Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Only Tip You’ll Ever Need To Stop Procrastinating

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It took me 15 seconds to begin writing this article and 30 minutes to finish it. Last year it might be anything up to a day to start and two to finish. Why the difference? One word: ‘Just’. Just start writing; just write for 2 minutes; just get your ideas down.

I realised that for most for my writing life I’d been accompanied by a writing demon – a voice in my head with a soft and charming message, triggered whenever I thought of writing a blog or a book or an article. Here’s what it says/said:

Make sure you’ve got all your ideas ready first. You’ve got the structure sorted haven’t you? Are you sure this is the right focus? Have you prepared? Do you know enough?

And then the next level kicked in: Are you sure this’ll be good enough? What if no-one reads it? Is there something better you could be doing?

And once I batted all that away and eventually got started, the demon came back, Oooh, nice sentence, great, well done, better re-read it from the start though – just to make sure it flows. Better edit it now. Take your time, you have to get this right. Make sure it’s really good.

You see, a clever little demon – of my own unconscious making.

But, saved by The Angel of Just my productivity has shot up. This angel has a softer and more charming message: she whispers,

Just start. Just write. Just keep going. Just trust the process. Just battle on through a misspelling or a clumsy sentence. Just keep going. It’ll be good enough and then we can work on it. Just do it.

When it’s done, the raw material is there and it feels good.

But watch out, demon is back, picking away at the editing; wanting perfection not excellence; questioning every decision. Angel responds,

Just edit for 10 minutes. Spelling, grammar, then sense.

Then stop. Go do something else for an hour. Come back, read it fresh, allow yourself JUST 10 changes and hit publish. Maybe take another look, tweak if you like. Then Stop. It’s done. It is what it is.

Where did this demon come from… I wonder if it’s school – the way I was taught to write? Or the misplaced pleasure of reading and re-reading a sentence or paragraph that I think works really well – instead of (just) pressing on.

Just do it. It’s better to have something that needs work than no work at all.

You’re going to do something now, aren’t you? Now you’ve finished reading this. Why not choose that one thing you’ve been avoiding? Whatever it is, just do it for 2 minutes. Just get started. You can.

Photo by Emre Gencer on Unsplash

3 Questions To Find Out If Your Curriculum Is Fit For Purpose

cel-lisboa-73969-unsplashThe challenge with having a curriculum that’s fit for purpose is knowing whose purpose  it’s fit for.

Is yours? Answer these 3 questions to find out:

  1. Does it anticipate the kind of knowledge, skills and qualities that your students will need in order to be successful citizens and global contributors, not now, not 10 years ago, but in 2030?
  2. Is it flexible, responsive, dynamic and evolving?
  3. Do your students authentically enjoy it?

Curriculum is an arena where opinions, biases, preferences and specialisms do battle for minds. If you’re as old as I am (52) you’ll remember the very first drafts of the National Curriculum and the reviews and revisions that followed. You’ll recall the struggles and the strife as we wrestled it into a workable format. You’ll also know that from 1999 (I think? I am 52 after all) we didn’t have to follow it any more. With a sigh and an eye roll we wondered what all the fuss had been about.

Science had started out with 17 attainment targets, each one broken down lovingly and accurately into sub-targets and descriptions of finely tuned academic success. It was a work of art (how ironic) – broad and balanced coverage, interesting and relevant content. And created with no regard whatsoever for the other curriculum areas – whose authors also believed that their subject deserved a big slice of the learning pie.

Eventually (Dearing Review) some sense of order prevailed and we had a workable document. Until the national literacy strategy hoved in to view. Urban myth has it that visiting Russian educators gasped in awe at the hierarchical rigor with which it was disseminated, noting that not even in Stalin’s hey day would a national requirement be delivered with such mechanistic precision.

And herein lies a problem: everyone wants a say. Everybody feels they deserve a piece of  YOUR curriculum, because everybody knows how powerful a document the curriculum is and everybody knows what’s best for (y)our children.  It tells the next generation what to know, what to do, how to be, and, ultimately what to think.

