Making Education Work

Christine

Christine Miller 

 

Fail your way to success

This post is inspired, or maybe provoked, by the recent press coverage of a new UK report called ‘Making Education Work’ which is calling for ‘A-Levels to be axed in favour of a new ‘Baccalaureate’ (Telegraph), and as the BBC declares: Education ‘fails to deliver skills for global success’.  

The report has been put together by an independent 14-strong expert group including Sir Roy Anderson, former rector of Imperial College London, Sir Michael Rake, Chair of BT and head of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and Sir David Bell from Reading University. It was commissioned by Educational Publishers, Pearson, and is recommending a broadening of the curriculum and that so-called ‘soft skills’ like emotional intelligence, empathy, team working and other interpersonal skills are given more prominence in equipping young people effectively for the workplace.

I haven’t yet read the full report, and this piece expresses my immediate response as a provocation and encouragement to further thought and comment.

Whilst education reform might be necessary and desirable in some instances, to equip our workforce for employer’s needs and boost economic recovery, I wouldn’t like to see a system which only wants people who are fit or skilled for a limited purpose to be determined solely by business interests. To me that would be stultifying the potential breadth and depth of human beings, would inhibit the true engagement of young people, and create mind and body prisons which ultimately would not serve the values, morale and flourishing of individuals, families, communities, and nations.

Education – that political hot potato that gets thrown from party to party, government to government, a vote-winner because it’s fundamental to the values and aspirations of all of us. Education has always been one of my key concerns and I believe we miss the mark and fail to serve our young people in many ways, and that it is a subject we all need to be aware of and interested in.

But although universal,  it’s not a one size fits all situation. And it’s not meant to be simply a mechanism for churning out bodies and minds with just enough skills and knowledge to supply business with willing and able fodder – ‘human capital’ – to produce its wares and do its bidding. Nor should policies change to win votes, there needs to be a consistent approach where what works is what is important regardless of which party is in power.

It’s an old and somewhat wizened chestnut, but ‘Education’ (‘educere’ in Latin) is really meant to be a process of ‘drawing out’ and fostering the individual skills and talents of each person in order that they may live a fulfilled life and be of service to their community. Given that we are all different and have a variety of abilities, natural and otherwise, which can be developed, honed and practised, any education system needs to encourage independent thinking, recognise differences and offer a range of experiences which cater to academic, practical, emotional, physical and spiritual needs and preferences. We have more opportunity to deliver a quality, varied and relevant curriculum today with the advent of technology and increased knowledge sharing than ever before.

christine-millerBut let’s face facts – some people just don’t want to and are not suited to the intensity of academic study. They don’t want to pore over text books, immerse themselves in literature, conduct scientific experiments and learn periodic tables or historical dates, grid references, or biological processes. It’s still important that they should have literacy and numeracy in order to thrive, but the basic failure in these skills, if it occurs, happens much earlier in the system than at ‘A’ level, and needs to be addressed in a timely manner with understanding and specific interventions.

The more practical type of person might want a big picture overview, a general knowledge, of the way all these disciplines work in order to better understand their place in the world, but they would rather build something, create something, get their hands dirty, than read about it. They have ‘doing’ skills which are critical to our world, and need to be nurtured, encouraged, and valued, equally.

I know I have always marvelled at the spatial visioning abilities of people who build things to work out how the pieces all fit together. I have watched in awe as carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and other talented tradespeople read and interpret plans or listen to instructions,  and turn them into real structures and objects before my eyes.

And I know, also, that others watch with awe as academics, researchers and people like myself write reports, novels, articles, poems and weave arguments, conclusions, revelations and patterns of words together in a way that seems to defy possibility to those who are not inclined in the direction of word-smith, analyst or poet.

Some people are deeply engaged and interested in studying the theoretical complexities of how the world works, relish academic study and excel in that world. They need a different kind of nurturing, an education which allows their intellect to blossom and expand, to bring forth solutions and inventions, and their requirements demand a different style of teaching, a stimulating environment which values their skills and abilities as seekers of ideas and creative inspiration.

We need to remember that no one particular style, inclination or talent is superior to another, although in the past, practical skills have been undervalued. We are all, with our biases and complexities, essential components of a world which is constantly changing. Our human needs for love, caring, connection and relationship do not change, though. Whatever form of education we experience, we cannot do it in a vacuum – we do need those skills of listening, understanding, respecting, trusting and sharing as a team which bring personal and professional success and fulfilment.

