Movember – Nearly Over

Mo Picture 28th Nov

Here we are, the 28th November and in little more than two days the Mo can go!

Especially over the last week I’ve felt this strange admiration for the men who choose to sport a Mo all the time. Mine has been irritating, itchy and just generally makes my face feel wrong. As in past years I’ve got to confess that come 1st December, I won’t miss it.

But, come 1st November next year I’ll almost certainly do it all again. I’ve not seen figures for this year, but last year over 700,000 people worldwide participated and raised over $100 million. In addition to all the money raised, it’s increased discussion in the world about men’s health and particularly about the need to listen to our bodies, read the signs and act in a responsible way when something’s not right.

For those interested, here are details of where the money goes – where it gets spent and how it’s contributing to improved health for men:
Movember – Report Cards

Here are some pretty startling statistics:

1. 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
2. Over 238,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and almost 30,000 men will die of prostate cancer in per annum.
3. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males between the ages of 15 and 35.
4. Men who sit more than six hours a day have an 18 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 7.8 percent increased chance of dying from diabetes compared with someone who sits for three hours or less a day.
5. Globally, 5.3 million deaths will be attributed to physical inactivity.
6. 24% of men are less likely to go to the doctor compared to women.

It’s not too late to show your support and to back my stunning cowboy style Mo that I’ve nurtured so lovingly over the last 28 days.

Please support by using this link and pledging however much you can: My MoBro Profile and Donation Page

Thank you.

Diversity and Inclusion Through The Classroom

We live in times when, there’s no doubt, some see gain in dividing the world, inciting bigotry and narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially on religious grounds. Whether it’s the acts of terrorists in Paris, Beirut, Male elsewhere or show boating and cynical sound bites from candidates for the American presidential elections we should have no doubt these are all acts designed to manipulate the wider population to take up narrow inward looking stances, through fearing the ‘other’.

At times like this I’m reminded that when we look around the world not everyone engaged in the process of educating children want the process to open their minds or to develop in them the propensity to think deeply about issues, to challenge dogma and to hold their own thought-out perspectives. They may also not desire harmony, understanding and appreciation for diversity. Sometimes the ‘other who can’t be trusted’ (or even who must be hated) is a great tool with which to motivate and align a population.

Even just today, we see more islamophobia spewed by certain political candidates in the US. We see stories like this one from within education, as educators endeavour to help children to understand the events in Paris and elsewhere:

The Guardian – My Teachers’ Reaction to the Paris Attacks Shocked Me

Then, we have the Indian media and social networking spewing hatred, venom and bigotry at an actor because he even dared to ask the question openly as to whether his country had become less tolerant (he of course, happens to be a tolerated representative from the ‘hated other’).

Finally (well, I say finally – the day’s not over yet!), we have a fighter plane of Russia shor down for violating Turkey’s airspace – something which many experts and commentators have been suggesting was almost inevitable ever since Russia chose to intervene in the complex issues related to Syria. The immediate reaction – more self-justified outrage and hatred spewed for political and quasi-religious ends.

Must children learn to hate? Can we, as educators do more to ensure that schools remain places of diversity, inclusion, empathy and understanding. In the face of a tide, it doesn’t feel easy, but i believe the gains for the world are worth all of our effort.

Responsible & Courageous Leadership

Are there some spineless people around who become leaders, but shouldn’t have done? Yep. I think there are, and we’ve probably all met a few in our time.

This is an interesting Forbes magazine article written by Joseph Folkman (of Zenger Folkman), highlighting the awful impacts on people and the organisation of irresponsible leaders;

Forbes – Would Your Boss Throw You Under the Bus?

In mitigation (occasionally) for some of the spineless bosses out there, they are sometimes the product of the organisation – the company gets the bosses it deserves. However, if you find yourself in such a situation, probably better to not just be thinking about a change of boss, but a change of company!

Years ago, I worked for such a boss. Everyone who worked for him knew their first job was to make him look good. If you didn’t he’d “get you back,” somehow. After a few years I got promoted and went to another office – part of the same region. After a couple of months I was sitting at the same table as him at a regional mangers’ meeting. We were there to fix sales targets for the coming year. The regional manager wanted to take bottom up targets, but when they were all added together they weren’t enough to match the head office requirements. We were all asked to take bigger targets.

Come lunchtime debate was still going on without too much progress. Over lunch the regional manager talked to my old boss who headed the biggest office in the region. When we re-convened, he said he would take about 40% of the extra target. This opened the gates and within an hour the gap had been closed.

Everyone went away thinking a good solution had been worked out.

A few weeks later I went to a party with a couple of my old colleagues (who still worked for bad boss). At the party they turned on me. It turned out, he had told them that he had no choice but to take the extra target against his wishes because we had “all ganged up on him.” In order to avoid telling the truth to his team, he had painted the other managers in the region including me as nasty and scheming! I was glad i didn’t have to work for him any more!

