Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Try Time!

Had a graduation dinner the other night for the 94 year six students who have had 6 years at our lovely kura (school). It is always a good night and I find myself up there thinking about the speech from last year and generally winging another spiel. Last night when faced with the leavers and their parents I realised how many interactions, how many stories, how many moments I have had with the very cool bunch. Having a daughter piled in with them was especially pleasing because I had closer interaction with the families of those daring enough to befriend the littler Podgorani.
I was really chuffed to see the many parents who have worked so hard to help there little guys. Parents who over the years have, mended books, volunteered for reading, been on camps and trips, turned up to assemblies. The thing that hit home to me is that you can have classroom performance as much as you like, but building a big family in a school is essential, treating kids like they belong, like they are loved, showing them and their families that you care, this is what truly makes the difference.
The thing is that I should care about their academic progress and I do desperately, but somehow I know that their interactions, behaviours, attitudes, families, still hold their destiny. Sure, we have got over the line with so many of these guys, but there are others who I know will stumble, and I hope there will always be someone to help them up. I hope our attitude and direction is enough for the rocky times. I do know though that those great teachers are out there to pick up my 94 mates and make sure they do get over the line. Kia Kaha to our profession and thanks in advance, oh and keep an eye out for Racheal she is gonna need a hand up occasionally.

Clever man at the ministry of education pockets 72 million

It's time to just ride the wave and get the job done, it's the silly season.
I've been coming to grips with the Ministry of Ed's new "low prediction of students" policy. Basically they predict you will have less kids next year and staff you accordingly. You see they are making an overall judgement (OTJ) but with your estimated roll numbers. The hidden agenda is that if the "OTJ" has lower numbers then you get less staff. If you knock half a teacher off every school you save $30,000 x 2400 schools, thats lots of cash and 1000 less teachers next year, just through an "OTJ", see what happens when you teach to the test, you pass! Just what the MOE man got from his boss, a pass with flying colours and a saving of $72 million.
If you think this is a conspiracy and a bunch of whispers then ring ten Akld principals and ask how much their staffing has been reduced by, I did, and the total from ten schools was 35 less teachers. I know times are tough but I wouldn't want to be a part timer or someone who is looking for a day here and a day there, the squeeze is on and education is like a wedge of lime sitting on the lip of a cold corona. More than half the schools in Akld appealed their staffing with over a hundred appeals being sent to Wellington for the boffins to over-rule, it happened, we got nailed people, join the dots.
On a brighter note I can tell you that the challenge of restaffing our school was seen as a opportunity to clarify what we think are the non negotiables and what we see as important in our school. I know we have found a great balance and we are positive about our staffing and the direction we are going. My comments above aren't actually a bleat they are just the facts. I am actually struggling to see why our beloved unions and associations haven't taken up the fight. Most probably the NZEI were fighting for some small % increase which was offered, I personally would have much preferred more staffing than a pay rise, the job would get done way better, with more time to dedicate to teachers and kids, and less stress.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Q & A

It's been a while, the podgorani has had heads down living week by week.

Question : Why has the ministry cut the staffing ratio for every school in NZ?
Answer : They gotta save millions so they tried it on, and with 50% of auckland schools appealing their staffing, they may just save a few bucks. Who hasn't appealed?
Question : National Standards, why are Karen Sewell and Anne Tolley making such a meal of the implementation ?
Answer : You cant force crap on schools and disguise it as a shiney answer to a complex issue.
Question : NS again, Who is advising Mary, Karen and Anne, or are they actually leading?
Answer : I think they are making the calls, no-one else could over-react like woman scorned, clearly pissed off, they wrote to BOT's giving ridiculous examples of charter targets, now they ridiculously decided to ring BOTs. Those actions will spur more to oppose!
Question : How many games does Joe Roks have to play before Ted realises that Ranger, Guilford, Gear, Jane, Maitland, Sivivatu are all better?
Answer : While they continue to pick Donald Duck we cant moan about Joe Roks.
Question : Why do I not unfollow more people on twitter.
Answer : I morbidly enjoy watching them butcher their online profile, and I sort of hope they don't have that twitter app that tells them they have been unfollowed.
Question : Why do principals always ask "how can you afford all this gear"?
Answer : You cant afford not to.
Question : Why do schools pack their term 4 calendars into something resembling the floor of the New York stock exchange.
Answer : We are suckers for punishment, we just hop on the wave and ride it through to December.
Question : Why do we continue to get ripped off in this country with mobile phone charges and say nothing or do nothing?
Answer : Kiwis are too polite to complain, we just wait for an uninformed media storm and jump right on the bandwagon (any topic, any bandwagon).
Question : How do you get a $50,000 garden for 10k ?
Answer : Get organised and get your community in to help.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nigeria vs West Akld

The Bro, my fellow Podgorani, visited over the last couple of weeks. He has been in Nigeria for the better part of two years. He is right out in the jungle and the local "city" has about 12,000 people so there is some infrastructure there. So immediately I asked about school and classrooms. He decided this time to bring some pictures of the school and gave me a couple of videos. I was gobsmacked by what I saw. I wanted to know what I could do to help. The Older Podgorani's suggestions were not to bring the western world to them, yes medicine, yes education (but not as we know it).
I dont have any profound or uninformed suggestions just some pictures, a video and a small insight to a different world.

And now for the gold. eyes out for the sleepers. ears out for the classroom sound levels !

