28 Days of Writing February 2015

The challenge of 28 days of writing first got me blogging in 2015.  Here is my collection from that year, first published on www.staffrm.io

Day 1: My Space – my time

Having my space on a regular basis ‘to think’ is important to me. On average, I need about two hours a day by myself. I don’t always have to be sitting still; sometimes I have my time when ironing, cooking, driving/travelling or walking. Reading novels helps too. During this time, I create a bubble around me to just to be! On days when I am unable to have ‘my time’, I can be cranky, moody and off my mojo!

So, what does this time and space represent? It is about me reconnecting with myself and grounding my identity in terms of my values and beliefs. It is a space where I can consolidate past and current experiences with aspirations for the future. I guess biologist could call it my ‘homeostasis’ time i.e. a place where I rediscover my equilibrium.

As an education consultant my role is very demanding and incredibly varied on a daily, if not hourly basis. I enjoy variety and thrive on change management, but for my well-being I know I must ground myself in order to be effective. When I taught in the classroom full-time or lectured in highered, I was the same. After work, I would drive a nearby lake, put on my trainers and walk around the lake before returning home. Once at home, I was then able to park the matters of the day and enjoy my evening from a fresh creative perspective.

We live and work in a very fast pace environment – do we make time for ourselves to re-connect and re-align?

Day 2: Wisdom

The speaker at church today, a GP by profession spoke on the distinction between heavenly wisdom and earthly wisdom as well as resources from heaven compared to those on earth; which are finite.

It is not wrong to be proud, but it is our motive that underpins our pride that matters. Do we make time to celebrate the efforts of others and encourage them on too? This is important to me … I SO enjoy encouraging others and from time to time value appreciate a bit of encouragement myself. There is a heavenly joy is seeing others grow!

Encouragement needs to be sincere, not driven by selfish motives or personal gain. It is a genuine celebration of the goodness we see in others. As a senior leader, I frequently use to give my staff shiny glass ‘gem’ stones and with it share something recently I had admired about their work. Each one of them was a gem to me! One year, I gave my TAs little rose plants … because I could see how much in a very tough school year they had blossomed.

I do not think encouragement should be formulaic (i.e. say three positive things to three different each day). It must spring from the heart and come with sincerity. Sometimes the formulaic is good for habit forming … a bit like this #28daysof writing. But in the long-term it has to be as natural as breathing.

As teachers, the premise of our profession is to encourage the next generation to even greater heights of aspiration and achievement and yet in ourselves we often forget to encourage each other. We have forgotten how to be tough on the outside to withstand dynamic change and yet soft hearted on the inside. Encouragement creates movement for the giver and the receiver. Maybe it is time for us to re-connect with our true professional identities?

How? See Day 1 #MySpace

Day 3: Re-write the plan

Today I had a plan … then it snowed! Today I had a plan … but it didn’t feel right, so I changed it.

We all adapt to change differently. I thrive on change … maybe that’s because I am a butterfly and having gone through several metamorphoses at different periods in my life; I see change as a part and parcel of life. Changing my plan today affected others. I weighed up the consequences and then talked to them about why I needed to change my plan. Did it cause disruption? Some … but they could see and understand my rationale. So, it worked. In fact, I think it helped deepen our relationship.

My day now had no structure – was that uncomfortable? A little … but I was open to see what opportunity presented itself and how I was meant to respond. As the day unfolded, I got things done and I was felt at peace. The true reason why I needed to change my plan manifested later in the day … and it wasn’t about the snow, but a much more significant battle!

Yes, I have used the word ‘battle’ … warfare happens at many levels and as we seek to progress forward with good intent and a bigger vision of greatness, we often meet with opposition. We need not be afraid … warfare has the power to transform and strengthen us. Leaders of armies engaged in war often have a plan and a strategy and then there is a surprise element (either natural or brought on by the enemy) and the leader has to adapt his/her method, plan of defence and attack.

So, I guess the questions for today: if the plan isn’t working do we change it? By doing so do we embrace change and failure in a positive way?

The Apollo XIII team use to say, “Failure is not an option”. They weren’t talking about not changing the plan; but in fact, changing the plan, responding to the moment… so they could succeed.

Day 4: Those Noveau Moments

As I thought about my topic for today, my radar scanned a number of areas from creativity to originality to doing differently and I finally settled for ‘Those Noveau Moments’.  Habits are good and can be character forming. However, doing the same thing over and over again in the same way is like driving a truck across a field and deepening the tracks further and further into the ground; that eventually there is no opportunity to try something different or new. Over repetition without any newness can become a restricting stronghold.

‘Noveau’ means something that is ‘newly or recently created, developed, or comes into prominence’. It adds to the sparkle, surprise and spice of life. The marketing campaign of Coke over the last few years has fascinated me. Whilst other product companies were saying ‘newly improved’ to increase their market share … thus implying the product wasn’t quite right in the first place, Coke decided to have a noveau moment with their packaging and so the name/personal identity bottle was created. Underpinning the #ShareaCoke campaign was the notion ‘swapping our name for yours’ – flip marketing, if you like. A global brand was changed to make it personal to customers. In the first season of its launch 250 million named bottles were sold in a nation with a population of just under 23 million!

A few other fascinating facts:

  • The planning phase was called ‘Project Connect’
  • The idea emerged from a 151-word brief
  • Coca-Cola created a new font called ‘you’ to print the names/titles (e.g. mum, teacher)
  • The campaign picked up 7 awards in 2012
  • #ShareaCoke twitter campaign received over 235K tweets
  • 17K virtual named bottles were shared online across Europe
  • Once established the campaign was replicated across cultural names, positive adjectives and for bottles (glass and plastic) as well as cans … there was transference

How does this relate to the classroom?

The key themes from the #ShareaCoke campaign focus on two key things:

  1. a) Personalisation
  2. b) Relationships

The recent report by The Sutton Trust, ‘What makes good teaching’ (Oct 2014) reviewed over 200 research papers and came to the same conclusion. The most effective approaches to raising attainment are personalised learning and meaningful relationships between the learner and teacher.

This being the case – how often do we slip into routines in the classroom or do we, like Coke, step out and embrace those noveau moments?

Day 5: It’s MY school Mr. Ofsted!

A few years ago, I read an article from a local paper in York, I believe. The physical location in some ways is not relevant as I think the content of the piece reflected a number of schools all over the country. The social context for this comment letter was a local primary school had just had an inspection … this was back in the days of National Strategies and regimental lesson observations. The outcome (as deemed by the inspectors) was this was a failing school … and so local press had picked this up and it was headline news.

