First Time Principals’ Programme Presentation

This is my presentation for the FTPP April Residential Course 2012.  Click here to reach the information website and below is the presentation Prezi.  I would love any feedback added to the comments below 🙂

Managing Your ICT Infrastructure

On Monday I am presenting the Prezi below at Massey University to Sector Leaders involved in the NLC Cluster programme.

Click here for resource website –

Good Advice from the Auditor-General

My buddy, the Auditor-General (not really my buddy, just exaggerating) sent out a “summary of a recent report that our Office has done on analysis of variance reports”.  This caught my eye as it mentioned school charters, and as you all know I have been having some discussion lately, with the MOE, about Charters …

Basically, the report has a lovely little check list for Boards and Principals to use when setting Strategic Goals and Annual Targets.  I won’t go into detail, as it is a really easy read – you can see the summary here.  Personally I like it and I will be using it as one of my resources while we develop our new Charter.  What I like the most about this little report is that it emphasizes the importance of “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely” strategic goals.  And that, annual targets should relate strongly to these goals.

Therefore, I’m inferring that the Auditor-General would think it a good thing, for me to not rush the process of setting strategic goals.

So I’m not.

Ministry, Charters, Threats, Oh My!

Letters, Letters, Letters
Letters, Letters, Letters

So last year, at some time or another, I received an email (as did every other school in NZ) that explained that the MOE wanted our Charters in on the 31st of January, 2011.  I found this very odd, so I had a look on twitter where other, much more experience principals than I, said;  Nope don’t bother you don’t have to legally until the end of the year (Dec, 2011).

Fine I thought.  I am re-doing the Strategic Plan next year and it won’t be ready anyway … forgotten.

Then we got a ‘Pack‘ from the MOE, with a helpful guide for BOTs for writing a Charter using the National Standards, with another reminder about the 31st January date.  I though bollocks to that and chucked it out (not sure if I am going to get into trouble for that) as I thought if I really do need it, I am sure there is a copy on-line.

After that I got a few more reminders but then it was the end of the year, I went on a much needed holiday for two weeks came back after New Years and completely forgot about the whole thing, until I got another letter from the MOE.  This letter basically said, Don’t worry guys, we’re sweet, we’re hip, we’re cool, you can have until the end of February to send us your Charters.

Well that’s not going to happen, I thought.  I won’t of finished my Community Consultation by then, so that letter went on the bin.

Next I got emails from NZPF and NZEI asking if I had sent my charter in yet.  Of course I responded, Nope not on your Nelly!

Now for the life of me, I can’t remember where or when, but a couple of weeks after that, I got an email saying that only 3% of schools had complied with the MOE request to have the Charters in by the 31st Jan date.  And today, the NZEI said that from their survey only 2.8% had complied.  Phew, all good for me!

So back tracking a little bit, a few days after the NZPF and NZEI emails (I’m a bit hazy on the dates, but it was before the end of Feb), my area’s MOE minder rang and asked if she could visit my school.

Not a Road You Take By Mistake
Not a Road You Take By Mistake

I said sure, doors always open, don’t turn the wrong way or you will end up in Napier … but on that particular day I will be teaching.

She said, well not so good I need to sit down with you to talk about your Charter, so never mind maybe next time.

That’s fine and dandy by me, says I.

So I was kind of hoping that she had forgotten about me, but low and behold, Thursday morning last week I received another phone call.  Can I come out at lunch time next Tuesday? she asks.

Yep, most welcome, I reply, but I am on my own and you will need to talk to me while I am on lunch duty.

Mmmm Chuck Tailors
Mmmm Chuck Tailors

So the date was set, the meeting was imminent, which brings us back to today (of course I made sure I was dressed professionally – 3/4 jeans, a t-shirt and my favourite Chuck Tailors).

My kids greeted her (they are very good at that, so proud) and we sat down for our chat.

She proceeded to inquiry about my Charter, and was I aware that it was over due?

I replied, that I thought that it wasn’t actually due until the end of the year and it wouldn’t be ready until the 1st July, as I was in the middle of re doing the Strategic Plan.

She then explained, that no I was wrong, the ministry had changed things, and if I didn’t take action soon then we would be non-compliant and a letter would be sent to the BOT saying so.

This got me a little worried (I wouldn’t want to get my BOT in trouble), but I stuck to my guns and said that’s fine, but I am not going to rush this process, I want to do it right and won’t 90% of the schools be getting a non-compliance letter anyway?

She then said, Yes they will, but why don’t you just extend or review your last years strategic plan and then have the new one next year?

I said, No, the current plan is out of date and does not fit with the current group of children, the teachers, the families or me, I need to do this properly for my students sake, I don’t want to hang in limbo with a half done Charter, and no true direction for the school.  I want to do this right.

Then she said, (by the way we were both very polite the entire time), well the Minister is concerned and non compliance is not acceptable, and she is trying to work through this, but she may choose to “sack your whole board”. . .

