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Peter Henschel … On Learning

Learning is fundamentally social. Learning is really a matter of changing identity, not just acquiring knowledge. That knowledge is integrated in the life of communities. When people develop and share values, perspectives, and ways of doing things, they create a community of practice. The challenge to all of us in education, on behalf of students and organizations, is to create, negotiate, nurture, and sustain the communities of practice in which effective learning takes place.

(Peter Henschel, 1949-2002)

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The Writing Spirit

Feather Pen with WordsThis is a wondefully inspirational video about the spirit of writing, with tips and commentary from some of the world’s well known writers and best known philosophers. They share with us not only advice about writing – but sound advice about life itself!

For example, Sir Ken Robinson tells us “your best insurance for the future is to really think hard about the things you’d like to do and the life you would like to lead now.” Or, as Gary Zukav says “your life is a co-creative endeavour, but you make the choices.”

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What is Success?

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a recent post for our BJ Seminars International blog, The Sky is Falling, I finished with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This reminded me of another piece, attributed to Emerson, entitled “Success”. I remember being inspired by it many years ago, so searched for it again. You may also have come across it in your travels:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others,
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

But you may imagine my surprise, when searching on the web for these words, to learn that Emerson is not in fact the author!

[Read more…]

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Why Does Writing Matter?

I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird.

Anne is a published author who also teaches others how to write. Bird By Bird is a distillation of what she has learned about writing and ‘being a writer’ throughout her life.  It’s a witty, warm and practical read for anyone who writes – or who wants to write.

The last segment of the book resonated so strongly for me, that I decided to share it here.

When Anne’s students ask “So why does our writing matter, again?”, this is her answer:

boat_in_stormBecause of the spirit … Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on the ship.

For me her words were an affirmation and a confirmation.

So I’ll keep writing, keep reading – and have my shot at dancing with the absurdity of life.

Who wants to sail and sing with me? :)

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I Don’t Know

I’ve been listening to a lovely song by Lisa Hannigan, called I Don’t Know.

I’m  inspired to reflect yet again on the importance of connecting with other people and listening to their stories.

When I meet you, I don’t know anything about you.

I don’t know what your special gifts are; I don’t know what challenges you most. I don’t know what you like or what you don’t like to do.

I don’t know what joys and pains have carved out your being. And I don’t know what makes your spirit soar.

I don’t know until I listen to your story. Until I bring open ears and an open heart to time spent with you. I don’t know until I ask. And, as Alan Alda once said:

The difference between listening and pretending to listen, I discovered, is enormous. … Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you. When I’m willing to let them change me, something happens between us that’s more interesting than a pair of duelling monologues.

Here’s Lisa Hannigan singing I Don’t Know:

I also love the way that Lisa, as she sings, cuts paper to make a beautiful world out of the blank room in which she begins.

For me it was a reminder that listening to your story also helps me build my own world – because listening to your story helps me re-story my own.