What Great leaders Do

Today, I wanted to share one of my all time favourite TEd talks. Given over six years ago by Simon Sinek I believed right from when I first saw it that it has some enormously powerful thoughts for those of us who choose to lead in the education field.

The focus on ‘why’ we do what we do, the ‘why’ of our schools isn’t always easy or comfortable. When we bring this question out in to the open for full examination we can quickly find that there are conflicts. Some have visions that are about developing children holistically, regardless of background so that each cn fulfil their potential. Others believe the why is simply to have students pass exams, get in to ‘good’ colleges, etc. Others believe the primary reason they work in education is children won’t challenge them in the way adults will! others want to make a profit from something ‘solid and safe’. Still others want a job that fits conveniently with their home, family and what they perceive to be more important aspects of their life.

Not surfacing these conflicts will never be the answer. this leads to mediocre schools, leaders who have to micro manage instead of lead and end outcomes that will never live up to the potential.

As Sinek highlights, only when the leaders are open, transparent and clear (in other words they’ve worked out and enunciated) the ‘why’ of their school/ organisation then they can recruit for attracting those people who share that common vision. The more you can do that, the greater the synergistic strengths that will see the school really deliver on that vision.

Belief in a common, shared ‘why’ motivates teachers and staff, students and parents. Conflicts and difficulties, when they arise, can be dealt with better as there is common understanding of what are the end goals. People are inspired, motivated and willingly give of their best, to the benefit and growth of all.

Once we have a clearly articulated ‘why’, we have to be ready to root out any ‘what’ that is inconsistent or not congruent. Working from the inside out in this way makes that possible and shapes future decision making as all actions must be congruent and people are not inclined to do things that go against that why.

Tim Urban – Procrastnation

Tim Urban writes the very popular, entertaining and thought provoking blog – “Wait But Why”

Despite being a prolific writer, Urban is a self confessed procrastinator. So, what better subject for him to talk on when he got the invitation to speak on the big stage of the TED main conference. Incidentally, one of his views is that there’s something of the procrastinator in every one of us, especially for things we ‘ought’ to do, that don’t have deadlines. I have a belief that we wouldn’t necessarily have been this way, but for the tendency throughout our education for all of our time to get controlled, to the point where we lose at least some of our ability to be self-driven.

As an amusing aside, here’s the blog post about how Urban even managed to procrastinate on the TED speech and presentation itself!

Wait But Why – Doing a TED Talk – The Full Story

They Really Are All Unique

Do we have the courage to bring up a generation of children who really, genuinely think for themselves, do things their way each as individuals and are not bowed down under the weight of expectations to conform, fit in, comply, to be square pegs in square holes?

Youtube – TedxTeen – Ann Makosinski
(Embedding of the video is not permitted, so please click on the link above, open the youtube page and watch the video from there)

We say we want creativity in the world, that we want to nurture the creativity and individuality in each child. But, as parents and as educators, do our actions match our words?

Does, this young 18 year old show us what a society of truly individual, creative thinkers might be capable of?

Please watch this video – I promise, it’s really worth the 12 minutes.

More Subtle Than ISIS or Al Qaeda

All decent minded people were shocked and horrified my the Al Qaeda inspired attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. The claim is that these attacks were launched due to a moral outrage on the part of devout Muslims against the depictions of their prophet in cartoons. The debate subsequently has rarely been about the artistic or literary merits of the cartoons themselves, but rather the overarching right to freedom of speech. The allegation of course is that the attack and senseless slaughter of the people in that office was a form of censorship – the denial of freedom of speech.

This is a freedom that is tom-tommed frequently by Westerners – we say that we have it and people living in totalitarian or dogmatic states or societies are denied it. But is that really true? Are there ways in which people in so-called democratic environments are ‘silenced’? Ways that are adopted to ensure that certain things are not said out loud or in the public domain? Are there words that are not safe to be spoken, questions that shouldn’t be asked or thoughts not safe to be thought, or those who would make themselves the arbiters of what we should or should not hear or be exposed to?

As educators we live and work in the world of thoughts and ideas, questions posed about the world around us and the search for answers to such questions. We seek to encourage children to grow to be lifelong learners and, in my view, that means young people ready to challenge and question dogmas and

Well, I would urge people to see the attached article and to watch the three videos listed there before coming to an opinion. In the case of the first two I make no statement or judgement about the scientific veracity of the claims made. However, what I’m sure of is that if my science teachers at school had exposed me to such thinking I might have been far more enthused about science overall. Instead, the steady stream of inviolate ‘factoids’ to be remembered, memorised and regurgitated in examinations left me cold. I so wish that exposure to the ways in which scientists question and challenge current perceived dogmas had been a part of my learning then.

The Mind Unleashed Website – Censored TED Talks
(Click on the link above to open the article, then click on each of the three videos to watch them)

As far as the final video, many may question the plausibility of the arguments from political, economic or philosophical perspectives, but i struggle to see why anyone should be scared or intimidated by what’s said.

In the end, should we conclude that maybe ISIS are not the only people who want to undermine the rights of free speech or dissemination of ideas. Maybe, others are just more subtle about how they do it?

