Archive | December, 2017

Things to Think About?

20 Dec

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

Great schools all have one thing in common: great organizational culture. I have reflected on this many times this year. Here some things, which I think, are important:

  1. Don’t Micro-Manage Teachers/Middle Managers

Teachers and principals need to be focused on one thing: their students. Too often, their focused is shifted from maximizing student achievement to compliance issues, paperwork, or other aspects that are not important or urgent. However, they will get email after email, memo after memo, reminding them to complete the tasks that will have no bearing on student achievement. Let them keep their focus on students. Trust in them that they know what their students need. After all, they are with them all day long.

  1. Give The Staff a Voice

No one likes to have decisions dictated from the top down. Teachers and principals must be trusted to make decisions for the students they work with. These decisions need to come from within.

  1. Share Success with Your Community

The use of Social Media here is really useful here.

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Summer Goals

15 Dec

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Summer is here and so is my month long break from school. The following are my goals for the summer or at least until January 15.

De-clutter: We as teachers need to take time to let it go. Have a clean out and get rid of all those daily worries for the time being. January will bring new perspectives.

Reflect on Your School Year: Here is another opportunity to take advantage of specific starting and ending points in our profession. Make time with a colleague to reflect upon the school year. Discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what you will do differently next year. This process will help bring closure to one year and set you up for the next year.

Spend Time With Loved Ones and Reconnect: As teachers, we spend our entire day with other people’s children. From the early morning until the late afternoon, we interact with very few adults. Take time over the summer to have adult conversations.

Have a Real Coffee: With others or By yourself. Most people don’t understand that teachers can’t go out for lunch. We just do not have the time. Do it over the summer.! Be an adult.

Read and Relax: Especially not work related content. Enough said.

Robinson

11 Dec

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Ken Robinson’s views on education have been well documented in his TED Talks. His most famous talk from 2006, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”, is the most viewed TED of all-time. Yet, one can discern something of a Robinson backlash. I have heard and read the following perspectives:

(1) He’s not an educator. He has no idea what he’s talking about.

(2) He’s just a performer. Have you any idea how much he gets paid for these talks?

(3) It’s the same populist message, delivered the same way, every time.

I find his message inspiring as, evidently, do thousands of educators the world over. He speaks not of policy, but human truth. It is also true that he is a highly entertaining and disarming speaker – but this is hardly a negative for someone trying to convey an important message. His quick wit, narrative talent, and incisive perspectives are what make his delivery compelling and important

But his relate to are a challenge to the world of Contrived Complexity. As I rrewatched him this week, three statements stood out:

  • “Can we stop all this talk and just have a curriculum that works?”
  • “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have special needs.”
  • “A great school is about the relationship between teachers and students.”

If these three simple principles were applied to schools, what would the net impact be on learning? Perhaps topic for the next HOF Inquiry.

Examination Time

8 Dec

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NCEA is over and we have just concluded the examination season. Phew.  Do teachers really need contrived, formal examinations at the end of a full school year in order to make a professional judgment – should one be required – on their students? We are also talking at our school about the purpose of junior exams. What is the point?

What were exams originally introduced for? If we are honest, it was to sort the elite minority into elite, selective institutions in order to perpetuate a hierarchy in which wealth, knowledge, and possibilities were exclusively defined, controlled, and limited.

Society has certainly changed this we know. Technology has transformed the possibilities for learning and the opportunities for our young people. We are challenged with the reality of inevitable, unknown challenges and known global crises that are not going to go away with a bombing campaign or populist piece of legislation. We know that all people have the capacity to learn. We recognise that the elite selection process throws – along with the brilliant and truly bright – some of the most banal and incompetent into positions of power and influence. Knowledge is cheap today and access is virtually unlimited; the ability to create transcends the old order and requires real talent. Yet the exam system remains largely the same.

Imagine an educational system in which we based our understanding of student potential and achievement upon individual interests and passions, developed and nurtured throughout the years of schooling. This is what most teachers instinctively seek to do. Imagine, then, how amazing schools could be without the false conventions of examinations and tests that are philosophically at variance with all that we know about learning and humanity. The fact is, we know that we don’t need examinations for students to get into good colleges and we don’t even need good colleges to learn and be successful, so why is this absurdity still the unchallenged tail that wags the dog of our school systems?

Lego and Learning

4 Dec

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Invention was the key to Lego’s appeal for me growing up. The fun of building, breaking, and rebuilding. Using pieces of that were not lego because we had lost a piece. So of those pieces were gems. That was where the challenge lay. We learnt through trial and error, through testing and refining. More wheels don’t make things go faster – the increased friction actually slows them up. The walls of buildings need to interlock with each other occasionally or they fall over. I may not have grown up to be a mechanic, a bricklayer, or a vet, but I gained some valuable understandings about how things work.

Contrast that with today’s experience of building a Lego set. Certainly there are still valuable skills and experiences to be gained: following instructions with care and the sense of satisfaction upon completion. But the words “I’m finished” are not something I have ever associated with Lego. Had we ever uttered them, our parents would have simply said “Well, build something else.” Today, many children would consider it sacrilege to convert their immaculate Jedi Interceptor into a homemade bulldozer or their Hogwarts Castle into a skyscraper. In many bedrooms, ‘completed’ Lego models sit on the shelf, an end unto themselves.

From creation to replication – therein seems to lie the change in Lego. Teaching our children to be artisans who can recreate objects, carefully and methodically crafting them from a template, is a useful skill. But encouraging them to be artists, with the confidence and creativity to create and refine original designs, may be more useful still.

Which leads to the other sneaky change – from collaborative to solo pursuits. Learners memories are communal; they are of competition and co-operation. There were highest tower races, last-car-standing demolition derbies, joint construction projects and endless haggling as my brothers and sisters and I bartered for pieces from each other’s piles. It is true that, once built, a modern day themed set does provide the basis for interactive play. However, does it replace the life-lessons of building together?

Having recently seen the Lego Star Wars Wii game being played in virtual reality on a big screen, I should be glad that the solid little plastic bricks of my childhood still even exist. Nevertheless, I challenge parents to the following next time you are cleaning your child’s room:
1. ‘Accidently’ drop two or three of their completed Lego models on the floor
2. If they still have the original instruction sheets, hide them
3. When they get home from school, tell them to rebuild. It builds resilience
4. Better still, challenge them to build something completely different

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