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Recreational Writers

Several years ago sitting next to Harry Hood over lunch he recalled a conversation he had with Marie Clay about recreational readers. She said "you know whats wrong with this country Harry? We have thousands of kids who can read but don't". How many teachers roll their eyes, nod their heads or say amen to that one. My sons catholic school are so desperate to get their kids to read they have huge signs around their school saying "Boys who read ACHIEVE". The key is "foster a love of" not "able to" read. Harry made the point "recreational readers pass exams"
There is another step to this however. What about those people like me who haven't fostered a love of books, but have fostered a love of conversation, observation, discussion, we read only the relevant bits and watch and listen, we have plenty to say, is their hope for us? We have a love of what we do, our work, our sports, our families, surely Marie Clay has room for us. Through blogging we have become the recreational writers, surely recreational writers pass exams too!
For three years now I have followed a young mans blog he was 9 when he started. He loves sport and in the early blogs of 2008 his teacher/school cleverly used the Olympics as the hook. After a few posts I noticed that he was posting after 3pm and even at night.
The defining moment however came when Tanielu blogged in January in the middle of the school holidays. Name a ten year old pacific island boy who is recreationally writing in their christmas holidays. Yes there was a very real reason for the blog post but the boundaries between the classroom and home had become intertwined. Learning is everywhere, he wasn't writing because he was forced to, it was because he had to, he had something to say and he said it.
Other subtleties that come from this blog is that if you read todays articles and compare them to the very early posts you can see how his writing has developed amazingly (no need for moodle or mahara or scanning rubbish into an eportfolio). By the way Dan you are an observant, intelligent sports writer!
Tanielu keeps his cluster maps before they clear out annually, smart work Dan it can be encouraging to see those dots.
Search Tanielu in google, guess who is the number 1 hit.
If you check the comments you get people writing in Samaon. You get adults giving adult opinion. You get teachers encouraging (but not so necessary now). You get family members. You get classmates and kids from other schools. But the gold is you get someone called Dad, with amazing thoughtful, insightful, encouraging words. This is a winning story.

In many ways I can relate to Tanielu. I started blogging in 2008, I write because I have something to say. It takes time, process, thought. I know it takes maintenance, discipline but the bug is catchy, it's rewarding. When someone posts a comment it's cool. When you see a red dot on the map or follow the live traffic feed, its a buzz, and I'm a Benji Marshall fan too.

If you want justification for elearning, or you are thinking of blogging in your classroom then this says it all. I get ample visitors who look at elearning and I am certain they go back to their schools and do nothing. Stop the inactivity and get active, get the hook going with your kids now. As my old mate Jim Ferguson always said "these kids are year 4 once, make it the best year 4 ever". Foster a love of writing, it's not only possible, it's imperative.
Teachers this takes work, this is one small story, it's not a miracle, it is what is expected for 21st century teaching. Big ups to Dan's school you guys lead the way.
Go the Tigers !

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Building Schools for Key Competencies

Three events have jolted my brain into action. A tweet from the seemingly ever pondering Cheryl (it's the photo). A visit from friends at Torbay School and a session with the ever popular Julia Atkin on building Key Competencies in your school.

Lets start with the fact that many schools are prefabs, crappy old buildings, toilet blocks jammed in cloak bays (cloak bays? never seen a cloak at school!), and disconnected learning spaces. So yes, some schools are fortunate to have new blocks, purpose built spaces bla bla bla. I dont think this automatically banishes you to a default mindset of "we cant do it". The KC's : managing self, relating to others, thinking, participating and contributing. So how do you physically set up a school that supports the KC's? How do you build a school on the KC's?

There are many ways to get the job done and this is one theory, its nothing new, and it's only a suggestion that works for us, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone.
Its the old chestnut - vertical forms - I look at it from a few perspectives. I believe that kids learn heaps of stuff when the teacher isn't around, those social skills, standing up for yourself, real role models from their peers. I might think this, but Nuthall did the research (see earlier post) teachers cant always control what kids learn. So if the learning, the values, the KCs are practiced and learnt when the teachers aren't there then maybe we should try to set up the school so that when we aren't there kids of differing ages (role models) are present. When teachers are present (we do the KC's too) we can direct and model the KC's, we can focus on them, have them as goals, but when its just kids we have no say as to what happens.
So vertical forms, multi level teams, small schools within a school, call them whatever you want, they work. Imagine the kid who is pissing around at a lunchtime and kids follow this behaviour, having kids of more maturity about when the 5 year olds are eating dirt, fighting over a toy, whatever. Role models are everything. How many 5 year olds are amazing role models? If you physically have classrooms of all levels together around the school you may be starting to encourage the positive role models, it's the KC's implementation on a real level. Having the kids work together when directed by the teacher, organising real interactivity between learners of all ages, going on trips together, sharing learning together will spill over into the playground if it's genuine. If your school is set up to make real collaboration work amongst kids then you are getting there.
Hows this: Mrs Podgorani was at pak n save and a mum came to her and thanked her for the way Little Podgorani (year5 at the time) was a great friend and genuine buddy for her 5 year old who had just started at school. The young 5 year old had gone home and talked about her friend at school, how they were mates, how her friend was helping her with her learning and playing with her in the playground. When two of your schools mums are talking at the supermarket about the success of the vertical forms then you've cracked it.

Recently I met a guy who said "yeah I do buddy reading", my mental model of that was one of a cold cup of sick. I know buddy reading can be great, but it can be rubbish too. So if it's setting up structures that support the learning community for our kids then I'm all over it.

So if you're in a Julia Atkin workshop, stuck at a table of teachers who do buddy reading and palm that off as vertical forms and role modelling, or reading twitter and looking at future schools discussions, or talking with kind hearted visitors about why you do things, then try to make connections. I want to draw a symbol like Prince and call it Extended Abstract.

Perhaps its easier to see rather than explain, but think vertical forms done well, on steroids, and working for kids.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wonderful teachers might not be so wonderful

How do you know what kids actually learn? Teachers know what they are teaching, but what learning actually takes place? My mate Pezza has really gone deep on these questions and has looked at research that really has made a difference. I have read a few really interesting pieces and he has had great success tracking down the experts. Dr Graham Nutthall certainly was a man ahead of his time, and I keep coming back to what he said in an interview with Kim Hill. I suppose research can be difficult to read, but imagine listening to a radio host (who asks good questions) asking the researcher and getting the good oil. Interesting stuff.

