps. There wont be much conversation, likely a well done mate, and a pot of chips for him and his little brother.
I remember back to 1990 when young Lilo walked into my team and that gold tooth grin has been part of our friendship ever since.
Over the years we teach kids and have good memories but the bond between someone who cares, someone who has been in "that" team, someone who you have laughed with, built respect for, had success with, is special. Ask our office lady, The Beav, she was there the other morning and in walked a huge samoan courier, it was Mo'o a lock from years gone by, and there we were facing off after 17 years. The smile comes, so does the hug, the respect for each other, and then he's off like all good couriers. Nothing needs to be said.
Tomorrow nothing much will be said but being there will be everything.

Update : It was a gr8 morning, my mate will be stoked on Monday Morning - I bet he is at school too, which means mission achieved.
I took a few shots, and bumped in to 5 other Summerland Kids, my mate scored a beaut try too, maybe another Lilo in the making?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NZ ain't that bad

So hows your week, how about this for a story from a reliever.
Been at ten schools all in a similar area.

Monday:• One hour release time (out of three per week)• First two hours - student free choice
Tuesday:• One hour release time (planning)• Afternoon -school at swimming - those not going supervised at 6 naff rotation activities for two hours SOOOOOOO frustrated!
Wednesday:• One hour release time for planning (yes again)• Supervise two classes in the afternoon playing board games while their teachers have release
Thursday:• Spent the afternoon supervising two classes while they watched a movie while the teachers did a survey
Friday:Free choice whole afternoons...
Teachers arrive at 8:30. Leave at 4pm. (School concludes at 3:30).
oh and planning consists of one A4 page for ALL subject areas for the WHOLE WEEK

Have you met any good motivated teachers?
I have met some motivated teachers yes. They are silently struggling.

Kids hate it. Behavior shocking. Some kids are just idiots seriously, all behavior strategies used up in 5 mnutes but others are keen to learn.

Whole class maths.
Whole class reading - No - groups...
BUT...I was asked to do combined reading with two classes (60 kids 1 book!). The teacher asked me. "So, what should we do for reading today". I DON'T know, I am the CRT! They had been working on predicting and only predicting (for weeks) at 9/10 year olds. They already knew it!
The next day... what shall we do?
I said, what does their testing say... Response: Oh ... we don't really test the kids.

The private schools SEEM on to it, (looking through the windows on a weekend) but not seeing teaching.
I have been to (10) schools like the Central Akld area and others more like West Akld perhaps.

Ok I concede maybe we do need National Standards.. Oops the problem is this reliever is working in Australia, is a great teacher, and they have some set of standards over there that obviously aren't working. The truth is we all have schools like these, and they need addressing or teachers will suffer silently, and the kids in deafening silence. Lets address it some how.

Monday, June 1, 2009

No sweat Pio you are the bomb

One of the best evenings a school could ever host. We got in touch with no sweat parenting after a parent told me they went to an event where Pio Terei had spoken. She said he was awesome. I have met Pio through my sons kapa haka group and found him to be a top bloke.
Pio has teamed up with Ian Grant to reach Maori parents. I get a feeling Ian Grant stumbled over an absolute gem. Pio had the power point that kept him on course, he had the messages that were simple, and the real life experiences that ring true for all parents. The thing is that there were some very simple ideas that touched a nerve for me.

Emotional tanks, we all have them and they can be emptied by words, actions, feelings, surroundings. He made a great point. We have lots of kids in this country who have empty emotional tanks and they have been empty since they were five years old.
Teachers can make a difference. A smile, a kind word, a touch (hug) whatever, these help fill that emotional tanks. Every class has one kid at least with an empty tank, we all know who they are, when you see them tomorrow, give them a smile a kind word and a nice touch.

We had a very multiculutral audience and everyone got the message whilst holding their sides with laughter. I encourage, no challenge every school to get Pio in the door. This is most definitely not about little kids either, teenagers are funny creatures too, the message is brilliant.

When the boss is away

I get a feeling that the MOE doesn't trust us. They seem to be determined to get through their election promise. Shame really that the purpose of the National Standards is political vote winning. It's actually a disgrace that the reason for the National Standards isn't about kids. Anne Tolley can argue till she's blue in the face about how essential these things are, so can all those facilitators who are lining up school contracts to help schools implement these standards. The truth is that these might be an important set of guidelines but they have always existed, exemplars, PATs, nathan astle and numpa testing. Why don't they just bloody address those schools who aren't there and let us get on with out job.

I don't want to bleat on about these standards, I've got better things to do. Try this video about trust. I'm sure the MOE think this is what schools are doing while they aren't looking.