But that was not the article I read. I read a comment letter a week later by a Year 4 boy from that school, who wrote to the editor (and in a way Ofsted) asking them what right they had to publicly trash HIS school. For him, HIS school was a place he came to learn new things, to be with his friends and to clarify his plans for HIS future. This boy valued his teachers (including the teaching assistants and head teacher) and he was proud to attend the school. It was his world and he thought he was learning from the best! He had friends in his neighbourhood, who went to other schools and when they read the local paper, they ridiculed him for going to such a rubbish school. That hurt!

The letter was moving … it didn’t hit the national press, but it brought home to me the consequences of judgements on others; who are sometimes bystanders to the process. I have no qualms with accountability and the three currently defined aims of Ofsted. Not sure they have the balance right, but that is a work in progress, I guess. In training sessions, I deliver to school leaders, I have developed a model to explain the tension of process that exists between those engaged in delivering and developing teaching and learning practices and those inspecting. The model inverts the framework to make it a multi-flow process within a social context.

In my role as an LA Advisor, I have had on many occasions been involved in supporting a so-called ‘failing’ school … not easy when it is a large secondary. Morale is low and yes; the young people were disoriented by the outcome. Sometimes we forget school, or an educational institution is a place of belonging. I often say to school leaders “We are in the business of life-long learning so, there is always going to be something to improve”. But there is more … a sense of belonging helps to define our current identity as well as enables us to dream and evolve our individual and collective identity to greater things. It is a place where we form trusting relationships with peers/colleagues and where we feel a sense of purpose. When someone comes along and says, ‘You got it wrong’ – it can destabilise both an individual and a community. May be the message should be ‘It could be done differently or better, let’s try together… how can we help?’

Inspections, as they stand are going to be the hot potato education manifesto of the Election 2015 (either pre-or post). I have been predicting this for the last two years. What we don’t need is a quick fix-it or ideologies based on weak foundations … we need a sustainable long-term approach to genuinely enabling schools to continue to improve without damaging the morale of those who work there or those who just love coming to school to learn and be with friends, like that Year 4 boy in York.

I have a few solution-based thoughts around some of this, but they are still evolving and maybe that’s a blog for another day. For now, just think about how we give feedback to others and whether that enables them to do better or puts them down, so they are stuck!

One final thought: I recently wrote to Mr. Wilshaw asking him how inspectors looking at school websites distinguish compliance activities from the quality of content. The backdrop for my question was the SEN Information Report based on Schedule 1 of the SEND Regs 2014 … I will keep you posted of any reply I receive.

Day 6: Kindness of a stranger

I travel a lot in my work; which is a good thing because I love discovering new places and I have both an eye and passion for photography. Today, I found myself more than 80 miles from base and my oil light came on. Motor car maintenance is not one of my strengths!

I continued to my first appointment and had a thoroughly invigorating meeting with a SENCO and head teacher. During which time I completely forgot about my car troubles and even the nagging question: how was I going to get home? I had a fifty-minute break before my next appointment and, so I pulled into a nearby garage. I told the man behind the desk my predicament and he said he needed to wait 10 minutes for the car to cool down, before he could check. I went off for a cuppa and returned 20 minutes later. He had checked my car, topped it up … turns out it only needed a quarter filling and he didn’t charge me a thing! The kindness of a stranger!

This got me thinking …

Is kindness part of our everyday experience or a one-off random encounter? As a teacher encouraging kindness is very important to me and it is very important to the children to. This is what some Year 8 students said makes a good teacher:

“A good teacher . . . is kind, is generous, listens to you, encourages you, has faith in you, keeps confidences, likes teaching children, likes teaching their subject, takes time to explain things, helps you when you’re stuck, tells you how you are doing, allows you to have your say, doesn’t give up on you, cares for your opinion, makes you clever, treats people equally, stands up for you, makes allowances, tells the truth, is forgiving”. Quoted from The Hay McBer Report into Teacher Effectiveness (2000)

The very first attribute listed of a good teacher is that they are kind… and the last forgiving. I’m sure the two are connected …

I do believe people are kind by their nature. Though sometimes my positioning on this has been challenged by individual circumstances/events and I have chosen to forgive. When I have probed further as to why, I occasionally discover the very adults (and sometimes children), who are unkind have often rarely experienced ‘kindness’ themselves and therefore struggle not only to accept kindness, but also to be kind. This is not always the case and by no means is my intent to generalise or underestimate the influence of other factors. And yet, I do meet several children/peers/colleagues who are SO astonished by random acts of kindness. In one way it is a good thing; as the element of surprise springs forth a genuine feeling of gratitude from the heart. Yet there is another part of me that feels ‘kindness’ should be part of the norm; our everyday life interactions.

Being kind isn’t a weakness, but a powerful source of strength; as is forgiveness. Maybe when kindness is taken for granted, people begin to see it as a sign of weakness. I came into teaching because I wanted the next generation to have a better life experience than me. I wanted the next generation to achieve much more than me. As a teacher, supporting their development and academic achievement is important … but in my heart, I have always known the most long lasting aspect of their development that I am contributing to is their character. That is what they will remember and shape their lives in the future … and that is born out of relationship (see Day 4).

I dream of a world of kindness. Do you?

Day 7: Rest, work and play

No, I haven’t got the chronological order wrong. I know the popular perception is ‘work, rest and play’. However, from my childhood, I always had a sense ‘I sleep to prepare for tomorrow, not recover from today’. In effect, I am more effective in my work when I work FROM a position of rest, rather than work TO a position of rest! Yes, for me Sunday is the first day of the week … and not the end! So, I rest to work and work in order to play!

How does this manifest in my day to day life? During my undergrad days, I use think of my essay title whilst going to sleep. I would wake in the morning and complete the entire assignment in just over an hour. In my current role (which sometimes involves 12-hour full working days; a large part because of the travel), I still work from a position of rest. I am a morning person and therefore there are some days I can work from 5am to 8am and my whole day’s work is done so, I take the day off … to play! Ever wondered how successful entrepreneurs spend so much time on the golf course … they rest to work not work till they have to rest!

Richard Branson recently blogged extensively about the Virgin approach to unlimited staff leave and flexible working hours. He was challenged by a lot of critics, but his position is quite clear: I have employed a great team, I trust them … they are responsible adults, who can make sensible choices! Productivity within the Virgin Group has multiplied. Virgin’s story reminded me of a restaurant in Milton Keynes. The owner decided not to price his dishes on the menu. People just ordered and at the end of the meal they left what they thought the meal and experience was worth. His profits tripled! Freedom brings about greater productivity and creativity; without a doubt. Imagine, this approach in terms of university fees (i.e. you pay us what you think your education experience/degree is worth). Can you imagine? … Hard for universities to budget for sure, but I bet they would be paid a lot more and there would be a greater sense of equality enrolment/access. It would certainly make higher education a much more entrepreneurial environment: solution focussed, solution driven.

