Monthly Archives: December 2015

Six signs of a high performing school⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

There have been many attempts to define what the characteristics of high performing schools might be. Indeed, I have met, and read, many who profess to know just what makes such a school. Of course, I have developed my own thoughts on this, based on my own experiences. Some of these will concur with the thoughts of others, and some will be different. I am sure you will have your own thoughts and ideas. As usual, I share these not to say they are absolute and right, but more to stimulate your own thinking, after all we all work in education and you would think we would be able to identify either what we are doing already or what we aspire to do to make our schools the best they can be for all our learners.

My top six.

1) You can tell a high performing school as soon as you walk through the doors. Not by what is going on in the classrooms, important though that is and more of it later. No, I am talking about something a bit more ethereal, the atmosphere. How do you feel when you walk in the school? Does it feel welcoming? Do the first people you meet make you feel welcome and important? Do they smile? Are they comfortable with you? Your first contacts as you enter a school tell you much about the ethos and culture of that school. I have been to many where they have wonderful displays as you enter, they have the school values and aims on display, they have displays or HD monitors telling you what is happening and sharing successes. But, still something is missing, and that is that warmth you feel when in an all encompassing culture and community. You can't fake this, and falseness is fairly easy to detect quickly. A school's reputation in the local community and amongst visitors can be the first indicator of high performance.

2) High performing schools see pupils holistically and have learning and teaching as core business. This seems obvious, but I am sure we have all been in schools where you get the impression that the focus is very narrow, probably attainment in certain curricular areas, and they are most focused on command and control structures so that the organisation is as functional as possible. The best schools maintain a focus on learning and teaching, and how they can improve their understandings and their practice in these areas. They make the connections between all developments explicit and understand how these link to core business.

3) High performing schools are collegiate and collaborative, and this is based around shared values. All staff share and plan together. They understand the shared vision and the plan for getting there. There are no silos of individual practice, they visit each other's classroom regularly to observe learning, and will then take part in focused professional dialogue about this. They talk about learning and teaching a lot, formally and informally. They collaborate internally and externally across schools. They build partnerships with those that can support learners, including parents and other agencies, and value these.They understand their responsibilities for all learners.

4) There is strong leadership in all areas of high performing schools. Leadership is dispersed throughout staff and this is facilitated by a culture based on support and trust. People are encouraged and supported to lead and to innovate. Everyone understands how they can contribute to the leadership of the school, and will step forward to do so. Leadership is not about one person or about titles. Hierarchies are flattened and the power of relationships is utilised to achieve more.

5) In high performing schools career-long professional development is understood and embraced by all. Senior leaders not only support professional development they are active participants in this. Teachers enquire into their practice as an ongoing disposition and share insights across the school, and beyond. They use research critically to inform change and resist fads and trends, and have given up the search for 'silver bullets.' Everyone sees themselves as life-long learners and they model the behaviours and attitudes they look to foster in learners.

6) In high performing schools everything is measured in terms of improved outcomes and impact for all learners. They plan changes to improve outcomes for pupils and are ruthless towards dispensing with activities that have no positive impacts. They have robust self-evaluation processes embedded into all they do, so they know exactly where they are and what their impact is. They are good at saying no and protecting themselves and their learners the agendas of others which might deflect them from their core business and planned activities.

Of course there are other aspects found in high performing schools, but I would argue that the above need to be present so that others can have the greatest impact. You might want to consider your own key characteristics of high performing schools, and of your own.

Wellbeing 15-16 #teacher5adaySlowChat #ScotEdChat⤴

from @ Pedagoo.org

I have been following the teacher slow-chat wellbeing posts this week with great interest and decided to have a go at a 15-16 wellbeing post myself. I am not good at looking after myself. I never have been. I am not sure when I became addicted to pushing myself; I think that it hit somewhere […]

2015 Travel: Han Solo could do it in 878 milliseconds⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Gcmap2015

A confession: I quietly love flying. This year, I've done 163,581 miles of it.

I love that when you fly a lot, the airport social media staff say 'hello' on Twitter when you arrive and the cabin crew on your home route (or even on the Brisbane-Dubai non-stop route) recognise you from last time. I like getting great service, and see so many things about systems-thinking that work well in airlines, that I'm happy to forgive small indiscrepancies when they occur. All that said, flying strangles our planet as much as eating too much red meat, and for many, many reasons, I've wanted to stop flying quite so much, while not restricting the spread and growth of the ideas from our firm, NoTosh

I'm quite sure that nobody reading this blog really cares about how much I travel, but keeping an annual count on it has become a new year habit. When I started working at Channel 4, and then continuing when I created NoTosh, I wanted to keep track of what seemed like an interminable number of miles on the road and in the air. By 2012, 2013 and last year, I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever be able to get the number of miles down when they seemed to represent even more trips to the moon and back each and every year.

