Staff Culture

School Leaders and Teachers are at least familiar with the notion of School Culture. It’s also not lost on them that the culture of their staff is a subset of it.   But do you know what your staff culture is?  Do you know what you want from your staff culture?  And do your staff…

Details

How would you like it?

My wonderfully wise colleague and former successful Principal, Brenda Quayle, alerted me to a post this week by Spectrum Gaming.   In a nutshell, they applied some typical school rules to adults within another typical school context, a reward/penalty system.   Here’s the report of the qualified clinical psychologist who headed up the experiment: This…

Details

Roaring

Thank you to the numerous folk who’ve sent messages asking what my “word” is for this year.   To backtrack for a moment, I’ve invested in choosing a word each year to influence my conduct, decision making and mindset. And I’m a bit funky about it. I generally reject the usual corporate speak of words…

Details

I’ve Got Anger Issues

Why do elite sportspeople and rockstars tell themselves that they’re the “best in the world” and visualise themselves “in the zone” before they perform?   The psychology behind it is remarkably simple. Human beings just tend to live up to the labels we apply to ourselves. They also live up to the labels applied by…

Details

The Four Behaviour Agreements

The most common trigger of anxiety in those of us without diagnosable anxiety issues is the absence of a plan.   I wonder if you, like me, sleep poorly when you know you’re not planned for the next day. Yeah, thought so.   So, as you hit a new school year it’s worth putting a…

Details

Your Human School Future

I engaged in some stimulating non-education reading over the break and thought I’d start 2024 with a book recommendation for you, particularly if your school is becoming a restorative one.   “Humankind – A Hopeful History” is by a fascinating author and historian by the name of Rutger Bregman. It captivated me.   That said,…

Details

The Lost Wedding Ring

Welcome back!  I’m trusting that the break was fabulous … albeit perhaps a little too short.   Most of my break was awesome, but it wasn’t without setback.  You see, I lost my wedding ring … at the MCG on Day 4 of the Boxing Day Test Match.   It’s something I’ve worn every day…

Details

Rest, gratitude and awe.

To conclude the year, I’m just thinking that we’re losing too many great educators at the moment.  Just by virtue of you reading this, it seems like you’ve stayed.  I’m really glad you did.   I’m a fierce believer that the quality and passion of our workforce is the ballast of the ship that’s our…

Details

How not to be a hero

Whether you’re a teacher or school leader, the end of the year is a good time to evaluate what you’ve been doing this year. And whether it was all worth it.   I reckon the best way to tackle that is simply to compare the effort against return.  In other words, what bang did you…

Details

The Creativity of a Prisoner

I was listening to a cool audiobook called Rework by Jason Fried this week. He speaks to how true creativity is doing something useful with whatever you happen to have.   Fried points out that therefore the most creative people are often those who have very little … like prisoners.   It might be a…

Details

How to know when you’ve won

I spoke with a handful of School Leaders on the restorative journey last week who had a similar tale to tell.  They said they’ve been delighted with the progress their school has made this year but that “There’s still a lot to do before they can call theirs a restorative school”.   I disagree.  …

Details

Avoiding the Plate of Regret

I like weddings for the food options – that being that there are usually only two.  Restaurants are far more stressful for me.  I can spend hours scouring the choices trying to avoid the dreaded “plate of regret”.   In some ways, this odd personality quirk has impeded my ability to work restoratively at school. …

Details

How to be happy at school

While driving, I’ve been listening to a powerful audiobook called “The Dreaming Path” by Paul Callaghan and Uncle Paul Gordon.  I highly recommend. The book warns about what they call “when then” thinking.  It calls out a misguided western thinking pattern about happiness and its dependence on certain events occurring first. Examples include: “When I…

Details

Effortless Classroom Architecture

I chatted with a School Leader this week whose current focus is that the school’s teachers deploy circle architecture more regularly in the classroom. The teachers had agreed that this was an experiment worth running and that there were multiple opportunities for circles to be of benefit – checking in, checking out, preparing for changes,…

Details

High-stakes Caring

I read a fabulous blog by Seth Godin last week that explored two seemingly disconnected concepts – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and caring. I reckon Seth is a particularly insightful guy, and I recommend his daily blog to you. But this blog, in particular, got my attention because I think it has implications for both teachers…

Details

Raising Your Hand

CS Lewis wrote “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” Teaching and School Leadership is hard these days. That doesn’t make it without reward or unworthy. But I’ve noticed a universal truth in the challenges getting tougher. And yep, a…

Details

One thing or the other … but not really.

There’s a lot of talk in education circles about student behaviour, and I’ve noticed a lot of that talk tends to be serving the talker more than the listener. What I mean is that we tend to lapse into absolutes and hyperbole when it becomes more to us that we’re right … than helpful. One…

Details

Common Lessons from Cricket and Classrooms

My sport of choice to play has always been cricket. I played it for about 35 years. I remember emerging from junior cricket ranks into playing against men and how confronting that was … especially when I had to bat against Rogo. Rogo wasn’t even an opposition player. He was on my team. I was…

Details

Take Your Medicine

My Dad is typical of many Dads – like me – in that he’s got a proverb, metaphor or story to back up almost every point he makes. His favourite has always been, “Adam, you’re just going to have to take your medicine on this one.” What Dad was speaking to me about was that…

Details

That Email

Once a semester – and only once a semester – I write an email to you that’s useful in a different way. It’s not an email where I attempt to stimulate your thinking or support your work. It’s more of an email I write because I really want you to do something. This is that…

Details

Gangs and Packs

I’ve had several conversations with Teachers and School Leaders lately about pack or gang mentality amongst students who congregate for the perceived purpose of poor, aggressive or bullying behaviour. They most commonly ask me what they can do to shift the gang’s behaviour. They’re disappointed when I tell them they can’t. You see, groups don’t…

Details

Living Up to the Label

This week, I found myself remembering a particular primary teaching colleague from many years ago who was handed her class list for the next school year. The school used a “traffic light” system to distribute challenges fairly amongst that year level’s teachers. The problem for this teacher was that she was an absolute gun educator. As…

Details

Dropping a Bad Habit

I got out of my car at the shops this week and walked toward the supermarket. Then I stopped and actually walked a few steps back to my vehicle … because I’d forgotten my mask. Yeah … I did that. When I thought a little about how this happened, I realised two things: When you…

Details

Great or Awful

It can be hard to talk about teaching at the moment. Speaking to your own experience or observation of our profession and what’s happening to it can be fraught and riddled with paradox. On one hand, we could still describe it as the most rewarding gig any young adult could choose as a career. Who…

Details

Imagine If

My contention is that schools, for decades, have been asked (ok, maybe even forced) to implement gargantuan programs and frameworks that are supposed to help with student conduct, teacher practice, engagement behaviour and culture. My further contention is that you probably got busy implementing them. And also, perhaps you looked around, after many years of…

Details

You’re Disgusting

As many of you who are walking the restorative path will know, the emotion underpinning the research body we build our practices on is a nasty one. It’s a shame. Helping our Teachers to understand shame, to know why we have such an emotion and to help students develop a better relationship with shame is…

Details

I Don’t Have Time

One of the reasons some School Leaders put off the first steps in transforming their school culture into a restorative one is that they think it will overwhelm their Teachers. I get that. So many of the changes that schools have made in the relentless pursuit of school improvement manifest for Teachers as additional work.…

Details

The Conversation That Never Happened

I’ve noticed something lately that I think your staff might need to have a conversation about. That said, it’s sometimes a little like a conversation is assumed to have already happened … but it hasn’t. You see, I’ve spoken to countless teachers about restorative methods, models and strategies for engaging students more effectively in the…

