Tenby Educators – Academic Year End

Dear Tenby Educators
Following on from my end of term letter to you all, I promised you some more information here!
As educators who espouse the virtues of ‘lifelong learning’, it is vitally important that we too make lifelong learning a natural part of our day to day life. As educators, we are in a unique position to model the values of the school for our children.
I also happen to believe that this value of ‘lifelong learning’ is a win-win for all of us – growing feels positive, learning is enriching. I also believe that educators share knowledge, so for me that’s the biggest reason why this blog exists.
Vacation time is important for us to recharge our batteries, to reflect on our professional practice and to set goals for ourselves that motivate, inspire and excite. I believe humans are a bit like bicycles – we’re at our best when moving forward and standing still really does us no good at all.
I take this opportunity to share with you my personal selection of great reading, perfect for vacation.

1. Mindset, Carol Dweck
This is a book I’ve been very fond of recommending to both colleagues and parents, ever since I read it for the first time. I believe it deserves to be right up at the top of the reading list. Carol Dweck is a professor at Stanford University. Her book explores, through research findings the impact of the Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset. The starting premise is a simple one, but as the book highlights the implications are massive. Educators and parents who are not aware of the findings in this book can be inadvertently reinforcing fixed mindset that can blight the lives of children as it infects their beliefs about academic abilities, propensity and skill in learning, creativity, sports and physical skills and abilities.
If you choose to read only one of the books on this list, this is the one I recommend.

2. Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar
A small slim book, but one of of my favourite books. The book is a bi-product of Tal’s course that he used to teach at Harvard – the most popular and most attended course there. Yes, indeed, the young under and post-grads of Harvard are smart enough to realise that they can have all the skills, intelligence and ability to get in to one of the world’s great academic institutes, they might be destined for great professional success – but, none of that guarantees them happiness in life. Tal is a part of the ‘Positive Psychology’ movement that is applying the rigour of academic research and thinking to what might previously have been strictly the domain of the self-help movement.
Very thought provoking and well worth exploring.

3. Flow or Finding Flow, both by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I’ve read both of these books twice, and took something new away each time. Both are fascinating and well written books about how to ‘get in the groove’ so that tasks don’t feel like tasks and we get more done of what we need to do to achieve our goals and aspirations.
These have occasionally provoked some really interesting conversations with students about how to create meaning and purpose in mundane tasks. I talked about how when I had menial manual jobs as a youngster I would set myself targets related to how quickly I might complete a task, how accurately, estimating various aspects and then seeing how close I could get to those estimates. As I did this I found time on task flew by, I avoided boredom, got the job done and felt satisfaction afterwards.

4. Linchpin by Seth Godin
In a changing world, everyone needs to pay careful attention to how they ‘make meaning’ in the world, carve out a niche for themselves and do work that is engaging to them.
On my first reading of this book I found so much that was significant both for us as adults and for children in school, being prepared for life.
In short – it’s about how people make themselves indispensable (and that includes reading and learning!)

5. Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen
A Harvard Business School professor who has built his reputation on work about how technology does so much more than just lead to incremental changes in any industry, turned his attention to how technology can radically disrupt the field of education.

6. Schools That Learn by Peter Senge
This certainly wins the prize on this list for the biggest and heaviest of the books – maybe a bit too heavy for your hand luggage if travelling. Peter Senge is one of the world’s leading authorities on Systems Thinking. In this book he turned his attention to schools, education and parents. There is an accompanying website that provides more information:

7. Good to Great by Jim Collins
One of a series of books that looks at companies and organisations from various fields, exploring how they get beyond just merely being good companies or organisations, but become outstanding – and, maybe more important, sustain it.

8. The Leader Within by Stephen Covey
Most people know Covey for the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (and subsequently, the Eighth Habit). In this book he translates the habits in to a set of principles that can be used to create a school culture, following through in some detail some of the first schools in the USA that did so.

9. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson
The man best known for his groundbreaking TED talk that challenged some of what he perceived as wrong in education today. It’s the most watched TED talk ever and has been the inspiration for many educators to bring meaningful change to schools and their teaching.

10. Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, or
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
A somewhat controversial and provocative, New York based educator who has published many books setting out well-reasoned arguments that challenge some fashionable and accepted orthodoxies when it comes to teaching, schools and parenting. Reading Alfie Kohn’s work leads us to start to question things we may have taken for granted in many ways about children.


11. Drive, Daniel Pink
As a long time reader of Pink’s books and his blog this book had been on my ‘to be read’ list for quite some time. It’s a fascinating exploration of human motivation. It’s relevant for us to understand our motivation as adults, but also to understand children’s motivation to learn.

12. Giving Voice to Values, Mary C Gentile
I originally received this book as a gift from a professional colleague. Ms Gentile is a professor of Babson College, USA and the book explores the issues of finding courage to lead through values and inspire others. It explores how values can be the driving force for an organisation and for leadership.

From McKinsey: What CEOs are reading

What CEOs are reading – http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/leadership/what-ceos-are-reading

Leaders of some of the world’s biggest organizations reveal which books will keep them occupied in the coming months.

Sent from the McKinsey Insights App
Available in the App Store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id674902075?mt=8) and Play Store (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mckinsey.mckinseyinsights)

The New Normal

The world has changed and it’s never going back to how it used to be again. This is for real and for ever. The evidence is abundant and unavoidable:

The Guardian – Up To 70% Of people In Developed Countries Have Seen Income Stagnate
(Click on the link above to read the irrefutable evidence from the Western developed countries about the ‘common man’s’ income.