When I worked in the media, I use to smile as guys would say, “I work hard, and I play hard too”. You can imagine the macho dialogue. Work doesn’t have to be hard. If we work from a position of rest, we can enjoy our work (i.e. experience a sense of satisfaction) and have a lot of fun after work too – doing the things we like. I guess it is about balance and perspective.

So, this weekend – is it the end of a tough week for you? Or the beginning of an exciting week to come … a week that is pregnant with opportunities and fun? You decide! Either way, enjoy!

Day 8:  Chocolate Sundae

Malteser Monday, Toblerone Tuesday, Walnut whip Wednesday, Thornton’s Thursday, Ferrero Friday, Strawberry cream Saturday

… and chocolate ‘sundae’

So, life is like a box of chocolates and a bit of ice-cream thrown in for good measure!

The origin of things fascinates me … not so much the where and when; though they are important, but the how. Take for example, the famous ‘glass and a half’ trademark/slogan. The concept originated in 1905 through the casual suggestion of an assistant. It was an instant success. It was 1928 before Cadbury began to capitalise on the marketing side of this, in a new campaign ad. In 2007, the Gorilla campaign was launched by the in-house Glass and A Half Full Productions. The first play along of the Gorilla on drums to Phil Collins’ song ‘In the air tonight’ to date has had over 5 million hits on YouTube. Over the four years that followed, Glass and a Half Full Productions launched a further 5 successful ads; some even significantly affecting the ranking of the UK Top 40. In 2010, however, Cadbury had to remove the phrase ‘a glass and a half’ due to European food regulations. The UK Trading Standards did not object, but Cadbury decided to comply. By then the brand (within a 105-year period of production and an 82-year period of branded marketing) was so well known that with or without the slogan it remained the best-selling chocolate bar in the UK. Cadbury is now owned by US food giant Kraft.

In the US, the origin of the ‘sundae’ remains a much-heated debate. One school of thought credits the creation as a response to the ‘Blue Laws’ which said that ice cream sodas could not be sold on Sundays. Some argue the first sundae was first served in Ithaca, New York (1892); whilst others claim Edward Berners (1863-1939) served the first ice-cream sundae in 1881 to a customer, named Hallauer; who wanted chocolate syrup on his ice-cream. The sundae has a tradition of the Maraschino cherry topping (a European import). No, they do not grow on trees and the modern method of making them was perfected by Ernest Wiegand, a professor at Oregon State University. By 1915, Maraschino cherry consumption in the US had gone through the roof. It was fashionable to add preserved cherries, as much as for ornamentation as to give flavour, to many drinks and ices.

So, what is the point I am making? Nothing really … it’s Sunday and just thought I would share some fascinating facts to start the chocolate week ahead. Take it or leave it … be shaken or stirred … your choice.  Either way – have fun!

Day 9: Opening soon: FedEx Free School near you

The term FedEx Day is a time-limited event (usually 24 hours) at the end of which employees have to deliver an innovation to the company they work for. During the defined time period employees have total autonomy over the project they are working on. They decide what to work on, how and with whom. During a FedEx day regular work is put to one side and there is only one ground rule: the results have to be shared at the end of the defined time period. The concept was popularised by Google staff; when as a result of FedEx Days many of their most innovative Google Apps were created.

What is the process of a FedEx Day? Simple

– Take an area of interest #curiosity

– Research the topic #AskQuestions

– Find a problem #Discover

– Solve problem #Create

– Share solution #innovate

So, what has this got to do with school? Imagine a curriculum design that was like FedEx Days… recently a 13-year-old boy in the US asked his parents “How do blind people read?” His parents encouraged him to research the topic; which he did. He soon discovered that Braille printers are not only expensive, but also very heavy. This young boy took out his Lego kit, Lego MindStorm and Apple Mac and created his own printed for less than $400. He won a few prizes for his invention and re-invested the money into making more. He now dreams of making low cost, light weight printers… and he is doing it!

The AshokaU curriculum is based on a similar premise; encouraging children to solve local social problems. It sparks their imagination, develops a wide range of transferable life-long learning skills and they have fun along the way too. When I read up on the AshokaU curriculum, I was so reminded of how I use to organise my classroom and curriculum. One year, I gave the class an open-ended science project. I had an eight-year-old boy with Autism in my class. He went home, asked his mother for some tights and newspaper and within half an hour he had created a model of the digestive track and intestines for discussion.  I had never taught him this, nor had his mother. Other children explored the solar system, botany, and physical forces etc. We had SO much fun and the children’s learning accelerated beyond a pace based on any formal lessons I could teach them.

Unfortunately, not all classrooms are like that and The National Strategies certainly created several strait jackets for classroom learning. I was one of those teachers, who broke the rules and I did it in front of Ofsted too … but they could see my children were making progress – so they didn’t hold it against me.

Last year, I visited Hartsholme Academy in Lincoln. They talk about ‘Immersive Learning’ – similar approach: learning based in real life scenarios with real outcomes that can be shared in a real context. To find out more about their approach – watch the Carl Jarvis TED Talks on immersive learning. #inspirational

So, a new Fedex Free School would provide all learners of all abilities opportunities to learn, solve and innovate based on their own interest of learning. It would be a place where children and young people had the time to explore topics in breadth and depth. Teachers would be facilitators of learning and there would be a highly personalised approach to differentiation.

Interested? But wait, we don’t need to open a new free school to do this … it can happen in our classrooms every day and in every school! I have over the years taught early years, primary and secondary (including 6th Form). In each phase, I have used the FedEx Day approach and it works! Meeting some of my students today … many now highly successful professionals – they so remember those innovation projects and some even share how the concept helped define their career paths for the future.

How’s that for raising attainment and achievement … and narrowing the gap?

NB: I have taught in some of the most deprived areas in England and abroad; where aspirations were initially limited…The FedEx Day model does make children, young people and their families reach for the skies in a safe way! For some, it is like getting on a plane for the first time … I just gave them the ticket; the rest was up to them.

Day 10: In and out of the box!

Surely to express & experience ‘out of the box’ thinking – something has to be in the box in the first place!

The inspiration behind this blog came from a conversation I had with a teacher. We were discussing something, and the teacher liked my suggestion. So, I said, “Put it in your ideas box for later”. Her response ‘What’s that?’

Maybe it is the career journey I have had, or just my creativity … but every job I have had (& believe me I worked across several sectors and at different levels) I have always had an ideas box. A physically defined space to note down ideas & raid at a future date. Sometimes the box looked like a book.

