Seven Things I Hate About Your Ideas!

Paul presented “Seven Things I Hate About Your Ideas” in 2016, the alternative title….Telling the honest truth about the obstacles to Collaboration and Listening … even if you’d rather not hear it!”

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“When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought.”
~ Theodore Zeldin (Scholar and Thinker)

fourth way

In their book “The Fourth Way”, Hargreaves and Shirley argue that schooling has slowly evolved in its structures of practice, from government funded, intuitively-lead foundations of teaching  (the ‘First Way’) to a system that is heavily laden with tight boundaries and “endless quantities of achievement/performance data so that short-term solutions prevail …”; the ‘Third Way’.

The ‘Fourth Way’ is a call to arms for a return to “… the magic and wonder … of teaching. It’s time to recover the missionary spirit and deep moral purpose of engaging and inspiring all our students. It’s time to put down the spreadsheets and look to each other … to show our true strength by learning to “let go” a little.

Peter Senge presents a similar and powerful case, which speaks to the heart of the learning community’s culture – to release established beliefs about hierarchical leadership within educational institutions and embrace the value of an inter-connected, empowered, co-contributing community.

At the heart of this call is a demand to STOP, COLLABORATE and LISTEN … So what is the HONEST TRUTH about “Stopping, Collaboration and Listening”? If we know it is so amazingly beneficial for education, community, schooling, academic outcomes, moving our school’s forward by building professional learning communities – there couldn’t possibly be any hurdles… right?

odd

Far be it from me to be negative but … I know the people you work with … they are extra-ordinary … in every way possible.

They truly see the world from a different perspective than you and I.

They think YOU are the one on the right!

 

The “Seven Things I Hate about your Ideas” are really about identifying what I feel are the obstacles to collaboration and a culture of listening.

  • Fear
  • Powerlessness
  • Assumptions
  • Territorialism (not isolation)
  • Risk-centricity
  • Tunnel Vision not THE Vision

And I’ll share number seven at the end.

FEAR
who i work with2.PNGThere may be a fear from the team (or leader) that the process of collaboration and listening to others will expose some short comings about knowledge or practice, e.g.

  • Their afraid that your stupid idea will be better than their stupid idea.
  • As a leader – you’re afraid that their idea will expose how pathetically you have been leading the department/school up to this point in time – without having thought of this idea yourself.
  • WORSE – you’ve already had this idea, you haven’t had a moment to propose it within your team and by them SAYING it, you’ll still have to put all that energy into making it happen and then you have to give them all the credit for it!

POWERLESSNESS

Like Alice – a colleague may not want to collaborate in a team because they “have to” or because they have been told to. Similarly, team members may not want to generate amazing ideas which the administration won’t allow.

ASSUMPTIONS
535185625-assume.jpg
Experience has told your colleagues that if they walk around the corner the outcome/pathway will be painful or inconvenient to confront!

“Your stupid ideas will leave me with more work – just like that group project at university where nobody did anything but me and they all got the grades.”

 

TERRITORIALISM (Craving the Status Quo)status-quo
Your colleagues may be completely comfortable with the status quo They have been through a myriad of change and if you force them to come to the Pot Luck Dinner of Collaboration they will bring a fork and not a plate.

 

funny-animals-territorial-aggression

MILITARY RISKCENTRICITY (Is that a word?)

For some, change is painful and a sniff of change can be recognised a mile away … territory will be fiercely defended. The concern here is not just wanting to maintain the status quo … it is the military-stance that accompanies the resistance!

 

tunnel.jpgTUNNEL VISION
Some team members are not seeing the “big picture” (some appear incapable to do so) – they speak only from the perspective of their own patch of grass. Sadly, other team members/leaders quickly identify this quirk and the truly valid points they sometimes hold about their area/s of expertise are lost.

 

NUMBER SEVEN … THE BIG ONE!
The seventh reason that people hate your ideas is sad but true and brings me to a change in focus in this conversation…

your opinion

If you’re a leader – you know this feeling and you can give me current examples of it in your teams. But …the truth is we have to take the time to look in the mirror… In developing a culture of shared vision; open and collaborative learning; informed, research-rich discourse amongst practitioners, and accountable, open-door mindsets we must be committed to reinventing the tone, mode and method of our own established pathways. Without a senior leadership agenda to commit to return to these ideals; teachers and middle-management can only aspire to achieve these objectives within their own spheres of influence.

teamwork33

I do believe that educational leaders ARE at a cross-road. because the demands of modern education are at odds with our embedded systems.  “Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.”?

Blasés research states that “… there is convincing evidence that teachers will reduce their overall involvement in work, in important quantitative (e.g., time, energy) and qualitative (e.g., commitment, caring) ways … as administrators tightened control over teachers, they tended to become less engaged, less motivated and less committed…”(Blase)

The current trend for Principal turnover in schools is now three to five years (my son has had three principals and an acting principal in the last 2 years) – with 70% of Australia’s 10,000 school principals reaching retirement age over a five year period to 2018 – we would expect that many people reading this article will be taking on key leadership roles within our WA schools and taking them on at a lot earlier ages than has been historically represented.