So what can we learn :

Teachers hardly ever know what’s going on with their students.

How little the teacher impacts on the average student even though the teacher thinks he or she is doing a very good job.

In fact, we find out that a substantial amount of what teachers teach, or attempt to teach, is already known by a significant number of kids in the class. Up to 50%.

Hill: So when you talk to children or even adults ... People often say I had a fantastic teacher. Does that mean that teacher is fantastic? Is that the best kind of reference a teacher can get? Is that meaningful?

Nuttall: I think it’s meaningful within our cultural expectations of what good teachers are about; the teacher had a sense of humour, explained things clearly to us, he really cared about me, and a whole lot of things like that which motivates kids and makes them feel good. And those are the kinds of teachers which they will remember. The older generation will remember teachers who were pretty tough on them but made them work hard. But things like working hard and explaining things clearly and so on are all surface features. You could have in fact learned very little from these wonderful teachers.

I have put the whole interview here it may take 30 minutes to read but worth the effort.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mac Vs PC

So you want some evidence as to the durability of a mac ?
A Principal friend of mine lost everything in a house fire, EVERYTHING, luckily the kids/family got out.
The house just melted in front of them. The brigade got the hoses going but it was way too late.
However two pieces of technology survived. The flames, heat, water and smoke damage stopped everything from ticking, well almost everything.
Uncle Steve would be proud.

The macbook ticks along nicely thank you, oh the other piece of technology that is still going great is her iphone.

Get them all on Board - a pun - ha

So the Podgorani has been on tour. We have been working hard at building a future direction for the school that is owned by all. The hard thing is that teachers are all opinionated bastards, and general know it alls. Add to that the way they like to do things (insert my way or the highway) and it could have been a recipe for disaster. However the Podgorani has a staff of gems, yes we still have opinion, debate and occasional over reaction but who hasn't? So after getting all thirty staff through the 6 chosen schools we looked long and hard at the way things are done, what we were scared of, what made sense and what we saw as a need for us.
The ideas ran wild and the wish list continues to grow out of hand.
How to prioritize what works for us is always a real challenge.
However the real genius of the staff inquiry was taking the Board of Trustees on the same tour. The discussions and observations from the BOT were on very similar levels to the staff, their ideas, contributions and buy-in is just magnificent.
It's hard to describe but while having a debrief session over a quiet beer our Principal friend Dr Cox arrived. He joined the discussion, he was sitting next to a trustee. I watched Dr Cox, he was listening to the trustee describe a moment that he'd observed in a school during the day. Inference is often a bit of a guess, but the look on Dr Cox's face was saying : shit this guy knows his stuff, what a great trustee, what a brilliant idea from the Podgorani, he really has his BOT paddling the same waka. Yes that was inference, but those were the exact things I was thinking and I know Dr Cox was on the same level. This was confirmed when he text me later. Being called clever may have been an exaggeration but the idea was a gem, as for the rugby, lets no go there.

Some ideas to help it work:
Give your BOT an opportunity to contribute.
Take them on an overnighter, you can get the informal discussions working.
Make sure they get an opportunity to see your own school too.
Visit a range of deciles, include a private school.
Choose Principals not schools.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are you a visitor in your own school?

Visitors to school can sometimes be a distraction followed by an annoying loss of time. This can easily be the perception, but often it is far from the truth. We have become so accustomed to our friendly visitors that the staff, children, school office, leadership team actually enjoy sharing, looking, watching and asking all sorts of questions. What I have realised is that it keeps me listening to staff, finding out what is happening with kids learning, watching children, gathering information about the way they learn, interacting, talking, everything actually. It has really helped me get to know so many kids.
I had a great moment the other day when a teacher came to me in the staffroom to explain a moment that happened in their class which related to some practice she is working on. The visitors coming through the school have enabled me to use them as a vehicle to continually see and talk about learning but more importantly for teachers to share their practice with outsiders. How many times have you walked into a classroom as a Principal and wanted to ask what are you doing? whats this guy up to? and any other question you want without feeling like you are threatening or digging for info.
I am always out talking to kids, but visitors give you some formality. The Board of Trustees of our school are on a learning curve to see if we can write an amazing charter in conjunction with staff and our community. We are visiting seven schools in Christchurch, for a good look around. Before we travelled I made them come on a "visitors tour" of our school. Luckily Shirley Temples cousin, Teresea from Palmerston North, was visiting that day with ex colleague Mary. So the BOT got a visit of their own school, with the whole Principal spiel, and the dig around go anywhere tour. My BOT were just so full of praise, they say they learnt so much, it was genuine. Has your BOT toured your school?
Have they been through all the rooms?
Have they seen and heard your vision in action?
Do you need visitors to get out and talk to kids, teachers?
Just take the time to be in rooms !
Just take time to talk with parents !
Just take time to talk to kids !
Now we are visitors. I am trying to behave like a good visitor. We are on tour. Must remember a good gift. Food is always appreciated.

