Sunday, August 27, 2017

Food for Thought: Going Deeper with Empowerment

Dear all,

When I started this weeks Food for Thought I was going to share the article, seven magic mental health questions that every teacher should know. I still recommend that you read it but after this introduction. When I first read the article I took it at face value identifying difficult problems that we are constantly facing as we try to walk the talk of our mission whilst balancing that with our own workloads and life balance. Our mission encourages us to be welcoming and supportive of all our students but finding the time for this can be challenging. Hence my original thought was that this article might be of interest as it outlines seven questions that we can use to maximize the time that we give to students when we notice they are not firing on all cylinders, are stressed or have a problem. We could probably use the same questions with our colleagues when we note they are not their positive selves.

But then my mind started to go deeper and think about the framework that these questions started to create. This reminded me of the philosophy of stoicism and how we can control our lives by following well defined set of principles.

This started me thinking about empowerment and our desire to give students the skills necessary to take control of their lives. This provoked me to do some research and I began to realize how many characteristics of a stoic philosophy would be very useful for our students in facing the challenges of the 21st century. Especially as this philosophy is not passive but encourages the taking of action. During my search for information I came across this TED talk by Tim Ferris where he talks about how defining fears rather than goals has helped to set him free from depression and anxiety. When you watch this TED you will clearly see how useful his structured approach to facing fears could be for empowering our students to take control of their lives.

Throughout my research into stoicism Seneca was mentioned many times and this quote was a key one for Tim Ferris. I found this interesting because it links with what we learn about our mind from mindful guru's such as Eckhart Tolle.

Image result for we suffer more often in imagination than in reality

So, I have added a short talk by Eckhart Tolle talking about how our mind creates a delusion of self which is framed by words and statements that create concepts that the mind seeks to use to frame who we think we are. Of course if we apply the Tim Ferris framework to thought generated by the left of our mind and our ego the it would help us  uncover their true meaning and perspective and counter them with truer logical thoughts. Great leaders such as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Nelson Mandela applied the principles of stoicism to their leadership and life's. Marcus Aurelius even created a set of meditations that encouraged stoic thinking.

Now when you read the article Seven Magic Mental Health Questions Every Teacher Should Know you can put them into a deeper philosophical framework of stoicism that could reinforce our mission goal of empowerment.

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Food for Thought: Should we be advising our students to follow their passion?

Dear all,

This week's Food for Thought should make us think about the idea that has become quite popular of encouraging people/ students to follow their passion and they will be successful. What is interesting is that there is more and more research, articles and talks that would suggest this is not the best advice that we should be giving our students. What becomes clear in these studies is that there is far more to following your passion or in other words doing what you think you like most than at first meets the eye. Like most things we do at school there is a great deal of background thinking and development that needs to be undertaken before one is able to identify a true passion and one that one has the skills to follow successfully.

We often associate Sir Ken Robinson's book, The Element,  with an encouragement to follow our passion whereas in fact the book is about identifying/ uncovering your talents which will lead to having a passion that you will enjoy. When talking about undiscovered talents I always remember the story that Sir Ken and Sir John Jones tell about the High School that later became the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and the fact that the then music teacher who taught Sir Paul McCartney and George Harrison, 50% of the Beatles, wrote school reports that said they had no musical talent.  Makes me think about how many students I may have misunderstood in my career. Anyway, here is a short video, 3 mins, in which Sir Ken talks about finding ones element.

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame,  raises some serious reservations in these two videos about advising people to follow their passion from his experience of working with people employed in over 200 different jobs. The first video is short. The Second is a TED which is quite humorous for the first 10 minutes talking about sheep rearing (castrating sheep) so if you don't fancy spoken imagery on this topic jump to around the 10 minute mark where he starts to talk about the idea of work and passion.

Reading and watching other articles and videos it is clear to me that we do need to develop a scope and sequence or at least a systematic approach to encouraging our students to discover their talents and then develop the skill necessary to follow their passion. We also need to recognize that it may not be their passion that they end up following but this is Ok as well. 

To end this week's Food for Thought I want to share this article, Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bad Advice, because it encourages the development of 7 habits, some of which we already think about in our classrooms, that which when applied to ideas like Google Hour, Think Tank Thursday, Passion Time need to be taken more seriously if we are going to be producing students who genuinely make the most of their talents and are successful in life.

