Sunday Brunch: I Choose me

Its been a really difficult 6 weeks, in this time I have hot the depth of dispair, dropped 3 stone and basically lost my smile. I feel like I smashed through my rock bottom and was left looking up at the world from a basement. Wanting to join in with the world but completely unable to muster the strength and confidence to do so. I was a shell of the person I was 6 months ago.

For 6 months long hours, constant fire fighting, putting everyone first and no self-care had desimated my energy reserves. So when 3 life events hit all at the same time I had no energy, cognitive ability and resiliance to bounce back from being hit by the sledge hammer of life. I am by no means saying that I would have instantly bounced like nothing happened. I am sure however, that if I had kept up todate with my self-care I would have found structure from the insuing chaos sooner.

As teachers we know all about self-care, not all of us live it though. Some of us abide by the rule “do what I say not what I do”. We say smoking is bad while we are counting the seconds till our next puff. We say “make sure you eat breakfast” after we have skipped breakfast and lunch for the last six weeks. My personal favourite, “dont drink energy drinks, there so bad for you” when we are on our 6th cup of extra strong instant and it is only the 1st period.

To be honest I am talking about myself here and not educators as a whole. But if this chimes with you it maybe worth thinking about this. I only take advice from people who walk the walk and genually live the reality they are talking about. So why am I doing the oppersite and expecting learners to walk down a path I wont dare to.

Learners are switched on, they know when advice is genuine and when it is from a book. They are more likely to follow advice from someone who lives that reality rather than someone who has read it in a book.

So as we approach christmas I have made a pact with myself. Choose me, when its a choice between meeting my needs or someone elses I will choose myself first and then support the other person to meet their own needs. This whole episode has taught me one thing, I cant help others if I dont help myself. I am far more effective and impactful when I am healthy and stable. To achieve this state I need to look after myself and that means putting me first.

In the season of giving, what have you decided to give yourself? So you can give more to others.

Its not selfish, because I am a better person, more helpful and more present when my needs have been met. I like to think of it as a bank account the more I pay in through looking after myself, the more I can pay out to others.

In this season of giving I have decided to:

  1. Spend 2 hours a day on me, this could be reading, blog writing, gym, and/or meditation
  2. Have structure to my day and keep to it. This will insurr I will always have something I can predict.
  3. Write 3 micro achievements a day.
  4. Eat 3 meals a day
  5. Be organised with my time and learn to use this organisation to say no and set boundaries.

Over the next few blogs I will discuss these 5 items in more detail. But for now I am just gonna leave this here.

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A week of reflection

Its been a while since I have posted and I was motivated to write this post due to the recent discussions about school exclusions. Most focused on the teaching, school challenges and national policy. Only a few focused on the children at the center of this epidemic.

I have read a lot about the challenges that schools are facing with the changing needs of young people. I am driven by a question ‘what are the challenges faced by young people in education?’. I see this as the key to finding a solution to the exclusion epidemic currently facing schools. If we stop for a second and look at schools, teachers, uniforms, and lessons from thier view point what do we see, feel and think?.

Every Sunday my twitter feed is full of posts about “that Sunday feeling”. Our young people are no different. Especially for those young people who challenge the education system. School to them can be frightening, seen as a real challenge to life and an opportunity to fail.

There is a whole host of research about teaching stratergies and cultures that schools can adopt in order to engage and progress learners who have challenged. But is there an equal amount of current research from the young persons point of view. What makes a good teacher? Why do you engage here but not here? What would a good school look like to you? We have a lot of well educated and engaged people looking at this problem. But do they truely understand it? Do we instead need a body of people who have experienced these challenges to guide our approach?

For this Sunday, I am thinking about where research should focus its efforts when looking at the rise in school exclusions. How about joining the conversation…


Finally Finished

I have tried to read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful” book several times. However, and quite satifingly, I have finaly finished this book. It is packed fully of useful insights and new ways of opperating. Although I will offer a fuller reflection on the book later on, I will summerise my feelings here.

The book starts by concentrating on you and what you can control. Its a simple self deterministic approach to opperating. Self management and self leadership are the principles laid out in Habits 1, 2, and 3. Covey suggests that working with controlables allows us to increase our influence over the uncontrolables.

Being proactibe is an essential element of this book. A theme that is consistently repeated through out the book. Starting with the circle of concern then the mission statement and planning document. The essence of being proactive and creating time to practice activities that will allow you to be proactive are explained.

The misson statement is an essential element of the book. A frequently revised destination for all the habits to build towards. This is, as Covey puts it, the essence of proactivity. Because you have devised your destination you are able to make decissions based on this destination. However, this statement is also about how you want to live your life and identifing whats important to you.