Details

Useless Sentences 

Some things just get under my skin that I probably shouldn’t allow to annoy me so much. Perhaps it’s because I watch a fair bit of sports, but gambling ads are one such irritant. As a sports lover, it bugs me that gambling companies are so allowed to target young people and addict them to…

Details

Habitualised Resilience

My daughter, Ebony, is 22 years old, and I love her to bits. She’d also kill me if she knew she was the subject of this week’s Home Truth. So, let’s keep this between us, eh? Thanks. Eb had a difficult birth and, as such, was a little delayed in fine and gross motor skill…

Details

The Retreat

A little war analogy to make a point for School Leaders today. Wars have battles. And in most battles, there are only two possible results – you win or lose. Winning is preferred, but it can still come at a cost. Losing is worse, comes at a cost, and sometimes the battle is so badly…

Details

The Myth of Self-Esteem

There’s a disturbing trend emerging from our school system colleagues in the US that I think we should be attentive to. To summarise we’re seeing a first-in-history decline in broad academic standards and test scores. But we’re also seeing a steady improvement in student self-esteem scales. In essence, American kids think they’re awesome … but…

Details

Undeserved respect and kindness

I’ve had that call from a school to tell me that my child has done the wrong thing. And when you’re a Principal receiving that message from another Principal who you thought was ringing to tell you about ‘Principally’ things … only to find out that it wasn’t that kind of call, it’s especially confronting.…

Details

Which Button to Press

Over the last few Home Truths, I’ve looked at the student behaviour battle in Australian schools. This is the last in a four-week effort to unpick where we went wrong, who today’s young people are and what kind of design we’ll need for success with them. Along the trip, we’ve landed on the need for…

Details

So what? Now what?

Over the last couple of Home Truths, I’ve examined the current student behaviour challenge in schools through several lenses. Firstly, we looked at the mistakes we’ve made in our efforts so far and then examined the composition of today’s students. But now, what do we do? Today, let’s make some progress. Let’s discuss how we…

Details

Who are these people?

Kids are kids. In fact, never in the history of the human race has this been less true. These days, kids are more different from the previous generation of kids than any generation since time began. And we need to get our heads around that. Last week, I wrote about our mistakes in responding to…

Details

How’d we get here?

Many schools and school systems are looking to unlock the current challenges we’re having around student behaviour. Before we choose a course of action, I’d suggest examining how we got to this point. We don’t have this problem for no reason, and it’s worth determining where we went wrong so that we don’t make the…

Details

Of No Consequence

An article about school bullying caught my attention this week. It was written by a vicar (for some reason) in the UK who was talking about how restorative approaches are a gift for bullies. If you’re ok, I won’t link to it as I don’t really want to popularise it. But I think you’ve got…

Details

Student Leadership “Counsel”

The composition of your Student Leadership Council might be something you’ve argued with colleagues about. I know I have. On this occasion, I had a rare win. I argued that Anthony should be on our SLC. Janis, an Assistant Principal, didn’t see it that way. She argued that Anthony wasn’t exactly the model student and…

Details

The Responsibility End Game

When something goes wrong socially in your classroom, kids mentally skip to the end game. It could be bullying, conflict or a poor behavioural choice. But by the time they’re in your company, a reasonable proportion of their mental energy is spent strategising based on what they know your end game is. So, what’s your…

Details

Your Mission Statement Might Suck 

“We need to build a safe, inclusive and highly productive learning environment where the wellbeing of our students is maximised alongside their academic potential being thoroughly realised.” Sounds good, right? Well, not to me. To me, this sounds like an outcome that’s impossible to achieve. To me, this sounds like a recipe for failure, and…

Details

Toxic Positivity

Typically, the positive ones encourage and teach us to do more useful things for ourselves and others. Joy comes when giving a family member a birthday present; pride comes from achievement or effort. As a result, we can repeat or even habitualise these feel-good actions without the need for ongoing extrinsic motivators. But negative feelings…

Details

That Email

Once a semester – and only once a semester – I write an email to you that’s useful in a different kind of way. It’s not an email where I make an attempt to stimulate your thinking or support your work. It’s more of an email I write because I really want you to do…

Details

Lessons From Epictetus

My family and I are currently on a long-planned holiday to Greece, a land where my wife, Anthea, has some significant family heritage. We’re extraordinarily lucky to have this opportunity. This week we visited the mighty Greek National Archeological Museum, and my son found a book of quotes by the philosopher Epictetus. One quote got…

Details

Yard Duty

In our Partner Schools, we talk about making every square inch of the school restorative. It’s a clear determination that there not be places where Restorative Practices don’t apply or are optional. One of the places where this can be hardest is in the yard. Let’s be honest, if we didn’t do yard duty to…

Details

Taming Dinosaurs

I meet a lot of school leaders, specifically those who are implementing Restorative Practices. Many of these leaders have discussed phenomena with me regarding experienced teachers who are wed to older crime/punishment/blame-based models of improving student behaviour … and how they’re struggling to budge these teachers. Their experience with these teachers is frustration and exasperation,…

Details

First Response

One of the five types of circles we teach educators to deploy in their classrooms is Response Circles. The others are Check-in, Check-Out, Preparation and Learning Circles. I remember my very first Response Circle. I’d only just read a few initial pieces about practicing restoratively and was intrigued enough to try it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t…

Details

The System Mismatch

Our judicial system has been the most leaned-on method of controlling the community’s behaviour for centuries. That system isn’t perfect, and that’s why we need more than one tool for encouraging the right behaviours and curbing the troubling ones.  For this reason, options like Restorative Justice have gained prominence in recent decades because of the…

Details

The Bullying Games

Last week, a story from the US caught my attention for all of the usual depressing reasons. It’s the story of a teen who took her own life following horrendous violence and bullying. I read the story and then watched the public commentary on social media. I was saddened to read that the most common…

Details

Slippage

I’ve heard many teachers bemoan that Term 1’s largest challenge is getting the students back into school shape. Many seem to have forgotten certain key knowledge pieces, fundamental skills, and behavioural traits. But what about us? Is there any teaching slippage over the break that leaves you performing just below your optimum or the level…

Details

Bolted to the floor

To most Teachers, the notion that context is a primary driver of both behaviour and engagement stands to reason. If you’re reading this at home on the couch with the quiet hum of a kettle warming up in the background, you’ll likely engage with the message pretty well. And your behaviour is likely to also…

Details

Why coping sucks

I cope with some stuff in my life that I probably shouldn’t be coping with. For instance, I have a troublesome right knee, and I live in a two-storey home.  So, I cope with the stairs.  On that knee’s worst days, it bloody hurts too.  The truth is, I should be heading to the physio…

Details

Getting lucky

When you work in a highly variable environment you experience inconsistency of outcome, based on the variables in play that day. For example, as somebody who works in a school, you do completely bonkers things like plan for consistency of outcome … and then invite several hundred wild, unfinished brains to wander aimlessly into your…

Details

My word

I suck at goal setting. I tend to just write aspirational statements that sound good, but that I also poorly prioritise. My psychology is to attend to my goals … later on. As a result, my goals have regularly failed to change my daily conduct. And so, a few years back now, I became one…

Details

Emu Parades

I’ll bet that you know a non-school leader seeking an edge or inspiration in their work who has found it in the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Their mantra of “sweeping the sheds” has become a lightning rod for any leader looking to foster selflessness, humility and the priority of the collective within the…