Here is the conclusion to Why Follow Your Passion is bad Advice:

"Is passion a bad thing?
Understood rightly, no. But as the be-all-and-end-all? Yes.

Cal Newport’s prescription was skill: passion is the result of excellence, not it’s source.
Far from a magic bullet, passion can mislead us, blind us, and even turn us in on ourselves. Newport was right: “‘Follow your passion’ might just be terrible advice.” Thankfully, these seven habits put passion in its place so that the fire Jobs spoke of doesn’t burn out … but endures."
Have a good Sunday,


The great thing about blogs is that you can add extra stimulation and so here is an additional TED related to multipotentials that i shared before but fits well with the idea of following your passion. simply what happens if you are multi talented and therefore don't just have one area of interest.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Food for Thought: Words for the future.

Dear all,

Thank you for such a magnificent start to the new academic year. Everything about the last two weeks and especially the first three days with students has demonstrated an immediate engagement with our mission and vision. Greeting and talking to students at the front gate has been such a positive experience as the majority wanted to be back at school and said they thoroughly enjoyed their first few days back in classes. Not many schools can boast this degree of enthusiasm for going back to school at the end of a long vacation. Well done for creating this welcoming and engaging environment.

Rose Hill

This week's Food for Thought is aimed at drawing your attention to a concern going back a few years regarding the provision of vocabulary that narrows students horizons and interests to the world which they are experiencing every day rather than the wider world which they could experience.

Preparing for the future will usher in changes to our lives and the skill that are needed but we will need to be careful to not over react and dismiss all the good things that existed in the past and that should accompany us into the future. There is definitely a need for balance. Nature and how we perceive it is one of these areas. As Richard Louv pointed out in his classic, Last Child in the Woods, it is important if we are to protect our environment that children today, and in the future, maintain a connection with nature. If not he argues we will be facing a crisis of nature deficit disorder and future generations will question the need to protect our environment. Just because children today appear to spend more time indoors with technology, than outdoors in the wild of nature, doesn't justify the changing vocabulary available in modern children's dictionaries over the past few years. If anything affirmative action should be taken to support words associated with nature so that children can ask questions about nature and want to explore it more. 

Here are some of the words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary over the past few years that caused a storm amongst many renowned authors:

acorn, adder, almond, apricot, ash, ass, bacon, beaver, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, boar, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, budgerigar, bullock, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, dandelion, diesel, doe, drake, fern, ferret, fungus, gerbil, goldfish, gooseberry, gorse, guinea pig, hamster, hazel, hazelnut, heather, heron, herring, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, kingfisher, lark, lavender, leek, leopard, liquorice, lobster, magpie, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, mistletoe, monarch, mussel, nectar, nectarine, newt, oats, otter, ox, oyster, pansy, panther, parsnip, pasture, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, poppy, porcupine, porpoise, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, raven, rhubarb, sheaf, spaniel, spinach, starling, stoat, stork, sycamore, terrapin, thrush, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, weasel, willow, wren
These are words that have been added:
allergic, alliteration, analog, apparatus, attachment, bilingual, biodegradable, block graph, blog, boisterous, brainy, broadband, bullet point, bungee jumping, cautionary tale, celebrity, chat room, childhood, chronological, citizenship, classify, colloquial, committee, common sense, compulsory, conflict, cope, creep, curriculum, cut and paste, database, debate, democratic, donate, drought, dyslexic, emotion, endangered, EU, Euro, export, food chain, idiom, incisor, interdependent, MP3 player, negotiate, square number, tolerant, trapezium, vandalism, voicemail

What does it say to you about how publishers view the future? Strange as there is so much research linking our well-being to nature and being outside in the countryside and yet here we are influencing our children's understanding of the wild by restricting their vocabulary. Here is a good article that encourages getting children into nature.

Here is what Terry Williams thought: "If we can remove words from a dictionary that are so alive with meaning, and withhold them from our children, removing what is alive in the world becomes easy. The wild is no longer part of our vocabulary." Source: Terry Tempest Williams, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks

Lots for us to think about in the way we develop our balanced curriculum and learning environments.

Have a good Sunday,