Save Kids Lives

Famous film Director, Luc Besson has made a very powerful and hard-hitting short film about the perils children all over the world go through every day – just to get to and from school:

As educators, we can't just simply believe that our responsibility to children begins and ends at the school gate. We have to do all in our power to get them safely to the school and home again afterwards.

Risk in Growing Up

There is no question that attitudes to risk for children have changed enormously in my lifetime. A recent survey suggested that British parents were amongst the most cautious and conservative when it came to what they permitted their children to do and what risks were perceived to be acceptable.

This story, understandably, has recently captured a lot of attention:

CS Monitor – Ban on Tag

We have to wonder – if educators are going to decide it’s unacceptably dangerous for children to play tag, then what other games from my childhood would be considered well beyond acceptable. Not only did we have many variations on tag (including kiss chase!), but we also had games like British Bulldog. I’ve seen one website that described that game as ‘brutal’ whilst many call for it to be banned. However, we loved that game. Whatever happened to sliding down steep slopes on tea trays or fixing ropes on tree branches over a river to swing on?

Did some of us get hurt? Of course we did. Scabby knees was almost a permanent state for me growing up. However, i believe that the benefits far outweighed any downside risks. We learned resilience, team skills and communication skills. We learned to handle defeat and victory with humility and good humour. That didn’t mean we cared any less about winning.

Are we in danger of eliminating so much that carries risk from our children’s lives that we turn childhood in to a sterile wait for adulthood, devoid of joy, energy and life?

I’d love to hear others’ views.

From McKinsey: Building a design-driven culture

Design is being recognised as a significant factor between success and mediocrity.  In such a scenario I believe we have to be ready to apply similar design-driven thinking to education.  This will fundamentally influence and shape the experiences of all stakeholders,  but particularly the pupils and the parents.  I also believe it will equip the students to be far better design-driven thinkers themselves in the future.

Building a design-driven culture –

It’s not enough to just sell a product or service—companies must truly engage with their customers. Here’s how to embed experience design in your organization.

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Available in the App Store ( and Play Store (

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The Tennessee Pre-K Debate: Spinach Vs. Easter Grass : NPR Ed : NPR

What is it about education that makes people believe they can apply simplistic ‘band aids’ to solve problems?  Sometimes,  it’s even the wrong things being identified as the problems, so the band aid gets stuck in the wrong place.

In recent years politicians in many countries,  but particularly the US have wrung their hands over the lack of competitiveness of their education system.  Their responses are usually to believe that if they throw large sums of money and will power at simplistic answers they can solve the issues.

If our children don’t know enough to compete with children in other countries …….. start them learning earlier!  Genius!

Except,  it isn’t.  Because children are not widgets in a factory production line.  They are small people with developing minds.  Please read the article above to know what happened in one US state when lots of children got access to pre-school learning.  It’s not easy to unravel the data,  but my suspicion is that lots of these children got jaded early by having too much school type learning pushed at them at an age when they weren’t mentally ready for it. So,  putting it simply by the time they reached class 3 they had had enough.  They were bored and saw no joy in learning.

Incidentally,  children in some of the most successful education systems in the world start formal schooling later,  not earlier. So,  go figure!

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Practical Steps on Sleep Issues

I’ve written extensively about the hidden menace for children and young learners (and adults) regarding inadequate sleep, poor quality sleep and the perils of failing to have appropriate disciplines and strategies regarding sleep.

The evidence available today is so great that ignorance cannot be an excuse for creating situations where some children are significantly impaired in their learning abilities and scope to benefit fully from school.

It’s been interesting in recent months to see so many commentators, first in the US and then in UK, responding to the data that suggests that young people (particularly teenagers) are sleep deprived and suffering. Their response has been somewhat shocking to me – start the school day later! Quite frankly, this seems to be the wrong solution to the issue. I fear that all that will happen is – the start of the day shifts, so they’ll simply go to bed later still, spending more night time on social networking and other unproductive (but somewhat compulsive and dependency forming) habits.

This article from The Guardian offers, I believe, a far more reasonable response – educate children early about the role and importance of sleep, get them to introspect on the effects for them personally and then support and help them to form the right, positive habits to ensure healthy sleep patterns. This is a significant area where home and school can really leverage strong partnership for the good of the pupils:

The Guardian – Wake Up Call

Feedback in the Professional Learning Environment

The best schools are communities of learners, with the school Head fulfilling the role of ‘Head Learner’. The learning done by educators needs to be on a number of levels and benefits from being visible and transparent (students who see their teacher as a learner develop healthier, more positive attitudes to their own learning).

Whilst some of the learning comes from books, academic resources, training courses, conferences etc. there’s also a vital component that comes from growing self-awareness combined with tapping in to the knowledge and insights of colleagues. This requires a healthy climate for giving and receiving feedback and ‘open’ classrooms.

Traditionally, there was too often a culture of closed classrooms based on the idea that the classroom was the domain of the teacher, private and that school, leaders and peers had no right to intrude or interfere. However, one inevitable consequence of such attitudes was a lack of congruence or consistency of teaching in the school as a whole – each teacher ploughing their own furrow in their own chosen direction. It also meant that teachers weren’t learning from teachers – and that was a shame.

I have seen some awful situations where classroom observation was only carried out by members of the leadership team – and that too by accessing CCTV cameras in the classroom (so the teacher didn’t even know when they were being observed). This has nothing to do with growth, learning or leadership and everything to do with management, control and deep mistrust.

As trust builds between teachers and they get more used to being exposed to the observation of their peers in the classroom, the next significant step if the process is to offer real value is that the observer and the observed have to be both willing and able to engage in an effective process of feedback. Just sitting through 40 minutes of somebody’s class to tell them after, “Everything was nice,” is to do the courageous teacher who wants to learn a great disservice. However, equally, the delivery of feedback in ineffective ways can also leave teachers feeling hurt and disinclined to engage fully in such a process in future.

Therefore, i thought this little short video of ideas from 12 Manage offers a good starting list of perils to avoid in the giving of feedback;

12 Manage – 10 Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback:

The potential benefits are considerable. It's an area where we can all learn and grow, to reach mastery levels. In this way, trust in the process grows, teachers become more ready to open up and engage in two way processes. They also grow in confidence when it comes to revealing that they are learners and can benefit from the process. Win-win all around.

Are Work Habits Ruining Your Productivity?

In busy schools as much as any other kind of organisation,  if we want to raise standards and achieve at higher levels of excellence we have to be willing to challenge some of the ways we work. This very short video from Fast Company highlights some of the things regularly done that severely undermine productivity.  Reduced productivity means less scope to raise the bar in what we do.

The two that stood out for me the most were;  batching email and clearly understood open door times.  Unfortunately,  too many are guilty of treating email as a form of instant messaging that demands and expects instant responses.  This is enormously damaging to effective use of time,  especially on major projects. 

Years ago,  when I worked for a bank in an open plan office we were very concerned at the impact of interruptions on work.  Not only did it cause slower work,  it often caused mistakes.  So,  we implemented a system of flags on desks.  There was a clear understanding that if someone had their flag visible,  they were working on something and should not be interrupted for anything other than an emergency.  There were a few trust issues with individuals perceived to take advantage of the system to cut themselves off,  but once those were addressed all believed they got more work done,  to a higher standard (and could finish and go home earlier! ).

If we’re serious about raising standards we have to address productivity issues.  Just asking people to work harder harder harder cannot be the answer.  We have to all work smarter.

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