Details

Group projects

I think the wisest words I heard a teacher say in 2022 came from a secondary teacher I met in Term 2. We were discussing “recovering” from whatever the last couple of pandemic years have been.  We discussed, as a whole staff, what the strategies and the attitudes were that we’d need to cease surviving…

Details

Bringing back responsibility

People are always trying to bring things back.  Mullets are a good example. Sort of. I’d like to make 2023 the year that we bring personal responsibility back.  Not as cool as a mullet, but more important.  And I’ve missed it. Let’s start by knowing our roles in fostering responsibility.  The student role is to…

Details

Don’t touch the stove

Sometimes we get really worried about preventing a negative outcome and miss the more profound learning opportunity right in front of us. Failing to pass a standard, meet a deadline, demonstrate effort or use manners might not be desirable situations, but we needn’t desperately default to time-consuming warnings, threats, reminders, prompts and extravagant encouragements to…

Details

Halfway there

I’ve been reconciling for a while now that our Australian teachers and school leaders have a fine line to walk in terms of self-determination. On one hand, we’ve been beaten up by a pandemic and by years of systemic abuse from departments, politicians and bureaucracies determined to put their own agendas ahead of our nation’s…

Details

How to improve

Every school wants to improve and many are planning now for that ambition in 2023. However, I’d contend that restorative school cultures have a better chance at improvement across multiple ambitions than schools that choose control-based cultures. Which one is your school?  Run your school’s tendencies against these ambitions and ask which column your school…

Details

Staffing

The teacher shortage around the country is stressing School Leaders in all sectors and in all geographical locations. Even this week, newspapers are reporting in increase in teaching position ads on sites like Seek of up to 40%.  Some of us are old enough to remember not even needing to advertise. It can leave us…

Details

UPAs

At the start of the school year we’re naturally more inclined to invest social capital in our students … but also our colleagues. At the end of the year, we sometimes tend to withdraw that capital and can eventually end up running a relationship on an empty bank account. That’s probably not ideal. I’ve come…

Details

It’s the system

Schools in all Australian states and territories are being implored to try harder to improve student behaviour and reduce suspensions.  They’re worthwhile ambitions but they’re also hard to achieve without changing the system.   If the system is that we investigate student behaviour and then use the findings of that investigation to determine blame before…

Details

Cats and dogs

I remember working with a teacher whose class was fabulous for him … and only him.  He was a talented classroom operator with a highly unique and somewhat unorthodox way of teaching that’s hard, even now, to describe. He could make breakthroughs with tough kids too.  They loved him. He commented to me one day…

Details

Panic

I’m acutely aware that never in the history of people being told to “calm down” has anyone actually done it. But is it possible that we in the teaching profession need to take a little chill pill as we traverse Term 4?  I think it could be. Yes, I know things are hard, perhaps more…

Details

A-Game

I saw the incomparable Emma Murray speak at a conference yesterday. For me, this alone presents an unmissable fanboy moment as Emma is the high-performance mindset coach for the Richmond Football Club … my beloved team. Emma is seen by many as being a “secret weapon” in their recent run of premiership successes. Emma spoke…

Details

How

None of you would be unfamiliar with the phenomena of a department, authority body, CEO or government passing down a directive to schools that feels a little like a wish without a plan. I noticed with interest a new policy that was recently released to NSW Government Schools around ambitions to make these schools more…

Details

That Email

Once a semester I send that email.  This is that email. There’s nothing special in it, nothing too thought provoking and nothing controversial.  It’s just an offer to help. We have dozens of partner schools starting 2023 with culture at the top of their school improvement agenda.  And what we do is partner with schools…

Details

Beyond problem solving

I get it. The last couple of years have felt like a never-ending problem-solving exercise. From a school leadership perspective, surviving the great staffing shortage and the ongoing absence challenges is taxing.  The metaphor I keep hearing is that school leadership right now is like being that plate spinner at the circus.  We’re spending so…

Details

Anti-performance

I shared the stage with the incomparable David Price at the WAPPA Conference in Perth last week.  I was hosting a panel discussion and David said something that has been spinning in my head since. David’s assertion was that the word “performance” is doing more damage in schools than we might be aware of. And…

Details

Talking not reporting

A couple of times a year, at least in a formalised way, we report to parents.  And that’s both a good thing and plenty. In your broader communications home, such as our weekly/fortnightly newsletters, I’d like to suggest that you stop reporting. Stop reporting the list of students who won “student of the week” ……

Details

Dreaming Big

I reckon there are two limiting factors that stop us from thinking and dreaming big in our schools and lives. The first one is circumstance.  The pandemic is a good example, as are staff shortages, scant resources, staff turnover, educator capacity and critical incidents. These circumstances tend to draw us into survival modes where the…

Details

With Them

Part of our new approach to restorative practices – I call it RP2.0 – is embedded in a rather old truism.  It’s that the best teachers doing their best work are always firm and fair. In schools, we sometimes get that combo right and sometimes we don’t.  We identify this with a single word: When…

Details

The Staffroom

I’m regularly pointing out to School Leaders that language is the primary driver of any culture, including a school culture. Every word spoken by any stakeholder in your school is a vote for the kind of culture they are creating. And yet, it’s still commonplace for staffrooms to be considered exempt from cultural contribution, as…

Details

Private schools under pressure as luxuries the first to go in tough times

The Age, 5 August 2022 The sudden closure of the Colmont School in Melbourne’s north sent an understandable shockwave through the devastated community. It would be genuinely heartbreaking for students and parents to so instantly be separated from peers and teachers with whom they had long-standing relationships. For the teachers, who try so hard in all locations…

Details

Think About Your Behaviour

I’ll admit it.  Before I knew there was a better way, I said it to likely more than one student who I’d followed through with on the threat of a lunchtime detention.  What were these fateful words? They were “Now, you sit there and have a good hard think about your behaviour.” The problem starts…

Details

How or Why

I’ve chatted with quite a number of School Leaders recently about the support they deliver to Teachers at both ends of the career spectrum. Generalisations about these teachers are almost never completely (but always a little bit) true.  But I have noticed that nobody is arguing with me when I say that the most support…

Details

Gaps

A little reminder to School Leaders today that the occasional glance at your policies – and I’m no “policy brain” – to check for gaps is good leadership practice. What you should be looking for is gaps between your policies (documents that I’d call promises of conduct) and practice (what’s actually happening in your school).…

Details

All Blacks

Two types of organisations/teams seem to be speaking a lot about culture lately.  They’d be schools and sporting teams. And while reading a book call ‘Belonging’ by Owen Eastwood recently, in an attempt to improve my own work as a leader, I stubled across a sporting example of culture that has genuine relevance to schools.…

Details

Impulses

As we continue to strain and struggle to provide educational normalcy with our students, many teachers are telling me that they’ve noticed something rather disturbing about them. They’re reporting that there appears to be very little gap, or none at all, between impulse and action in our students. The impulse comes to swear and they…

Details

Caging Ants

The tools and resources that work best are fit for purpose. Cages, for instance, are useful for caging things that can’t slip between the bars of the actual structure.  That’s why they work well for tigers, but not for ants. In the end, you can build your cage with gold bars, you can plaster your…

Details

Three Minutes

It’s one of the least enjoyed parts of being a Teacher or School Leader … the call to let a parent know that their child has screwed up. I dreaded it.  At first, it was because I knew that the response from the parent was likely to be negative and defensive.  And, in my early…

Details

Spiraling

There’s an ancient adage around teaching that “the kids who least deserve your love and kindness are those that need it the most”. Mostly, it’s a reminder to bring the best practice in our hearts to each and every one of our students. But it’s also because it works.  In the equally ancient ABC model…