When you run a company based in Edinburgh with a great team living in Melbourne, you could easily spend your life on a plane - one flying to Melbourne feels better than two or more flying to Edinburgh. Indeed, in 2012, 2013 and 2014 it felt like I really did spend my life on a plane, as I went to the moon and back in my annual travel, with anything up to seven trips a year to Australia.

But last year, I began to find it a real mental and physical challenge to deal with the length of my trips, the nights away from home and, above all, the crazy distances. I made a decision at the dinner table of my friend and client Laurie, in Nanjing, China, while on a phone call to Peter Ford, my erstwhile colleague: in 2015, I'd reduce my miles as much as I could and still keep the company growing best I could.

I've started that journey with a third fewer miles in 2015 compared to 2014 or 2012, working towards getting to 2011 levels once more. It's still a silly number of miles in the air and on the road, but I'm happy to have achieved this without sacrificing the goal of our firm, to put learning at the heart of everything we do, and keep growing that learning mindset around the world.

And here's the thing: the whole team has travelled less than in, say, 2012 or 2013, and we've lost two of our staff - one to university study and the other to an 'offer he couldn't refuse' ;-). But in spite of all that, we have grown our turnover and, with traveling less, look likely to increase our profits later next year, something we can reinvest in developing our team, communications, books and so on. 

Our biggest challenge remains one behind the reason for all this travel in the first place: people still expect human contact, and think that this, rather than anything else, is "what we're paying for". I'm not convinced that's the right reason to get any consultancy firm involved with your school or company. "Having us over" is a luxury our planet can't always afford, and one that we don't always need to create stellar work. The same brains work via web conference as in a room in your school, and online learning and collaboration allows us to work in more flexible just-in-time ways, when the time is right for a busy teacher or executive. The times when I have really felt the benefit of being in the same room as people has been when we are codesigning a new programme, curriculum or learning environment, when being with each other for an extended period of time, in front of the inevitable whiteboard and post-it notes, helps make connections that we hadn't made online until that point. But for diagnostics, leading a PD session, doing a shorter length keynote talk - online still works really well for an audience that plans to actually do something with their learning (and an audience that plans to do nothing with their learning might well be less entertained, perhaps, by an online talk or workshop, but why would we want to take out days on travel for them, anyway?). 

Over the past year, that is the kind of work I've been concentrating on developing with NoTosh, and I think we'll see some great new programmes in 2016 as a result of the work my whole team has been doing to save our airmiles, save the planet and save some money for our clients. 

2007: 51,281 miles

2008: 81,887 miles

2009: 41,902 miles

2010: 106,372 miles

2011: 128,555 miles

2012: 242,266 miles

2013: 207,837 miles

2014: 237,195 miles

2015: 163,581 miles

 

2015 Travel: Han Solo could do it in 878 milliseconds⤴

from @ Ewan McIntosh | Digital Media & Education

Gcmap2015

A confession: I quietly love flying. This year, I've done 163,581 miles of it.

I love that when you fly a lot, the airport social media staff say 'hello' on Twitter when you arrive and the cabin crew on your home route (or even on the Brisbane-Dubai non-stop route) recognise you from last time. I like getting great service, and see so many things about systems-thinking that work well in airlines, that I'm happy to forgive small indiscrepancies when they occur. All that said, flying strangles our planet as much as eating too much red meat, and for many, many reasons, I've wanted to stop flying quite so much, while not restricting the spread and growth of the ideas from our firm, NoTosh

I'm quite sure that nobody reading this blog really cares about how much I travel, but keeping an annual count on it has become a new year habit. When I started working at Channel 4, and then continuing when I created NoTosh, I wanted to keep track of what seemed like an interminable number of miles on the road and in the air. By 2012, 2013 and last year, I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever be able to get the number of miles down when they seemed to represent even more trips to the moon and back each and every year.

When you run a company based in Edinburgh with a great team living in Melbourne, you could easily spend your life on a plane - one flying to Melbourne feels better than two or more flying to Edinburgh. Indeed, in 2012, 2013 and 2014 it felt like I really did spend my life on a plane, as I went to the moon and back in my annual travel, with anything up to seven trips a year to Australia.

But last year, I began to find it a real mental and physical challenge to deal with the length of my trips, the nights away from home and, above all, the crazy distances. I made a decision at the dinner table of my friend and client Laurie, in Nanjing, China, while on a phone call to Peter Ford, my erstwhile colleague: in 2015, I'd reduce my miles as much as I could and still keep the company growing best I could.

I've started that journey with a third fewer miles in 2015 compared to 2014 or 2012, working towards getting to 2011 levels once more. It's still a silly number of miles in the air and on the road, but I'm happy to have achieved this without sacrificing the goal of our firm, to put learning at the heart of everything we do, and keep growing that learning mindset around the world.