So in equipping our young people for their lives and for the workplace – (and who knows exactly what the workplace may look like in the future) – we need to cater for the diversity of the whole person in the ways we do the following:

      • Respect and celebrate difference
      • Value individual skills and learning styles
      • Foster existing aptitudes and preferences, while encouraging new ones
      • Recognise the unconventional, the disrupters and change makers
      • Create safe spaces with loving, listening and caring teachers for experimentation and mutual cooperation

Then and only then can we say we are advancing education and serving our young people adequately and effectively,
equipping them for life and not merely a living.

 

Christine Miller

© January 2014 All Rights Reserved

More thoughts on Education & Young People:
How to Fail Your Way to Success
Teens, Troubles, Treasures

Work as Play

work as play christine miller

Work as Play - The Heart and Spirit of Business

work as play christine miller It seems that increasing numbers of us are looking for different ways to live in a more balanced and fulfilling way, so that we feel connected with our work.

At the heart of this is the growing desire to have a sense of purpose and a yearning for meaning in how we spend our time and make our living. We want to feel the spirit of what we do – to be inspired.


People who have been working in organisations for many years are now being asked to re-apply for their jobs, unable to take them for granted any more and having to market themselves as the best candidates. This means they are in effect becoming more entrepreneurial in their approach to their positions. And those entering or rejoining the job market need to be very clear and precise about what they offer and how they fit with prospective employers, both for their own sake in finding satisfying work, and in order to attract a suitable opportunity. (See:
The ReSourceful Candidate)

Entrepreneurs, the self-employed, creatives and small business owners already know the importance of  this, but sometimes, running a business or being a freelance feels more like a job that ties you down than an uplifting experience of creativity, wealth and fulfillment. And the dream you started out with becomes a drudgery that leaves you working longer and longer hours just to stand still.
 
I had my most recent experience as an employee in the corporate world over 11 years ago now, and friends and colleagues who’ve known me for years (and even some who haven’t known me for long!) comment on the way I’ve crafted what is essentially the perfect job for me – meeting people and asking them about their current thinking and passions, guiding, coaching and mentoring executives, leaders and business people into the best options for them so that they LOVE what they do, writing, being creative, being playful – and having lots of fun.
 
Most of the time, I can’t distinguish whether I’m working or playing, so that my work becomes play for me…that’s a great joy. It didn’t happen by accident – I did actually deliberately create and craft the ‘playground’ (otherwise known as workspaces!)  in which I operate, and it is a highly productive space. And it evolves all the time, as I develop and learn and share with clients in workshops and individual sessions.
 
Find out more about loving work at www.loveworks.co 

How to fail your way to success

deepinthought

How to fail your way to success - why it’s good to get it wrong… sometimes

Failure, Fear, Feedback and Fascination

In business, venture capitalists know that only a small percentage of the projects they invest in will make it financially, hence they have an ‘if you’re going to fail, fail fast’ mentality so they can move on and support the companies that are succeeding and thereby recoup their investment.

The quicker you make mistakes and recover from them, changing what you do and how you do it, the more your chances of succeeding. In sales, collecting the ‘nos’ so you get closer to a ‘yes’ is a way of bolstering the spirits and confidence of the salesperson, helping them to persist and ultimately arrive at the closed sale.

There has been such a huge emphasis on ‘success’ in our world it has made it difficult for people to admit to failure, though it’s often the times we don’t achieve what we set out to that teach us the most, both about ourselves and our projects, and help us to be more resourceful. The idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ is really more the survival of the most flexible and adaptable, fleet of thought and action. 

I have stories from my work with young people, where, gliding through the system with ease, with no failures or impediments until a sudden roadblock arises, has left a gifted and talented teenager devastated and unsure.  The doors that had always opened effortlessly are now suddenly slamming shut – and they have neither resources nor an alternative view of the future, nor means for coping with that upset and rejection.

They don’t know how to take the experience as a valuable resource in building resilience, and use it as a ‘set-up’ for future achievements, because they have never been taught how to manage themselves in such a way.  It’s not what our current education system does, and sadly it leaves a lot of casualties in its wake who feel branded and boxed as failures when it doesn’t need to be that way.

Failure

Adopting a different perspective, if we take ‘failure’ to mean simply not achieving the result we set out to accomplish this time, and acknowledge that we did achieve something even if it was unexpected or undesirable, it’s much easier to accept that failure is a temporary setback that can be corrected and adjusted. Moving from a position of ‘Trial and Error’ to ‘Try-all and Success’ makes a difference, and we can regroup, rethink and carry on.

