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  • Another term 4 as a secondary teacher and it's been a full year. I finally matched my project-based courses with student driven assessment and found some balance in it. A few changes sorted for next year and things should really start to take shape. My students are allowed to bitch, moan, get excited about something, give up, not give up and a generally be human but they have found that I am not ever going to engage if they talk about exams, credits, getting a job, or the latest iPhone.

    It's been a year of learning new things. Things I have wanted to try for a while now but never had the resources to do. Things like learning to airbrush (with actual real life paint), keep a tropical fish tank, have a workshop with CNC tools in it, and make an arcade machine. It's been a lot of fun and as long as I don't show too many adults what I'm doing things seem to go okay. I fully understand why workshops are so compelling now and painting flames with an airbrush is wonderfully therapeutic. It is also the first time in a long time that I have felt no compunction about doing something as a hobby rather than forcing it into a commerical design outcome. My workshop has become about art rather than design and I'm finding it's a nice balance. I also get to listen to music out there ... from my phone ... through a bluetooth speaker. I'm now old enough to think that is both very cool and a little bit surprising considering I still have a box of tapes and CDs kicking around somewhere. 

    Looking forward to a gentle term 4 and a summer holiday filled with building stuff, punk music, hammocks and home brew. Roll on 2017. 

  • 2017. It keeps occurring to me that the 90s were quite a long time ago. They were formative years for me and now I now sort of understand those old guys who listen to 'old' music and seem stuck in a specifc timeframe. Stick with a good thing I say. A colleague from my early days of web design passed away under fairly tragic circumstances recently. We had not really talked in the last few years as our personalities moved further apart but it has been a striking reminder that people are not around forever. I have also had some reflection about mental health and how important it becomes to balance all of the, often conflicting, obligations and responsibilities that acrue over a lifetime.

    I have finally managed to recover these paid end-of-year school holidays and have been making the most of it. A lot of time and energy has gone into learning how to use the CNC router and I got to a point I wanted to order one for myself. It is interesting that ZYPE is now about CNC work like 3D printing and routing and the web and graphic design work has almost completely disappeared. I like that it has been able to change to meet our needs and interests.

    The house has taken another step towards our final goal these holidays with paving down, gates installed, the workshop cleaned up a bit, grass sown and old parts of the garden sorted out. I took out a large flax bush that we originally put in to solve a flooding problem and now have a large area of the garden accessible again.

    A new kitten has joined the family and our wee girl is starting to get her head around the reality of, not just a pet, but a cat ... with all of their idiosyncrasies. It is nice to have an animal back in the house and he seems to have settled in well. The robot vacuum cleaner doesn't seem to phase him and he has been exploring the house with gusto. 

  • Damn if it isn't almost the end of the year. The garage is built, the old garage is now a workshop and I'm planning for another year in the same school. Teaching young people is still good fun. After a few changes in direction over the last decade I've come to the conclusion I simply don't think like the people I surround myself with and that is always going to be a conflict for me. I don't get along with many of the people I worked with in I.T. and with the exception of a few notable people I do not really gel with Teachers. The thought patterns are too different. I am being described as disruptive and I have started to embrace that despite it causing a conflict in my mind. I seem to be at an age where a lot of things start to collide and all of the things I could either fight or ignore in younger years have to be dealt with in better ways. It's an odd time.

    Our wee girl starts school next year. Being a teacher at this time is both helpful and depressing. The optimist in me says it's a great chance for her to grow, learn about people and herself, and that the local school is diverse and full of people who match my idea of good teachers to be a good start for her. The cynic in me hopes that as she becomes institutionalised she can retain her imagination, creativitity, love of dancing, singing and a sense of humour that thinks farts and silly jokes are hysterical. There is something about being a man that seems to trigger a protective instinct in the face of a perceived threat and our education system appears as a threat to me. I hope that changes. 

    The distance I now have to travel to work is far enough that biking is no longer a feasible option. The combination of age, energy, time and distance have made it tricky and I am less fit that I am used to. After 20 years of biking to work it turns out I have no other methods of exercise and I hadn't realised how important that was to me. Having to think about that now. Not used to feeling this stodgy and unfit. It has, however, encouraged me to look at electric bikes again as a way to reduce the 'distance' a bit. Will see where that leads over time I guess.

    Another 5 weeks and the school year ends. Looking forward to a break but also looking forward to getting back into another year and finally developing the kind of course I really enjoy teaching. When Punks Rule The Earth indeed ....