In their book ‘The Power of Two‘ – Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller ask us to reconsider a solitary point … don’t ask how you can become a better leader … ask how you can be a better partner!

“If you want to have great partnerships, be a great partner. Get beyond yourself. Give up the notion that you are well-rounded, and stop expecting your colleagues to be universally proficient. Incorporate someone else’s motivations into your view of the accomplishment. Loosen up. Put aside your competitive nature, your prepackaged view of how the thing should be done, and your desire not to be inconvenienced with the imperfections of a fellow human being. Focus more on what you do for the partnership than what you get from it. Demonstrate trust and see if they don’t surprise you with their trustworthiness. Be slower to anger and quicker to forgive. And along the way, communicate continuously.”
~ Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller

 

 

 

So the challenge as leaders is to become partners, to reflect on how we can better invite contribution and collaboration … and to develop the disciplines and successes in our staff culture that we want in our student culture.

Our schools are the social embryos of humanity – those institutions that we establish to promote our highest collective values. They should be the embodiments of norms of reciprocity, active trust and democratic deliberation. It is not more mandates and management they need, but the broad shoulders of uplifting and sustainable leadership – Hargreaves and Shirley – The Fourth Way

 

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International Mud Day

A Day for Kids to PLAY IN MUD? Is this just too KOOKY?

I promise after listening to Tim Vidler speak on ABC Radio – You’ll … “Get It”

6a00e0097e4e68883301a511d5b9d7970c-320wiBold Park Community School (BPCS), founder of the inaugural International Mud Day, were excited to join other schools and organisations to partner in an initiative to link with schools around the globe in enjoying the benefits and pleasure of playing in mud!
The intention of this event is to provide children with a symbolic opportunity to join with others around the world in connecting through the catalyst of mud.
This year BPCS “amped it up” with a dirty-big mud obstacle course (the Mudsticle Course); where children from ages 3 to 18 (and adults) interconnect with like-spirited children around the world by playing in mud together on Friday the 27th June, 2014.
Grown from its inception in 2009 with the connection of 80 Nepalese orphans and the children of Bold Park Community School, with the support of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children (NACC), this inspirational initiative has flourished into a multi-continental annual celebration.
As the participants of Bold Park Community School Mud Day since 2009 have discovered, there are children like our friends in Nepal who are prevented from enjoying nature-based play because they only have one set of clothes. One of the aims of International Mud Day is to raise global awareness of this sad reality and provide funds to meet this need to enable children to delight in the joys of mud play, and in the mean time, encouraging our own children (and parents) to overcome our fear of getting dirty!
Mud gratifies one of our first and basic instincts. We will be playing in and connecting in the same earth. “Mud – It’s universal”.
For more information, visit the World Forum Mud Day site at:

 

Poetry Slams It!

slam poetry

I have a confession. Even though I am an English teacher; I have struggled to teach and celebrate some poetic forms. (I will spare you my list of 1,000 exceptions which spring to mind as I am typing). I do; however, love teaching the DEVICES of the poet! We were very blessed recently to have access to the wonderful “Spoken Word Poet”, Kate Wilson (you can see her blog here: http://www.kwpoet.blogspot.com.au/).

Kate’s quiet demeanor coupled with her passionate and genuine enthusiasm was impossible to avoid. Far from being the Drama Queen; Kate delivered with the right balance of humility and substance. As a group of teachers (we really are the toughest of classes) we were inspired by our visitor’s ability to scaffold the delivery of poetic devices within our workshop and season with a wide range of her self-composed morsels (and examples from the best in the field of modern “Slam Poets”).

More importantly, Kate got us WRITING. Individual, small group, large group … WRITING. The groups were “popping” with puns, lyrics, stretched metaphors and beat-box-beats – WRITING but from the platform of speaking and listening (nice).

Since this is MY blog, I will share a couple of our “small group’s efforts”, based on the tasks we were assigned 🙂

TASK / INSPIRATION: An Apple and a Shakespearian Parody?

When I shall die,

Take me out and pluck my seed from my rosy flesh of little stars,

And I will grow to see the face of heaven.

The world will make love beneath my canopy,

And carve their names in my flesh.

Pay no worship for the garnish of my sister fruit,

For when my children fall to the earth .

I will rise again!

 

We also enjoyed Kate’s “pun” activity. We were assigned the word “Bread” and had to make as many puns in a short-story as possible… can you count them?

A SLICE OF LIFE

My uncle, Brian Free, was an in-bred Tasmanian farmer. What a delight! Tip-Top Baker but he didn’t always make the crust, many said he was half-baked; going against the grain and rubbing people the wrong way.