I wanted to share this very quick answer from our parent survey. It warms your heart, well it warmed mine as much as Israel Daggs try.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

iPads early days - here are a few tips

iPads have a big place but how do we go about getting them in classes and working well. There are always the early adopters, some hit the headlines a month or two back, how they had ipads in their school. I had the whole (jealous) and cynical, "I bet they are stuffing up the image and snycing and app store stuff". So now we have a set of iPads, here is what I have discovered:
- each ipad takes about 7 minutes to get up and running
- have one main image ipad, he/she will be your friend, love it, care for it, ours is called Cardy.
- you can connect as many ipads as you like to one itunes library/set of apps
- after initially restoring from a backup of the first ipad it was easy to do the next one and so on
- when you plug in an ipad that has been restored it automatically backs up, you don't really want this because you want to restore from that one main image, and backups are all called the same thing as all your ipads are named the same because you restored them from one image. easy fix, ring Ash
- plug in your main image ipad (Cardy) and it backs up and syncs any changes. click on the name of the ipad and change its name to something you wont forget, ours is called ipadCardiganBayMaster, a mouthful but hang in there. Now after renaming, right click on the ipad in the left window of itunes and scroll down to backup. the backup will appear in the itunes preferences~devices window and it will have that big long random name (easy to find).
- Now when you plug in a different ipad you can let it backup or interrupt the back up, and just restore from your master which you have named so aptly.
- each sync/restore only takes a matter of minutes (7max)
- now use your computer that you sync from, to be your download center, or use your master ipad to download onto, as it will sync, backup and be the one you will restore from each time.
- the other ipads will be clones of one master, my plan is to hand the master to a person who has a handle on how ipads work, let them be the boss of the apps, pages, etc.
- there are some app issues with bought apps and putting them on more than one ipad, at the moment we are sticking to free apps, but a bought app will go across multiple ipads. I dont know if app sellers would be happy knowing one app can go on many machines. Will investigate the iTunes terms.

So far so good with the set up now how good will they be in the classrooms. at the moment the teachers are getting first go. They gotta know that these aren't a gimmick, and we must have educational apps. Teachers get their ipads tomorrow, should be a fun morning.

oh other tips- name the ipads, we have gone for horses, Cardigan Bay, Veandercross, Rough Habit etc engrave them "stolen from >>>> Primary School". Kids will remember names, not numbers. label the chargers and ipod cable too. love those label makers.

New discoveries :
All the ipads are running well but I have new apps and a software update, but the master has the same name as all of the restored ipads. So UPDATE your master sync it, and get your new apps on it. BUT before you disconnect and restore the other ones, change the name of your master so you dont get confused. Every time your master is synced and backed up change its name. Remember to right click on your master and choose backup after renaming.

New Discoveries :
When you are looking to update and run a new set of apps, you must put your master in first. Every ipad you have has the same image and name, therefore if you plug in some plonker ipad that has had apps downloaded on it these apps will sync and back up. If you then put in your master then the apps from the other ipad will sync onto you master, something you dont want.
If you put in an ipad that isnt your master before syncing and renaming (see update above) then before it syncs and backs-up swipe on the ipad screen when it tries to sync, that is the fast easy way to stop the sync. If you click in itunes and try to cancel syncs it will beach ball and basically piss you off. Swipe to stop sync, its a good tip believe me.

Update 3
After a month or so we have had the ipads (not the master) wanting to sync their apps and compromising the master ipad. So now we sync the master, and then before syncing the others to the renamed master we go to setting on the device and reset/erase the ipad, thus when it syncs it just gets the new clean image. Easy and way less hassle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NZConnected Zest Practice

NZConnected conference day two.
I had a great day on day 2 where I sat in on Tony Ryan for most of the day. Let me first say that if you have heard Tony talk about thinkers keys then hold onto your hat. Tony is not a one trick pony. Most Aussies are loud beer swilling uncultured rugby league followers (all australian readers exempt and your families, as well as my aunty Shirley in Sydney). No, Tony has a kindness built into his persona, he appeals on many levels to your common sense, he has perfected the power of the pause, he doesn't have to fill the silence with words. And he doesn't talk shit.

Tony gave a great keynote on “zest practice” which was his play on “best practice”. Tony had many observations on motivation in the classroom and the power of proactive dialogue (always talking from a positive mindset). Always praise effort.

He had a few messages that resonated with me.

1. If you have a child at school ask yourself this. How good is the feeling you have when you know your son/daughter has a passionate teacher who does a great job. Now turn that on yourself as a principal and teacher - Do your parents sit at home and feel great about you as a teacher/principal.

2. Luck isn't always a factor, it happens to those who make it happen. We get lots of visitors and I will often say, "we are lucky, our kids are great". Often the reply is "yeah you guys are so lucky". The reality though is kids are great everywhere and it comes down to hard work and a few laughs, luck isn't a factor.

3. Video your practice. It can be personal and private. While on sabbatical 2 years ago I went for a golf lesson. We walked outside with clubs ready to go. The guy gave me no tips, he just said play a few shots, he videoed from behind, the side, and did a close-up of the grip. We walked inside, he put it on the TV. My first reaction was "Oh My God" I need to do this and that and this. You are an expert teacher, listen to yourself, watch yourself, watch your movements, listen to the class. This is a no brainer, do it for a short time frame, 30 minutes or so therefore you don't bore yourself to death.

4. Zest practice. Every moment you model an inspired teacher you are modeling an inspired school. The sky is your limit.

5. What Tony did real well was give teachers thinking tools to use with kids, fast simple and full of common sense. All sorts of discussion tools, inquiry tools and more, You should have attended. Brilliant.

A list of books, videos and things to google from NZC and my notes;

Bounce, Matthew Syed - great book even I have read this, the penny will drop - easy to read and makes absolute sense.

Models of the worlds we live in - John Holt

Julia Atkin EPS educational positioning system

TED - Elizabeth Gilbert

TED - Daniel Pink autonomy mastery purpose.

Fierce Conversations - Susan Scott

How to talk to so kids can learn - Adelle Faber

Learning Talk - Hyerle

The ripple effect - Tony Ryan

follow him on twitter @aussietony

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leadership Structure x 2

Day one at the NZConnected conference.
It was a Julia Atkin day for me. She is here only one day so it was a great opportunity to get my fill of common sense. Something this conference provided all day long.

