Appreciating Teachers

A client walks in to a lawyer’s office, approaching the receptionist’s desk, “I’ve come to bring a gift for Ms X, my lawyer.”

It doesn’t happen. So, why do teachers think that they’re a different profession worthy of receiving gifts in gratitude? In my view there’s only one real significant benefit in giving a gift to a teacher – and that is as part of a family educating their children about giving, gifting and appreciation as part of development of values.

In other words, it’s really about the benefit to the giver rather than the recipient.

many years ago i worked in private banking. over a couple of years, we placed a big emphasis on raising our levels of customer service, sensitivity to the needs of our customers and empathy skills. The training included, among other things, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). There were many bi-products. Attrition/ turnover of clients dropped significantly. Clients spent more money with us, placing a bigger proportion of their investable assets in our care. As a result, our profits went up appreciably and we were well rewarded in salary increases and bonuses. But, we started to run up against an interesting problem. More and more elderly clients were leaving legacies to their account officers in their wills. Mostly, they were token amounts, but i had one client who was adamant that she was going to leave me over 10,000 pounds (a lot of money back then!). maybe it was for the best that she passed away the day before she was due to meet the lawyer to revise her will. Because, the truth was I was uncomfortable with her leaving me money for what I had done. My belief was I’d done my job and been a decent human being in my relationships with her and other clients.

In all my years as an educator I also feel I would have felt genuinely uncomfortable if a parent had ever given me a gift of any value. I also often felt uncomfortable when students gave all the praise for their examination achievements to the teachers, parents and tutors – as though they had simply made themselves passive recipients of knowledge and allowed the gurus to put the learning in to them. To be a true lifelong learner, the individual must see their educators as mere facilitators who assist them to acquire the skills to learn, lead them to the sources of knowledge and support them on the initial stages of the journey.

I loved receiving cards, drawings or letters from students and have often kept these as special memories. They frequently represented very spontaneous and open heartfelt messages from children. If parents were appreciative or thankful for how the school ran, face to face or through emails and cards – that was more than enough thanks. In the same way that one doesn’t give to receive, I believe true educators don’t give of themselves, their professional skills and efforts in the expectation of receiving something back other than the knowledge and evidence that children have been given the opportunities to begin their journey enthusiastically and with solid foundations as lifelong learners.

The Guardian – Secret Teacher – We Don’t Need Gifts – A Thank You Will do

Theory of Mind and Other People’s Shoes

Compassion is a key part of empathy. I believe any person’s ability to be compassionate or to practice empathy is completely dependent on one’s ability to step in to another’s shoes, or even beyond. In a lot of communication training, especially associated with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), this is translated in to first, second and third positions adopted. First position is where I see a situation or perceive through my own eyes, my own experience and beliefs. Second position entails the ability to put myself in to the other person’s shoes – for example in an argument or disagreement. Third position goes even further and entails the ability to float above the situation and both me and you’ to see the situation, to hear the communication and perceive the surface and deep level emotions on all sides from the position of a third party – a person who can see the situation without direct emotions related to it, the archetypal fly on the wall’.

One of the things that has been clear from research for some time is that not every person grows up with the same levels of empathy. Secondly, there is a growing body of evidence that empathy can be taught and a belief that ultimately we will prepare people for a better future (and maybe even contribute to a better world for all). I find that, all too often, one meets leaders (let alone others) who lack the ability to move to second position, let alone third position. Some may have lost the ability out of habit and some might never have really had it. Some seem to fear that taking anything other than first position will lead to them being perceived as weak, vulnerable in their leadership. The truth is really quite the reverse. The most effective leader is a listener, has the humility to admit when wrong and to adopt another’s position. Also, if we are unable or unwilling to step in to second position we will always struggle to understand the acceptability or otherwise of decisions we make.

As I’ve touched on in a number of other articles, we’ve seen some fascinating and intriguing discoveries over the last few years as a result of MRI scanning technology and the ability to understand what is happening in the developing human brain. As the following article explains, we now know what is happening in the brain of a young child at the time that they are developing a sense of ‘other-ness’, the sense that leads to the ability to see the perspective of others and to empathise. In time, I hope that this will lead to greater refinement of our understanding about how and when to teach empathy, to increase the level of social emotional skills of more children. However, I also believe that we will likely learn in time that there are some negative impacts and influences to be avoided or minimised, as well as positive habits and skills to be taught if we are to enhance the empathy levels of children.

Greater Good – Berkeley – What Happens in a Child’s Brain When They Learn to Empathize?

This is certainly a fascinating field of study to be followed in the future.