  • Still teaching. Go me. I have been working through a particular thought these last few weeks. It constantly niggles at me that NZ society has become somewhat obsessed with 'getting a job'. Maybe it goes wider than this little country but this is where my focus is. It made me wonder why, if we are so excited about everyone having a job, we continue to bother with education and why we don't just focus on training. Anyone not into academic training could move towards any apprenticeship or intern schemes that are around or, failing that, into military training. The focus on jobs seems limiting and, I think, most of us know that a job is just a means to an end. Meaningful work, contributing to the community, generally being useful and, one would hope, creative and enthusiastic seems a much better goal. If we go for that we could develop an education system that encourages people to find the thing that gets them going and keeps them interested. Get a job or get a life.

    The garage is finally built. A driveway is in progress now and as expected Winter has arrived in a flurry of rain, cold and everything not required for the pouring of concrete. Luckily I spread a load of top soil over the old driveway so that is now a long mud pit. One day I will look back on this and laugh ... but today is not that day.

    The wee girl is now a raging 4 year old with a vocabulary to match and excitement for the Paw Patrol. I have had to learn the words to the theme song on pain of death ... literally ... she was going to hurt me if I sang it to the tune of the A-Team one more time. She does not see any problem with the mud pit driveway. I should take a lesson from that I guess.

    Half way through Term 2. The next holidays are all about getting the old garage turned into a work shop and a general clean up around the property. Roll on.

  • First term at Burnside High complete and well into the first week of the school holidays. Taking the chance to play around with personal projects, beat up the garden and reacquaint myself with the PS4. I make no bones about my job this time around. I enjoy teaching and am in a decent school but the holidays allow me time to do the things I really want to do. The more I reflect on life the more I feel we have got it all so horribly wrong. Our organisational structures suck all of the fun out of any enjoyable activity and our endless labelling and silo-ing of skills limits any real opportunities for people to expand, learn and apply new skills in a meaningful way. Holidays and breaks between jobs have always proven to be more meaningful and interesting in my experience. It is a shame we can't find ways to harness that and allow people to contribute to our communities and society as a whole in ways that make sense to them rather than only on tasks with commerical value.

    I had a moment where I thought I'd get involved in an education MOOC but after a quick read I realised it was a lot of big words, acronyms and talk resulting in ... absolutely nothing. No changes applied, no pressure put on governing bodies, no push to change schools ... just a lot of posturing and talk that no doubt will be used by many for self-promotion and various personal agendas. One of the issues with having been in a number of different organisations throughout my work life is that I have seen the same issues rise up in each one and the only resolutions I have seen are either the collapse of a team of people resulting in my eventual resignation or the complete removal of an existing culture resulting in my eventual resignation. It is very hard to stay optimistic in the face of such human failure. Talk is cheap.

    All that said, the school is a pretty good gig and the holidays are awesome. Our new garage goes up soon giving me the second one to strip out and set up as a workshop. There are loads of interesting things to explore over the next few years and the new domestic level manufacturing options are looking really fun (eyes on the laser cutters and milling machines). The mix of digital and physical production is really interesting. In other news the orange tree I grew from seed and planted when we bought this place has fruited. We actually have oranges on a tree in our backyard.

    Time to continue recharging my batteries and general enthusiasm for doing stuff.

  • Once again I am on the move. Moving on from the Mind Lab to take a teaching role at Burnside High School starting next year. While an interesting opportunity to reflect I am keen to find somewhere to work that is comfortable enough for a longer term. The reasons for moving on are varied and numerous but boil down to not wanting to teach primary age kids and not wanting to be in a start up again that lacks solid direction. Been there, done that, didn't really enjoy it. I have bcome conscious of my general lack of creative enthusiasm, a change that has happened insidiously, and am looking for ways to rectify that. I want to get back to doing things that excite me. I have no idea what that means at this stage. I am under no illusions that moving back to secondary will solve this issue in the short term but I am keen to use the term breaks to revitalise my brain.

     

  • 41. Yay me. The Mind Lab is proving to be pretty good fun and primary age students are great fun to be introducing to the range of digital tech we have on offer. Still finding our collective feet and it all feels like a start up in action (which I guess it is really) but so far it's offering a good mix of teaching, learning and interactions with other teachers.

    The new garage build is in progress ...  or at least it is sitting in consent stage waiting for final go-ahead. Hopefully we see something before the end of the year but we no longer feel any real hurry around this stuff now. I am looking forward to having a spare garage for a while to use as a workshop. There is a lot of wood that needs to be turned into something. I am seeing a coffee table in my future.

  • The end of my last school holidays. I have two more weeks to work out my contract at Linwood College before kicking off at the Mind Lab. Whether it's due to being sick [go the holidays] or just getting a bit flat on the whole work thing I have given up on thinking about medium and long term planning. I never seem to have any accurate idea where I'll be or what I'll doing within six months and my current interests seem to flick around quite a bit.