Details

The Virtuoso

What do we do about the workload challenges facing Australian educators? Firstly, let me say that Real Schools stands with the public and independent education unions who have recently instigated industrial action to demand better pay and working conditions for Teachers and School Leaders.  That action matters and policy change at the top is pivotal…

Details

The Sweet Spot

Across Australia, kids are a bit different at the moment.  They’ve been changed by the pandemic and many teachers are reporting that they lack resilience, stamina and cooperative skill.  It was probably to be expected, if we’re honest. It’s like they’ve drifted out of the ‘sweet spot’ in schools where things just hum along, not…

Details

Struggle Town

I’ve spoken to a lot of schools lately who are in Struggle Town.  So firstly, if your school has taken up digs in Struggle Town too – thank you for your struggle.  I really appreciate your resilience and will to continue on behalf of your students. Struggle Town’s population has rather ballooned lately.  You’re not…

Details

Nourishment

I get it. I get that the wellbeing of our staffs at the moment is both a priority and a concern.  I also get the natural inclination for the leaders of these staffs to temper expectations where possible and respect the current capacity limits. But a word of respectful warning, if I may.  Don’t grind…

Details

Conflicted

A significant number of teachers have reported to me lately that they’ve noticed a major spike in conflict between students, in terms of both frequently and severity.  This observation runs parallel to a deterioration in overall cohesion and conduct. It’s concerning. But it also leaves we educators at a critical fork in the road. If…

Details

Before We Had Values

Did schools espouse and promote their values 30 years ago?  I don’t think many did. And so, does this mean they weren’t places where important character traits such as respect, honesty, responsibility and kindness were fostered?  Well, I actually think many of us thoroughly developed habits of living such as these at school. So, what…

Details

Paid in Eyeballs

Many teachers have been speaking with me lately about how students have struggled to adapt to learning in the company of others once more since remote learning and all of the recent covid interruptions.  In particular, they’ve reported an increase in attention seeking behaviours. Let’s deal with that. There’s a motivator or currency behind every…

Details

Systemic Enablers

Recently, the Real Schools team came together at Victoria’s gorgeous Phillip Island for a conference geared around how we can get better at what we do – partnering with schools. We spent a whole day in the company of one of the world’s leading trainers and mentors of facilitators, Colin James.  It was a privilege…

Details

Escaping Quicksand

A couple of weeks ago, a Principal described working through Term One of 2022 as like being stuck in quicksand. And then a Teacher in a completely different school used exactly the same expression with me. It does makes sense. The covid related interruptions most states are currently enduring are often worse, for educators, than…

Details

That email

If you’re new-ish to receiving Home Truths every Friday, you’ll have noticed that we intentionally don’t advertise through this piece. It’s all love! If there’s something we hope you’ll engage with, it’ll be in the PS section at the bottom. But … once a semester, I’ll send you a Home Truth with the subject “That…

Details

You can’t make me

Many teachers have confided in me that, since students have returned to regular face-to-face learning in 2022, there’s been a distinct ‘Lord Of The Flies’ feel about them. What they’re referring to is an absence of cooperative intent in the students and an increase in competitive behaviours associated with re-establishing a social pecking order. As…

Details

The Rule Of Six

A clever friend of mine, Darren Hill, explained the Rule Of Six to me once. Apparently radio stations use this rule when a new song is released.  They have a quest to have you hear that song six times as quickly as possible, which is why it seems to us as though that song is…

Details

Bruce Springsteen

A quick shout out to Bronwyn (you know who you are) in one of our NSW secondary partner schools.  Bronwyn gets feedback. Last week, I observed Bronwyn’s Year 8 Geography class in action, and she asked for her feedback to be direct.  I think her words were “hit me between the eyes”. So I did.…

Details

Yesterday

I’ve spoken to a few Principals lately who have made the decision to focus on the culture of their school … soon. They want to wait first for some clear air, for ‘things’ to settle down, for some other programs and mandates to be implemented first.  They’re worried about overwhelming their staffs and they fear…

Details

Be People

I went to a wedding on Sunday and I think it was the best wedding I’ve ever attended. What made it so awesome was that it broke the usual conventions in preference for revealing the personalities of the two people getting married. Instead of cramming these two square pegs into the round holes of the…

Details

Bush Lawyers

In these first few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with teachers and school leaders about untruthfulness.  Chiefly, these are wonderful practitioners who are trying to implement a restorative approach, but they’re authentically worried that their students will corrupt the process with lies. They often point out that the kids are like bush lawyers who call…

Details

Acceptable explosions

Only years later did I discover that one particular class I taught used to call me Voigty The Volcano behind my back. They reckoned that they could tell when I was about to explode.  The whisper would float across the class that “He’s rumbling” and they’d know to back off any wayward conduct for a…

Details

Advice and Encouragement

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Throsby School in Canberra last week.  They’re walking a path that’s dear to my heart in opening a brand new large urban government primary school. That was my last “day job” in 2011 before I founded Real Schools – to be the inaugural Principal of Rosebery Primary…

Details

Ping

Some things change and some stay the same. Even though Covid has now been around two years there’s something distinctly different about what’s being asked of Teachers and School Leaders as we kick off 2022.  Good luck with all of that. But one thing that will stay the same is that your radar will ‘ping’…

Details

I got Covid

It felt, as my wife Anthea called it, like we were playing a little Russian Roulette. We went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago for a dear friend … and I caught Covid there. It knocked me around probably the average of way most in the ‘CoronaClub’ have been hit. I had a…

Details

Retired teachers saving the school year? That’s a paddling.

Sometimes the useful lessons of history come from the strangest destinations. In Season 6 of The Simpsons an episode was produced about a teachers’ strike that went too far.  The Springfield locals, exasperated and frustrated, eventually decided that they didn’t need the teachers and that any old Tom, Marge or Apu could fill in. And that’s…

Details

Sunshine

I quite like the idea of choosing a “big word” for the year ahead that will guide my thoughts and actions across the next twelve calendar months. But, I’ve buggered it up a couple of times. I tried to choose naff, corporate words that were about doing more and being more. I tried “growth” and…

Details

The Seven Conversations Challenge

It’s the time of year when we make all sorts of personal resolutions and also when we adjust the course of our school before we set sail into a new year. Many school leaders tell me that they contemplate a restorative future for their schools in January. Good! Today, I’d like to give you a…

Details

Bestism and Can Openers

As you enter 2022, I’d like you to stop trying to be the best. There’s way too much of what I call bestism in the world and I’d like its eradication to begin with you and I. So, if you agree not to strive to be the best teacher or the best school, then I’ll…

Details

The Cost Of Not

It’s been a rugged year. For some educators and schools, it’s been more rugged than for others. That ruggedness may be partially attributable to wealth or lack thereof and it may partially be due to the personal toll of the pandemic on our own lives and families. The impact may also have been an act…

Details

Sheer audacity

I loved reading last week about New Zealand’s ambitions through the Smokefree Aoearoa 2025 Action Plan. Essentially, they want to remove smoking from the entire country by 2025.  It’s pretty audacious.  But it’s also backed up by a detailed plan. I think it’s that sheer audacity of the goal that so appeals to me.  Even…

Details

The Front Cover Of Your Maths Book

To those of you who have commenced to plan for 2022, I salute you. I was in a conversation with one such Senior Teacher last week who told me that she’d focus on relationships in the first four weeks of 2022 because, in her words “Relationships are the most important thing” She told me her…

Details

A coat hanger and a can of VB

It’s December and that means it’s time for some of the customary end-of-year gifts to begin landing on the desks of teachers. I remember well the gift that mattered most to me … and perhaps even taught me my own little ‘Spirit of Christmas’ lesson. While I certainly appreciated and used the gifts that came…