Understanding Differentness

This is a superb video that very sensitively helps children (and others) to gain insights in to autism, its impacts on those who have it and in a broader sense helps them to develop their sense of otherness, differentness and empathy. it's only as we develop the ability to step in to another's shoes that we truly can be empathic and welcome differentness.

More on Fake News & Digital Literacy

Following the blog post I wrote earlier, I came across this article just today from the US National Public Radio (NPR).

It introduces a game that’s been designed to help students and others discern the difference between real and fake news.

NPR Ed – To Test Your Fake News Judgement, Play This Game

An excellent idea – and not just for children!

Digital Literacy

Digital and media literacy are not just ‘nice to have’ add-ons in today’s education. They are real essentials as part of a balanced education that focuses on the development of the skills of a lifelong learner.

It has a number of different aspects to it, but at the deepest, most philosophical level, it begins with developing an understanding of what knowledge is, what learning is, truth, facts, reality and the due respect for one’s own and others’ knowledge, opinions and expertise.

When the internet spews out copious quantities of material it’s potentially all too easy to be slack, lazy and passive towards knowledge and facts. This leads to a lack of discernment and becoming easy to manipulate with false, misleading information that pursues a particular agenda. It can also lead students (and others) to fall easily in to the temptation to simply take the work of others and pass it off as their own.

The international Baccalaureate organisation sees plagiarism and ‘passing off’ as such a serious issue that it insists on the use of software like ‘Turn it in’ to check and verify that students’ written work is their own and genuine. They advocate that every school should have an academic honesty policy. In my experience, this is as important for educators as it is for students – we must lead by example. That means, we need to look at children of different ages, figure out what they need and what can be expected of them and then set out very clear expectations. So, at class 3-4 level, we might accept students copying and pasting lines from websites – preferring to focus on their skills of finding that information. as they get to class 6-7 we are likely to expect them to have mastered the skills of precising and taking that original material and putting it in to their own words. By the higher classes we should expect that they not only write in their own voice, but attribute the sources from which they have drawn in their research.

‘Fake news’ – the spreading and sharing of questionable factual information to pursue particular political agendas is worrying many, but especially educators, as evidenced by this recent article about the debates and discussions at the leading US IT in education conference. The article carries details of some new resources that are beginning to be developed to help teachers address these issues with students:

The Journal – ISTE Participants Respond to Spike in Fake News Websites

Science and the Public

I’m not a scientist by learning, or particularly by disposition. However, I believe in evolution, that smoking cigarettes is harmful to health and that global warming is caused by man and is a real and genuine danger to human life in the future if not adequately addressed. The reason I believe those things is because I’ve had access to the work of scientists freely available in the public domain in a free society, read or watched a reasonable amount and then made up my own mind.

There’s a fascinating question that is a very live issue right now. That is the extent to which scientists should become public advocates for a particular perspective. This has become a hot topic as the new American government seeks to gag and sideline scientists who speak out about global warming and climate change.

The viewpoints of the opposing sides, and probably the most appropriate way forward are set out very articulately in this podcast:

ABC Radio – The Science Show – Can a Scientist be a Sentinel?

This is valuable material to share with science students who may never have really have reflected very deeply on the ambiguity, at times, of scientific facts, dogma and the ways in which science gets co-opted to put forward particular views and perspectives by those with an agenda.

World Business and Executive Coach Summit (WBECS)

The world of coaching is, some would say quite appropriately, an environment of high innovation that leads the way in many ideas. After all – shouldn’t those who seek to guide, influence and propel forward today’s leaders be in the vanguard of initiative, drive and innovation?

One thing that has been a leading trend with the coaching field for some years now is the inclination to willingly and consciously share free information/ material. I remember some years ago when researching early interest in coaching models and frameworks coming across a website created by the late Thomas J Leonard that had a large section of free downloadable resources; forms, learning materials and other stuff.

So, it wasn’t such a surprise to me recently when the WBECS promotional material included the link to a page of videos that were part of the pre-summit. The pre-summit consisted of a large number of webinars, most featuring speakers who will be part of the ongoing summit. Most of these were live at times that fit with the US time, so it was a bit tough to follow them. So, I was especially pleased to see a page that took five of the most popular webinars and shares the recordings of them.

They’re each about an hour and I took something of value away from each. If you don’t have that much time to spare, my recommendations would be the second on ‘the paradox of leadership’ and the third on ‘mutlipliers’.

WBECS – 2017 – Cinema

I hope these stay available for a while. If the link stops working, give me a shout in the comments and I’ll take this post down. In the meantime, I’m sure WBECS would be delighted if you were inspired to sign up for the summit.