Hmmm – WTF

So, being the calm person that I am, I changed the topic, offered her a cup of tea and moved us outside so I could watch the kids.  We chatted politely about how wonderful country kids are, and then she was on her way (and I didn’t accidentally send her to Napier, aren’t I nice?)

Of course, straight after school I rang the NZPF Helpline, and left my name and number.  Not ten minutes later Mr Peter Witana rang back, confirmed my suspicions that, No, legally I do not have to have my Charter in until the end of 2011 and there is no way they can fire the Board for this.

Have you noticed yet, the only part of this little tale that I have quoted directly?

I think I am a bit pissed about those words.

Attributes (Gratefully from):

Letters, Letters, Letters –

Not a Road You Take By Mistake –

Mmmm Chuck Tailors –

Never Make Assumptions

My Teaching Was Rubbish

I think that I am a pretty good teacher, and I do my best to always cater for my students individual needs.  But last Monday afternoon, I was nowhere near the top of my teaching game.  I made an assumption about my students, and the resulting lesson was rubbish.  Let me explain …

Just before the holidays, I had joined my students up to the Student Blogging Challenge.  This is a fantastic challenge run twice a year by the fantastic Miss W.  Students and classes from across the globe join up to the challenge run over ten weeks.  Personally I can’t think of a better way for kids to learn about global literacy.

Anyway, unfortunately, when the challenged kicked off, our whole school was in Auckland on our school camp and then for two weeks after that we had school holidays which means that we were three weeks behind on the challenge.  That’s ok, I said to myself, we are already half-way through the year and we had already completed many of the tasks required in the first two weeks.

My Chickens Arent So Pretty
My Chickens Aren't So Pretty

Now just as a side note for those of you who don’t know anything about my school: I am the Principal of a Sole Charge Isolated Rural School – translation: I have ten students ranging from New Entrant (kindergarten) to Year Eight (13 years old).  I am the ‘sole’ full time teacher.  We are very lucky because our Board of Trustees employs an additional teacher to teach literacy to the junior students in the morning from 9am – 10.30am.  As there are only three juniors, they are getting a pretty good deal.  After 10.30am I am on my own with all ten students, therefore I must teach Numeracy (maths) and other subjects to all age levels.  I also get one and a half days in the week in my office to manage the school in the Principals role.  My school is part of an isolated community, which means we are over 27 kilometres away from the nearest town/shop/MacDonalds/Library/petrol station/decent coffee (sigh).  But that’s ok, my community is fantastic and I get to keep chickens 🙂

What Was I Thinking?
What Was I Thinking?

So on Monday afternoon, after half a day in the office, I needed to take my three juniors for Maths.  I said to the senior students that the student blogging challenge had started, we were a little bit behind, can you please go on to the challenge website, read the post about challenge one and complete the five tasks (just to let you know I have some very capable readers, reading well above their age).  Can you spot my fatal mistake yet?  If you follow my twitter account, you may remember my tweet about it.

Yes, I had assumed that my students could read and comprehend a blog post.

They can write posts, insert photos, add comments, colour/bold/centre text, stick in annoying widgets, change their theme, add pages, and embed sound gadgets, Youtube movies and Flickr slideshows.  But they didn’t actually understand how to read a blog post, unassisted.  Now that I think back, when ever I had asked them to make a comment on the school blog I had always discussed it with them and written the requirements on the board.  They had never actually gone in cold turkey!

Arg! Can you imagine the chorus of seven eager voices all chiming “I don’t get, Marama!” with three squirming junior kiddy winkles in front of me fighting over who got to hand out the counters. Double Arg!!  Mayhem!

Now here is a piece of advice for any new teachers out there … sometimes your class will be a total mere, usually in the afternoon, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Don’t worry this is normal, but I can here you asking – “but what can I do about?”  Well sometimes all you can do is cut your losses.  In my situation, I could feel my eyeballs bulging and my palms sweeting so I knew that I was past the point of no return.  I called the school to attention, and explained that if they managed to pack up the classroom in 3 minutes we would go outside for a game.  Five minutes later we were all (myself included) charging up and down the field in a fantastic game of Farmer Farmer.

Me Pleased As Punch!
Me Pleased As Punch!

Now here’s the clincher, the fine line between me being a good teacher and a crap teacher.  While I was tearing around on the field sabotaging the older children so that the younger ones could score, I was analysing exactly what went wrong and how I was going to allow my students to achieve next time.  So today during literacy with my students, instead of using a journal for guided reading, we used the student blogging challenge post and we read it off the computer screen.  And now I am pretty proud to say that it was some of the best teaching I had done in a while 😀

I really believe in this life long learning business.  As an experienced teacher, sometimes you can get complacent and you do start making assumptions about your students because you think you know them so well.  But the reality is that the moment you start taking your students for granted, it is the moment you start doing them a mis-service. Though we are only human, and I am proud to say that I learnt my lesson and made it good.

