Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A guest Blog by Fred Garnet: Purpose of Education and Learning: Wealth or Wisdom?

Tomorrow at BeBright Projects we are starting an "Open Space" discussion on What is the Purpose of Education: Wealth and Wisdom.  BeBright Projects is two businesses at the moment, a nursery for 6 months to 5 year olds and a Training Centre for adults, parents, entrepreneurs, businesses and Learning professionals. It is a new collaborative venture between Kate Faragher and Cher Walker Moore.

Fred Garnet is visiting research fellow at London Knowledge Lab and City University. As he says himself he "now work "liminally" on any project that will help create a socially-just participatory democracy". 

He certainly knows about education and has written this blog which are his ideas about the discussion title: What is the Purpose of Education and Learning: Wealth or Wisdom.  Here are his views:

Purpose of education and learning; wealth or wisdom

I regard education as a *system* designed by policy-makers and owned by academics.

Learning however is what each individual comes to understand about the world when they address it in whatever context they are in, formal, non-formal or informal. Mostly learning takes place despite the disciplines of education, and often takes place in failing to follow it's structures. Consequently one of my mottos is "learning is owned by the learner" and we should respect that (see "Trust the Learner" for more).

LINK to "Trust the Learner"

I learned most about learning and education when I arrived at Lewisham College to teach computing in 1982 having been kicked off a PhD in political science at a rich American University; a drastic transition from near the top of the pile to near the bottom, or so it might seem.

I quickly learnt that everyone wants to learn, especially in colleges which we call "post-compulsory education" but may not have the "literacies" required to understand the extraordinarily odd educational settings that we provide for learning; formal, hierarchical, authoritarian, rigid, inflexible and power-based - all captured in how we structure "our" knowledge in our subject taxonomies.
After learning the craft of teaching as a lecturer (which teachers in the main do not) I realised that what I needed to do to be effective, and useful, as a teacher, was to act as a "broker" between a daft education system, which I vaguely understood due to my "success" within its confines, and "my" learners aspirations and, more precisely, their interests. In FE, unlike the more obsessively monitored confines of our National Curriculum school system, I could operate "androgogically" and negotiate learning outcomes with each individual. Not only this but I made it my personal mission to teach my kids how to think. You can't teach wisdom but you can enable people to find their own way in the world with thinking tools of their own. This exercise in mutual respect, once I was trusted (which really had to be earned in Lewisham) meant we both benefited. They became empowered to deal with the world as *they* saw it, and I felt purposeful because I had made a difference to ordinary people. And that can be the only purpose of working in our appalling education system; trying to make learning happen. Not to better understand the taxonomies underpinning academic structures, not to learn the valueless greed of capitalism, nor to try and offer shortcuts to the worlds wisdom, but to provide the people you are with, however they are labelled, with a belief in themselves and some ways of thinking that can enable them to engage with the world for themselves.

In my view our singular Education system creates "losers" and then blames them for their inability to behave in the predetermined academic manner, whereas no-one loses out when they are learning.  Learners are people who have leaned how to think for themselves and can solve new problems that arise in the world, which is a kind of wisdom in the now. They are not interested in the false dichotomy of wealth or wisdom, nor in stealing shortcuts to them; that would only impoverish others... Perhaps a better form of wealth lies in not making others poor?

If you trust the diversity of people they will figure things out for themselves, and so for all of us.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

What Acting can teach you about Management and Motivation.

 I was at a Christmas wreath making workshop on Friday and I met a lovely group of 6 people.  One woman kept on going on about how “old” she was.  I realised towards the end that she was a year younger than me.  I don’t feel in the least bit old. I’m aware of my mortality a bit more than I was but nearly 50 for me isn’t old.  I have a young daughter who is nearly ten and have just launched two businesses.
Getting ready for the workshop.  Oops is that Champagne!! 
My wreath in place. 
So what is age and how do you make people feel they are young rather than creeping towards retirement? How do you increase engagement and motivate staff who have been doing the job for longer than they care to remember?