Following on from my quality post from last month. Julia talked about that very same leadership structure.

So the hierarchy model is a shocker we know this but what model have you most experienced ? What is our mental model of school leadership?
Is your schools model of leadership the collaborative model ? Of course it is - according to you. But what do your teachers think the model of leadership is ?
Who is telling the truth? Can you be both?
You may be operating in the collaborative model of leadership and everyone at your school may actually think you are in a hierarchy. Teachers may actually want a hierarchy (make a desicion - tell me what you want done). Part of the confusion is because of the mental models people carry. They are hard to break, because what we know, is our default position.
When I went to school many moons ago, a fire engine going past the playground with the siren blasting meant only one thing, FIRE. Today the fire engine comes past, what is the mental model we hold and where is the engine actually going. People rely on their mental models by default. That engine could be attending traffic accidents, chemical spills, whatever. Julia Atkin says we need to work with teachers and children in breaking down our mental models and reforming re-imagining them. I asked how do we do this ? Julia says with a sledgehammer. We agreed too that living the collaborative model, referring to it, owning it, will continually break down the mental model.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Management Structure

the guys at the top only see shit

the guys at the bottom only see arseholes

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top 10 list for leaders

I have no idea where I discovered this top 10 list. I want to apologise for pasting it here without acknowledgement. Leave a comment if you know its origins, or like the content. Its too good to not share.

1 The focus of 'your' school must be on the success of kids 100% of the time. All too often, it seems, we try to fit kids into our expectations and in the process ignore the ideas, questions, points of view, and talents the students bring with them. And we see any conflict with students as a problem rather then as a means to work out a mutual better solutions.
2 Leaders need to create a vision,write it down,and start implementing it. It is important not to put your vision in drawer and forget about it and hope for the best. Every decision must be aligned against the vision and beliefs that underpin it. The whole school community is watching when you make a decision so consistency, by referencing decisions against the vision, is important.
3 It's the people stupid. The secret of managing is to keep the people who hate you away from those who are undecided. Hire people who support your vision, who are prepared to learn and who like kids.
4 Keep the paddles in the water. When navigating dangerous rapids in raft the only way to succeed is for everyone in the boat to sit on the edge and paddle really hard even though everyone would rather sit in the centre where it is safer. In times of school crisis everybody must be involved.
5 Find time to think and worry during the day. You are never always going to have a good days so it is OK to stare at the wall, reflect on the vision, and think about how to make necessary changes. Value input from other but ask those who provide it to provide possible solutions as well.
6 Take responsibility for the good and bad. The solutions to problems are almost always right in front of you; the genius of the school lies within the school. Imposed solutions have their consequences. Don't give away your responsibility.
7 You have ultimate responsibility. Have very clear expectations derived from the school vision and beliefs and then make sure people have the knowledge, resources, and time to accomplish expectations. Autonomy is the goal but actions need to be within the bounds of the vision.
8 Have bias for yes. The only progress you ever make in life involves risk.Ideas that teachers and others may suggest may seem a little crazy but try to makes such requests into a yes. Use the vision as a self reference and encourage others to do so.
9 Consensus is over rated. Twenty percent of the people will be against anything. When you realize this you avoid compromising what really should be done because you stop watering things down.If you always reach consensus you are being led by the 20%
10 Large changes need to be done quickly. If you wait too long to make changes to a school culture you have already sanctioned mediocre behaviour because you are allowing it.That is when change is hard. Define with the staff the behaviours required by the vision and belief and hold people accountable to them.

Seems like good advice if principals want to be real leaders!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Draw a few conclusions

The national standards are now entering an interesting stage. The hit list exists. "Someone" got a former head of ERO to "cold call" schools asking "how they are going with implementing the standards". The former head said it was a random call. After speaking with one of the "random" principals, I know they certainly felt like it was "pressure" and "information gathering".

So what conclusions can be drawn.

"Someone" is angry at opposition of the standards and has asked for a list to be drawn up.
"Someone" has asked a big gun to do an investigation and place pressure on these schools.
"Someone" formed the cunning strategy of saying the cold call list is random.
So who in the Ministry or in Parliament has the power to make this happen.
You draw the conclusions.

So its law, just do it. What do you do when the law is an ass. What did Maori do when they weren't allowed to speak the beautiful language in schools? The law changed in the 30's but the practice continued through to the 70's. Those that complied lost their language. Those that didn't comply, well you draw the conclusion.

Are we going to wait twenty years to look back and say "that experiment with our kids" was a lemon? Are we going to sit by and accept a law written on an election slogan?
The letter that our leading academic researchers wrote to the minister saying these can have the effect of actually doing damage. The research is saying no. The law, yes.

I wouldn't mind seeing the law tested for lacking evidence.

If I was to grade the standards thus far, and gave those who strung them together, then the "Mary team" would be "below" but thats an OTJ.

I challenge all schools who are going mad designing Nat Standards to share their living local curriculum NZC first please.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Emma Woods I salute you

In one of the saddest stories ever written, a great New Zealander has touched everyone who heard or saw her reaction. This is something that brought a tear to the eye of thousands of people as we shook our heads in disbelief of a truly amazing woman. Picture your two children run over by an alleged boy racer, killing one and injuring another and the grieving mum coming out with statements like these:

"We don't want this to be his defining moment in his life," Emma Woods said yesterday of Ash Austin's actions that killed her son Nayan, 4, and injured her and her other son Jacob, 6.

"He's young ... and he's got his whole life ahead of him. And we hope he will use it to do good things, and to be good with people. And maybe eventually to be a good father.

"We know that at some stage with the grieving process, there will be anger. But at this stage, we're not angry. It's just a tragic accident."

"He was just a kid coming home from work and the road was slippery.