As a teacher, I followed this concept through. In early years & primary, my ideas A6 hard covered book was A-Z topic based. Secondary – I divided by mathematical concepts. I carried these books everywhere & any time I had a new idea, I scribbled it down or doodled a drawing. It was logged in an orderly fashion; so that when I next came to teach that topic or concept, I opened my book & looked at all my idea triggers. I still have my idea books!

We have amazing ideas all the time (especially when we are relaxed or focused on something else) … sometimes our ideas are ahead of our time! You only have to watch Yes Prime Minster & West Wing to see how true that is.

Even now, in my role as an education consultant (an agent of change management) who is passionate about the ‘joy of learning’ I have an ideas box in my office. In it I store the whacky & the wonderful … on some occasions it has taken two years for the circumstances and climate to be right for my idea to come to fruition; but when it does – Wow! We are talking mega impact!!!

In the classroom, I had an ideas box or wall for the children. They could write absolutely anything on it … as long as it was an idea that moved people, life or situations including problems on. They also had to include their name next to their idea … so we knew who it came from. Every now and then, we would have a dedicated time to explore & unpack these ideas. Sometimes, I mentioned their ideas in my lessons … imagine how that made my learners feel.

So, if don’t have an ideas box/book or space – somewhere physical is ideal (e.g. mini-whiteboard) … invest in one! It needs to be something you can see on a regular basis … that’s why electronic versions rarely work. We even become automated about our desktop icons. I have a creative e-folder, but that stores mainly documents, but my BIG ideas go in the box … so that when the time is right, I can think out of the box!

Day 11:  Blind Date

With Valentine’s Day only three sleeps away, I thought I would share an assembly idea, I led awhile back: Blind Date with a Book

I was teaching in a deprived area where most of the children had never visited the local library until I displayed their art work there. Most of our families did not have books, pens or paper at home to support learning.

My assembly: three children chose a book, read it and sat at the front in assembly … in front of the whole school. The screen went up & a volunteer stepped up. You can guess the rest … three questions about each book & then the choice to date a book. Valentine’s Day is usually near February half-term … so the book had to be read over half-term. That half-term we had more children read than ever before. The volunteer came back after half-term and shared what they thought of the book, good & bad.

The wider follow-up … if I was to do this now … this is what I would do:

Each child to share something they ‘loved’ about the book:

– the storyline

– a character

– a word or phrase

– an illustration

– the cover

– the layout

– a new piece of knowledge or fact … and so on.

I would call the display ‘Love is in the air … and in the book’. Well that’s an idea for another time (see Day 10).

Some book shops often have a Blind Date with Book shelf. Books wrapped in paper with key words on the front … but no other clues. Customers buy the book purely on the key words … they are open to the surprise or not, as the case may be.

I love watching regular commuters engage at railways stations in the book swap table in the waiting rooms … maybe this is something we need more of in schools – not just for staff, but the children & parents/families too. Yes Kindle & such devices has changed our concept of book sharing. As a regular traveller, I do value my Kindle … but I also enjoy leafing through a book. Maybe it is a question of balance.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all … like it or not, it is all part of the story (our story) of life. Enjoy!

Day 12: I want my kids to know …

I want my kids to know they are loved for who they are, not what they do

I want my kids to know how precious, unique & strong they are

I want my kids to know they can dream the unimaginable and then invest time & energy pursuing their dreams

I want my kids to know success is great for confidence building, but they will learn far more from failure & trying again

I want my kids to know all successful writers draft & redraft their work many times

I want my kids to know it is OK to jump in puddles, laugh & enjoy life

I want my kids to know the value of family and friendship & how important it is to be a friend as well as to have friends

I want my kids to know they can make choices & sometimes say no

I want my kids to know the people around them want them to feel safe

I want my kids to know what balance, joy & peace feel like

I want my kids to know it’s OK to feel sad & cry

I want my kids to know how to sing from the heart

I want my kids to know patience & waiting are part of the journey of life

I want my kids to know that their future will be even better than they ever dreamed

I want my kids to know the power of hope & acceptance

I want my kids to know the art of giving & supporting others

I want my kids to know the Seasons of Life & live it to the max; relishing each & every moment

I want my kids to know making time to celebrate with & for others is important

I want my kids to know the comfort of hot drinks, warm blankets & regular hugs

I want my kids to know how much they are loved … & to be happy!

Day 13:  Hope, friendship and the stars!

Yes, I am a fan of The West Wing!

The whole series has a number of twists and turns in the political story from entering The White House to a new President being elected two electoral terms later. Each episode and season provides the viewers (and characters) with several intertwined storylines and gems of wisdom to churn over and grow from. I have a few favourite episodes (e.g. Shutdown and Shibboleth) as well as a number of favourite lines. The sense of duty by key characters and ‘those on the inside’ is heartening particularly when they declare “I serve at the pleasure of the President”.

The concept of service for a higher cause appeals to me. It implies a genuine sense of simultaneous humility and confidence. Humility doesn’t make us meek, but strong and courageous.

President Josiah Bartlet: What will be the next thing that challenges us, Toby? That makes us go farther and work harder? Do you know that when smallpox was eradicated, it was considered the single greatest humanitarian achievement of this century? Surely we can do it again, as we did in the times when our eyes looked towards the heavens and, with outstretched fingers, we touched the face of God. Here’s to absent friends and the ones that are here now.

This quote speaks of friends and stars. Underpinning both is hope. We need friends and we need to be a good friend to others. Equally we need to aspire for something better. Giving the next generation hope and a sense of aspiration.

I leave you with a few reflective thoughts:

What gives you hope? Is it an external time-limited resource (e.g. power, money, fame, etc.) or is your hope something sustainable and internal?

Is there space and time in your life to have friends and be a friend to others?

What do you aspire for and why? What motivates you? What is the end game and how will you know?

Day 14: Lost in Love …

The song and saying states “Better to have lost in love, than never have been in love?”

Can we really lose in love or are we sometimes lost in love? Either way, the mere fact we experience ‘love’ demonstrates that our heart is open and alive. I don’t think it is possible to lose in love; but I do think we can be lost in love. Sure, there are pain points; but each relationship and interaction shapes us, changes us and helps us along our journey in life. They add to the quality of our life. Besides the fun times in a “true” loving relationship outweigh the pain points, by far.  A friend once shared with me: “Some relationships come into our life for a reason; others for a season and the best are for life”.

To be lost in love is to experience a love so deep it overwhelms us with joy. Such love doesn’t always have to be of sexual or physical nature. Watch mothers babbling with their new born babies – those moments are precious … and they are lost in love. Ever seen two long lost friends or long-term pens friends meet – they are lost in love. Children in the playground regularly share such love with each other. So, what is this love?