Growth Mindset Revisited

The Growth mindset, the research on it and the book that came out of that research is unusual for academic research in the education field in that it found its way very much in to the public domain. This brought it to the attention of a lot of teachers worldwide, as well as parents and others interested in how children can learn most effectively.

I’ve written a few times in the past about the book, the concept of growth and Fixed Mindsets and the work of Dr carol Dweck. So, I was especially pleased to come across this recent article in which she revisits the concepts, flags up a couple of the myths that have grown up around it and refocuses attention where she believes it should be:

Education Week – Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset

To me there were a few interesting and informative ‘take aways’ from the article;

a) Growth Mindset isn’t just about effort. Mistakes have certainly been made where it’s simply been equated to grit, perseverance and simple effort. Rather, the ideas can be more equated from the concept i learned many years ago from the field of NLP – namely, the person with more tools and versatility has the greater chance of arriving at the best solutions to a challenge. So, effort and resilience need to be accompanied by flexibility and creativity to try different alternatives. We are not out to reward the stubborn mule who keeps trying to bash away with the same wrong solution to a problem in the hope that eventually the nature of the problem will change to match their solution!

b) Like most things in education, we’re not dealing with a simple binary equation, or a new way of putting labels on children. it serves little purpose to start labelling children as either a growth or fixed mindset student. Nobody is ever all of one or the other.

c) When management/ leaders in schools start to say they want growth mindset in teachers (as well as pupils) we shouldn’t be surprised when we get outbreaks of false or pseudo-growth mindset. As in b) above, if that’s what my Principal wants, then I know how to adopt the language, the nomenclature etc. to claim that I fit the bill (especially if it figures in assessments!)

Whether with teachers or pupils we’re dealing with complex human beings with enormous varieties of shades of grey within the individual. We always do a disservice when we grab hold of a new idea and seek to apply it in brutalist and simplistic ways. Let’s instead embrace human complexity.

Inspiring Teaching

This Teacher Gives Compliments to Every Student, Every Morning (WATCH):

Ten minutes a day.  Not the issue, to show we care about children and build their self esteem.

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Hey, New Teacher, Don’t Quit. It Will Get Better

This is an article published recently that’s getting a lot of attention amongst teachers in America,  especially new ones.  As I read it,  I’m struck by a few thoughts.

Firstly,  when you’re setting out to do it well,  this teaching business is part art,  part science,  there’s a lot to it and it really tests the personal resilience of the new teacher.

However,  what’s been disturbing for me over the many years that I’ve been involved in Indian school education is the frequency with which you see none of these anxieties amongst vast numbers of new or recently recruited Indian teachers.  Why?  Do they have some secret ingredient not available to the western teachers?  Have they been so masterfully trained and prepared through their B.Ed that they don’t need to feel this way?  No to both of those.  Instead,  they’ve been sold on a bunch of wrong notions that the classroom is just about delivering portions of stuff and maintaining control (enforced discipline). Easy.  Where’s the sweat?

I recently asked someone who had been teaching for one year if she considered herself a novice or a learner.  Oh no,  she said.  I’m an experienced teacher.  It’s not her fault. But,  to my mind it goes to the root of all that ails school education in India still.  It is not a simple little job that can be learned in 5 minutes.  No inclination to mastery.  Avoidance of acknowledgement of the vast array of skills to be honed over years if one really aspires to be a part of high quality child centric learning.

I don’t blame the teachers.  Most of this is a bi-product of woeful leadership and a lack of meaningful vision.  If all we aspire to do is to mug children endlessly to pass exams,  then we will deny the true extent of the skill set to be acquired and the weight of responsibility that lies upon us.

So,  there should be more anxiety in Indian classrooms,  especially for new teachers as they embrace the enormous weight of the duty they have taken on.  In turn,  our job as leaders is to provide the most passionate and determined with the mentoring, the support and the freedom to fail forward that will lead them to excel.

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For a long time, when I was a boy, Saturday mornings were cinema time – the chance to watch at least one film. leaving aside all the cartoons and stuff, which were fun, my favourites were probably the Westerns. These were films that laid it all out plain and simple. There were the good guys and the bad guys, but even the bad guys were admirable.

These films sold an idea of masculinity that probably wouldn’t be considered very PC today. However, that’s the diet on which we grew up. These were tough, stoical men – rugged men who lived dangerous and challenging lives, but never showed a hint of fear, self pity or negativity. They just got on with things. These were the kinds of men who would rise at dawn, ride a horse all day in the sweltering sun and dust, drink neat bourbon (often from the bottle), wolf down a plate of beans (no meat, two veg and gravy with all the trimming for these guys).