And here's the thing: the whole team has travelled less than in, say, 2012 or 2013, and we've lost two of our staff - one to university study and the other to an 'offer he couldn't refuse' ;-). But in spite of all that, we have grown our turnover and, with traveling less, look likely to increase our profits later next year, something we can reinvest in developing our team, communications, books and so on. 

Our biggest challenge remains one behind the reason for all this travel in the first place: people still expect human contact, and think that this, rather than anything else, is "what we're paying for". I'm not convinced that's the right reason to get any consultancy firm involved with your school or company. "Having us over" is a luxury our planet can't always afford, and one that we don't always need to create stellar work. The same brains work via web conference as in a room in your school, and online learning and collaboration allows us to work in more flexible just-in-time ways, when the time is right for a busy teacher or executive. The times when I have really felt the benefit of being in the same room as people has been when we are codesigning a new programme, curriculum or learning environment, when being with each other for an extended period of time, in front of the inevitable whiteboard and post-it notes, helps make connections that we hadn't made online until that point. But for diagnostics, leading a PD session, doing a shorter length keynote talk - online still works really well for an audience that plans to actually do something with their learning (and an audience that plans to do nothing with their learning might well be less entertained, perhaps, by an online talk or workshop, but why would we want to take out days on travel for them, anyway?). 

Over the past year, that is the kind of work I've been concentrating on developing with NoTosh, and I think we'll see some great new programmes in 2016 as a result of the work my whole team has been doing to save our airmiles, save the planet and save some money for our clients. 

2007: 51,281 miles

2008: 81,887 miles

2009: 41,902 miles

2010: 106,372 miles

2011: 128,555 miles

2012: 242,266 miles

2013: 207,837 miles

2014: 237,195 miles

2015: 163,581 miles

 

Nurture 15/16⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective


2015


I wrote my first Nurture post last year. (14/15 Nurture 31/12/14) When I look back at my aims for 2015, I I managed to achieve most of them. I didn't really reduce my time on Twitter and this is probably explains why I didn't get on with writing another book, or with writing my paper with Gillian Robinson from Edinburgh University. Gillian and I did manage to sit down a couple of times and start pulling something together, but in the end we were both so busy we never got round to completing what we intended. Mind you, we have identified a number of papers we could write about our experiences with practitioner enquiry, and we have recently completed a recorded interview for the University website about our work together. Small steps forward.

My year started with a visit to Cincinnati for the ICSEI conference. A tremendous experience for me as I had the chance to rub shoulders and engage with many of the world's leading educational thinkers and researchers. The 2016 ICSEI conference is about to happen in Glasgow next week and I look forward to meeting up with so many people I met in Cincinnati, and others who I have met online as a result of my attendance last year. This is a fantastic opportunity for educationalists in Scotland to engage with such a high profile event that brings together researchers, practitioners and policy makers. One of the innovations, and highlights, at Glasgow promises to be the 'Practitioner Day' on the Saturday, when practitioners will be showcasing their work.

Early in the year I successfully completed the fellowship programme with the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and was made a Fellow of the college in March. This was significant for me personally, but also for SCEL, a fledgling organisation on the Scottish education scene, but one which is going to be vital in developing system leadership and leadership at all levels. I had the chance to meet and work with some excellent people during the course of this initial Fellowship programme, all of which helped develop my thinking and impacted on my practice. New friendships and collaborations were established which will hopefully help the college to move forward, enhance the education system in which we work and have impacts for learners.

I was as busy as ever in my school role and one of my schools was visited by the HMIE early in our summer term. This increased the business for us all and throughout I tried to prioritise the well-being of staff. We worked hard to keep things as 'normal' as possible and to reduce anxiety levels amongst staff. We were successful in this, and a visitor during the inspection week commented ' if you hadn't told me, I would not have known an inspection was taking place. Everyone was so calm.' The results were good, but we still remained dissatisfied by our grades and the whole process. We still feel the inspectors come in with a particular 'model' of what they want to see. If you don't fit that particular model, it is harder to be awarded the gradings you think your staff deserve. The fact that we had three retired teachers in school doing supply work during the inspection week seemed to be of little significance to the inspectors either. Anyway, it passed and we determined to keep moving on with the priorities we had identified for ourselves. It did mean we all were even more tired than normal when we reached the end of the school year. In truth, staff were still a little flat on their return in August, but we are back up to speed now.