One of my first jobs out of drama school was to work at the National Theatre on the Southbank in London.  I was old starting as a professional actress as had already gone to University and worked in the BBC for two years. We were all ages from teenagers to octogenarians.  Sometimes the “youngest” people in the room were the “oldest” and vice versa. It made me realise age was a mindset.  Just like the roles we were playing, age was a role we took on. 

However we do get stuck into a way of thinking.  My business two years ago was really hard work juggling my main business and the local voluntary work I was doing.  I said to my friend, who is 15 years older than me, I was going to start taking it easy.  She said why?  I couldn’t answer the question. She said if you’re fit and healthy why take it easy? Now is the time to do something challenging because later you might not be able to.  I could sit back on my laurels and do what I always have done but this gave me the impetus to be brave and challenge myself. 

As we approach the later half of our life, finding our motivation and vision for our future can be challenging.  Our parents may be getting ill and we need more time to care for them.  We are becoming aware of how aging is affecting our bodies.  Our children, if we have them, are growing up and into the “fly away” mode. So what can we do to find or keep our motivational mojo?

     1.    Be Present.  One of the things acting teaches you is to live in the moment.  To listen with your whole self so you can react to what is around you. As a manager it is essential to listen not just to the words that people are saying but to their change in body language or behaviour.  So often we don’t feel heard and it is a managers role to listen out for challenges their staff might be facing.

Only when we are present can we listen to our instinct more closely and be bolder in our choices..

I was coaching a manager who every day came down the stairs to see her staff in action. She was worried about morale.   The staff cringed every time she walked down the stairs, expecting to be told they were doing this and that wrong. 

The manager was challenged to go into the room keeping a simple phrase in mind: “go into the room looking for something that interests you”.  With this phrase she walked down the stairs and rather than telling the staff what to do, she watched and listened and praised the staff for what they were doing.  This new approach changed the way she managed going forward. It kept her in the present and helped her listen.

We can also do this for ourselves.  Go for a walk – even if it’s on the way to work or lunchtime.  Take just 10 minutes and be present.  Now look around.  Find the things that interest you.  Be present.

     2.    Be Spontaneous.  If something interests you say YES to it – you never know where it might lead you

Just the other day, I took a detour on my journey home to look inside a building I’ve always been curious about.  It felt uncomfortable but my curiosity keep me looking for a hall I’d heard about from other locals. Sure enough 30 seconds later I bumped into a neighbour.  It turns out they may be looking for nursery places for their staff and I have just opened a nursery with my business partner. If I hadn’t listened and acted on that moment I would have missed the opportunity.

You can even read a whole book on it. One book is about persuasion called “Yes – 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion” by my favourite persuader, Robert Cialdini.  This is a great introduction to his work. Or if you’re looking for something more light hearted and fun Danny Wallace’s book “Yes Man” looks at a year in his life where he chose to say “Yes”.

There is so much about saying YES in theatre too. The rule of improvisation is the phrase “Yes, and”. Aim to say yes to what you’re given and then add to it. 

So what can you say YES to that will support and help you? And no that doesn’t mean you can say yes to every Christmas drink and canapĂ© going!
The building I popped into

      3.    Speak the values of others.  We all give hints about what our values are.  We are motivated by what is important to us. So if someone talks about their family time or their hobby time a lot, you can pretty much guarantee that it’s important to them. So align a work goal to a value goal and you are more likely to get buy in.  It starts with listening and then requires you to link the two goals. 

One of our staff members is thinking of retiring in 10 years. She had started doing some work for us on a temporary basis and was looking for full time work. An opportunity came up for a full time place in our office.  To motivate her to think about taking the role we aligned her passion of training to the role alongside a 10 year prospect of achieving a goal to be a trainer before she retired. She enthusiastically took on the new role.

How can you align what is important to you, into everything you do, to keep you motivated? A great exercise is to simply write down one hundred things that are important to you in your life.  Then take the next few weeks to contemplate on it.  See if you can reduce it down from one hundred to ten.  Notice you can’t just jump to the ten you have to take time to write the hundred first! The way our minds work is we often put the front of mind stuff down first eg make money, family things, dream things and then once we get passed 20 we start to get down to what is really important to us. Try it out.