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

Day 15: Atmosphere Changer

Children (and I would say some adults too) have a natural ability to enter a room or situation and change the atmosphere from doom & gloom to joy & laughter! I was reminded of this today; when I saw three primary-aged girls playing together – sharing ideas, delighting in the small things and honouring each other’s views. Their presence changed the atmosphere in the room … and it made me smile.

My reflective thoughts today:

Do I positively influence the atmosphere in the classroom and meetings? Or do I add to the negativity?

How do I respond and encourage other atmospheric changes?

I remember a training day once, where we talked about ‘mood hoovers’ i.e. someone who sucks all the good feelings out a room. They are obsessed with doom and gloom and that is where their conversations are focused. Working with even one member on the team who is a mood hoover is draining – they are energy suckers! We cannot change what others do, but we can take responsibility not to be the mood hoover on the team. We can choose to be the one who brings about a positive, creative and constructive atmosphere.

5 tips for handling mood hoovers (if they do exist on your team):

1) Avoid or minimise interaction

2) Find something positive about them (no matter small) and if you do have to interact play the positive aspect over and over (in your mind and out loud to them).

3) Clarify the circle of influence vs. circle of concern. Mood hoovers are usually focused on all of the concerns including the things that we cannot do anything about. Clarifying influence and concerns enables us to park the things we cannot do anything about; whilst acknowledging what they are. However, with the circle of influence, our focus remains on the aspects we can do something about. It is healthy to challenge each other on what is possible.

4) Challenge their behaviour. Sometimes mood hoovers do so by habit and they aren’t always aware of the impact their behaviour has on others.

5) Let them go … if the above doesn’t work! In the long-term, mood hoovers damage team morale and reduce performance.  So, let them go … politely and hopefully in way that helps them grow too.

Day 16: Odd socks!

From the 5th of Jan to 13th Feb 2015, we ran a 30 day reflective teacher challenge on Twitter. At 8pm every week day night, we would tweet out a reflective question for teachers to consider. The approach generated international interest and the topics varied daily. For those interested in a full list search #reflectiveteacher #30Qus

One question in particular gained a lot of interest: Do my assessments reflect learning, or merely task completion or memorization skills?

In response, I was challenged as to how we test for understanding?

My reply: Depends on your definition of understanding. Do you mean application, connectivity, transferability or empathy?

The tweeter settled for “connectivity”.

The dialogue reminded me of an activity, I use to facilitate in the classroom: Odd Socks Time (OST)

This was a regular period of time, where I would share random pictures, concepts, ideas, models etc with pupils and ask them to make the connection – not matter how obscure or remote. For those of you who watch The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon & Amy play a game in one of the episodes where they change a fact in history and then state what the possible consequences would be. It was a bit like that. Only in this case, there was no right or wrong – it was a connection between two odd socks! And there was always a connection … no matter how vague! We had a lot of fun playing, but we also shared our interests, our thinking patterns, our imagination, our dreams and our connections. It was a focussed time for thinking off the radar and of the unimaginable. Half an hour a week; but what it did for my pupils is help them make connections in the curriculum. What I taught them in English or Literacy, they could see an application in geography. What I taught them in maths – they linked historically and vice versa. They were exercising and developing the synapse connectivity in their brains.

Today, there is an Apple/Facebook App called Odd Socks and you pair matching socks and put the odd ones in the bin for friends … I prefer my game! Why pass on something that doesn’t match – far better to creatively connect surely?

Odd Socks Day in Australia is also a reminder that mental health difficulties can happen to anyone. Odd Socks Time is certainly an inclusive game and in fact many of my learners who had a creative mind really thrived during these sessions. The activity generated genuine respect amongst class members. I loved Odd Socks Time (and so did the children), it was like watching the whole class on fire and then seeing them transfer it to other aspects of learning – awesome!

So, if you haven’t tried it: Odd Socks Time in every classroom! Here, here

Day 17:  The Party

Its half-term, so I invited some friends over for a board games night … a party of sorts. The evening involved banter and laughter and competitive challenge … plus food and drink, naturally. All the definitions of party in one:

Party (Middle English): a body of people united in opposition

Latin derivative: partiri (divided into parts)

Old French: partie

Party can also mean ‘a social gathering of invited guests at a private home for conversation, refreshments and entertainment’. So together and yet potentially opposed.

As board games go, I would say we were all in it to win, but we also recognised there would be losers. We were strategic in our moves to ensure maximum gain as well as hinder our opponents; in the spirit of kindness and fun, no doubt. There was trivial chit chat – a distractive strategy at times, but humorous too and there was certainly plenty of wine!  Let’s call that sharing. We have all known each other for a while; but each party brings about deeper understanding … and often the phrase ‘I didn’t know that …’ reflecting an openness to learn and find out more.

So, what has this got to do with education?

Well, the staff room is a gathering of sorts – do we party (either definition) with colleagues? What would spruce the party-like unity in settings/localities so we that delivered a more joined up service for children and young people?

This year is Election 2015 and each Political Party will be trying to convince us their education manifesto is the most effective. We will need to keep our wits about us to discern which is truly accurate in practice, at this point in time (i.e. given all other factors including the international economy). As for me, I see potential in the Conservative approach to wealth creation, but I also value the Labour ideals around wealth distribution to society’s most vulnerable. Can’t we have a balance? Can’t we have ‘A Party’ or would that take away our democracy?

If my thoughts seem a little disjointed today – blame it on the party, blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the boogie! But seriously in the light of day, think deeply on the issues I raise – they emanate not from the depths of a bottle, but from an abyss of understanding: we are at a critical moment in history– do or undo it! We all have our part to play and like any game or relationship – it is the taking part that matters!

If you disagree with anything I have said – great … let’s talk. I am open to ideas and learning from the great and wonderful!

Day 18: Choices

I use to enjoy going buying cereals, chocolate, crisps etc … but now when I go into a superstore I feel overwhelmed by the range of choice. Choice is good; it empowers us to know what we like, what we don’t. Through inference and deduction we can also reflect after the experience to categorise choices into those that worked (good choices) and those that didn’t (not so great choices), with the caveat “on this occasion”. Just because a choice doesn’t work in one scenario, there is nothing to say it won’t work in another. The same choices over and over again, without risk to try something different or new, become habits.

Every moment of our lives, we are making choices – what to think, say, do, eat, drink, wear … where to go, how, when and with whom and so on. In effect, they are an integral part of our learning and high-level thinking skills.