Details

15 Days

I’ve written before about the end of the year and the mistakes we make as we near it. I’ve suggested that “taking the foot off” reduces the likelihood of student achievement and creates an achievement vacuum often filled with poor behaviour.  I’ve suggested that we keep the foot down and “teach til the end”. I’ve…

Details

Promises

To be blunt, you shouldn’t be promising parents that you’ll be outcomes consistent when it comes to student conduct … because it’s not possible. Sure, the table you prepared of categorised behaviours and the standardised responses to them seems fair, orderly and artistically appealing.  That is, until any context is applied. For instance, we can…

Details

THE “WE’VE GOT THIS” VIBE

In preparation for the webinar I recently ran called “The Comeback Kid” we looked at what schools around the world are doing when it comes to the Covid stuff and lockdown returns – masks, social distancing, air flow, hand sanitizer, etc. What we found was an almost ridiculously wide spectrum of both approaches and parental…

Details

Dress like it matters

For states emerging from lockdown the distinct challenge of returning to full-time face-to-face learning is imminent. Part of that challenge might just be learning to teach with your pants on again! This alone got me thinking about what we should wear when we teach … and whether it matters. Well, it does. I often hear…

Details

That message

This is that message. When I began sending out these weekly Home Truths, I made a promise to my subscribers that only once a semester, I’d send a message purely about something I want you to do. I want you to come along to a free webinar for Principals, APs and Wellbeing Coordinators next week…

Details

Sombreros, sandwiches and wisdom

Greg Jarvis was a wonderful Principal that I had the privilege to work with in the Northern Territory. Greg, by his own admission, was far from perfect.  One day that he walked into my office and bellowed that the parent meeting he’d just conducted was “Like eating a shit sandwich” … while that parent was…

Details

Canaries in the Classroom

After 27 years of teaching and leading in schools, I’ve never been more frightened for my industry. In the old days, miners would watch the canary in the coalmine for signs that a gas leak had made the worksite uninhabitable. I prefer to think about the teaching profession as a powerline with several canaries perched…

Details

Exclusion

I get it.  There are times when we need to press the reset button and acknowledge that a particular lesson has gone pear-shaped and just isn’t working for a particular student. There are times when we just can’t go on.  And I trust teachers to be able to tell when it’s just not gonna happen…

Details

The Heroic School Leader

I spent the last few days at the ACEL National Conference and one presentation got under my skin. Georgie Harman is the CEO of Beyond Blue … and she’s freaked me out a little bit.  In commencing her keynote, Georgie spoke to it being the way that School Leaders show up in crisis – and…

Details

With them

Geez, I’m lucky. I’m currently collaborating with ACEL on their 2021 National Conference and it’s meant zooming with a few educational heroes of mine including Pasi Sahlberg, Michael Fullan, Pak Tee Ng and Mary Jean Gallagher. I’ve tried – I suspect spectacularly unsuccessfully – to look cool in those zoom meetings. Something simple that Mary…

Details

Favouritism

Favouritism is something that every teacher actively strains to combat.  We’re not supposed to have favourite students or classes … but we totally do. I think my favourite class of all time was a group of Year 5 & 6 students that I taught at Skye Primary School around 2002-ish.  I had most of these…

Details

Holding or Taking?

Words can be confusing.  Sometimes they bring a beautiful expression to our beliefs, but sometimes they downright impede sensible action in critical areas. When we get our words wrong, particularly when explaining our beliefs, we often choose ensuing actions that cause harm and damage. Take responsibility for example.  Which of the following statements, which both…

Details

You’re a loser

For some of us, September signifies the footy finals of various codes.  And I get it … for many it’s a case of “Who cares?!”.  Stick with me. These days, we often get an insight into the behind-the-scenes action at many clubs and, after their loss and elimination from the AFL finals, Essendon gave us…

Details

Play nice, ok

Wasn’t it interesting to see our schools hit the front page of the newspapers again this week … as each sought to pit their state’s NAPLAN results against another’s? It was fascinating to see that Victoria, despite the longest lockdown interruptions, recording such positive test results. It got me thinking: Are Victoria’s teachers doing something…

Details

Luck, uncertainty, teaching and NAPLAN

Teaching is pretty much an act of building a plan for success in the most uncertain of environments – roughly twenty-five young people with unfinished brains – and hoping for the best. I know this because I’ve run lessons where I’ve been good.  Really good.  I’m talking educational Michael Jordan good here.  My assessment, reflection, curriculum, learning activities…

Details

A Collective Noun

In my research on School Culture, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of attempts to define School Culture. Most fail because nailing the definition of something so complex and nebulous is akin to nailing jelly to a fence. This cultural thing just keeps moving and oozing on us. Because cultures are so hard to make singular…

Details

Recovery and Twisties

If your school is in the minority of those who have not been recently impacted by Covid lockdowns … good for you. It’s a slice of fortune you deserve and long may it last. But if you’re currently teaching or leading in a school trapped in a lockdown, I wanted to spend this message encouraging…

Details

The thing about advice

As a Principal, I often found myself frustrated that my Teachers wouldn’t take my advice.  After all, in my humble opinion anyway, it was pretty special wisdom that I was handing them. And then I realised. Teachers find it challenging to take advice about changing their practice because our practice is so much more than…

Details

Behaviour Agreements

I’ve contended for some time that most of the Individual Behaviour Plans (IBPs) I see in our schools are a waste of time, paper and the server space they’re saved on. It’s not because you’re bad people.  It’s just because we let our impatience and our frustration write these plans on our behalf. As a…

Details

Netflix and kindness

I did some researching (ok, Googling!) for some information this week on how the people in schools can best cope, or even thrive, through the current lockdowns that so many Australian Teachers and School Leaders are enduring. I think I was looking for something profound and disruptive. But, when I came across this Routledge study…

Details

Values, marketing and lies

Would you like to work for an organisation that espouses ‘Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence’ as its core values? Sounds pretty good right?  Well, be careful what you wish for.  These were the values of Enron in their Annual Report of 2000, the very company notorious for the worst fraud and corruption scandal in modern history. The…

Details

Student Voice

Jeepers, there’s a lot of schools out there trying to do something about Student Voice as a key objective in their strategic plans. Which kind of tells me that there might be something wrong with the way we collect data on this topic – but that’s probably a topic for another Home Truth. Rather than…

Details

Interested believers

Today, I’m heading out for lunch with my great mate Martin “Bucko” Buchanan.  We’re celebrating that he’s turning 50 … and that I’m not … yet. Bucko is one of those presences in my life that has slowly become an unquestioned constant.  I guess that can happen when you’ve been friends for 37 years. Over…

Details

Caging Farts

Cages have two key components – bars and the gaps between the bars. And when we try to improve student behaviour in schools with systems of control – such as programs, rules, matrices and policies – we build an impressive cage of sturdy bars. The problem we have is that student behaviour cares not for…

Details

Poor sleep destroying student behaviour ambitions

 The phone on my Principal’s desk rang and I didn’t even get the opportunity to say “Hello”. “Get down here now!” shrieked my panicked Year 5 teacher, an educator usually calm and highly competent. In the background I could hear the enraged screaming of a 10-year-old boy’s voice. I knew that voice. On my hasty arrival at…

Details

Remembered Fondly

I remember my Prep teacher, Mrs Wardle. I know that not everyone can remember their Prep teacher, but I can. I can’t remember anything about what she taught me, but I remember feeling cared for, safe and comfortable in her presence. She was such a kind woman. I also remember my Year 11 Maths teacher,…