So with Ofsted’s re-polish of their inspection lens to look at what is taught and how (and why if ‘intent’ means what we think in means) we see a scrabble. Companies are betting on the curriculum content with new resources, consultants and trainers are reworking old material in anticipation of a scramble for curriculum help, and schools are wondering if what remains in their long term planning is enough, after the data driven content famine which laid their provision bare.

Is your curriculum fit for purpose? Is it fit for your children’s purposes? If not, how might you redesign it?

www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

Photo by Cel Lisboa on Unsplash

Why British Values Are Not Enough

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4 British Values

‘Necessary but not sufficient’: something I learned from my A-Level Maths teacher, the wise, modest and rigorous Mr Rooke. We were learning to prove things. With Maths. And to do this, certain conditions had to be met. They were needed – essential – but on their own were not enough. Other things were required – sufficient things to prove the theorem.

In order to write it’s necessary to have something to write with but that’s not sufficient. You also need something to write about and something to write on. For a car to move it’s essential to have fuel but not sufficient. You need a driver (or an AI) and somewhere to go. The minimum number of necessaries defines the sufficient.

Likewise, these British Values are necessary,

  • democracy,
  • the rule of law,
  • individual liberty, and
  • mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and
    beliefs

but not sufficient for a successful, future-focused, 21st Century economy.

Not a Critique

I’m not going to use this space to critique statutory requirements imposed without consultation.

Nor will I point to the irony that this imposition is undemocratic. I won’t dwell on the difficulty in actually defining ‘a value’ (is it a belief? or a quality? neither? both? something else?) never mind the challenge of any two people agreeing about what a specific value might mean in practice. No, this is not the place for that.

Or the internal contradictions: does individual liberty extend to rejecting British Values? Does mutual respect and tolerance welcome people living by a different rule of law? And is a rule of law actually a value, or simply a rule. Of law?

That’s for another time, another article.

I’ll suggest an alternative, or maybe an augmentation, or even an improvement.

6 Virtues

Positive Education proposes 6 virtues comprising 24 character strengths:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Humanity
  • Transcendence
  • Justice
  • Moderation

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It’s a fruit of the Positive Psychology movement founded by  Martin Seligman. For Seligman psychology, and its associated interventions, is not about deficit (I’m broke – please fix me with therapies and self-improvement). Rather, it treats each individual as a wonderful mix of  strengths which can be ranked and applied to their challenges. It’s not about whether you are strong or weak. It’s about discovering the different ways in which you are already strong and using this knowledge to grow.

Positive Global British Values

British Values read like restorative announcements. The virtues present as aspirations brimming with possibility.

But one can contain the other: it’s straightforward to map values onto virtues. For example, the virtue of Humanity includes kindness; Justice has fairness; and Moderation cites self-control and forgiveness.

kindness + justice + fairness + self-control + forgiveness = law, liberty, tolerance, respect and democracy.

The British Values are necessary but they are not sufficient for this (or any) country to successfully navigate the 21st and 22nd centuries. The world is changing fast: shifting political landscapes; the rise of AI in law, healthcare, weapons, coaching and more; environmental challenges; new skills for work and the need for enhanced ethical thinking. Being tolerant is not enough.

We need values which give us purpose in an unknown world; virtues that inspire us to be more; and character strengths that empower us to do more.  We need British Values and we need Positive Global Values too.

If you want to hear more about Positive Education in practice listen to this podcast where I talk to Amanda Burnell who has embedded the approach into her London school. I’m sure you’ll want to know your range of character strengths – try this free survey. And find out more about Positive psychology at the positivepsychologyprogram.

(Photo by Ethan Kent on Unsplash
Ethan and many others on Unsplash provide free, high quality photos for personal and commercial use. What virtues and character strengths do you think are present in this kind of transaction?)