It’s time for a real honesty in the world, especially in politics. What people took to be ‘normal’ in the 1950’s to 90’s was really an aberration – a temporary golden pond. I’m reminded of the saying – “A rising tide lifts all vessels.”

So much of Western prosperity at all levels of the society was propelled by disproportionate progress of countries and regions, coupled with the tail end of the industrial age that still valued the inputs of those who physically made things. With globalisation and the onset of the knowledge age, those people have been left with little of value to offer to the world and a weak position to compete with those who will do all they do and more at lower costs elsewhere.

A new Prime Minister in the UK promising to ‘look after the poor’ as she takes office does the community a massive disservice. Nobody can really be looked after or protected from their own self-imposed obsolescence. What’s needed is the kind of honesty that would get the message across. What’s gone is gone. Move on and either choose to be valuable in the new age, or accept that life will never be the same again.

It’s tough love, baby.

Being A Well-Rounded Kid Pays Off

I love it when scientific research confirms what I and many other educators have long believed, justifying a holistic approach to child development and a schooling that gives children exposure to a diverse curriculum that places emphasis on physical pursuits and the arts alongside more academic subjects.

For many years my favourite phrase on the subject has been – it’s all curricular!

So, firstly, here’s an article from the :LA Times, reporting on the latest research that highlights the educational, learning and mental benefits of regular physical exercise and involvement in sports:

LA Times – To Do Better In School Children Should Exercise Their Bodies As Well As Their Brains

So, strong evidence to support ideas of a healthy body in a healthy mind. What I’ve been concerned about in the past (and remain so) is that too m uch of our approach to physical activity in school is still working like a filter, meaning that many children are opting out by the Secondary years. It needs to be for every student, all the time, as part of gaining the habits of a positive healthy lifestyle.

Secondly, here’s scientific evidence for the mental benefits of engaging in music making – faster brain development as a result of music training:

Medical Xpress – Researchers find that children’s brains develop faster with music training

Just as a balanced nutritious diet leads to healthy physical development, so we are learning more and more about the benefits of a balanced mental diet.

World Economic Forum – The Future of Education

WEF Education

The world Economic Forum is largely an economics and business think tank. However, the influential body recognises that one of the most important drivers of future economic growth is education – today and in the future. The graphic above is not dissimilar to those produced by ‘Route 21’, the campaign for twenty first century learning. It comes from an interesting report that shares some of the key insights in to the provision of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

World Economic Forum – 5 Charts That Explain The future of Education

The report links to a fuller report that raises some concerns that are frankly not too surprising – change is happening, but not nearly fast enough. All stakeholders who care about the future of children have to get up to speed and the educators have to put in the hard work of envisioning how the SEL needs change the way schools operate and run.

The Men Who Made Us Thin

The first of four episodes of a documentary series that I believe should be made essential viewing for every schoolchild and teacher.

You watch these programmes and you will perfectly understand my strong resistance to accepting sponsorship money from food companies for activities and events in schools (especially those associated with sports and fitness).

There is a strong need to fight back against the message sold by the food companies – if you exercise it won’t matter what your eating habits are.  Exercise is good for us and positive for our health overall,  but it’s benefits should not be overstated as a panacea or a justification for bad eating habits.

Work and Jobs Changed For Ever, So Now We Must Change Education

I wrote quite recently about how I saw the Brexit backlash, the rise of people like Donald Trump as an angry reaction from those who feel like the world changed – without their permission!

Seth Godin has summed up the situation very well in this blog post he published on Thursday; 


He highlights that little is achieved by trying to fight or resist what is happening. Likewise,  bitterness and self pity are not routes to solutions.  However,  if those of us in education fail to change the way we prepare your people for adulthood there will be every justification for anger and bitterness in the future.  We cannot sit idly by just maintaining the status quo. 

Educator Wake Up Call

What is the purpose of school? If we set up schools as exam factories, based on brutal competition for scores, failing to educate ‘the whole child’, should we be surprised at some of the more extreme consequences?

NDTV – From Elite Schools to ISIS – Mystery of Dhaka Attackers

I lived and worked in Dhaka for two years. I knew these schools, I met some of the pupils and I was also immersed in the environment in which they were growing up. Sadly, I’m not surprised that these things could happen. Dhaka has a regrettable history that many of the top fee private schools have grown out of the tuitions industry. Some even have names that reflect that history. Teachers frequently tout themselves entirely on the basis of the exam results of their pupils. They mug and drill, in school and in outside tuition centres – those most ‘successful’ eventually rip schools apart to drag their pupils off to a newly created school.

This is schooling in its most extreme form, it is not education and it’s certainly a poor preparation for life. I once had a heated argument with an educator who said in a moment of anger, “when children die of drug overdoses, why should i care if a kid has their shirt tucked in or not?”

The reality is that if we truly care about children, educating the whole child must see us pay as much attention to the development of effective habits, life skills, character traits and understanding of the individual’s relationship to the bigger whole in today’s society. For that to happen, every educator has to be willing to bring their heart as much as their head, to get away from the image of themselves as the sage dispensing dollops of knowledge. Finally, we have to care about the child before the ‘stuff’ taught. There’s a warning whenever we find educators who want to spend all their time talking curriculum, budgets, premises and activities/ events – neglecting along the way to make space and time to talk about children, their lives, needs and the world they’re living in and growing in.

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