Details

Before its too late

Due to some genuinely misspent time viewing late night crime dramas on TV, I have come to a conclusion that post-mortems are bad. Let’s be honest, it’s an already dead person – often brutally murdered – being unceremoniously picked over by a scientist. There seems to be some assumption that finding the one stab wound that finally…

Details

Vaccinating Teachers is only fair … and firm

If you hark back to your own days at school and to your favourite teachers, it’s likely that those inspiring and influential educators you reimagined had two common qualities about them – they were firm, but fair. The very best teachers make an art of this simple understanding. From a firm point of view, that teacher…

Details

Eliminating Excuses

I watched Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s famed TED Talk How To Fix A Broken School, for the first time several years ago now.  But something she said during it stuck with me. “Eliminating excuses at every turn became my primary responsibility.” Primary responsibility. Cliatt-Wayman’s philosophy is simple.  Students who start behind the 8-ball needn’t spend their years…

Details

The Big Bad World

One justification I often hear for punitive or zero tolerance responses to behavioural challenges in schools is that it prepares students for the realities of “the big bad world”. I can understand the sentiment.  There certainly are punishments for adults who break rules and laws.  So, the notion seems sound that, if kids get away…

Details

Teacher Fitness

The hardest workout has gotta be the first one. I’m not a particularly fit guy, but I’m currently in a pretty healthy habit around daily exercise.  I attend a local backyard gym run by young, local footballers.  I’m the oldest and fattest person there – but they’re really helpful and kind. Through their support, understanding…

Details

Choosing Forks

I once read a great proverb that went along the lines of “When you get to a fork in the road, choose the fork”. I reckon it applies to the programs and approaches that support the improvement of student conduct in schools.  You can have both. Specifically, this applies to questions I’m frequently asked about…

Details

The dark shadow we know as NAPLAN

Ever been to a pantomime where the crowd shouts “He’s behind you?!” to the innocent starlet as the bad guy’s dark shadow creeps into the audience’s view? Well, this is roughly how Victorian teachers feel this week as the dark shadow of NAPLAN engulfs their existence. When you’re constantly looking over your shoulder at shadows…

Details

Walk or Nap

Some days feel like Christmas Day. And not in a jolly way. Christmas Day can be a bit much for me to be honest. A gargantuan carb-laden lunch leaves me at a critically exhausted tipping point where there are really only two choices when it comes to energy replenishment: Go for a walk. Take a…

Details

Exceptional

We’re stuck with a fair bit of complexity in schools.  Coping with it requires a sophisticated approach to leadership and to teaching. That means that we’ll have principles that drive the way we make decisions and strategies that reflect those principles.  But a nimble and respectful school, chock full of variables and complexities, also recognises…

Details

Wanna bet?

I’ve been reading a fascinating book by former poker champion Annie Duke called “Thinking In Bets” where Duke challenges us about the things we think we’re certain about. Duke questions just how certain we’d be about the things we say or believe should somebody confidently look us dead in the eye and ask “Wanna bet?”  …

Details

They already know about consent

So, we find ourselves at a big, fat, media-fuelled fork in the road when it comes to this issue of teaching our students consent as a means for addressing the societal challenges around sexual abuse and misogyny. On one side of the fork, we have our tried and trusty method of plugging some behaviour change…

Details

Umm … just “No!”

If you jumped into an Uber and found a child driving, would you stay in that vehicle? If you lay on an operating table and found a child hovering over you, readying to perform your important abdominal surgery – would you just lay back and let the anesthetic kick in? Of course, you wouldn’t. The…

Details

In defence of Principals who make mistakes

Jane Boyle, the Principal of Brauer College, made a mistake when she asked her boys to stand and apologise to the girls of the school, on behalf of their gender, for the misogyny they experience growing up. But the response to it across our country has been embarrassing and far more damaging than Boyle’s error.…

Details

Why I’m giving my book away to every teacher

It feels weird and counterintuitive to just give stuff away when you’re trying to run a business. At Real Schools, we chose to do just that rather fiercely in 2020. Around the time that various states, especially Victoria, went into extensive lockdowns and remote learning periods, we had a team conversation about what we needed…

Details

I recently taught 6B and lived to tell the tale

Every school has a 6B. Yours might not be called 6B. They could be called 2A or 9J but they invoke the same type of reaction from those who come into frequent contact with them – a slight gasp and a visible shudder. I’m lucky. Having been around the block a few times, I’ve encountered my…

Details

Home Truths: Nah, I don’t think so Mr.Tudge

This week, I was interviewed in several media outlets regarding comments made by our Federal Education Minister, Alan Tudge. Essentially, I was responding to the usual ‘doom and gloom’ rhetoric about how we need to focus on our glaring teacher quality problem, have them learning how to teach reading/spelling/grammar at university (as though we don’t)…

Details

Sack your Playground Designer

  Walking through a primary school playground with a fantastic Assistant Principal last week proved to be more instructional than I could have imagined. I’d been asked to observe the way the kids moved and interacted with a view to diagnosing just why so many student behaviour problems happen in the yard. Yep – it’s…

Details

I want that Eskimo Pie

  I grew up in a working class family of four kids without a lot of excess. Sometimes that meant sharing and sometimes that meant fighting for competitive advantage. On the rare occasion of there being a leftover Eskimo Pie dessert, my sister Donna and I would immediately default into argument about who the spoils…

Details

Public humiliation

  Welcome to the first of a new weekly approach I’m taking to provide you with some thought, some provocation and some support when it comes to leading School Culture. I have to admit, when “Home Truths” was suggested to me as a title for these messages, a grin crept across my face. I think I’ve come…

Details

Your School Is A Pinball Machine

I’ve been thinking a fair bit over the break about how we can all contribute to the recovery of our school system in 2021. In the end, my key reflections are a small number of things that we need to stop doing and then some stuff to start doing. Stop: Obsessing over perfection and comparing…

Details

When somebody else believes for you.

This Wednesday morning just gone I stepped into my typical role as the oldest and least fit person in the absurdly early 5.15am class at Gym One22. They’ve commenced a specific fitness challenge where you attempt to complete 1km in under four minutes on four different exercise machines. The first week, I succeeded on only…

Details

We Write The Grant Application For You

The Victorian Government has released a wonderful grant opportunity for schools.  We reckon this is a fantastic initiative that responds to a current and genuine need. And who knows … perhaps there are similar opportunities emerging in other states too. Quite a few schools are already working with us around an application that would incorporate high…

Details

Choosing to laugh at Term 4

This week, I’ve been to the dentist … too often. I’ve discovered that there’s a word for the phobia associated with dentists and it’s odontophobia.  I identify as somebody with mild odontophobia. It stemmed from an accident when I was eleven years old.  Running around the backyard with a golf club in hand, I slipped on…

Details

Well, why didn’t you just tell us that in the first place?

Alannah was always so supportive – a School Council Member, an enthusiastic volunteer and an advocate in the community. And yet, here she was banging my desk and almost frothing at the mouth whilst  shouting at me about the “treatment” her son had received after involving himself in a playground stoush. I remember it well…

Details

Knowing where the line is.

Tonight, the AFL Finals Series begins – but before we descend into the grip on ‘finals fever’ I’d like to take a quick look at the last match of the home and away season between Port Adelaide and Collingwood for an important lesson about schooling. As a fervent Richmond supporter, I’m genetically predisposed to disliking…

Details

Gratitude, creativity, courage and kindness.

