On unspoken rules… Day 17

June 30th, 2014

Unspoken rules seem to govern much of life. I remember on a school exchange to Japan noticing that when on public transport people don’t speak, they don’t use their phones, you can’t hear music through headphones. There seems to be an unspoken rule that as an individual your actions shouldn’t infringe upon the environment of others.

Travelling frequently on public transport in this country, it’s an unspoken rule that some don’t seem to understand. I don’t expect the Japanese silence, but do I have to hear about your night out, your appointment at the doctor. Is it necessary to have your ringtone that loud and answer it after at least a minute of ringing. Headphones, they are to ensure that only you listen to your music.

Thankfully now there are quiet coaches on trains, though the definition of quiet differs between individuals. Perhaps we need to rediscover the benefit of silence, detaching ourselves from the world for a few minutes. Mostly though we need to rediscover the unspoken rule of not infringing on the environment of others.

On building relationships…16

June 29th, 2014

Anyone who believes that relationships within the classroom aren’t important are quite frankly foolish.

When you mention relationships it always seems to promote a bipolar argument between hyper-discipline and no discipline.

As always there is a balance, young people need boundaries and routines, they provide safety and allow for exploration. They also allow the context to develop effective relationships, no boundaries no relationships.

Fundamentally though the issue is one of trust; if I can’t trust you to be consistent in your expectations, how can we have a productive working relationship. Whereas the outside world is complex and chaotic, the classroom should be a calm sanctuary of predictability.

Don’t assume… Day 15

June 28th, 2014

One thing I’ve learnt in life is not to make assumptions, or should that be judgements, too quickly. I like to reflect on ideas or issues before I make decisions. Too often in the past I have made decisions based on my gut reaction, rather than think it through. I’m sure everyone has made the mistake of sending the angry email.

The same goes for people, I like to get to know people over time, trust is important to me. You shouldn’t make assumptions just based upon an individual’s work persona, this rings true for students as well; the face I present to the world is not necessarily how I am in private.

Energy… 14

June 27th, 2014

It’s old ground to go over that teaching is tiring, despite the holidays. At the moment I’ve lacking in energy. What the general public don’t understand is that during term-time and the holidays, the workload is constant; as a result it saps your energy over time, just like the battery indicator on my IPhone…

Sapping because with the exception, somewhat, of the summer holidays, you are always thinking about the job. It’s hard not to read a newspaper article or watch a T.V. programme without thinking about it as a resource.

It’s hard because mentally you come to a standstill, ideas become difficult to grasp, your creativity begins to wane; you have to take space to allow your mind to rest.

On Fiennes… Day 13

June 26th, 2014


I was lucky yesterday to be taken to hear Ranulph Fiennes’ lecture ‘Living Dangerously’ as an early birthday treat (thanks Jo).

It was less a motivational speech and more a meander through his expeditions over time. It’s amazing that he still continues to have his drive for adventure at the age of 70, though he was reluctant to reveal his next adventure…

As a geographer it was a brilliant first hand account of the conditions faced by humans in extreme environments.

My one lasting memory of the lecture is his selection process for expedition partners, he didn’t necessarily value experience or skill first, but motivation. When faced with the most difficult circumstances, the individual’s motivation was key to the expedition’s success, in some cases the individual’s survival. would the individual be able to draw on their motivation to drive them forward? Or would it desert them?

An interesting reflection.

On debate… Day 12

June 25th, 2014

I like a good debate, within education you can’t be too precious with your ideas; values though are a different issue, they are the core of your being. As Tony Benn said there are two types of people in life, signposts and weather vanes. Values act as signposts.

I like people to be honest when I present ideas, I like to hear alternate viewpoints. Though I may not agree with the perspective of another it challenges my thinking, often resulting in the evolution of the idea.

I think this perspective develops with experience, in the past I probably took such challenges as personal. You have to learn to separate your idea from the personal, allowing it the light of scrutiny.

Box Set… Day 11

June 24th, 2014

It’s interesting how our TV viewing has changed over time. In the past I would sit down to watch an episode of a programme at the broadcast time.

Now it’s unlikely that I would watch a programme ‘live‘, it gets recorded on the box. Often I end up storing episodes until I have a large chunk of time to watch them. The only issue is avoiding the spoilers on social media.

The development of the box set has aided this, I like the opportunity to get absorbed in the storyline, as a result I don’t forget the threads in more complex series. Watch Game of Thrones…

It’s interesting to reflect that this is the same way I work. I prefer to become absorbed in one task at a time. It’s also interesting that our learning in schools is much like the watching of a single episode. I wonder whether some students would benefit from the box set.

On sharing… Day 10

June 23rd, 2014

It seems I’m sharing less as I go on in teaching, perhaps it’s because I have greater responsibilities, may be I’m more focused upon the learning of students rather than the activity, perhaps I’ve run out of ideas!

The format of educational conversations have also changed. I used to spend quite a bit of time on forums, responses to posts were more detailed, threads developed over time. Ideas evolved through the conversations. The movement to microblogging seems to have encouraged the opinion, the quick link, rather than the more detailed critique.

I would encourage anyone to share their practice, even a simple idea can have real impact in the classroom of another practitioner. Don’t think it will be new to someone else…

We should be constructive when critiquing the practice of others; but we also need to be aware of the personal nature of sharing and the emotional exposure that it brings. Tread carefully… ideas and resources are born and nurtured, they hold value for the creator. More importantly offer thanks and encouragement, the kind word can be the greatest motivator.

On resting… Day 9

June 22nd, 2014

Today I won’t be near a computer, (I’m on my phone), I’m trying not to think of work, I won’t be working. I’m just heading back from town, after meeting a friend for coffee. A quick change, then I’m out for dinner.

One of most difficult aspects of teaching is learning when to stop. As a colleague once told me teaching is a marathon not a sprint. You need to learn to conserve energy. I take one day each week where I commit to doing nothing work related.

Though I’m prepared for the coming week, there is always something to be done, something that can be improved. The important thing is to recognise this and learn to accept it.

I’ve learnt to recognise the warning signs when I’m becoming too absorbed; taking time outside the bubble allows a better perspective, a more effective teacher and a better person.

Enjoy the sun.

‘Ooh look at my clematis’… Day 8

June 21st, 2014

are words that I thought I’d never hear from my mouth, but as time goes on I’m enjoying gardening more.

When younger I wanted to be a farmer, I even specialised in some agricultural units during my degree; but somehow I lost my interest. After university I lived in the inner city and had a yard, limited space to grow.

Perhaps it’s the downtime, or the opportunity to nurture and watch something grow, there’s great satisfaction in cultivating from a seed.

I see the same satisfaction on the faces of students who work in our agricultural unit with our talented manager, perhaps the relationship between growing something and your growth as a person is symbiotic.

Now just to get the lawn right!