The Covey planner and the Covey quadrant are high effective tools that I have started to insert into my weekly practise. I have already started to see real results from this habit. I knownit is having an effect because the week that I failed to plan was an absolute mess of a week. Again this element builds on the mission statement, you plan to complete tasks that will help you achieve your mission statement.

This leads into the quadrant, the mission statement, planner and quadrant allow you to identify task that prevent the occurence of fire fighting. You identify the preventative tasks by knowing your role and your mission statement. Again simplicity is the key for Covey here.

The following Habits (4, 5, and 6) are focused on making us more interdependent. Esscentually how we can improve our relationships. Its all down to communication and listening, not just to the voice but also the body. The habits of Win/win and “first understand and then be understood”, lay out a pattern and expectation of how we can all get something from our discussions. Covey makes it clear that a third way exists in every conversation and negotiation win/win. With this he says your not only problem solving but also influence building.

Habit 7 is all about how you keep yourself in optimum condition in order to produce. Its about working on yourself, building your physical, mental and spiritual capacity.

I really enjoyed the book and after reading several Self-help books I see this as the foundation of them all. All the other books build upon the principles in this book. Although these books may meet the needs of differing people. This book is the source or origin of many of the processes explained within the rest.


The Good Psychopath: how to boss your life.

A plain speaking book full of stratergies to help you become more effective. What I like about the book is the explanations of the acience behind the stratergies. It is done covertly, Andy McNab and Kevin Dutton give us stories and examples to illustrate the importance of the stratergies. These exchanges are blunt and funny which helps you remember the key pieces of information.

It is a short book that can be completed in a matter of days, which adds to its attraction. The book is also split into each to manage sections that take you step by step through the key strategies that McNab and Dutton feel will help you improve your approach to life. The bit that caught my eye was the description of how to work smarter and how to separate work from life. So much so that I have changed my start and end of day processes.
One of the key things is “to get started”, in this vain I have decided to:
  • Get to work early.
  • Turn the computer on.
  • Make a coffee.
  • Start on my todo list from the night before.
Another key point is to check emails at certain times my times are:
  • 8:30 till 9am
  • 1230 till 1pm
  • 4:30 till 5pm
In dealing with emails the book suggests that you respond or delete straight away, dont leave them to gather. If you need a response bcc myself in and have a file that you can check. However, for someone who writes to much, keep the emails to five lines and try to do all the emails in a certain time frame. Say 30 minutes, find, sort and dispatch.
Talking about time, McNab and Dutton explain that optimal is 90 minutes of work followed by 15 to 20 minutes of break. Completely away from work, now this maybe difficult in working within teaching however there are things you can do to escape. Tied to this is the need to spread your work load throughout the day, dont try tospread the energy expenditure.
At the end of the day, to ensure you leave work at work the authors describe the need to get everything out of your head. Because you just waste energy hanging on to it till the morning. They suggest a shit down process, like you would a computer. You write a list of all the loose ends everything that you have not sorted. Place it in the middle of the desk for the next morning. With this information I have devised this end of day process.
  • Write down all loose ends
  • Priorities the tasks into the quadrant proposed by Covey.
  • Shut down the computer
  • Reflect on day
    • Have I been better than the day before?
    • What has gone well?
    • Even better if?
    • Have I kept to my strategies for organisations?
I hope this will allow me more time to concentrate on the important thing, the students.
What are your new routines for the academic year?

Sunday Brunch: Satisfaction with life….

For this weeks Sunday Brunch I was hoping that we could start a conversatuon about life satisfaction. I read an interesting piece of research about our young peoples levels of satisfaction with life and school. Namely that our young peoples life satisfaction has dropped to 1990 levels. The longer term trend shows thay life satisfaction has been dropping for sometime and shows no sign of letting up.

Whats changed in 10 years? Between 1990 and the mid 2000s, young peoples satisfaction with life was climbing. However at the turn of the decade it started to fall. Today all those gains have been wiped out and we are back to the 1990s level.

  • So how has this happened?
  • What caused the initale increase?
  • How did society, schools and families support this growth?
  • And finally, what has changed in order for this surge to be reversed?

We are seeing a lot more learners seek help for their mental health. However, this not nessarily mean that life satisfaction is dropping, the increased education on mental well-being could be having a positive effect on learners willingness to disclose their struggles to a professional. The data could,on the other hand, be a reaction to an ever changing society. More tests, increased exposure on social media and economic struggles. I dont think the data on life satisfaction is down to education alone. I think every teacher knows this, they have seen it. I am know really interested in whats caused this drop.

 

My First Month

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In my previous post’s I have talked about Growth Mindsets, Pressure and Meaning. As we all approach the start of the new academic year I want to reflect on what I have learnt from my first full month of Blogging. The topics covered are not the sum of large equations or some academic book, but still sometimes these actions are hard to perform on a regular basis. So in an effort to deepen my own learning I felt compelled to write this blog.