    Watching a robot [Roomba 880] vacuum my house at the moment. I have become quite attached to the thing as it nows wanders around the house to a schedule sucking up a surprising amount of crap and getting into places that haven't seen a vacuum cleaner in years. It has even found a few small items I thought had been lost to the ages. Our toddler and cat are both quite excited albeit in different ways and the house is looking remarkably sparkly after a few runs. It's nice when a piece of hardware does what it is meant to do and I for one welcome robotic servants into my home.

    Speaking of hardware I moved my phone to the nightly builds of Cyanogenmod bringing it up to 5.0 of Android. It seems to have done wonders for the battery life of the phone [an old S2] and given the hardware a new lease of life.  

    The holidays saw the production of a new worm bin that makes use of the old bath we pulled out while renovating [some five years ago]. The worms seem happy so far, the property looks cleaner without a dodgey bath lying around and we should have a bit more room for the oddly large amount of organic waste we seem to be producing. The garden is going to be happy come Spring. I also beat up some of the trees around the front of the property that were threatening my new spouting. Years of neglect resulted in some odd growth so hopefully the pruning brings them back to reality.

    Roll on the next two weeks. Will be interesting to see what I'm doing this time next year.

  • Time to move on again. Sometime around the end of July I say "Goodbye" to Linwood College and take up a role at the Christchurch Mind Lab as an Edtech Educator. A different type of teaching and one I hope will give me more opportunities to learn better teaching techniques while doing the stuff I love. It is always a shame to leave students behind after building up some great relationships (and getting everyone excited about those new courses) but if I've learned anything from my history of being bought and sold is that when a organisation culture changes you have to make a call.

    Reflecting on schools as a workplace has been an interesting exercise over the last few weeks. The results haven't changed much since my last teaching gig and my opinion of schools is much the same.

    Change is usually good and when in doubt their is always punk music and home distilled whisky. Good times.

  • Term 1 holidays in my second year back in teaching. This year is my course design so it's all my fault when/if things go pear-shaped. Gone is the linear software application course and in is the student-led, project-based design course. Lots of issues to resolve, like the whole NCEA vs student progression thing, but in general it is in a direction I think is positive. After a pretty solid WTF from them the students are starting to understand what I am trying to do with them and I am realising that my job just got a shit-tonne more difficult. Yay me. The school is still pretty stock but at least I got the chance to rebuild the web site into something manageable.

    Weird holidays this time around. Amelia is spending another few weeks with her grandparents and I am missing the wee thing more than usual. I am thinking we need to start doing family holidays during these times now that she is a little older. I have the feeling she is way more aware of her place at home now and she seems to be getting homesick. The break has been good and have had a chance to tidy some things up around the house. Netflix, now that it's available in NZ, has been taking a beating in our household.

    The distiller is in action,  I am getting my head around how to use a green screen with Blender and I won a Google Cardboard recently. With the exception of the alcohol the other things should be good new skills to introduce in term 2.

     

  • "Well, they've been saying all along we're the X generation, Now it seems we're the voice of a nation"

    I miss punk. I miss anger. I miss skating. I miss identifying with songs. Sometimes being an adult is a bullshit proposition. It is weird to front up to days knowing things are going to be rough, a weird vibe in the classroom, the workplace and life in general. Working with teenagers is a weird thing. It can be, and usually is, fantastic. They are mental, hormonal, lazy and stupid one day and then flick over to being quite balanced and doing very clever things. Sometimes it happens too quickly to keep up and it is hard to remember what it was like being a teenager.

    Working with adults is a weird thing. They can be, and usually are, balanced, calm, and pleasant to be around and then they flick over to being whining shits who really just need a solid smack to the head. Sometimes it happens quite quickly and it is hard to remember they are old and a smack to the head would probably kill them. There's something in ethics codes and laws about that and it sorta breaches the whole balanced, calm, pleasant deal.

    Luckily I still love punk music, anger, skating and identify with songs that made me feel great years ago. I remember what it was like to be a teenager and I enjoy being an adult. Now if the universe could just realign a bit things should be all hunkydory again and no one gets hurt.

    "You can stack me on a pyre and soak me down with whisky, Roast me to a blackened crisp and throw me in a pile I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style"

  • Coming to the end of school holidays and ready to get back into term 4. This has been the first set of holidays this year where I wasn't having to sort out Novopay issues and it has been a lot more relaxed. Actually teaching has been a lot more relaxed and fun since the pay issues were sorted. I have an Ultimaker 2 3D printer and some Arduino electronics kits being delivered next week and really looking forward to getting students working with both. I introduced programmable electronics to my Year 10s with the somewhat disingenuous introduction of "I don't know much about programming or electronics so let's do some programmable electronics". I swear I heard them all blink in unison. Excellent. The council-run 3D modelling programme has been shut down so I am going to continue it at Linwood for term 4 and see how it goes. Seems like a great way to keep students learning skills that take a lot of time in the classroom. I figure we can better spend that time working on projects. New courses are set for next year.

