Thinking Through Peace

By |27 February 2022|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , |

Two starving children; only one orange. What happens? The Mémorial de Caen commemorates the WW2 Battle for Caen and, more generally, the fragility of 20th century peace. Displays, events and an education centre offer the 'terrible story of the 20th century in a spirit of reconciliation'. I visited a while back and collected a host of classroom ideas. The most significant came from a U.N. conflict resolution workshop. The scenario: two starving boys sitting either side of a table on which there rests one orange. The prompt: what happens next? Fighting is the obvious answer. Only one boy can prevail, [...]

Thinking Through War

By |25 February 2022|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , |

I'm sitting with my father watching the television as Russian tanks roll into Ukraine. He was 11 in 1939 when Chamberlain announced war. He tells me how his mother burst into tears at the news. She'd lost three brothers in World War 1. How are you representing Europe's first land war in nearly 80 years to your pupils? Front and centre? Passing comments? Opportunity for Q&A? Revised curriculum? Nothing unless they ask? Whatever your approach, try 'jus ad bellum' as a thinking framework. The principle sets out five conditions for going to war. Here they are with relevant thinking prompts: [...]

A Christmas Message from the Ministry of Learning

By |7 December 2021|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |

Dear Teachers. Dear Leaders. Dear Inspectors, Advisors, Specialists and Consultants. Dear anyone who dedicates their professional life to creating a better future for our young learners. Dear Educators, The Ministry of Learning would like to take this seasonal opportunity to offer you all a heartfelt Thank-you! Not a strategic, mediated or political one. A real one. A real, genuine, authentic Thank-you. Thank-you for choosing the one profession that creates all the others. Thank-you for your resilience, your strength and your perseverance in the face of daily volatility and uncertainty. Thank-you for your flexibility, your dynamism and your pragmatism in responding [...]

Open Letter to Teachers, Leaders and the DfE

By |16 November 2021|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , , |

Holding too tight, it slips through fingers; bearing too much, it breaks. You know me, I'm tough, I'm resilient. There's nothing rocks me. Ever. But see this tear here on my cheek. That's new. Headteacher 15 pages of vacancies on the website. There's usually 1 this time of year. Headteacher I am a coach, a trainer, a mediator. I'm trusted in confidence to listen without judgement; to question with purpose and to challenge with integrity. Therefore I hear the unfiltered, the unmitigated, the hard facts and raw emotion of how it is in schools right now. In 30 years I've [...]

Your Best Professional Life: How do You Score?

By |19 October 2021|Categories: Culture|Tags: , |

  My son, severely dyslexic, was nurtured by nursery school, near-destroyed by upper primary, rescued by secondary and launched into the world, skilled and confident by university. I offer gratitude unbounded to my fellow educators who contributed. He's now thriving in a job he loves; one that uses his talents, respects his passion and understands his gifts. His company is simply the next stage of learning (albeit paid). It aspires to build a workplace where employees have, 'No better professional life.' Expectations are high, as are committment and working hours, but my son and his team have the flexibility and [...]

You Cannot Save the World (But We Can)

By |23 September 2021|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , |

  French helps here: Tu (singular, familiar form of you) will not, on your own, save the world - from whatever it needs saving. But vous (plural, formal) just might. All the yous together make an us, a we, an ourselves, that can do this - if we choose to. We can mitigate some aspects of climate change; we can change attitudes; can beat viruses; can end hunger. We can make sure every child on the planet is fed, loved and educated. We can make our world a kinder place. But will we? Will you? Will you add your tu [...]

The Sad Truth About Happiness

By |20 September 2021|Categories: Culture|Tags: |

  My sister sends me two WhatsApp messages each day, without fail, At 9am: Good morning Mike and Lucy. At 9pm: Good night Mike and Lucy. Less frequently and less predictably she might ask, Wot have you been doing today? or announce that, The wether is nice here. I reply with brief, predictable messages of my own and occasionally add, How are you feeling today? Her answer is always the same, I am happy today. And, of course, she is. My sister is well cared for in her sheltered accommodation. She gets on with her flat-mates, has her own space, [...]

Four Words for 2021

By |22 December 2020|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , , , |

I didn't choose them; I heard them at a Gallup webinar last spring: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. The Gallup folks suggested businesses use each one to guide a pandemic response. Thinking Classroom had just lost 90% of its income and its biggest client (out of the blue; not related to COVID) and didn't qualify for any government support. The advice was timely and meaningful. Those four words saved the business; enabled it/me/us to look outwards instead of in, to look beyond close family, beyond extended family, past neighborhood, city, nation and out to our irrevocably connected world. Work shifted [...]

Elizabeth and her Kids

By |18 June 2020|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |

Eventually I decided to invite Elizabeth to my online Zoom training. She'd given birth to twin boys in May but was happy to bring them along. She's not sure where their father is at the moment. Most of the other delegates laughed when she logged on. But that didn't surprise me; you've not seen Elizabeth. She didn't say anything and only stayed for five minutes. I've not seen her since but I did email afterwards to see if she was OK - and to say how much we valued her visit. Elizabeth is a four-year-old goat. She lives at Cronkshawfold [...]

The Same Sun

By |31 May 2020|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |

I'm in my 178th Zoom meeting since lockdown. For once I'm not the host. I can enjoy this one in a different way. Twelve of us are arranged neatly on the screen: F from Nairobi, W is in Idaho, B North Carolina and S from what looks like a studio flat in Sweden. Others call in from Germany, Denmark and the UK. It's 1930 BST. The sun is bright and yellow and low. It cuts in through my office window and hides half my face. On screen I'm very film noir, like most close up shots in Blade Runner. This [...]

COVID-19: Losses, Gains, Transformations.

By |26 March 2020|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , |

JakeI remember Jake from my first year of teaching; shaved head, small for a 10-year old, wiry, quick. Never quite in trouble, never quite on task. He lived in a tower block with his mum and her boyfriends. He thought everyone had six dads. He never smiled. One day I raised my arm in front of him; pushed my glasses up. He flinched and his little fists came up. Poor Jake. That one hard-wired action showed me his whole life. How often had he defended himself against peers and those supposed to protect him? Jake's home life was a cauldron [...]

COVID-19: Our Wicked Teacher

By |14 March 2020|Categories: Culture|Tags: , , , , |

Murderous SneezeI'm standing on platform 1 at Bristol Temple Meads Station. A young woman nearby sneezes into her hand. The train pulls in and she gets on ahead of me gripping the handrail by the carriage door - with the sneeze hand. Four more people touch the rail after her (I don't). I see one of them touch his mouth; another rubs her eyes. Later, at my destination, I shake a colleague's hand and realise afterwards that I've touched my mouth before and after doing it. And so a virus might ride its way around our herd, leaping, sliding and [...]

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