I guess I will start at the very beginning:

Whats on my SignAt the start of the blog I decribed how one young man attended a Goo Goo dolls gig with an A3 piece of paper. Scribbled on the paper where the words:

“let me play guitar on ‘Name’ with you”

After much booing the band finally allowed the young man to join the band on stage. The young man, although clearly nervious, smashed it! he played out of his skin, he wowed the crowed everyone was on their feet cheering and clapping. This was his moment and he took it with both hands and delivered something special, for himself and the crowed.

What I took from this event, over thinking like I do, whilst also influenced by Dr Petersons book, Maps of Meaning was “whats on my sign?” and “who am I pointing it at?”. What meaningful activity or task do I want to complete in order and who do I need to ask in order to achieve this outcome. I normally talk myself out of putting my hand up or making my desires known. My negitive self-talk frames such activities as opportunities to fail not oppertunities to succeed. As our brains are biased to accept negatives over positives, these statements gain a foot hold and grow in credance until I am swamped with thoughts of hidding and backing out. However, Dr Alred may hold the key:

Affirmations

One of the key theme’s of Dr Alred’s book ‘The Pressure Principle’ is the reframing of activities or actions from aviodance to approach, from negitive to productive. In an effort to allow your body to perform the skills you have tirelessly practiced to perfection with out the interferance of concious thought. While the sequence of practice and training embedd the skills sequence within the subconscious the affirmation acts as a trigger for it’s performance. These affirmations have the ability to raise our levels of confidence while also focusing our minds on key points. For instance one of my key affiramtions for work is:

“No limits mindset means I am only in compertition with myself”

I wrote this to remind me that I need to work at the edges of my comfort zone, that every experience is a learning opportunity and that I can only measure myself against yesturdays performance. Another saying that I stole from Dr Alred was “busy getting better”, again this focuses me on whats important. That being in the ugly zone is positive because the frustration is an indicator that I am still growing. I can get quite dispondant with my own performance when I fail to perform a skill, but these affirmations seem to be helping me focus on the next steps rather than lamenting the failure.

Do Something MeaningfulFrom reading the ‘Ten Humans’ I got tranfixed by the strength of the individual stories Dexter Dias described. In the face of extreme challenges, including civil war and locked in syndrome, with a courage and persistance bourne of following a meaningful path. Not to gain favour with social media, fame or money. They persisted because the aimed to achieve something that had trancedant meaning. This revalation has started, inch by inch, to change my life. By doing what is meaningful I am focused on supporting rather than distroying, this book taught me to make a conscious choice to pick up the right end of the stick.

“We can counter damaging behaviour of one type by triggering another”

Enjoy the ugly zone

Learning is frustrating, it can seem endless and soul distroying. I do sometimes get distroyed by this endless process of frustration, I run away and hide in plane sight. However this is what we ask our learners to do every single day of the week for 32 weeks of the year. We ask our learners to get frustrated, fail and learn. It would be wrong of me not to join them on this journey. By focusing on doing something I truely believe is meaningful to me and others, by making this known to others, by using affirmations to focus on the process while keeping me resiliant to fall out from the failures that WILL occur I hope to really grow and help others to grow this year.

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SUNDAY BRUNCH: Growth Culture

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On the wall of the gym at Bristol Bears

Rugby club the following quote is etched on the wall:

Bristol Quote 2

As we know from my pervious quote, flashy wall displays do little to promote a growth midset, its actions we need. At Bristol its seems that the quotes are embedded within their culture. As I have recently been told at a behaviour management Inset:

Culture

The first clue that Bristol players opperate within a growth culture is the words of their leader, Pat Lam. Within his interview with BT Sport Pat Lam suggested that at the end of his working day he asks himself two questions:

“What have I done well today?”

“What do I need to do better tomorrow?”

The second clue was Pat Lam’s focus on creating the right culture from the very first day he arrived. His first act, getting the players and staff to create their own hand shake. This hand shake has many conatations. It ensures all players, as one player put’s it, “are on the same page”. So Pat Lam has a Growth Mindset, he is constantly focused on improving the players, staff and himself. The second, Pat Lam knows how to build a culture that all stakeholders buy into.

The third and final clue is his own history as a coach. You only have to look at Pat Lam’s previous club, connaught. He not only took them from the bottom of the league to silverware. The team also went from a team containing no international players to 13.

Now you would be completely within your rights to suggest that it is just blind luck that 13 star players suddenly matured at the exact same time that Pat Lam was at the club. We also know from Dweck, Dr Alred and Dr Hymer that talent is just the starting point, it takes persistence, purposful practice and a love of learning to develop this talent in to world class performances. However, I personally think that the odds would be stacked against this occuring. So I guess my question for this version of Sunday Brunch is three fold:

  • What actions, tasks and/or habits make someone world class regardless of their talent levels?
  • What stratergies and behaviours promote a growth mindset in others?
  • what actions do you, as a leader, need to take in order to build a growth culture that every one buy’s into?

