Perspective on Children in Nature

My sincere thanks to Madhu Maam for sharing this article with me, so that I can pass it on to all the blog readers. Madhu Bhatnagar has been the guru on all things environmental to so many of our children.

Please read:

Children in Nature Article

What Winners Do Before Breakfast

For us educators the summer break is a key, critical time to stop, pause, take breath and evaluate what we are/ are not happy about or might want to change. Therefore, it struck me as the perfect time to be sharing this piece looking at the time utilization aspects of getting our working days off to a great start.

I read somewhere recently, in another context, that stopping a habit we don’t want or establishing a new effective habit we do want takes around 3 weeks for most people. That’s 3 weeks of regular, conscious, monitored effort.

So, for all those thinking that they would like to try something new, here’s an article from Fast Company, previewing a new book;

Fast Company Article

I struggle to work out whether I really am ‘ a late night person’ rather than ‘an early bird’, or whether this really just amounts to me excusing away the habits I’ve accumulated. I’m tempted enough to try it out, to see whether being up with the larks might carry worthwhile benefits for me.

To make it happen, I guess that my blog writing will need to become more of a morning activity, so that I get to bed earlier – still, I think it’s worth a try and vacation time is the best time to experiment.

So, here goes………….

Mind, Brain and Education

When I first started to transition in to the field of education from my previous career, part of the motivation was curiosity and interest in the learning process, how it works and how it might be made more effective. At the time, maybe naively, I believed that to build understanding of the learning process it would be appropriate to learn about the ‘thing’ that does the learning – the brain, the mind. So, as time went on I found this a fascinating area of my own learning. However, I couldn’t really figure out why the education profession didn’t share my interest, at least to anything like the same extent.

So, I am really happy to see that these attitudes are changing, as evidenced by this recent Ed Week article;

Education Week Article – Teaching Educators Brain Science

And Quiz on the subject:

Education Week – Quiz

Let us all know how you score – can you match my 9 out of 10?

The OECD material on this subject is particularly interesting – I was able to buy a copy of the book when visiting the United Nations in Geneva early last year. Reading it, not only reinforced my belief that educators need to explore and understand more about what neuroscience is uncovering that impacts upon the learning process, but that also we should be helping students to improve their metacognition (thinking about thinking) so that they can have a greater understanding of how their mind and brain work. Only in this way can we have students and teachers collaborating in processes that work with, rather than some times against, the way learners are ‘wired up’.

Children Who Grow Up to be Leaders

With leadership as one of the recognized key 21st Century skills, it sometimes seems like every parent is looking for the secret ‘pill’ that will ensure their child grows up with leadership traits and qualities. So, I was fascinated to come across this Harvard Education Newsletter article that drew on research and views from many of the leading experts in this area in top American universities and some very interesting data emerging from longitudinal studies. These have sought to look at children right through from very young age to adulthood to discern and identify traits and characteristics/ patterns in the younger children and their lives that can be taken as markers and predictors for who has the best potential to become a leader:

Harvard Education Newsletter Article – Key Factors in Leadership Development

The article is very interesting from a number of perspectives. Particular elements that I took away included;

  1. It doesn’t matter how committed a parent or educator you are – you can’t make leadership development happen. In fact, the more you seek to ‘drive the agenda’ for the child, the greater the risk that you are undermining their ability to acquire and develop leadership traits,
  2. There is no substitute for really tuning in to the child, listening to them with full sincerity and attention (and guess what – this can’t be left to a maid or done in 5 minutes over dinner!)
  3. ‘Stick-at-it-ness’ is a vital marker for leadership development. Whilst we should be listening to what children have to say themselves, we need to find ways to develop and encourage their willingness to stick at something, to pursue it to a level of mastery. Therefore, we shouldn’t be too quick to respond favourably to those who show the propensity to be ‘butterflies’ fluttering from one activity to another (swearing every time that the ‘new thing’ is their ultimate passion,
  4. (no surprises) IQ is a relatively poor measure for which children will grow up to have leadership qualities. That there is any correlation (I’m not saying causation) at all is, I suspect, related to growing up in a sensorily rich environment, with the flexibility and opportunities to try things, to engage with activities of interest and be ‘active.
  5. I see no indications that excessive engagement in ‘passive leisure’ activities are going to add anything positive to leadership development (however much the desire to engage in excessive TV and computer time might be present!)
  6. ‘No failure’ environments are unlikely to serve children well. They need to be able to handle failure and picking themselves up (not having us pick them up),
  7. We do a great disservice to some children when we tell them they’re ‘smart’. Instead, we should be focusing on opportunities to recognize those who persevere, even when they don’t get to the finish line (focus on process over outcomes)
  8. If we are to have schools that place focus on inner motivation, we have to break the stranglehold of extraneous testing, comparison and routines driven by school convenience rather than children’s needs.
  9. The views of Alfie Kohn in his book and articles ‘Punished by Rewards’ are strongly endorsed – those children fed a regular diet of extraneous motivation are at risk of growing up with less leadership traits. What we as parents and educators need to focus on is helping children to tap in to their intrinsic motivation and to create the environments and reflection opportunities for them to do so.

The book by Carol Dweck of Stanford university, I have on order and am looking forward to reading.

Leadership That Gets Results

I recently had the opportunity to reread a great Harvard Business Review article written by Daniel Goleman (best known for his work on Emotional Intelligence) in a superb little book of 10 excellent HBR articles on ‘Managing People’. So, when I saw this Fast Company article exploring the 6 leadership styles Goleman had identified in that research I thought it worth sharing;

Fast Company Article

I like the way the emphasis is placed on the situational nature of leadership traits and styles, self-awareness and acknowledgement of how to minimize negative outcomes if one has an acknowledged limitation in respect of any one specific style.

The implications in the article are that quality of leadership in organisations has a very big impact, making this something that all leaders need to be ready to commit to investing effort, time and training in.

Beyond SMART Goals

I can’t remember how old I was when I was first introduced to the S-M-A-R-T acronym for goal setting, but for sure it was an awful lot of years ago and a lot of goals have come and gone, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. So, I enjoyed reading this article from HR Magazine.

The article draws on thoughts of the upcoming Olympic Games in England and the tough economic climate to suggest that what people really need are courageous goals. With considerable justification the article suggests the ‘R – Realistic’ was the weak aspect of Smart goals;

HR Magazine Article – SMART Goals

I especially liked the reference to how, all too often in organisations we see cultures that deliberately or inadvertently create a climate in which people fear failing so much that ‘safety’ is the ultimate goal that may not be talked about, but drives much of the decision making. I’m reminded of one of the presuppositions of Excellence from NLP that states ‘There is no failure, only feedback’. Sadly, organisations within which such views predominate are all too rare. In such circumstances courage to really stretch, to try things, to be daring is an all too rare commodity – at the time when it’s actually needed the most.

I find myself thinking that individuals and organisations would benefit a great deal if there were far more mobile labour environments, where failure was respected if it was intelligent, innovative and daring

The Tippy Tap

The Tippy Tap Website

Occasionally, you come across great things that come from simple little ideas, but have phenomenal potential for the change they can bring. To me, this certainly qualifies in that category. It’s an initiative that was pointed out to me by a friend over the last week that just made me say ‘Wow’, marveling at the simple ingenuity of the thing. Check it out.

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