He fell in love with an organic, wholemeal hippie-girl from Rye. It wasn’t long before she had a bun in the oven and she agreed to marry him because she loved the way he rolled. In all, they had five flour-children … Yeast-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, and a son blessed from another relationship.

We don’t want to put a damper on our story but Brian became a dough-bludger; taking Abbott’s bread. It’s a sad slice of life.

 

Ultimately, there is a lot to take back to the classroom!

20 Things a Secondary Teacher Wishes He Could Say to Parents

Can we have an honest conversation?

I promise, I am not “representing the teaching fraternity” by writing this… I haven’t consulted with my colleagues; in fact they may well feel VERY differently from the views I express here. I do want to express some of my thoughts from my own teaching experiences over the past twenty years.

I understand that by doing so – I open the door for “20 Things Parents Want to Say to their Child’s Teacher”; and as a parent, I may well write the reply myself. 🙂

  1. I want to help your child – please trust me and empower me to move your child forward.
  2. Read the school policy statements. You NEVER know when you need to know them.
  3. Serve your child a good breakfast, pack a healthy lunch, stop excusing them from sports and leave the Cola and Energy drinks for the weekend. Nutrition and physical activity hugely impacts concentration and behaviour. PS – They could pack their own lunch and they could make their own breakfast.  PPS – They could pack your lunch now and then too 🙂 .
  4. I didn’t give your child a “D” – the work they gave me however, was.
  5. As an English teacher – I BEG you. MAKE THEM READ! Read TO them when they are young. Buy them books/comics as much as you already buy them video/games based materials. When they get older, buy second-hand texts that will either SUPPLEMENT what they are currently learning OR model the kind of writing rigour they are expected to produce in essays, etc. My biggest recommendation? Put these materials in the toilet and change them regularly!
  6. Please contact me when your child needs help, assistance and guidance in their learning. I know you’re not an expert in my field and trying to help your children with their homework can be a real maze! Please let me know the areas your child is struggling with as they happen (not after the due date of a major assignment). On the flip side – don’t empower incompetency or mediocrity by justifying your child when they have been lazy by not following through on a task, responsibility or their homework.
  7. I know my obligations to have a working ownership of your child’s condition, learning difficulty, illness, allergy, diagnosis – I take my working knowledge of this really seriously. With all due respect to the professional who spent time diagnosing your child; please remember that (in most cases) they have spent 1/2000th of the time I spend with your child in the year – I really do have some valuable insights about their learning and behaviour too. On a similar point; when a doctor tells you not to notify the school that your child’s medication has been adjusted so they can get “accurate feedback on its effectiveness”; please remember to discuss with your health professional that the school has a duty of care.
  8. I ask this question of teachers too – Should we reward children for things that they should be doing anyway?
  9. On Parent Interview Night I have only 5-10 minutes with each parent and we need to communicate effectively in the short amount of time we have. If you need more time – please ask – I want to make sure you are happy with what is happening in my class and that we are clear about expectations and all of the support materials available to your child. Also, please make a time to see the drama and dance teachers… they don’t have as many bookings on these nights and you’ll be amazed what you learn about your child from a meeting with them.
  10. Your child is just like you were at their age. Your child’s version of class events, homework due dates, behaviour and attendance; reflect this similarity. If you were a perfect child and you don’t know what I am talking about – please speak to your partner /spouse.
  11. Your child’s education will be negatively impacted if you continue taking two-week holidays during school time because it’s cheaper to buy Bali tickets in the off-peak time. Yes – I will prepare work for them (though experience tells me they will do it the night before they return to school – it just makes you feel better – right?).  Yes – it is a great educational experience. But – ask your boss if you can take two weeks off during non-leave time; ask if s/he will send your work to you while you are away and promise me it won’t impact your work routine.
  12. Be involved wherever possible. Read the diary, read the blog, read the school newsletter, know the examination timetable. Ask me how you can help in my class – but only if you’ve done the other things first.
  13. Talk to me FIRST (not the poor office lady, the principal or another parent). I know I can be a moron, I have a weird and wacky sense of humour that is easily misunderstood, I make mistakes, I make tippos in my typing (;)) but please; unless it’s almost criminal, talk to me about it – FIRST. IDEALLY, have your child talk to me about it (because when your child talks to me – the version of reality that got home is stripped away and we can talk from a different platform). If you aren’t happy after talking it through – then please talk to someone else – you have given me a fair go at coming to a resolution.
  14. If you are visiting the school to see me – GREAT. Please make a time. I don’t want to be rude when you “talk to me at the classroom door” but when I am talking to you during teaching time, I have my back to 30 children.
  15. Stop doing your child’s homework for them. I know it is tempting to do some “creative scribing” and editing. I know you want them to do well. BUT … I know it’s your work because they can’t replicate it in class. If you keep doing it – I will embarrass you by asking you to stop. It is OK to let them fail.
  16. If you’re allowing your child to use technology – YOU have the GREATEST power and responsibility as the gatekeeper – please exercise this power. Letting them have free rein and saying you “aren’t tech-savy” is like sitting in the backseat when your 17-year-old commences driving lessons with your car.
  17. I understand that school may have been hard and even traumatic experience for you but this isn’t about you or me.
  18. Please don’t ask me to be your FACEBOOK FRIEND until after your child has left the school. Please don’t visit my home, phone me at home or send mail to my personal home or email address. BUT do write to my school email, leave me a message to ring you back or arrange a time to get together.
  19. Provide your child with a well-lit, organised, comfortable and distraction-free environment for study. If your child tells you they can study with the TV on – they are probably lying. If they have been on the computer for longer than 25 minutes – check on them – they are either on a social network or they need a glass of milk.
  20. You know your child – I DO want to know what motivates them, what their interests are, what might be “eating them” at the moment, a little of your family situation and of course any challenges or medical conditions that need attention. Please don’t leave vital information for me to discover after three months. I only have a small window before they potentially move on to another teacher.