My question today – is there an optimum level of choice? As I write this, I recall in my mind voices in numerous scenarios where someone has said “I don’t know – you decide” … that’s often how I feel about chocolate or cereals! To make a choice we need some internal criterion/criteria or reference point/s. Therefore, maybe with too many choices, is it possible we lose regard for our internal criterion/criteria and go for what is easier, popular or sometimes just cheaper?

Sometimes our choices are made through cognitive reasoning, other times instinct and on some occasions feelings, personal motivations and moral values. In The Matrix, Neo is offered the options of consuming either the red pill or the blue pill.

The red pill would result in the truth of Neo’s world being revealed to him, while the blue pill would allow him to continue in ignorance. Is ignorance bliss? Sometimes. So, consequences (perceived and real) play a part in the choices we make.

This is not part of my world, but for some choice is left to external forces such as horoscopes, fortune tellers, computer programs and algorithms etc. In these scenarios, choice becomes a delegated option, where the individual no longer feels empowered but driven to obey, perhaps?

Choice has close ties with personal identity and self-image. So, there can’t be a fixed level of choice that is optimally good for everyone. I recall reading somewhere that research in economy psychology places the range between 4 and 16, depending on the individual. However, the majority erring towards the middle of the scale, in true Bell curve style!

Is too much choice a bad thing? The paradox of choice – can too much choice turn into unrealistic expectations? Within the world of education, I often hear ‘we need to give children and their families more choices’. I agree to an extent. Equally, I would say professional training gives practitioners an understanding of how to limit the choices to a reasonable, effective and practical range to have maximum impact.

I wouldn’t want just one cereal brand in the shops, but equally I struggle with the thirty options that now line the aisles. So, I guess the challenge is who is going to decide what the optimum number is and which of the thirty to keep?

Day 19: Cocktails in the classroom

This evening I went out to Las Iguanas with some friends. Yes, on a weekday night … but hey it’s half-term! I ordered a cocktail or two … and I was reminded of a keynote I am giving next week on differentiation and personalised learning. Ok, so maybe not such a direct link … but bear with me.

Differentiation is about the teacher bringing a range of tools to the forefront to maximise the learning opportunity. It is not about groups. Personalised learning is using the learner’s own interest and motivation to accelerate the learning. Both these occur in the wider context of a pedagogical framework.

At the bar, (which I might add had a define ethos) the bartender had the expertise to offer me a range of cocktails mixed in the right proportions to maximise my enjoyment. From the range offered to me, I zoned in on one or two that were of personal interest to me.

The fusion between differentiation and personalised learning in the classroom is the relationship between the teacher and the learner. Research has demonstrated this relationship time and time again to be the most important factor for success and progress. How many scenarios have we seen or read about in terms of the relationship between the bartender and the punter. In addition to knowing how to mix a good cocktail, the bartender needs good people skills – the ability to accept diversity indiscriminately, to draw out conversation from the silent types and to be patient and listen to those who could talk for England. The bartender needs to judge the mood and what would work next in bringing enjoyment and comfort to the person sitting at the bar. Sometimes, things get out of hand and there are fights or disputes which need to be resolved. Sometimes there is just simply excessive merriment. Some would argue – not much learning goes on in a bar … well that depends on which bar you are at and with whom. I love bars where they have a photo wall of heroes they honour. On most occasions, these are local heroes or those who have visited the establishment. Last year, when I visited the USA, I saw bars that were furnished with themed and un-themed memorabilia, others had positive/life encouraging quotes (like the Hard Rock Cafe) and others just had a random arrangement of junk that gave the place character.

So fellow educators read once more the paragraph above: can you see any resemblance to what we do in the classroom? Hence my title – cocktails in the classroom … non-alcoholic of course!

Shake it up folks!

Day 20: Bubble Time

What does the concept ‘Bubble time’ conjure up for you? A hot bath or Jacuzzi perhaps?

We have Bubble Time in my classrooms …

  • On display in the room is a visual with the word ‘I need Bubble Time with Ms Devi’
  • Next to the visual is a string of clothes pegs; each with a number. Each number pertains to a child … they know their number – no one else does.
  • If something is troubling them or they just need to talk – they take their peg number and clip it to the visual
  • From a distance, I can instantly see – who is ready to learn and who is distracted elsewhere
  • Once everyone is working independently or in groups, I personally meet with those who have put their peg number on the visual
  • There are agreed ground rules: when we are in Bubble Time, if any of the other children need help; they can’t disturb us, but have to ask a peer or find out themselves … great for developing independence and interdependence
  • Bubble Time per child usually last no more than 5-10 minutes; if that. But for that time, they know they have my undivided attention and it is available to everyone in the class – fairly
  • Sometimes, I know what to do after listening. Other times I don’t. But communication and listening are the first step to solving any problem. Sometimes Bubble Time is enough for me to refer the situation on, seek help from others or talk to parents.

With social, emotional mental health a high priority in our classrooms – this is an easy way in primary schools to enhance quality first provision. In secondary schools, the concept could be developed to match subject area topics or just develop a different signal for pupils to let you know – they need to talk and someone to listen.

I and my children treasure Bubble Time because it is a great way of us communicating and reminding each other how much we care and value every member in our community.

So as half-term draws to a close … I say make some Bubble Time in your classrooms. We owe it to our children to listen.

Day 21:  When women gather

I facilitate a monthly meet up for women called ‘Christian Women in the Workplace’. Admittedly our common factor is not only that we are women, but that we share a faith. The group is a year old and comprises of a diverse age range. The workplace is defined as paid employment, domestic duties, voluntary service and any other environment where a service is provided or work is untaken. Quite a wide remit! The purpose of the group is to encourage, support and enable … all this in one and half hours a month over coffee and cake.

The topic today was “HR, the Bible and job satisfaction’. It was led by a retired HR specialist and took us through a journey of evaluating our own job satisfaction and how effective we are in our roles. There were quite a few thought-provoking comments to support both employers and employees in their behaviours.

The fact is most people love their job. Dis-satisfaction comes (9/10) due to people! And yet we cannot work purposefully in isolation. So, learning to manage people is a key skill, no matter how much technology evolves.

Another challenge we were presented with is the purpose of our work – what motivates us, what makes us tick and how do we like to be acknowledged? Everyone is different – so there isn’t a one size that fits all. The more I reflect on these I keep coming back to the concept of ‘identity’. Clarity on our identity enables us to make choices and develop resilience.

Many colleagues come into teaching or education because they love children or want to make a difference. There may be other reasons. Too often though, other aspects of the job (including politics and bureaucracy) distract us from our purpose and we become disheartened and disillusioned. I came into education through the lyrics of a pop song. So, time and time again, when things get a little tough or I am distracted, I return to that song, my rock and remind myself of why it is ‘I love my job’… because I do!