I’ve created a rather cruel personal quandary for myself this year. I want to be simultaneously kind to myself, brave with my choices, creative and grateful. Sometimes, those ambitions contradict.  This is one of those sometimes, but I’m doing it anyway. The above is a poem I’ve written for parents about our teachers’ collective experience…

Details

It really needn’t take this long.

Here’s what I know about most of the student conflicts that I’ve injected myself into: They took way too long.  Students are great at telling stories (their own painted versions, of course) and anchoring conversations in the past.  I’ve even listened to sordid tales of generational conflict … because there was a spat at recess…

Details

The single most important thing I did as a School Leader.

School Leaders are busy.  We do a lot of … well … stuff. But this I know to be true.  Of all the stuff that I did, one single act was more important than the mountain of others.  It was making the decision that mine would become a restorative school. And the proof for the return on that decision…

Details

Planning for a better 2021? We can get this done.

Hasn’t 2020 proven to be a rather big year? But it will end and the next one will commence.  That’s just how things go.  And, as daunting as the thought of 2021 might be, you can do this.  Yes, you can. I came across this 2016 clip from the UK that served as a reminder that…

Details

Busting the great RP myths.

The announcement by NSW DoE of their new Student Behaviour Strategy has caused some ripples of anxiety amongst the teaching fraternity. That’s fair enough too. With 2209 NSW Government schools to be impacted by the changes that are now on the cards, specifically when it comes to the clear intention to reduce student suspensions, that adds up…

Details

Taking on “cancelled” culture

Yep, aren’t we sick to death of seeing the word “Cancelled” next to everything we wanted to do this year? I was going to see my favourite band from my nightclub days of the early 1990s “Boom Crash Opera”.  They rocked!  But alas …. Coronavirus. I’ve also watched event after event for Principals, APs and…

Details

Teacher confidence as a function of my knowledge.

When I reflect on my years as a School Principal, I try to do it without any bent for judgement or shame. The truth is, I was pretty much always doing the best I could with what I had at the time.  There are many things I’ve discovered in the eight years since I founded…

Details

Do you know what to do?

So, here’s the quandary around School Culture: Everyone who leads in a school thinks it’s important. Very few School Leaders have any authentic idea of what School Culture is, beyond a feel or a vibe? The absence of an agreed definition makes working on School Culture impossible. Many School Leaders don’t even know what their…

Details

When is enough …. enough?

This is Sarah.  She makes my coffee every morning and is one of those cool baristas that don’t ask for your order when you walk in … she just knows. Through our masks, we discuss all manner of things while she whips up my strong skinny flat white and Anthea’s latte.  Lately, and for obvious…

Details

This one changes the game.

If I were to ask you why teachers continue to stand in authoritarian positions at the front of classrooms using the power of their title to force students into learning, would you have a good answer Or could it be that the answer would be something along the lines of “Well, that’s just what teachers…

Details

Carrying a fragment of the system with them.

I’m going to be a little deep with you today.  I hope that’s ok.  After all, I’m a Victorian and the gloomy pallor of coronavirus descending on us has driven quite a few of us toward some deep contemplation recently. For me, I’ve also been driven toward some reading with more home time and less…

Details

Introducing “Restoring Teaching”

I’d like to introduce you to the newest addition to the Real Schools family.  It’s called “Restoring Teaching” and I’m doing the whole proud parent thing about it.  We’ll do the whole naming day thing in an upcoming online book launch and details will be coming your way about that too. How to describe this little…

Details

The truth about RP.

Here’s the truth about Restorative Practices and schools – it hasn’t always been rolled out so well.  Sometimes that’s been because you’ve been trained by people who just don’t get schools – the time constraints, the purpose, the pressure from parents who just don’t get it or the rusted-on staff member who says “but there…

Details

FREE e-book – “The Culturally Capable School Leader”

So, I recently published a new e-book titled “The Culturally Capable School Leader – How to Define and Strategise for a School Culture that Underpins Success”. I’m happy for you to have it for FREE, so just reply to this email and we’ll flick it your way pronto. The e-book does a few simple things as…

Details

Master yourself before you try to master this semester.

Zoë Routh is all of clever, relevant and a friend. When “this whole Covid-19 thingy” arrived, I was having a moment of anxiety and confided this in Zoë.  I didn’t exactly enjoy admitting the place I was in.  My preference is to be in control, to strategise, to fix things and to act.  Suddenly, I found…

Details

The best you can do with the choices you have.

So, I had a tooth ripped out on Monday morning, although the dentist insists she doesn’t “rip out” anything but rather “extracts”. I’m running with “ripped out” for dramatic effect which fits in with the odd story about how it happened that I had a dodgy tooth in the first place – as a twelve-year-old…

Details

The great language imperative

The second half of 2020 presents as an undeniable opportunity to focus on the kind of culture you want for your school and to strategise for it’s creation.  That’s something we should talk about. And when I get into conversations with Teachers and School Leaders about that exciting challenge, I’m often asked what matters when…

Details

These holidays are about you.

Holidays are finally here, and whilst we can’t leave the country and for some of us our state or territory, we can use this time to our advantage. It’s been one hell of a year, teacher. You have made it through what is undoubtedly the most unpredictable start to any year ever. You did your…

Details

Connected, galvanised and forgetful.

I was chatting with a Principal last week who asked me when Real Schools will be starting to sell Partnerships again. I was a little taken aback.  Did we somehow give the impression we’d stopped? It reminded me that there are parts of our jobs that we do naturally, parts that we’re not so great at…

Details

Intentionality about connection

I stalked the lounge room on Thursday evening like a frustrated animal in a cage, pausing only to roar (either hopefully or angrily) at the players in the deserted MCG who was never going to hear me. This was my primal response to being able to watch my team, Richmond, return to football.  The match…

Details

Now that they’ve had a peek.

I was chatting with Gen Casonato, the wonderful Principal of Parktone Primary School, last week.  As I’d done in almost every conversation with countless Teachers and School Leaders last week I asked how everybody was at the school.  Were things starting to feel ‘normal’ again? I laughed when Gen told me that ‘normal’ arrived with…

Details

I wish you a 2019 of falling … and getting up.

I second guess myself quite a bit.  I find myself fretting over what I’m thinking about doing and whether it will work.  And what it doesn’t?  What will happen then? Since commencing Real Schools, I’ve come to learn that this thinking was actually engrained within me across my time as a Teacher and Principal.  Doesn’t…

Details

Startle me.

I’m captivated by this picture from 1963 of Parisian children watching a puppet show.  I think it’s mainly because the level of interest in their eyes is so intense.  They just can’t pull themselves away from whatever is happening on stage.  The kids clearly weren’t ready for that little development in the plot! We talk…

Details

Musings about Gender in Education

I went to my own kids’ annual school presentation ceremony last night.  I love both of them dearly and I also value the wonderful contribution that their school makes to their growth.  But here’s the truth – it isn’t exactly a riveting evening. And so, I kept myself occupied scoring the gender split when it…

Details

What’s possible if you accept a challenge to change?

I had the privilege of being in the audience for some staff presentations at Albanvale PS last week.  These four PLCs have made commitments to challenge their practice through the work of our Real Schools Partnership in a variety of different ways in the first year of our collaboration. The Prep PLC looked at the…

Details

Little by little

One of Aesop’s fabled … umm … fables was The Crow and The Pitcher. Summarised, a crow dying from thirst finds a pitcher with just a little water in it.  But sadly, the crow can’t get his head far enough into the pitcher to get to the water. If managing, training or coaching the crow, the likely response of…

Details

Buying stuff versus learning how to use the old stuff properly.