Maybe, once in a while they’d get shot in the leg or get bashed around a bit in a bar room brawl, but that didn’t really seem to bother them very much. Then, they’d probably just lie down under a rough blanket on the dirt beside the dying embers of their fire and go to sleep. Even if their sleep got disturbed by a native raiding party or wild animals, no matter, they’d still be up at dawn to get back on their horse and do it all again.

No question, these were manly mem, in the true sense of the word.

Sam Elliott Mo

And, there lies a problem for the generation that grew up watching these films and fed on this diet of macho solidity and grit. Did you ever see them worry about their health? Ever? Did they catch colds, feel run down? Even when they did go to the doctor it was for something manly like having a bullet removed from their leg – which was generally done with a pair of unsterilised pliers, after dousing the wound with neat bourbon and taking a swig or two as a painkiller.

Do these guys have something to answer for with regard to today’s issues in men’s health? I think they do. If men of our generation are guilty of neglecting our health, of being reluctant to get the right check-ups done at the right times etc. or to ignore signs that something might not be right, at least to some extent we can blame those gun-slinging cowboys of our youth. Wrongly, they made us believe that caring about your health was somehow unmanly – beliefs we have to get past if we are to avoid senseless suffering and loss of life.

So, when Movember comes around, to me it seems fitting that the ‘Mo I grow’ should be something approximating to those sported by those cowboys when I was a boy. It’s not about vanity. In fact it’s absolutely not about vanity. I know the thing doesn’t suit me. Not for nothing did a Class 4 pupil just a couple of days ago tell me, “Sir, you look funny with that thing,” and “How long have you got to grow it for?”

But, every day this hideous thing sits on my face, tickling, irritating my top lip, catching food (I think soup is the worst) I’m reminded of why we do this every November/ Movember. I’m reminded that male health issues are very real issues and if a bit of fun and silliness gets us talking about them, changing the macho mindset to actually care about the state of our health, then it’s all good in my book.

Even better, I get to raise some money and play my part in contributing to vital research that will, in time, increase the survival rates for the worst of male health problems. So, if you’d like to pay a little respect to my Mo, please follow this link and make a contribution – every little helps to make a difference.

My Movember Fund Raising Page

To all the MoBros and MoSistas (yes, women care about men’s health too), we just crossed the half way mark. Time to trim, nurture and nurse those Mos so that they flourish before the blade sees them off for another year.

Here’s the Mo in all its glory:


Schedule for the Unexpected

A few days ago I shared an article that exploded a few myths about personal productivity and time management. Here’s a short piece I saw recently, shared through LinkedIn – I thought this was a pretty good idea:

LinkedIn Pulse – Schedule for the Unexpected

Jessie Garcia | The Robin Hood Foundation

From surviving to succeeding through giving back.

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If I Could Just …………..

‘Time Management’ has been around a long time. For almost as long, there have been people quite ready to point out that you can’t manage time – it just is. Instead, what we’re really about is the somewhat harder challenge of managing ourselves and our minds. The holy grail is ‘productivity.’

The abiding thought is always, “If I could just, ….. ” then I could achieve more, be more, succeed more, contribute more etc. The second thought that soon follows is a conviction that others are doing more, achieving more, succeeding more and I really ought to be doing so as well. And so, the rat race is perpetuated.

In the end, my view is that indeed we can’t manage time, but can get better at managing ourselves if we keep some focus on it, practice honest reflection about what we do with our time and whether we could be more effective and keep our big goals at the forefront to determine how wee should be spending our time. The latter point is vital if we are to spend enough time on things which are important, but perhaps not urgent.

The tougher part is that if we’re to make real progress, part of the solution lies in better management of other people. The richer/ higher title/ higher status of an individual enables the person to have much more power over how they use and allocate their time. The more others are determining what is important for us to do and the more others have the right to impose upon us what they perceive to be ‘urgent’, then the less we can really impact the effectiveness of how we allocate our time. It’s not altogether fair when writers and commentators hold up people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Elon Musk as examples of people who are able to achieve so much out of the same 24 hours a day available to us all.

Many organisations have instigated practices over the last 10-20 years that may have been right from a communication and collaboration perspective, but were really quite undesirable from a personal efficiency/ productivity perspective. Open offices, open doors etc. may mean that people have more access to each other, but it plays havoc with productivity. Worse, in my experience in different types of organisations, when some are imposing their time agenda on others, it’s not even particularly about work, meaningful quality communication or collaboration, but just some employees seeking company/ companionship. However, all the data on the impact of interruptions is pretty damning. Haven’t we all had those occasions when we were really in flow on some complex and involved task, got interrupted and spent the rest of the day anxiously aware that some of our best ideas we were holding in our heads whilst doing that task have been lost for good – they’re not coming back!

Here’s a Fast Company article to spark a few more ideas. it looks at seven myths that are commonly bandied around on the subject of time management, with suggestions for better ways of thinking;

Fast Company – 7 Popular Productivity Beliefs You Should Ignore

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