All images were sourced and used under Creative Commons Licence.

Thanks to:

A Bit of List Ticking

A Leading Change Up-Date!

You may all remember the list I made back in October.  Well I am happy to report that I have made some very good progress!

  1. Obtain Domain Name details. – Done! Took me three months but finally found it at xtra Business – charging us $45.00 per year for the Domain name, plus $14.00 per month to host the website they were not actually hosting!
  2. Sign up for Google Apps – Super easy, I switch the Domain hosting to Inspire Net ($45.00 per year total), did the online form for Google Aps, and emailed any technical instructions (copy and pasted from the google site) to Inspire Net.  Was set up in an afternoon, and my free Education subscription was approved in exactly two weeks to the day!
  3. Sigh and stare at my tiny budget. –Did a bit of that, but then gave up and played tennis.
  4. Re-assess our ISP – InspireNet, Telecom, or Vodafone? (we have very limited options in Kiwi-land) – Went with Inspire Net.  They were so helpful and hooked us up to their Wireless Network. Cost $350.00 installation, $70.00 per month for 10gig per month, 4mb download, 1.4mb upload -guaranteed! Sooooooo Fast!
  5. Spend at least 17 hours fixing internet connection problems or just waiting while I am on hold. – Was not put on hold once at Inspire Net, again soooooooooo fast!
  6. Create a new (official serious stuff) school website  – Self-hosted with Joomla or hosted by InspireNet with WordPress MU or use a hosted site like Weebly or Google Sites. – Again – Inspire Net is on the job!  They are hosting our site for free, all we had to do was put their little logo at the bottom of our site.  Sweet!  Check it Out!
  7. Up-load all policy documents to Google Docs and link to school site – Na, scrapped the google docs thing, does make a nice enough looking webpage.  Used Scribd instead, fantastic looking embedded PDFs, very professional – check them out here (click on a folder)
  8. Write the elearning policy – yik, still doing that …
  9. Sigh and stare at my tiny budget – decided it would be more fun to go white water rafting down the road instead.
  10. Start applying for Trust Grants to up-grade the current elearning infra-structure – Didn’t actually need to, after I presented an audit of all of the out of date gear, the BOT approved the purchase of three new iMacs, a Macbook lease and a new digital video camera.  Woohoo!
  11. Set up school accounts – Flickr, Voicethread, Delicious, Edublogs, GlogsterEdu, etc. – Done, for all except Glogster, will do that later in the year, have to teach the kids how to use their basic blogs first.
  12. Sigh and stare at my tiny budget. – Smiled to myself, because it turns out the budget was not so small after all!
  13. Decide if I should go to Learning @School or Ulearn10 and/or the NZPF National Conference. – Not going to NZPF Conference, sound to serious, am applying for a grant to go to Ulearn, I have so many more things to present!!!  Maybe three workshops this time!
  14. Create a school/class learning blog (for the fun learning stuff in edublogs) am thinking I might get the students to create a school mascot to host the blog. – Just decided to combine it with the school one, don’t you think our mascot (the Voki Character) is cute?  We thought we might call her Lady BaBa!
  15. Create an ePortfolio for each child (in Edublogs) and set up their school email accounts. – Done!  Slowly does it while we work through the necessary skills.
  16. Clean out the old school room (currently used as storage) and turn it into an awesome Creative Art Space! – turns out this amazing space has no instillation, so maybe a tad too cold in the winter when it snows (and it doesn’t have water or power, but it does have rodents!), anyway heaps of space in the classroom.
  17. Feed the chickens. – and lock them in their run so they don’t keep coming into my kitchen!!!

And Once more Sooooo Fast!  Thanks Inspire Net!

Up Here Where The Air Is Clear!

Breath in deep and taste that country air!

Up here at 600 metres above sea level you can see for miles, no wonder it has taken me so long to sit down and write a post!  I mean check out my view …

Though I guess I should admit to being a fairly slack blogger during the summer break (well in general really).  I am not actually a big fan of writing, I would much rather curl up and read a book, so I really must force myself to sit down write.  In fact the only real reason I do this at all is because I know I have an audience. An audience who is choosing to read my thoughts and opinions.  Maybe even gaining a bit of advice or a few new ideas from my natter about all things great and small in the world of eLearning.

Yep, I write this solely for a purpose, the purpose to connect with my ever patient and kind audience. This of course does make me wonder … do my students feel that there is a purpose behind what I ask them to write? Does ones teacher and class mates make an authentic audience?  And if I have answered ‘No’ to both question (which I have),  why am I making them do any writing at all? Hmmmm

This blog has helped me find a purpose and motivation for writing, it has given me an authentic audience.

If I give my students a blog, will they also find theirs?

I must say, all this oxygen deprivation is making my head spin!