Please leave your comments below


“Its not just laminated posters”

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I am really buzzing about the inset I attended today. To see everyone enthused about the learning process was a sight to behold. It was like a day long festival of learning that enthused all staff throughout the organisation. Everyone from the principle to the caretakers took part.

The title of the day was “Love Learning” with a key note speech from Dr Barry Hymer. It is the doctours speech that has still got me buzzing some 4 hours after he bounced off the stage. Dr Hymer had this crowd of expecting teaching professionals eatting out of the palm of his hand. I have always found teaching a classroom of teachers nerve wracking. Its like having 30 or so inspectors in your class all judging your performance. Dr Hymer had 300 plus in his classroom today. Through reflection points, well placed topical jokes and a sprinkle of crowd participation he delivered an inspired session on growth mindset.

Model the growth mindset quotes dont just laminate them

We have all seen the bright laminated posters hanging on the walls of schools and colleges. They add colour to the corridors and a give a sense that the school is focused on promoting growth mindsets in all their learners. Dr Hymer suggested that the development of a growth mindset requires more than just platitudes, it needs teachers support workers and business support staff to model these behaviours, to model a love of learning. To me this meant that Teachers should remain a learner at heart, ready to demonstrate through actions and words that they utter.

I can become complacent in my thinking, insisting that quotes are all you need in order to develop a Growth Mindset in others. When that does not work, maybe a video of someone quoting the very same words that have been etched on a poster. But in actual fact, learners need to see you in the ‘ugly zone’ as Dr Alred puts it. From this inset I am kind of continplating with the idea

Talent

Growth 2

Others.png

Commited

Ugly

This could involve the teacher admitting when a mistake has been made, sitting back and allowing a learner with more knowledge to lead andsharing your own experiences of getting learning wrong. The to the above statement are important,

With

For me partnership is a key characteristic of a successful learning enviroment. When asking others to continually enter and live within this frustrating of experiences. I think it is important that we are willing to join them. This reminds me of a story I once heard (I will paraphrase here:

“A man is walking down a street one day when he suddenly falls down a steep sided deep hole. After struggling to escape this hole for several hours the man slumps to his knees and starts shouting for help. Soon a passer by walks by and hears the sound, he walks to the edge of the hole. The man at the bottom shouts up

‘Help I have fallen down a hole and I cant get out’

Wait there the man at the top replies as he runs off, on his return the man throughs down a rope. Several tries over several minutes and the man is still unable to clamber up the sides and out of the hole. His helper, soon wonders off to find more help.

After several hours another helper stumbles on the hole and looks down into the abyss. The man again shouts up:

‘Help I have fallen down a hole and I cant get out’.

The helper wonders off again and returns with a very long ladder. The helper lowers the ladder into the hole but it is to short to reach the man at the bottom. No matter how high he jumps he just can not reach it. Again the helper wonders off to find more support for the man.

After a few hours pass, the man at his witsend notices his friend looking in to the hole. He shouts out:

‘Help I have fallen down a hole and I cant get out’.

The friend on hearing this, jumps into the hole. “what are you doing!” the man shouts at his friend. To which the friend replies:

“Helping! It’s ok I’ve been down this very same hole before and I know a way out”

I believe that the learners want to know that you are with them, that you have been in that very same hole yourself. They want someone to model themselves on (follow) as the try to discover the skills and knowledge they need to find their way out of their hole. So show them your commitment and love of continual professional and personal development. Share stories about how you learnt and how hard you found education. Make yourself human! Don’t just lower a ladder or a rope, jump into that hole and learn with the learners!

The Making of Awsome

From Bounce to Black Box Thinking Mathew Syed has inspired many an adult to achieve more. His books have also become perminant fixtures on a lot of teachers bookshelves. His latest book ‘You Are Awsome’ is focused on engaging with children. Its colourful and creative illistrations grab your attention immediatly. Inside tha pages are a mix of large fonts, small paragraths and illustrations highlighting the key points. At 156 pages, the book is also short in length.

The language used by Syed is easy to understand and desceiptive. He paints pictures in your mind and allowing your imagination do the rest. With activites and an accompaning workbook this could be a very useful tool for parents and learning support mentors. This ‘how to’ guide could be utilsed by schools and parents to help children achieve their their dreams. A book such as this could inform the development of an motivational curriculum aimed at those learners who seem a little lost.

Full of useful stratergies and quotes this is a book for all children. However, for parents thinking about using this book with their children, think about the delivery. How will you break the book down? How will you use language to deliver the key points? How will you reinforce the behaviours you want your child to adopt? Can you adopt the very same behaviours and in so doing role model what you expect from your child? Be your childs coach!

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