Fear

If we can work with the idea that we are not going to improve with every attempt, or trial, (think experimenting and persevering, not tedium and stress!) then the fear of not achieving is removed, and we can feel more relaxed about finding new ways to approach whatever it is we want to accomplish. If we know that plateaus, dips and even troughs can occur alongside peaks and pinnacles, we can assimilate it into the way things really are, and it helps reduce the pressures.

We all know fear is a major inhibiting factor for success, but it is easier said than done to eradicate it in a world that revolves around constantly winning and being ‘right’.

Fear of failure, of being judged as in some way wanting, is something most of us have suffered from at some time and having the courage to push through allows us to go on to success.

Feedback

This is where Feedback comes in. If we can be gracious and accepting in failure, rather than sulking or quitting, we learn valuable lessons from what happens in the process, which we can take with us to the next trial. In NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) one of the presuppositions is that there is ‘no failure, only feedback’: your results tell you what you need to know to be able to move forward.

In a way, it is true, but telling that to someone who has just had exam results that definitely failed to get them into the school they wanted is a tricky business! The language around education demarcates ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ very clearly. The feedback is very clear; you didn’t answer the questions correctly.
Feedback from failure: Learn more; apply it better for next time. Getting to the point of accepting that maybe it was for the best in the long run takes time and sensitivity.

Fascination

So what happens when you don’t get what you want? How can you deal with it more elegantly? Can you become fascinated by your ‘failure’ so that you experience it from a position of researcher, observer, analyst, in the style of the scientific method, which always attempts to disprove its hypotheses and therefore acknowledges the process rather than the outcome? Can you extract the lessons with good grace so that you use them as a lever to propel you to success?

If you can get to the position where you say to yourself ‘How fascinating!’ as you fail, or fall or don’t get what you want, rather than swearing or sulking, you’ll gather more clues of what needs to be done next time to succeed. Fascination is more comfortable than frustration, and more likely to bring you the outcome you want, faster.

What fascinates you about failure? What experiences could you re-vision as a resource for your future success?

We’d love to know. 

 © Christine Miller

(Adapted from ‘Fail your way to success’, first published Sept 2011 at www.birdsontheblog.co.uk

The perfect children’s Christmas gift with BONUS gifts for YOU!

Afindica Christine Miller

 

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10/10/10 words

earth-mother

I was prompted by the unique significance of the date on Sunday 10th October 2010  to write some words – and set myself a light hearted challenge to only use words containing the word 'ten'…here's the result:

Tender Words

Listen, attend:
Countenance
Brightened,earth-mother
Heartened,
Lightened.
Tension softened,
Sentences sweetened.
Tendrils extending,
Tenacious,
Glistening,
Stencilling
Molten intensities,
Insistent, persistent,
Smitten.
Potent portent,
Hastening
Enlightenment.
Penitent, chastened,
Quietening.
Contentment,
Tentatively tendered.

WITH LOVE.

©Christine Miller

10/10/10

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year

Tiger, Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India in October 2008
Tiger photographed on safari at Ranthambore, India, October 2008

Tiger photographed on safari at Ranthambore, India

We at ReSource were thrilled to be able to visit India, and one of the highlights was our tour of Rajasthan: an amazing place of contrasts (like the whole of India!) where we were privileged to be able to go on a tiger safari. The entire three weeks we spent in India was a source of inspiration and joy – the sub continent has an uncanny ability to draw you out and encourage your personal growth!

About Ranthambore National Park

Once we knew we were going to India in Autumn 2008, we started to look for the most enriching experiences there – and something that really stood out as a must-do, must-see was to go on a tiger safari.


These big cats seen in their natural environment held great fascination, and we found ourselves heading for Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, a protected area, one of the few places in India where tigers are still regularly seen, even in the daytime, and are breeding.

Formerly a hunting preserve for the Maharaja of Jaipur, Ranthambore covers an area of 392 sq. km. and is nestled between the Aravali and Vindhya mountain ranges. This deciduous forest was once a part of the magnificent jungles of Central India. The rugged terrain, hills and open valleys with lakes and pools makes it a really romantic and picturesque place to be.


It seems we arrived at just the right time, and that we even had good ‘karma’, according to the locals, as we were able to see several tigers in the course of our three day safari. The excitement of being so close to these amazing creatures was almost indescribable, a real privilege – in fact, quite an emotional experience for all concerned, and something I would recommend wholeheartedly if you have the chance to visit.

www.ranthamborenationalpark.com