Day 22: Surprises

Do you like surprises? I suppose the more tactful and inclusive answer is ‘depends’… yes surprises can be both positive and negative.

I like surprises … as they can represent a change in the flow and I personally thrive on change … but not everyone does! Surprises can be planned (such as a gift or party) or unexpected (winning a prize). Surprises aren’t always about a positive consequence and that can be painful too. So, sensitivity is critical.

So why do I like surprises? I think they help us grow either in love or resilience.

Today, my day was full of surprises which made me smile, laugh and take stock. I accomplished some tasks I didn’t expect to and others I wanted to finish, remain undone. In the hubbub of it all – I was given some surprise chocolate!

Life is full of surprises and in the classroom; I think we can use this as teachers to our advantage to engage our learners with the unexpected, developing kindness and resilience. Let me share an anecdote …

A few years back, one of my Year 4 boys brought in a Madonna walkie talkie kit. In a two-form entry school, we use to set for maths. My partner teacher and I decided to teach each other’s maths groups from our own classrooms using the Madonna kit. We had SO much fun … and so did the kids. Imagine teaching without physically being able to see the children in the same room. And then … the head teacher walked in next door. My colleague took off her kit, but everyone in the room could hear my voice echoing and teaching the children! The head was both confused and amused. It certainly made for a memorable moment.  I should add the year group did include a few children who do not respond well to surprises and we did take them into consideration when undertaking this activity.

So, let me leave you with a surprise story game; which kids and adults alike enjoy. It is called “And suddenly”. Seated in a round, someone starts off a story and keeps going alongside the timer … when they have finished they say, ‘and then suddenly’. The person next to them has to pick up the story and carry it on. Great also for developing listening skills and concentration. Have fun!

Day 23: Silent witness in the staffroom

Written from the perspective of the dishwasher in the staffroom:

I am the Silent Witness in the staffroom. I endure the daily comings and goings of the week as well as the dull silence of the weekend. It never ceases to amaze me how often the rota of who will load and unload me is discussed. The weekdays have busy moments (break and lunch mainly) and then quiet periods when everyone is in class teaching or learning. I enjoy both. The vibrancy of a busy staffroom full of banter and chatter is fun and yet I also treasure time alone to think and occasionally find Wally! That book is always in the staff room!

I am not partial to the gossip conversations in the staffroom … but the one that really gets me is when some staff (not all) put children or families down or stereo-type. Why? I ask. Why? How will that help? Surely it is better to listen, understand and support … as a silent witness – that’s what I do.  Did you know the words ‘silent’ and ‘listen’ contain the same letters, but in a different order? So, it is all about priorities.

Training days are particularly busy for me – so much coffee and tea … and the odd occasional plate from the buffet. Staff seem so much more relaxed and free compared to normal days when you can almost taste the stress in the room. I wonder why that is … schools should be fun places when the kids are in – shouldn’t they?

I do my job as best I can – no one seems to complain; except when I am full, or someone has forgotten to load/unload. The parents group often overload me after an event, but those days are few and are between. I could have ended up anywhere and, yet I was chosen to be here in the school staffroom – a silent witness to it all.

Day 24: Risk, chance and probability

Historical fact: Dr. Richard Price 1723-1791, (from Llangeinor in Glamorgan Wales), pioneered the gathering of information on death. In effect becoming, simultaneously a founder of both epidemiology and the insurance industry. Richard Price organised Thomas Bayes’ papers after his death, and wrote up the work on prior probability; which we know today as Bayes’ Theorem. Price’s professional and social network included some very well know influencers of his time. He was an honoured academic on both sides of the pond & in Europe; though his home town did not particularly rate him or his work, at the time of his death.

Over the years, much time has been dedicated to communicating different aspects of risk in different ways – using numbers, words, pictures or combinations. Research would suggest people tend to underestimate common risk and overestimate rare risk; they respond to risks primarily on the basis of emotion rather than facts, seem to be risk averse when faced with medical interventions, and want information on even the rarest of adverse events.

So, what is risk? The likelihood of a negative outcome (e.g. hazard; danger; peril; exposure to loss, injury, or destruction). Probability is the measure of the likeliness that an event will occur – a numerical value between 0-1. The mathematicians (and possibly economists) reading this, will probably at this point go off on a tangent considering aspects of probability: independent events, mutually & non- mutually exclusive events, inverse and conditional probability! Risk & calculated mutually exclusive events, inverse and conditional probability! Risk & calculated probability (real, perceived, calculated or guesstimated) underpin so many of our day to day decisions.

Chance also relates to the calculated likelihood of an event, but usually with a positive outcome. Calculated chances:

Did you know?

With 40 people in a room, there is a 90% chance that any two will share a birthday. Even with 365 people in a room, there is only a chance of just below 1 in 2 that any two will share a particular birthday.

So why have I chosen to write about this? Yesterday was Price’s birth anniversary & driving today on the M1 & M25 to deliver training in London certainly made me think about risk, chances & probability. Mmm I wonder why?

Day 25:  The good and the great

My post from yesterday (Risk, probability & chance) reminded me how when I was full time in the classroom, I would interweave my lessons (especially mathematics) with the lives of great mathematicians and their discoveries. I have to say the children (primary and secondary) loved it and so did I! Every class I have taught (from EY to highered) I always take a moment at the start of the journey/relationship to reflect;

“Sitting my class/learning environment is a future doctor, Prime Minister, housewife, scientist, builder, lawyer, electrician, plumber etc. and I want them to be both great and good. I want them to be passionate about whatever they do, and I want them to push the boundaries to discover new things”.

For me goodness is about character and greatness is about what we do. I don’t necessarily agree, therefore when people say, ‘Don’t be afraid to give up the good to be great’. I think it is more about ‘use your goodness to become great’.

I would also share my reflective aspiration with the learners and then spend time finding out what it is they want to achieve/discover. This dialogue formed such a strong foundation and synergy for our relationship. It also provided a basis for them to see how what we were learning together would help them achieve their dreams. Dreaming for the future is important, but without a plan of action in the now – it is simply imagination!

I dream for myself, for the children and others … and I think it is important for us to sometimes park the curriculum in the classroom and give our learners opportunity and space to dream and discover! The lives of people of the past who have significantly affected our lives today show us how sometimes our work can have an impact beyond our lifetime and in different contexts.

I end with an example that edifies this:

Pyrex is durable and affordable glassware most frequently used for baking. Pyrex was invented in 1913, when Bessie Littlejohn, the wife of the vice president of Corning Glass Works, asked her husband to bring home something from the factory that could be used as a piece of oven-safe cookware. Inspired by her suggestion, the company’s scientists began developing a new line of cookware. Two years later, Corning Glass Works released a complete line of glass baking dishes. Pyrex is still used today, including in my kitchen! The manufacturing process involves heating the main ingredient, silica, to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Pyrex glass is so durable, it has also been used in a number of other applications over the years, including in the windows of the space capsules used during NASA’s Gemini and Apollo missions in the 60s and 70s.