"He made a mistake maybe driving, I don't know, that's not for me to decide. I know that sometimes when I'm with the kids, I've maybe driven a bit too fast. Everybody makes mistakes when they're driving."

Read for yourself unbelievable this and this.

Emma Woods your are truly amazing. I know every kiwi sends you and your family their love. If we could take some of the strength and empathy you have shown, and action that daily, this country would be an even better place. I am extremely proud to know such a great Kiwi, mum, family exists in NZ. arohanui

Monday, May 24, 2010

This isn't tiddlyewinks

I cant sit back and take it for one more minute.
I need to know what is going on at half back in NZ rugby. We are trying to win a world cup here, this isn’t tiddlywinks. It’s time for the harsh realities. When Will Genia is developing into a top test player you have to ask what happened to the development of our halfbacks. Our guys are just doing the same as they always did. All of you people who think steady is good are not facing the crisis that is impending if we vote for the incumbents. Its like continuing to pick Rokocoko again, we know that just isn’t acceptable.

Is the guy you are picking going to be a match winning halfback for us in the rugby world cup? When I say match winning I mean the game breaker, the guy who makes the difference, the guy with the edge, the guy who is hungry and adds actions to that hunger.
So lets have a look who is around.
A: Quentin James Cowan
B: Andrew Ellis
C: Piri Weepu
D: Khan Fotualii
E: Alby Matthewson
F: Brendan Leonard

1: does my halfback piss around at the ruck waiting endlessly to pass to a runner who is being marked. Cowan: can piss around a bit 5. Ellis: endless pissing around 4. Weepu: shocking at snails pace from rucks (fitness related though) 2. Fotualii: the most decisive, arrives quickly and sends it (easily the fittest halfback) 8. Matthewson: big failing just endless waiting for him (his worst fault) 4. Leonard: should know better 5.

2: does my half back defend like a forward, are they an aggressive or passive tackler. Cowan: great defender more behind the ruck though 8. Ellis: poorest defender (head and concussion issues) 4. Weepu: lazy defender, but smart, can step up but often doesnt 6. Futualii: wins here too, best defender by miles, aggressive tackler can use no arms occasionally but importantly can turn ball over with his hits, appears to love defending 9. Matthewson: gritty and determined but small and very obviously is knackered by the 60 minute mark when his size has taken its toll, often replaced late in games when he is buggered 6. Leonard: makes good tackles but often in the box/cover defence roll not in an attacking tackle 7.

3: is my halfback a player who always needs defending, are they a decisive runner who could be dangerous at any time. Cowan: yip you gotta defend him, he can and will snipe, not sensationally dangerous but must be watched 7. Ellis: dont bother defending him just run to carter and smash him 2. Weepu: only very close to the line is he worth defending, again he is smart/cunning but not a particularly dangerous halfback 6. Fotualii: can run and likes to have a go, has speed and can beat a man, not afraid to run, can improve but is as good as the rest 7. Matthewson: good sniper and can burst is easily put away though due to size, still this is his best asset 7. Leonard offers what Ellis offers steady predictable and at an average pace 3.

4: is my halfback always improving judge them from 06 -07 -08 and in 2009 are they going to be a better player, in 2010 will they be even better. Cowan: hasnt improved his aggression or arrogance cause he has them in spades, technically no improvement in pass or attack 6. Ellis: no improvement in any areas apart from minor experience cause he keeps getting picked 4. Weepu: has gone backwards is unfit and falling of the pace in attitude, aggression and interest 2. Fotualii: was lucky to be a crusader 3 years ago, his rise has been more growth, he is 28, he played 1st5 for Tasman last year, they won everything until he got hurt. Blackadder stuck by Fotualii when under pressure to take local Cantab Tyson Keats, great call Todd. He is the massive improver 10. Matthewson: big improver by being given a chance elsewhere, there is no question he will continue to improve, the question here does he have the attributes to match the improvement of Foutalii 9. Leonard: going backwards 2.

5: does my players hunger reflect in their actions on the field. Cowan always shows the hunger 9. Ellis hungry but the actions don’t talk 6. Weepu: his brain is always sharp and actions fluctuate, but not often enough 6. Foutalii hungrier than an alligator with actions that reflect that, equal to Cowan 9. Matthewson: hungry too up there with the other two 9. Leonard hungry but the actions don’t match the heart 6.

6: speed of pass. Cowan 7. Ellis 6. Weepu 6. Fotualii 7 Matthewson 7. Leonard 6.

Here are my totals out of 60
Cowan 42 Ellis 26 Weepu 28 Fotualii 50 Matthewson 42 Leonard 29
Summary: we might have to bite the bullet and let the halfbacks get experience (Fotualii and maybe Matthewson) and use Cowan when we need to. Otherwise more of the same will result in more of the same.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Which came first - and who cares - it's true

From Values & Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice
Julia Atkin published the above paper in 1996. Her circles about values and beliefs are a great tool for schools to align their values and beliefs with their Principles and Practice. Below is an abstract from the article. The TED video is talking about business but the similarities with educational leadership are too good to be ignored. Thanks to @alanalach for this tweet, I just joined the dots.
So now I ask who wants to hear Julia talking about the NZ curriculum, get hands on and work with her. Get to NZConnectED

ABSTRACT : For example, there are many practices congruent with the belief that students can and do learn from each other. A teacher who holds that belief would develop approaches that, in principle, give opportunities for students to learn from each other. So a teacher who holds this belief is likely, in practice, to arrange the room so that students can work together readily, to give opportunities to work together on tasks in small groups and to employ strategies and approaches such as peer modeling, peer evaluation and peer tutoring. The relationship between these particular learning-teaching practices and the teacher’s core values and beliefs is shown in below.
Not only would practices be developed to give opportunities for students to learn from each other but also feedback loops would be introduced to evaluate whether in fact collaborative learning was actually occurring.