I bought a new iPhone X not so long ago.  The marketing worked. With every Apple billboard I drove past I became more convinced that my photos weren’t quite good enough. Those majestic landscapes and funky city streetscapes sure are compelling. I also gradually convinced myself it was a “work expense” and that having the latest gadgets…

Details

You can’t get arrested for jaywalking in Boston

The city of Boston has no law for jaywalking. You can just cross the road wherever you like and the expectation is that you’ll just have a good look around first and try not to cause a bingle (I’m quite sure use of the word ‘bingle’ in the US is somewhat limited though). You’d be…

Details

Don’t make me wait.

I’m one of those people who need to be seriously unwell before I’ll visit a doctor.  It’s not exactly best policy for man hurtling towards his 50s … but there it is. My rationale for enduring the symptoms of all matter of afflictions is pretty flimsy.  I just hate the waiting room. I know full…

Details

How can Teachers address teen depression and suicide?

Almost every educator that I speak to agrees that we have a national problem with teen depression and suicide.  They’d also fervently like to contribute to solving that problem. I know also that teen suicide is a complex and distressing social phenomena with multiple contributing factors and it’s easy to get lost in case study…

Details

Making it easy

Konstantin Stansilavski is not a name you hear too often when it comes to learning, development, talent or professional training – but it should be! Stanislavski was an acclaimed character actor from Russia who went on to build a career as one of the world’s eminent theatre directors before his death in 1938.  But Stanislavski is remembered…

Details

They Aren’t All The Same

I’m not a fan of reality TV – although I get the allure.  Seeing good-looking yet otherwise ordinary folk in desperate competition for the affections of a stranger, to be trapped in starvation or to be reduced to tears by a personal trainer has just enough interest in it to have us abandon our principles.…

Details

Trial and Error on Trial

There’s some nonsense in the learning and development space about learning styles with as many as seven of them up for grabs. Apparently it’s useful to determine whether you’re  visual (spatial) , aural (auditory-musical), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal) or solitary (intrapersonal) learner.  Let me tell you right now, it’s not useful! Pigeon holing yourself as a…

Details

Making The Most of Your Time

I have two competing views about educational research:  that we spend far too much time and money researching aspects of the educative pursuit that have little or no impact or meaning.  No more studies about homework please – the truth is already known.  that when we find relevant and confronting truths within our research, that…

Details

The plane just won’t crash

Last week, I had the chance to share the stage with the incredible Dan Gregory (of “The Gruen Transfer” fame) at the Future Of Leadership Conferences in Brisbane and Sydney. Dan is one of those almost intimidatingly clever people who says it like it is (or even more bluntly than it really is!) and he told two…

Details

Education as a trajectory changer.

Never … like, ever … fall for the trap of thinking that education is something that you deliver.  Learning isn’t a pizza, an app, on online purchase, a new washing machine or a used car. Learning isn’t a product at all.  Done right, it’s a transformational process. Through this metamorphic experience, we don’t merely acquire tools and…

Details

Authoritarian versus Authoritative

Every part of my moral code tells me I shouldn’t laugh at the rude and so politically incorrect plotlines in the cartoon South Park.  But I do!  My favourite character is the incorrigible Eric Cartman.  Click below for a little sample! Eric is enamoured with authority.  The problem of course, is that his lust for…

Details

The critical importance of affect

Mindful as I am of the miniscule amount of content that any human is willing or capable of absorbing, then storing in long-term memory and then committing to a practice change from any PL day, I strive to maximise my limited opportunity. The temptation is to cover more content, to design better PowerPoint slides and to…

Details

Distance covered and distance to go.

I’m a keen observer of people and their foibles.  Even the word “foible” is kind of hard not to spend a little time observing.  But what I notice even more than individual foibles is when these habits and rituals become the traits of whole staffs, and even of industries. One such foible that educators have…

Details

Prying for something really juicy.

I read a fabulous and somewhat confronting quote this week by Zora Neale Hurston who said that “Research is formalised curiosity.  It is poking and prying with a purpose.” This got me to thinking a little about some of the verbs we use in the learning and development space and whether they have allowed us…

Details

It’s time to measure what matters.

In his best-seller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey wrote a story to illustrate his 7th habit – sharpening the saw.   He spoke to two woodcutters.  One would rise early and get to work sawing down trees in the forest.  He could rack up a large number of trees sawn down, but his dull…

Details

The serious role of laughter in learning.

“Of all the things which nourish the imagination, humour is one of the most needful, and it is dangerous to limit or destroy it.” – John Millington Synge. Public conversation around what we need more or less of in schools is so predictable.  Whether we’re on the sides of coding, decoding and teaching emotional intelligence…

Details

Personalised learning trajectories over edu-tainment.

I was thinking recently about some of the traditional ways in which we’ve learned and the extent to which technology has transformed the ways in which we do it.  The inclination, of course, is to marvel at the toys, devices and gadgets that we’ve developed in the name of work efficiency and conclude that the…

Details

Delaying gratification.

Last week, I was having a chat with a Wellbeing Coordinator at a large secondary school that we Partner with. Her school is implementing Restorative Practices as a foundation of their whole school culture and it’s been a challenging and rewarding ride for them … and that’s just so far! We’re often impatient when it…

Details

The danger in what you already know.

Renowned historian Daniel J. Boorstin was onto something when he mused that “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge”. Boorstin’s words are a not-so-subtle reminder to continually question what we know … or that which we think we know.  In fact, now presents as a worthy time…

Details

Hacking Education

It’s true that Australian Teachers are pressed for time. The impact of workload on those who sustain the system again hit the media last week in examining why so many Teachers are leaving the profession in the first 3-5 years of what should be a rewarding career. While we bemoan a lack of understanding and…

Details

You’d better get cracking.

A couple of weeks ago we launched our “Restorative Classrooms, Strong Classrooms” workshop to be held in Melbourne.  Then we got excited and a week later launched it at the other end of the country in Darwin too.  The response has been just a bit awesome. Our analysis of this powerful statistical display (ok –…

Details

The madness of the crowd

I’ve been speaking to people lately about the way we, as leaders of learning, fail to take full effect of the ominpotent control we have over the learning context.  In other, more simple words, we clump people together and hope that we can spray our wisdom across them with such brilliance that they are forever…

Details

Imitation is NOT the highest form of flattery

I love to play cricket.  I’m not particularly good, mind you, but I love it anyway.  Being a park amateur at best means that my game has always needed work and the pull shot is something I always struggled with.  So a coach told me to watch Ricky Ponting play the pull shot. Ricky Ponting…

Details

It’s not so hard to change.

I went to the footy at the MCG on Saturday.  And while I enjoyed my Tigers getting a win over their arch rival, the Blues, I found myself enchanted by the tactics of the opposition’s diminutive coach, Brendon Bolton. Bolton is know for being a “teaching coach” with a knack for great communication and being…

Details

A purpose for your hard work.

This is one of my favourite photos ever, taken the day in 2016 that my family and I visited Baan Tharn Namchai at Khao Lak in Thailand.  It was a day we won’t forget in a hurry. A home for more than 100 orphaned Thai children, we spent the day playing with kids who should…

Details

Take me to your leaders.

A quick message to our School Leaders as we emerge from the proven toughest part of the school year.  Our challenge is to emerge with the right habits intact and with the less productive ones challenged.  Are you ready to do what it takes to ensure strong staff morale through the remainder of 2017?  Or…

Details

Seizing the moments to build curious dispositions.

The great Professor Sugata Mitra was again in Australia recently posing some big and provocative questions at the conferences where he was a featured speaker.  Mitra is famous for his “Hole In The Wall” experiment in the slums of India where he proved that children can learn … even in a foreign language … even…

Details