Day 26: NASA on my mind!

The wider universe and potential parallel universes fascinates me … as does the development of space travel. On my travels today, I saw Waterstones advertise their Book of the Month; An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. I can’t comment on the book; as I am still reading it, but the reviews are excellent!

Earlier in the week, I was delivering a keynote in Wokingham to SENCOs and TAS and I met one of the attendees; who has complex spondylolisthesis. We started talking about how this professional is still able to support children with special educational needs and disability in a secondary school and how her employers have gone out their way to make reasonable adjustments for her disability. At that point, I was reminded of my visits to NASA Space Kennedy in 2014. I was SO in my element. The history, the technology, the stories … I love the film “The Right Stuff”, the dreams and hope, the visions, the failures, the re-starts and so much more.

There are some who would argue – why waste money on exploring space, when we have so many problems on earth with people dying, poverty etc? I disagree. NASA (like other international space agencies) is using their learning from outer space to improve life on earth. For example, the astronaut suits are being tested to see if they can support people with a movement disability; particularly those with spondylolisthesis or other types of back or hip injuries. Space suits with sensors that operate in zero gravity can support a range of disabilities; if used in a therapeutic way. Still in the testing stage, the product has great potential. Watch this ‘space’ …

Maintaining the health of astronauts as they explore beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and conduct missions of many months or years requires increasingly sophisticated methods. Telemedicine provides medical care to patients who may be located far away from medical providers. The Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) developed by NASA in partnership with a hospital in Detroit is one example of an exploration ‐ driven telemedicine innovation.

Closer to home, life support systems for deep space missions (i.e. beyond LEO – low earth orbit) require early 100 % recycling capability. The European MELiSSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) is another example of a project which aims at gaining knowledge and intel on the development of a closed loop sustainable habitat. In collaboration with the industry, it has developed technology that purifies millions of cubic metres of water every day, in hundreds of towns. Furthermore, sensors developed to monitor the MELISSA recycling processes are now used in the processes used by terrestrial food producers. One of the bacteria microorganisms studied in the MELiSSA project has also shown potential use in the lowering LDL cholesterol- that’s the bad type of cholesterol.

These, plus protection from falling asteroids, space debris management and space weather monitoring are just a few examples of how space exploration is having a positive impact on our life. I am looking forward to diving into Hadfield’s book this weekend … but what has this to do with education, I hear you say? Education should be about discovery, but with a purpose! I am an advocate for social enterprise in education and I do think alongside the curriculum, we need to encourage our children to solve problems of today and tomorrow.

For more on Global experiments: why there’s a chemistry between social enterprise and education read my post from 2013 https://www.pioneerspost.com/comment/20131216/global-experiments-why-theres-chemistry-between-social-enterprise-and-education

Day 27: We built this city on rock and roll

I am in Liverpool today training heads, SENCOS and talking to schools. This song came to mind:

Say, “You don’t know me or recognize my face”

Say, “You don’t care who goes to that kind of place”

Knee deep in the hoopla sinking in your fight

Too many runaways eating up the night

Marconi plays the Mamba, listen to the radio, don’t you remember

We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll

We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll

Built this city, we built this city on rock and roll

… and yes, by now some of you reading this will be tapping your feet and humming the tune. The song was recorded by the pop group Starship (flashback back to yesterday’s post: NASA on my mind). Though the song relates to cities in the USA, it be could be applied to Liverpool. One cannot visit such a historic place without reference to The Beatles.

The Beatles originally focussed on skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll. Later they experimented with a range of genres including pop ballads, Indian music, psychedelic and hard rock. The Beatles thrived on incorporating classical elements through innovative musical arrangements. Yet their journey to fame and stardom was not an easy one. Their initial style was often ridiculed by a number of recording labels and they were scoffed at for their style. And yet they persevered. Not all of them lived long and as for prosperity – well that depends on your definition!

As I write this, news comes through on the passing of Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock) at 83. An actor who inspired generations to Live Long and Prosper! (from the Vulcan: Dif-tor heh smusma)

In his 1997 book, Nimoy writes: “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.” He certainly had an interesting take on life. His 1985 book re-affirms his identity in Spock. What many people often don’t know is Nimoy also excelled at poetry, photography and music.

Star Trek first aired when rock and roll was going strong, but given that it was a programme about the future; it did not feature the music except, I believe, the eighth feature film in 1996 entitled Star Trek: First Contact.

So, let me end with a quote from that film that links back to my post from Day 25:

“Someone once said, ‘Don’t try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history make its own judgments.'”

“That’s rhetorical nonsense. Who said that?”

“You did. Ten years from now.”

– William Riker and Zefram Cochrane, 2063

Day 28: It is finished

‘Tis done! #28daysofwriting and what an amazing ride it has been. I have enjoyed writing, but even more I have so enjoyed the luxury and privilege of delving into the reflective thoughts of friends and colleagues to discover so much more about myself and my approach to education/life. I believe and promote ‘the joy of learning’.

The concept ‘finish’ implies the end OR is it just another beginning? The company Finish would have us believe it is about completion and perfection … because that’s how they sell their product i.e. tick box – one less thing to worry about.

Looking back on my life, career and relationships – endings have tended to result in new beginnings. However, for that to be effective, I have had to make a conscious effort to consolidate the past, ‘dump any baggage’ and move forward. Sometimes an end arrives, and we are not ready to either let go or take on something new. In those times, it is important for us to find our space, and gravity point and welcome healing/growth to take place. A new equilibrium emerges … or indeed the caterpillar becomes a butterfly! But keep running/moving we must! We owe it to ourselves.

One of my educational and career backgrounds is in project management. Project cycles are set pieces of work over defined periods of time. I have always had a strength for the strategic, but effective and sustainable project closure is something I had to learn. Often through painful experiences, but nonetheless I grew! As I often tell the children, we need success and praise to build our confidence; but we grow and learn far more through failure.

In closing I would like to thank @tombarrett for his inspiration behind #28daysofwriting and @staffrm for hosting my (original) thoughts … and oh yes the memory mug! Something I will treasure. #grateful

Will I continue writing? I write regularly elsewhere, and I keep a diary. I have a blog for SEND and education stuff Edublogs/butterflycolour and I tweet!

Who knows what the next chapter will bring … but for now I am grateful for #28daysofwriting. Time for a cuppa!


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