I hope there is something that you can reflect on. Thank you for allowing me to be so candid – I feel cleansed! Now I will read it back to myself with my PARENT hat on – and will make some adjustments myself.

Spiel Cheque

NAPLAN results are in for 2011 and WA has improved! Though SPELLING is still an issue.

Perhaps our relationship with email and sms-speak is a part contributor… perhaps we have become too reliant on our spell checkers and we have no need to self correct?

I had fun with this idea a few years ago and came up with this little ‘sample letter’ for students so they could see the fault in relying fully on ‘spell checkers’ in their work.

Deer Mr Coper

Eye rely licked hour conversion these mourning.

Eye have don a spiel cheque sew their should knot be a miss
stake in these litter.

Mr Whyteheed

Whilst my letter is a bit of fun – this clip showcases the fun I could have had with it…

A Day in the Life Of ?

I had fun writing this a few years ago for an introduction to an article titled: “Why am I still Teaching?”. I haven’t revisited it for ages – hope you can read the tongue-in-cheek. Very different from my normal posts – hope you enjoy it!

“Hi, Mr W”

“Hi, Johnny – It’s great to see you! How did you go in your final exams last year?”

“OK, I guess. I haven’t really needed any of that stuff.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m working for Diablo Steel Mining; 5 days on, 10 days off. They pay me $82,000 with accommodation and food included.”

“That’s great, Johnny – I’m really happy for you.” I repent for my lie on the way to the staff room.

Johnny’s spit balls are still on the roof of my classroom. Johnny wrote rude things in the dust of my Camry in Year 10. Johnny is now 18 and earning MORE THAN ME in the mining industry. Johnny is a moron.

I leave Johnny. I’m allowed to leave him all by himself now because he is wearing a “Visitor” badge. The school administrator obviously OK’d his pass. I want to write in the dust of the Administrator’s BMW – but I don’t.

The coffee jar is empty, I am on kitchen roster this week so I can’t be annoyed with anyone and that REALLY annoys me!

One of the photocopiers has “under repair” written on a recycled sheet of A3 and the other has been left to handle 62 copies of a 28 page SOSE booklet about recycling.

My one free period is replaced at the last minute by a compulsory relief lesson. I will be teaching “Sewing” to Year 8 boys (They call it something post modernist now but we all translate it back in our heads). They were going to ask a lady to do the relief but they didn’t want to appear to be sexist in their distribution of relief duties. I secretly wish Johnny was doing “Sewing” this afternoon.

Jessica Mildachophfski just spotted a spelling mistake on my whiteboard and even though Mrs Jennings has cancelled a meeting three times about her son’s lack of commitment – I will make time after school, before the new software training, to meet with her. 

I arrive home and find the credit card bill in my letter box. I have invested $127.50 in stickers, merit awards, lollies (don’t tell the P&C as they have just moved the whole school over to the Jamie’s Kitchen brigade), Second Hand DVDs, folders, notepads, posters, overhead projector pens, drawing pins and red cardboard for Valentine’s Day. My wife doesn’t say anything any more – she knows I NEED it. She says I should consider writing away for a grant from Diablo Steel Mining Company.

Before I go to bed I spend quality time with MY children. They are 2 of 120 I have spoken to today. I read the latest WA Curriculum Update (a daily review now) that I carry into the bathroom to read peacefully after dinner. I watch Biggest Loser and relate to it as meaningful television before I finish off my marking I didn’t get to do in the “Sewing” session.

My friends and relatives tell me how lucky I am to have 12 weeks off a year. That all teachers “…start at 9 and finish at 3 and get recess and lunch”. I don’t argue anymore.