Learning When Information is no Longer the Issue

Here’s a really nice 10 minute TED talk from a US teacher sharing her journey as an educator and her findings and perceptions about learning from mistakes:

Smart Goal Setting for New Years Resolutions

That time of the year, again. As the haze of New year celebrations drifts away we realise that we made some commitments to ourself, and maybe even in front of others that we were going to do something/ stop doing something/ do more or less of something in the coming year – in short we have a resolution – a goal.

For most of us, our past experiences of new year resolutions is like a grave yard of ambitions and wishes, dreams unfulfilled. Worse, those past failures and let-downs may make the whole thing feel so uncomfortable that we’re tempted to laugh it off quickly (hoping nobody remembers the resolve we showed just last night!)

Here’s a short article from TED with four simple ideas to give ourselves a better chance of getting something good, positive and motivational going on with our goals.

TED: The Science of Setting Goals

These ideas aren’t rocket science, but i think they provide some simple guidelines that can distinctly stack the odds in our favour. Setting good goals and achieving them builds a positive momentum that leads us to want to set more bold and audacious goals, with belief and conviction.

So, the best of wishes for 2015 for all the people who find their way to my blog. I’ve passed 800 articles on here now, so there’s one old resolution that really has worked for me! May you be inspired to set great goals, make 2015 your best year yet, by being the best ‘You’ that you’ve ever been.

Be Now-ist, Not Futurist

A great TED video about how to function effectively in the internet age. Joi Ito also has some interesting things to say in this video about learning, education and what schools should be doing:

Don’t ‘Teach’ Ethics and Values

Here’s a great TED talk that’s very thought-provoking from an educator’s perspective. How do we nurture moral skill and moral will? Barry Schwartz was very clear in this TED talk – we don’t do it by teaching morals and ethics in ‘capsules’ – in fact that ensures that children know we’re not serious!

Instead, what he advocates is we need to be ‘every day heroes’ and moral exemplars to children (and for those of is in leadership roles we owe this duty to every person in our organisations).

I particularly liked the way he talked about the work at KIPP schools in the USA emphasizing the vital importance of the development of character. It’s not for nothing that in our own school, one of the four core stated values reads as follows:

“Character Forms the Basis of a Fulfilled Life:
In an age when the media would have us all believe that ‘the cult of the personality’ is everything, we believe that individuality and personality should always be secondary to character traits that manifest in effective habits. These are habits of both self-management and those practiced in one’s relationship with others. In GDGPS, we believe that those who develop positive habits of character live the most fulfilling lives.”

One Million Juarez Correas

What happens when a single person decides to swim against the tide, refuses to be tied down by conventional methods or to go along with the herd, just because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.

Well, here’s a superb story from Wired Magazine about a teacher in Mexico who was so inspired by the work of Sugata Mitra (Delhi hole in the wall computers experiments and TED fame), Juarez Correa;

Wired Story – Child Centric Education

What really struck me when reading this story was the way in which this young man didn’t decide to be held back by the conditions he was teaching in, his lack of training or the low starting base of his students. He started from where he was and believed in the potential of his students – and the results speak for themselves.

The reality is that most tests and exams are really not difficult. What makes them appear so is that the mind-numbing learning methods mean that vast numbers of students lose all the enthusiasm to learn what’s needed and also that because they lack depth of understanding it becomes like asking people to learn meaningless, endless strings of nonsense symbols and gibberish. Without context, without motivation and curiosity all learning is hard. With these things it’s so much easier.

If students are asked to discuss their feelings about the emotions of Shakespeare characters, their motives, how they would react in similar circumstances, they can only do so if they have the facts and the storyline under their belt. Of course, if they are later asked questions about the facts, they will come easily and readily to them.

What remains scary is how all this is considered radical and new. It’s also scary and more than a little damning that millions of teachers blessed with far more training, better classrooms, students who are better fed, over-tutored and having far less life challenges continue to perpetuate the same old 200 year ancient nonsense because change looks like too much hard work.

What Sugata Mitra is doing is great, what Juarez Correa is doing is great, but all educators damn themselves until this trickle becomes a giant wave – a million Juarez Correas changing the lives of our children, willing to put aside their egos and belief in themselves as spouting torrents of knowledge.

Here’s a further link from Wired for those who want to explore and get involved further;

Wired Magazine – How to get involved

And here’s Sugata Mitra’s 2013 TED acceptance speech:

The Best of TED

I’ve spent many thought-provoking and pleasurable hours over the last few years watching TED talks online. There are those who turn their noses up at the whole concept as a dumbing down of intellect and the exploration of meaningful issues. However, i believe that is a very elitist and separatist perspective.

If what they do is open ideas up in meaningful and understandable ways to involve and draw in more people, then i believe that’s a worthy and worthwhile aim. Some, such as Sir Ken Robinson’s first TED talk on how education stifles creativity has drawn millions of educators in to debates about innovation in the field of education and where it needs to go, in ways that weren’t happening otherwise. It is wrong for a handful of academic education experts to believe that only they have the right to be part of such debates and this demeans the practitioners who must ultimately take full ownership of the innovative practices.

For those who are yet to taste the delights of TED lectures (where the process is very simple – some of the world’s greatest thinkers are asked to present on a single perspective or thought related to their work, usually for no more than 18 minutes) I was pleased to see Mashable recently put together a shortlist of 15 of the best and most powerful TED lectures:

Mashable – 15 TED Talks That Will Change Your Life

The 15 inevitably includes the one by Sir Ken already mentioned.

Enjoy! When you finish with those, there are 100’s more!