    I had plans to make some shorts these holidays and incorporate el-wire and an Adafruit Gemma board with RGB LEDs into them but things got waylaid by the backyard. Some massive reworking had to be done to make maintenance more sustainable and, quite frankly, I was having a great time chopping out trees, shovelling soil, laying drains and making paths. I hurt but in a good way. The shorts can be an Xmas holiday project and hopefully by then I will have a clear idea of what I actually want them to look like.

    Miss A has been spending a few weeks with her grandparents, giving us a much needed break and giving them a chance to spoil her rotten. My parents borrowed a lamb for the week so she has been down feeding it and generally having a great time. Great that she has two sets of doting grandparents and we are all a bit amazed at how adaptable she is moving from us to them without any real fuss. I have a feeling we have a rather independent young lady on our hands here. Excellent.

  • A weekend alone with my daughter doing Daddy stuff. We created a drum kit out of pots and played along to various 90s punk bands at a suitable volume, scared some ducks, told a loud digger to be quiet, made muffins and bread, beat the garden into shape, played 'tunnels' with washing on the line. The change of pace was excellent.

    Term 3 at school. Still have no real preference either way for teaching at the moment as nothing much has changed. Love the classroom, think schools are naff. Oddly enough many of the students seem to hold a similar opinion. Have a set of year 7 students coming in for a bit of programming and robotics on Mondays. Cute kids and fun to work with. Year 10s are doing pretty well and getting into the whole project approach now. Year 11s are still a bit cagey with many struggling to complete anything really. 12s and 13s are all moving along well. Keen for Novopay to tidy up so I can have some financial freedom to make decisions.

    So far a year of holding on and trying to ignore the crazy again.

  • Into the second week of school holidays and not feeling overly enthusiastic about heading back to work next week. Did get some longstanding jobs done around the house though.

    End of term was a bit rough. Grandma passed away in the last week and I headed down to Invercargill for the, rather pleasant given the circumstances, funeral. Novopay fired me another rejection letter as I was leaving. Any goodwill that might have existed between me and the Ministry of Education is well gone and the aim now is to sort the salary assessment, get the back pay and then revisit any further work in teaching.  

    The wee girl has been with grandparents for almost the entire time which has been great for C but left me feeling a bit rough about the remarkably little time I get to spend with her. My mind has turned to how I can have more flexible time in my life while retaining income and I'm exploring different ways to work for myself again. I am finding it is harder to take [the perceived] risk this time around but at least it means I am working on risk management as a larger part of my business plan. I am very keen to hold out the year at school, partly for pride and partly to get the benefit of that long end-of-year holiday.

    The 3D printer failed a few weeks back and required a new thermocouple. Having not been born with an innate knowledge of thermocouples it took me a while to figure out what the issue was and then find replacement parts. The thing must have been failing for ages because the new, improved thermocouple has meant the printer works through all sorts of temperatures and in different areas of the house perfectly. It is now back to printing cookie cutters until further notice.

  • I'm now an officially registered teacher again, Subject to Confirmation and having a pretty good time really. The money sucks and I am looking forward to the salary assessment coming through from Novopay. I imagine it will still suck but as I'm currently on less money than I was when I was in my 20s it can only move forwards again ... or it'll be a quick return to the private sector again I guess. Money aside, it's all good. Tough, tiring and schools haven't changed much but it's very cool to back working with young people and pushing the Digital Tech thing again. Course redesigns in progress, lots of new ideas and things are looking pretty good for next year ... assuming the students buy into it all.

    Have started listening to music again. Hadn't realised I'd stopped somewhere along the line. Back into old favourites and currently enjoying the Social Distortion DVD. Discovering that bands I listened to in the 90s are still going and damn if they haven't released a crapload of albums since. There's something nice about having a backlog to pick up and get into.

    The 3D printer has been taken over for cookie cutter production. It's cool that there is a way to cover the cost of filament and awesome that people like the cutter designs C is coming up with. Our sales went international last week with people in Oz and the US buying. Sometimes taking that little risk just works out and allows people to do their thing.

    Still holding out in Christchurch despite it being a fairly abusive relationship for all. Earthquakes, rebuild, snow and recently major flooding has all been a bit crap but we're not quite ready to move on yet.

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