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Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's not about you...

Of all the lessons to learn in life, the one I keep thinking I have learnt turns out to be the one I keep needing to relearn...

Namely, that nearly everything that I think or feel is subjective.

It doesn't matter how frustrated, annoyed, insulted, overlooked I feel, most of the time the thing that I have perceived turns out not to be about me or related to me in the way that I thought it was. Obviously this is also true about things that have made me happy but in this instance I would prefer to hang on to the happiness in blissful ignorance.

It is amusing that it is so easy to see this trait in others.  My mind wandered as I sat in an interminable meeting the other day. I started to wonder whether it would help to have a big yellow card with "It's not about you" written on it in bold that I could hold up referee style in meetings when someone starts wittering defensively in reaction to a perceived slight.

Now there's a feature that I would pay for on the new Google enhanced reality specs... A little flashing icon in the top left of your field of vision that no-one else can see and a voice in your ear that no one else can hear that says, "Calm down dear, it's not about you"


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Further reflections on reflecting...

Yesterday while in the queue for passport control at Heathrow, I was rung by a BBC journalist to ask my opinion on whether getting caught playing games on your mobile in a meeting is a bad thing.  Obviously my name is on a database at the BBC as someone who can provide a reasonably coherent quote on issues relating to office life as this tends to happen from time to time...

My response was that if it happened in a meeting that I had called I would probably be quite annoyed but would subsequently come round to wondering whether the meeting was necessary, whether I was chairing the meeting well enough or whether the person concerned actually needed to be in the meeting. [1]

Simple reflective practice... I smugly thought to myself and hung up in time to present myself and my daughter to the immigration officer.

On our journey from our plane through terminal one to the baggage reclaim we had been accompanied by a bouncy, slightly rowdy boy of about 8 years old who climbed the escalators the wrong way, pushed past us and shouted to his rather tired and exasperated looking father who trailed behind.

When we got to baggage reclaim I gave my daughter a hug and congratulated her on being so well behaved.  My wife pointed out that I shouldn't automatically attribute the child's behaviour to poor parenting as is was quite possible that the child had behavioural issues that had been exacerbated by our two hour delayed flight.

Doh! Not quite so smug now.

So, on the first or second day of the new academic year, allow me to life my hat to the all the teachers  around the world who are part of the only genuinely reflective profession.  They are confronted daily by 30 or more people who repeatedly highlight their failings and yet they find within themselves the humility to quietly ask themselves how they can do what they do better.

I should be more like you.

Have an excellent autumn term.

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[1] Entertainingly, when the story was posted on the BBC website an old friend forwarded the link to me and I suggested that he was obviously working hard if he had time to trawl the web for references to friends... He replied that I would be pleased to know that he had stumbled across the article during a conversation he was having with a colleague!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Self referential nonsense?

I notice that I have not blogged for a while.  In fact I didn't notice that I hadn't blogged for a while until I got an email from an old friend this morning saying she had enjoyed reading my blog...  I have a reader!

Co-incidentally this morning, I also stumbled across the fragment below which was written as a blog piece but not posted as I was away from wi-fi at the time of writing and then it was forgotten.  Given that its subject is about perspectives in time I think it just about still qualifies for sharing even though the events that provoked the thought happened almost 18 months ago.

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Speaking ill of the dead? Nov 2011

Recently I have been feeling like a stranger in my own place.  Things seem to be happening to British society and perhaps to society in general that suggest the emergence of a new orthodoxy[1] or group think.  There is one way to think and if you disagree with us then there is something wrong with you.

Take for example the recent death of Steve Jobs.  I know that he was an incredibly successful businessman and that Apple was briefly the biggest organisation on the planet.  But his obituaries have seemed more like hagiographies and I would not be surprised to hear that MBA curricula are being redesigned en masse to accommodate the supposed Jobs insights.

Yet Steve Jobs was far from a saint.  He appears to have been quite a troubled human being.  Whether these personal difficulties and his ways of dealing with them contributed to his and Apple’s success is probably too early to call.  Indeed it is too soon close the book on whether Apple triumphed in recent years because or in spite of Jobs; if we will ever really know.

We seem to be rushing towards conclusions ever faster, making up history as we go along.  I don’t know if this is because we crave more certainty or because we are asking fewer questions (intuitively I think it may be both) but I am fairly sure it is a bad thing.

The storm in a teacup over the remembrance day poppy seems to be another example of there being one right way to think.  In no way am I questioning the sacrifices of brave young men and women who gave their lives but this year there seemed to be some kind of moral obligation to wear the poppy.  You were a bad person if you didn’t rather than it being something you might chose to do in remembrance.

The issue over the English and Welsh football teams being initially banned from and then allowed to wear the poppy on their football strip is little more than absurd.  England had never worn a poppy on their shirts before. FIFA didn’t ban the poppy they simply have a long-standing rule against any messages (political, religious or otherwise) being displayed on shirts.  Why should it be an issue now? 

Then all the newspapers and politicians weighed in and it was not just the usual pre-frontal red tops and Eurosceptics asking whether we should tolerate this insult to those who had given their lives for freedom in two world wars, the Falklands, the Gulf and Afghanistan. 

Hang on a minute! Even a twelve year old will tell you that the first world war was not fought for freedom and as for the Gulf and Afghanistan I think we will need to wait at least 25 years before the release of documents sheds more light on the subject.

And this is my point.  The right answer today may not be the right answer tomorrow.  Assertions should always be and challenged and tested.  The way Steve Jobs ran Apple may have little or nothing with how to run your company.  If you want to keep learning you have to keep questioning rather than simply following.

I wonder with more and more “facts” being more and more quickly dispersed and shared throughout networks (which is essentially what social learning is about) whether wisdom may take longer to emerge?




[1] I am aware that the phrase “new orthodoxy” could be considered oxymoronic but I can’t think of a better way of putting it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Renewing my vows

Yesterday, I reaffirmed my respect for teachers and primary teachers in particular.  It's fully fifteen years since I last regularly taught primary children and yesterday I spent much of the day at Shirestone Academy in Birmingham. I had been invited by Principal Clare Lucas to kick off National Science week by talking about the Bloodhound Project in assembly and then running a balloon car lesson up to lunch time for year two.  While I was there I was asked to talk to year six for fifteen minutes in the afternoon about why science isn't boring and then I headed home.

And I was exhausted!  After only two and a bit hours of contact teaching time.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon stress testing the balloon car lesson with my daughter and fretting over whether year two would be able to cope with what is effectively a key stage two lesson.  Equally I worried about being found out for my fraudulent championing of science when I am actually a history graduate.  As it turned out I had no reason to worry whatsoever. The children, all of them, were wonderful.

When we asked them what they could do to improve their cars they came up with huge range of ideas: from adding more balloons, adding bigger balloons, improving the materials of the wheels from rather flimsy card, adding more Plasticine to the wheel/axle joint (but not so much that it made the car too heavy), making the car a better shape, not stepping on the car...

One of them even made the connection to Newton's second law, which I had introduced in the assembly earlier with the help of a skateboard.

My point is that any fool can get up and talk to children.  But to ensure that children of multiple abilities and varying interests are engaged and actually learning is hard work.  So hats off to those who do it every day!