Archives for June 2009

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Decisions, Decisions …

Conventional wisdom says decision-making is a logical, linear process. We start at a certain point, think about it, weigh up the pros and cons as we go along – and move forward logically to a final decision.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? And if it comes to deciding whether to have a cup of tea or coffee, it can indeed be easy. A quick and simple process.

But when a major decision is has to be made – one involving a large investment of money, energy or emotion – the process is almost always far messier than that!

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those interminable conversations with friends or family members where we (or they) flip constantly back and forth between “Yes” and “No”.

“Yes, I’ll buy it…. No I won’t…. Yes I will…. No perhaps not.”

Or a situation where a relationship is on, off, on again, off again …

Spiralling DecisionsAnd so it goes on.

When this happens we can become very impatient with ourselves, our relatives or our friends. We wish we – or they  – could stop going around in circles! Covering the same ground, over and over. It can be so irritating. So exasperating!

But there’s another way to see what’s happening. In reality it’s not so much a circle as a spiral. Each time we revisit the ‘same ground’ we’re actually doing so at a higher level. Each spin takes us to space that’s clearer, calmer, stronger. Until finally the decision is clear and we’re strong enough to act.

So when we feel we’re spinning in the middle of a decision-making circle, we need to remember we’re actually travelling an upward spiral.

Each spin is taking us one stage closer to a final decision.

We’ll get there! Just take a deep breath, trust the process – and keep travelling that spiral to its apex.

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Invisible People

We were in the city, at a cafe before a show. It was a cool evening but, warm enough in our coats, we were sitting at an outside table sipping our coffees and chatting. Vaguely aware of all the others at tables around us simlarly engaged in their lattes and conversations.

Hands Holding CoffeeSuddenly behind me, there was a bit of a disturbance. I turned to see an elderly man in a shabby coat being hustled back to the street by a waiter. Apparently he’d been begging at nearby tables.

As he vanished into the night, I glanced around and saw folk simply going back to their coffees and conversations as before. Nobody seemed concerned. Nobody else turned to watch him leave. He’d been hurried off like an embarrassment. None of us had talked to him or found out his story. Nothing.

It was as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn’t existed – as if he were invisible. And I wondered … did anyone else feel sad?

A couple of weeks later, we were again in the city for another show. Three of us were drinking coffee at an outside table at the same cafe.

This time a woman approached our table and asked for money. Very thin. Unkempt hair falling over her face. I don’t know how old she was, but she sounded tired.

I looked up at her and said “Would you like something to eat? To drink?”

She said she’d like a cappucino, so I rose and went indoors to get one. When I returned and handed her cup, sugars, spoon and paper serviette, our hands touched briefly. Hers shook a little.

“Thank you. Bless you!”, she said. And was gone.

What? Bless me? But I’d done nothing. I’d not learned her story. I’d not asked her … anything! I’d not helped her. All I’d done was buy her a coffee. It was nothing.

And yet … perhaps at least she’d been visible. And maybe that’s something.

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A Passionate Plea

Imagine ….

KeysYou enter an organisation and sign in. You’re given keys to hang around your neck or clip to your belt. There’s A Block, B Block, perhaps even H Block. You unlock each door as you enter and lock it again as you leave. Any infractions of the rules by the inmates mean they ‘go on report’.

It’s a prison or a juvenile justice centre, right?

Wrong!

It’s a large, modern high school.

And in some of the classrooms in these modern schools, teaching and learning are still following models that were in place over thirty years ago.

Sure, there are whiteboards instead of blackboards – but students still copy reams of notes from the board. The textbooks may now be in full glossy colour with new information – but many of them are being used in the same ways they were used all those years ago. All the students are doing the same thing at the same time from the same textbook.

Teacher-centred learning, policing of uniforms and ‘out of bounds’ areas, a focus on the rules and processes for detentions, suspensions and expulsions.

In these classrooms and schools, how are students engaged, connected and encouraged to experience a love of learning? How do teachers retain the ‘fire in the belly’ – the passion for their craft – and avoid falling victim to the ‘don’t smile till Easter’ brigade?

Where is the 21st Century learning? Where are multi-age classrooms, multi-ability learning, problem-solving, students being involved in decision-making about their own learning, self-reflection and self-assessment? Where are the creative uses of the wonderful new technology that’s available?

TeacherIt’s certainly out there! In many schools there are individual teachers who are inspiring their students. Who are reflecting, dreaming, collaborating, implementing fresh and exciting inititiatives. And there are students who are fully engaged and encouraged to become the best they can be.

And there are whole schools around the world doing things differently to make a very real difference for both students and teachers.

For example,  there’s Thembaletu Primary School in George, about 450 km from Cape Town in Africa, which has 25 teachers, 983 students –  and only 20 computers!  Here the Principal is leading the way in the use of technology, changing classroom practice and changing the face of learning for both teachers and students.

There are schools like Sherbrooke Community School, in Melbourne, Australia, where curriculum is negotiated with the students, there’s a whole-school meeting every morning that’s chaired and minuted by students, and student learning becomes increasingly self-directed as they go through the school.

Or  Heathside School in the UK, where the “Imagine Heathside” project involved all those in the school community in co-creating a better future.

So here’s my plea to all those teachers who are energizing our schools …

Wherever you are, shout out. Please tell your stories, and encourage your students to tell theirs. The world needs to hear your voices!

And please don’t let the pressures or constraints of ‘the system’ get you down or burn you out. Know that the work you are doing is appreciated and is making a difference.

Your experience, your skills and your wisdom are sorely needed today – perhaps more than ever.

We need you.

Our children and our young people need you.

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I Remember … A Boomer Tribute

I remember …

SuePlaying outside after school, roaming the neighbourhood at will and only having to be home for tea.

Long trips in the car, sleeping in beds made up for us in the back of the station wagon. There were no seat belts in those days.

Watching The Lone Ranger, Wagon Train and Rin Tin Tin on TV, translating the stories into all the Cowboys and Indians games we played with the kids in our street.

Mr Magoo, My Favourite Martian, The Beverley Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie … and Richard Greene as Robin Hood.

The Mr Whippy Van and melting soft icecream in cones, with a Cadbury Flake chocolate protruding from the top.

Adults tapping their feet impatiently behind us, when we kids took ages to choose sixpence worth of mixed lollies from behind the glass counter at the milk bar.

Working proudly as an ‘ink monitor’. Mixing powder and water to make the ink then filling the inkwells in the desks

Building cubby houses, go karts and defendable forts out of boxes, sticks and other scraps we found around the yard.

When men first miraculously landed on the moon. A couple of hundred of us packed into the school hall, watching in wonder the grainy images on a black and white TV.

Seeing the Vietnam marches on TV. Wishing I could be there too, but my parents wouldn’t let me because I was too young.

SueTown hall dances, with their customary ‘progressive dance’ when the back of my dress became damp from sweaty hands that steered me around the dance floor

Purple brushed denim jeans, lime green and purple floral shirt and platform shoes.

And for all of you who also remember these things  …

… here’s an amusing update on our lives! :)