A useful exercise to develop the habit of this approach and thinking is set out bleow. As a reflection exercise, work it through individually or in collaboration with a colleague.

1. Each identify one of your strongly held values or beliefs about learning.
2. If you believe this, how in principle do you respond? How, in principle, do you work towards this belief?
3. Give three examples of different practices which are congruent with this principle and its underlying belief.
4. Identify barriers (or potential barriers) to this belief being lived out in practice.
5. Identify a practice which is not congruent with your belief.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is your schools priority ?

I'm getting a bit sick of meeting teachers and principals who are focussing on the national standards. I can read Nag 2. We know what is expected. I recently met with my friends at Learning Network who said that the meetings and information stuff about National Standards have had huge attendance. The scary thing is that 90% of schools are making national standards their PD. Wake up you plonkers, show me your local curriculum, show me what you are doing with the NZC, show your communities how creative and hard working you are, show your kids the innovation and creativity you have as teachers.
What are people thinking making an election slogan their professional development emphasis??
Schools need to look at their values and make sure their priorities aren't compromised by competition and perceived success.
People need to get their priorities straight and a good start would be real Professional Development, not some made up rubbish from the peddlers who have sold their soul to the Ministers wallet.


Follow Learning Network on twitter, retweet the NZConnectED conference, we owe it to the kids/classrooms of NZ who will soon be inundated with seen texts at 90%.

Tony Ryan: 'Zest practice' in the key competencies
The key competencies are not merely a slight reworking of curriculum documentation. They are a framework and an inquiry-based exploration for a life fully lived. This keynote will clarify the innovative nature of 'Zest Practice' for the key competencies in everyday classrooms.
Tony will also deliver the conference closing: "Now What?"

Julia Atkin: Picking up the gauntlet - doing justice to the spirit of the NZC
The NZ Curriculum has been warmly welcomed by NZ educators, but the apparent freedom if offers comes with significant responsibilities. What are these responsibilities and what are the key elements of the development and review process that will ensure your school does justice to the spirit of the NZ Curriculum?

Graham Watts: The class of 2023
In 2023 the children starting school this year will leave school. What is the future of teaching? How are we going about preparing our youngsters for unknown jobs and a future that is ever-changing? We need to develop the skilful thinkers with transferable learning skills.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1 in 5

Ando truly nailed the 1 in 5 nonsense being brandished about by the minister, but what is the reality of a bell curve, what does it actually mean.

To me you can look at it from another viewpoint. A bell curve indicates that there is always someone struggling or failing. So I ask the question, is it me or you? It isn't plausible that we are so far down in the intelligence scale that we are failing because of intellect. BUT it is probable that teachers/principals are failing in the actual skills and delivery to work in the classroom and staffroom. I reckon 1 in 10 might be a decent guesstimate. Look around your colleagues the next time you meet, 1 in ten eh? But before pre judging anyone look at yourself.
I found the last four days at Masterclass Paramatta one of the best reflective opportunities. It had nothing to do with the format, more the people, surroundings and time. I was able to look at my own performance and realize that confidence can lead to a false sense of accomplishment and a dip in knowledge. When you are totally confident in where you are going without always looking to improve and learn more you can build up a false sense of achievement.

When you apply this to teachers think about the things you don't know, think about your blindspot in the Johari window. What do others know about you that you don't know? What do you know about your performance that no one else knows?
Sometimes this is the wake up call you need to give yourself. I'm not talking about those rubbish teachers, or those who destroy your school culture (they have to go) I'm talking about good people just looking to keep pressing the envelope.
Pull out the Johari window, trial it with your friends, look from another person point of view, it works.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Essential skills for the classroom or a wish list?

10% of the 21st century is over, stop talking about 21st century learners and become a 21st century teacher before you get passed by. There are a few items on the list which are arguable but you cant deny its got to the stage that we need to shift NOW. Time for action not talk. Thanks manaiakalani for some help with the list.

create online materials using digital audio
find and evaluate authentic web based content
create and edit digital audio for the classroom
exploit digital images for the creation of web based learning materials / classroom use
create / collaborate on online media sharing channel (on YouTube / Teacher Tube etc)
create screen capture videos for students training
understand issues related to copyright and fair use of online materials
use browser plugins to enhance student learning
aid students in the use of a range of digital tools to help them goal set, plan and organise their learning
exploit webcams for teaching and learning / for student projects e
exploit social media for your own professional development
use a range of digital tools for time management planning and administrative purposes
use asynchronous collaborative tools for text constructions and editing
identify online resources that may pose a threat to our students e-security
exploit digital narrative for learning purposes
support students in the development of an e-portfolio
exploit blogging to achieve pedagogical aims
create digital narrative
utilize social bookmarking to share resources with and between learners
exploit 3D and 2D interactive computer games for learning purposes
exploit web based content for classroom learning
create a blog or website
check an email account regularly and manage it efficiently
use a computer / laptop and trouble shoot basic functions : on/off, connect to printer / internet
participate in online environments eg blogs or forums or Nings or Trademe or Facebook etc
independently operate, still and video cameras
administer a student blog : upload content, manage commenting, manage student use edit online pages e.g blog or Google sites use Google Apps - personally and with students a graphics programme for your level of students (e.g Kidpix, Hyperstudio, Pixelmator, Photoshop)
create a basic presentation eg Keynote or Google or Prezi or Powerpoint saving files in a variety of file formats (e.g .mov,.dv, .jpg, .aiff, .doc etc)
operate effectively you school student management system
create / interact with a wiki for collaborative learning with students
create and edit digital images / digital video
exploit web based content for autonomous student learning