The great thing is we can do this immediately.  Be present by looking around you.  Look for things you’ve not seen before, look for the detail or things that interest you.  Find the beauty in what you see. It can sound corney but it can unravel you out of your patterns.  It can free you up to concentrate on your vision and goals and it can keep you young and curious! 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

GUEST BLOGGER Anthea Chatten looks at Raising Children with Good self esteem.

I'd like to introduce Andrea Chatten, a Children’s Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist and Author of The Blinks novels

Andrea will be delivering one of the first workshop/ lectures at the Opening of the BeBright Project Training Centre, Kitto Road SE14 on Saturday 12th November between 2pm and 4pm. The talk is aimed at parents who have children of ten years and above.  The topic will be on how to understand the emotional journey our children go on and what we can do as parents to support them. 

I'm so delighted we can offer such an exciting trainer as one of our first offerings.  More details about how to book tickets will follow but here's a little bit more about Andrea and an article that will give you an insight into the course and Andrea's approach, which I'm sure you'll agree is unique and powerful. 

Andrea has been working with vulnerable children for over 25 years in Sheffield and has decided to create a whole new professional area to help children and their parents and carers to develop positively. 

Check out her website here http://unravelcebpc.co.uk

She has some amazing testimonials from children and parents.  I can't wait until the 12th November to learn more techniques.  

As a teacher I very quickly specialised in children who presented with emotional and behavioural difficulties. I recognised it was my role to educate them in maths, English and the ten plus subjects that they needed to be taught, however it was also very obvious to me that these children needed more. I felt passionate and committed to help these children understand some of the difficult and complex feelings that they had which hugely affected their well-being.  No matter how clever they had potential to be, unless they received lots of emotional understanding and different ways of doing things, these kids could miss out on the most important thing we want for children - happiness.

When I became a parent I found myself challenged with the level of responsibility and pressure to ensure that my children did not become as emotionally vulnerable as some of the children who I had worked with for many years. Parenting was by far the most difficult job that I had done as it was the most important. Don’t get me wrong the love and commitment I had for my class really wasn’t much different to what I felt for my own children but this role was about me helping my children evolve from the blank canvas that they born as.

As parents we are fundamental in how our child’s canvas develops. How much colour is present? How much grey? How the colours are dispersed, how bright those colours are and more importantly how appealing the final product is within our culture.

Raising children with good-self-esteem takes patience, huge, regular bundles of patience. As children translate patience into love. Patience means being gentle. Patience makes us listen more actively. Patience means we find time in this crazy fast world to stop and just be in the moment with our children. This love then becomes locked away inside of children and activates a core message that runs through them like a stick of rock. In order for children to develop a good level of self-esteem the message needs to be positive - “I am ok. I’m not perfect, I have faults but I am ok. I am worthy of love.”

Reading this may make you feel pressured as it is your job and you, like every parent has made mistakes. You too just need to be ok, not perfect, you have flaws and bad days too. I had to have a serious word with myself when both my children were small. Coping day to day with sleep deprivation, a hungry breastfeeding baby and a toddler was tough. Some days I was not the best Mum. As I had only ever worked with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, it seemed so easy to mess up children and damage their self-esteem. Please let me reassure you now it isn’t that easy.

Long term damage to self-esteem develops over time. Not from a bad day here and there, though how we re-engage with our child afterwards is essential. Apologies and explanations mean we take responsibility for negative actions and don’t leave them with the child. It also means that we model real emotions and make mistakes a normal part of being human.  If we don’t re-connect emotionally afterwards, that can make children feel like it is their fault and they aren’t good enough. It is this internal dialogue that can also begin the spiral of low self-esteem.

Children’s self-esteem starts with us. We have to find as many ways to show children that we not only love them but like them. Also it is essential that if our children have pushed us[ac1]  into going off them, that this stage is only ever temporary and we the parents get back on them as soon as possible. 

Children are highly sensitive to this emotional withdrawal and that too fosters low self-esteem.
Raising children with good self-esteem is not difficult if we practise positive parenting and keep reflecting throughout the process. None us are perfect but with love, patience, and emotional warmth our children’s canvases can be bright, colourful and most of all happy.