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cops drop the ball

In South Africa at the height of apartheid black were pulled over harassed, followed, beaten and worse. The world didn't like what was going on and we were all aghast of the brutality of our fellow man. While on holiday we all watched "walk to freedom" which was an inspiring story of Rosa Parks. Little Podgorani and her schoolie mate asked a thousand questions and were horrified with so many of the little things that black america suffered, and some probably still are. What annoys me is the same stuff happens in NZ all the time but just for brown NZers, stuff us pakeha are oblivious to. My mate Ves reckons he has been pulled over 20 times in three years, I think I've been pulled over 3 times in my life. He does have dreadlocks and a cool goatee, and he is one hell on a good teacher. He tells me on all the lines, excuses the cops use when they pull him over, it just happens, believe me.
OK here is my point, check this out and shake you head this is true story. My mate and his cook went to pick up their son from a short stint in a northland prison. They were looking forward to the day, counting the days. The fill the car, buy plenty of yummy food, and get to the gates at 9am sharp. Yes the dogs were there and they were doing inspections (no problems there). So also in the que of cars was about 15 other cars, mainly solo mums with 3,4,5 kids all with their parcels and stuff. These are people trying to hold their families together. So what do the police do. They have a line of police, checking warrants, registrations, diesel mileage, seat-belts, everything. They were handing out tickets/fines like lollipops. If you want a shit rap, a bad name, then carry on with this nonsense. No wonder the cops build up hatred with that sort of shit. My mate had a few harsh words for officer dibble and his comrades, he went home happy with his young man. But a string of young mums went home to an empty house and a bunch of fines they will never afford.
I suppose that it all comes down to cash, writing tickets, bringing in the bucks.
Shame, damn shame.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good stuff done well

So while whipping through a room the other day I came across what appeared to be the retyping of stories for publishing. I saw miss whatsername struggling with finding which key was what, and with a quick eye roll I thought hmmm. What then hit me was the reality of what was being taught. Kids were creating pictures that described their writing and then re editing their stories to make the two correlate. Add to that the thinking templates that helped step out the stories, these templates included scenes, pictures and descriptions. Great teamwork discussions between kids, the teacher had carefully manipulated who was in each group, the teacher facilitating cleverly with those needing help. They were into kid pix and were faced with a few options from there. They could either print their books off or flick them out as digital books to the junior class with whom they were going to read them with.
The story is that sometimes the simple things can be done really well and can make for great learning and teaching. I remember Mr Canterbury's boost reading project, which did a similar thing and benefitted all, or aunty Dots mileage, teamwork and comprehension jaffa on itunes. The thing is its easy to forget how much fun we can have while making learning real.

Friday, March 19, 2010

School Trustees Association are they Double Dipping ?

I'm a little unsure if this is double dipping, stupidity from schools or just paranoia over National Standards.
So the podgorani has had his fair crack at the NZEI over the years and nothing has changed, but you pay your union fees or you don't. It annoys me endlessly that if I ring NZEI and say "i need help with a teacher, and you are my union, help". They say "Oh i'm their union too, ring STA". This is the big joke and we all know we need separate unions, but those NZEI fish heads cant afford to lose our fees and wouldn't be able to have endless hakas at their national conference without their "respected" principals.
This isn't about the NZEI this is about our friends at STA School Trustees Association. They have clearly not asked their members about the national standards and are now alongside their funding partner the National Party. At first I thought it was just a stand by a lone figurehead but the penny dropped last week. After talking with the Mike Canterbury he noted that you don't actually have to pay the STA "subscription/membership" to have the use of their services including legal and communication. STA has a contract with the Ministry of Education (insert Anne Tolley is the boss here) to provide Boards of Trustees with governance help and provide legal advice. I have over the years used this service (once) and the STA guys that assist the school were brilliant, but it is a big job and takes ages, imagine how many schools have used their services.
This is a big contract, any chance STA are now puppets for their bosses? Their behavior suggests something is going on. They certainly haven't listened to their members. Then they wrote to Boards of Trustees about sacking BOTs who don't follow the standards, but they didn't write to all members of the boards (ratty smelly). This was a hot headed reaction to pressure. Who might have been behind this letter (insert all people who want the standards who are hot headed and have some power to do something)?

This is all a shambles, don't blame me for jumping to conclusions, this is what happens when the internet bites back at the Govts ownership of the mainstream media and when our only representatives (NZEI bus tour joke, NZPF's read our website for our press release campaign) drop the ball like the Highlanders on a south african tour.

If you want to make a stand, talk with your BOT review your subscription/membership - you already are a member, I rang the STA and checked the facts, their help desk was very helpful.
Might save your school $1000, fiscal responsibility, at least one National MP, Bill English would praise your accounting prudence in these tough times.

Please, before getting angry, note that while I type i am usually laughing, and if you saw what I edit out of each post you'd be shocked. If you cant take a joke don't read, if you don't have a SOH don't read, but there is usually a message in there for someone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cooliris Photo Wall

Visual learners - old but still cool

My mate Wes (australian so i will use simple language, terms like "mate" go down well there - see I can be politically correct) posted a nice little tweet about how to avoid questions to kids that will be easily answered by google. This led me through to a nice blog post which led my eyes to a cool graphic about blooms. The graphic was cut off slightly which always annoys the visual learner (insert Podgorani here).

A quick search in google images for blooms taxonomy graphic and I had a series of hits. Still the click through to next page bollicks, and the see real image is garbage, but click to cool iris and get the scrolling images hit just the right spot. I was like a boy in a lolly shop.

I know cool iris is old and yesterdays web 2.0 tool, but the way the web moves so fast we jump past things that still work and shouldn't have been left in the web 2 trail of crappy apps.

Cool Iris in action.
If you were looking for visual representations about blooms then surely Cool Iris is where you should be.