My summer 'break' started with a first visit to Cardiff in Wales, where I had been invited to speak to
headteachers by the Incerts organisation. I met more people who were working hard to make a difference for all the learners in their schools, and in the face of mounting challenges and diminishing resources. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and apologies to all again for over-running and delaying dinner! Welsh schools had been given a new curricular model, developed by Graham Donaldson from Scotland, very similar to our own Curriculum for Excellence, and we're just beginning to engage with this. I spoke to them about how, as school leaders, we might maintain our mojo in the face of mounting agendas and challenges. I hope I was able to reassure many of them and point one or two in the right direction. After this visit, my summer break truly began, so did the rain! I did attend various Pedagoo teacher events over the year, other conferences and the first Scottish ResearchEd. I enjoyed them all and learned from each of them. I just love events like this, organised by teachers, for teachers and no hidden agendas.

I continued to blog over the year and looking back at my posts, I see the ones that attracted the most interest were the ones written quickly and passionately about issues I had strong views about. The most viewed post of the year was 'A first response to Nicola Sturgeon'. This was my immediate reaction to the new National Improvement Framework (NIF), which included the reintroduction of national standardised testing into all primary schools and the early years of
secondary in Scotland. Suffice to say, I am not a fan! I did come up with a tweet that said 'The NIF is
naff' but never sent it, as I tried to give a more reasoned response. There were many disturbing aspects to the NIF, one of which was how the 'London Challenge' was being used as evidence to support its introduction. This fails in so many ways, not least of which is recent research that has shown the results achieved in London were more down to the excellent work being done in primary schools before the 'challenge', led by Tim Brighouse, even started. Two great lessons of my year, engage critically with all 'research' and remember context is crucial.

I had as part of my aims for the year to keep focused on staff well-being, so it has been a real pleasure to be engaged and part of the #teacher5adaySlowChat on Twitter at the end of the year. I really think we all have a responsibility, individually and collectively, to focus on staff well-being, as well as our own. Failure to do so, leads to diminished performance, plummeting morale, high absence rates, burnout and other consequences that can only be detrimental to the young people we work with. The levels of engagement we have already had with this chat demonstrates that this is a real issue we have across our schools and our systems. There is plenty of rhetoric about the issue of well-being, but not enough action. As I have said many times, we really have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, if we are to address the issues, for the benefit of all.

As I said earlier, I didn't manage to decrease my time on Twitter much. Why would I? I have found Twitter so useful in developing my professional/personal learning networks. I have engaged and collaborated with educationalists and educators from across the world, and they continue to help me develop better understandings, in order to improve my practice. This engagement has allowed me to keep abreast of latest research and thinking from lots of different systems and I have used this to help me in all aspects of my role. Hopefully, I have helped others in a similar way. The joy of Twitter is that you can engage as much as you want, at times and places that suits you and with a focus that is purely self-directed and not set by the agendas of others. It does have its drawbacks of course, and I do worry about the tone of a lot that goes on. Some people are very dismissive of others and you can feel the same sort of cliques you find in some staffrooms in operation at times. Perhaps this is one reason why we struggle to get higher percentages of teachers engaging on Twitter. Trust and respect are vital in schools and are equally important online.

2016

This promises to be as busy as ever. My priorities won't change, as long as circumstances do not conspire against me. As with any school development plan, what I envisage for 2016 is not set in stone  and may change as the year progresses, circumstances change and new opportunities open up. Some aspects are already known, others have yet to emerge.

I will certainly keep writing. Writing is almost a therapy for me and it helps me develop my thinking and improve my practice. As with anything, if you want to get better you have to put in the effort and keep at it. I want to improve my writing, so I need to do more. I have the opportunity to contribute to a number of books and I might even get cracking with the next one of my own. I will certainly keep blogging and will continue to write for magazines, journals and other blogs. I will keep Tweeting.

I will keep attending conferences and teacher-meets, as a speaker, contributor, or both. I have found these invaluable to my development as a school leader, and as the lead learner in the schools I lead. My first is ICSEI Glasgow 2016 and there will be almost six hundred educators and researchers at this event, which lasts four days.

I have been asked to join the board of the Scottish Parents Teachers Council (SPTC) and look forward to this new role contributing to building positive relationships between parents and schools. 

I will continue to prioritise my own well-being, that of those I lead, and of colleagues. I will make sure I keep involved in a healthy range of pursuits and activities that have nothing to do with work. These will include, walking, cycling, photography, reading, golf and another visit with my wife to our daughter in Perth Western Australia. I hope to start drawing and painting again.

I will keep smiling, dreaming and look for the positives more than finding the negatives.

I will face the challenges of diminishing resources and a changing political scene, local and national, positively and endeavour to work with colleagues at all levels to minimise the impacts for learners. I will still speak out when necessary and try to provide a voice for those who have no voice, or who are afraid to speak out. I will only fight the fights that my values dictate I should and which are worth the effort. The rest I will learn to ignore or exploit to keep the main thing the main thing.

I hope to continue to love my job and maintain my focus on improving and developing learning and teaching for all learners not only in my school, but in other schools. I will continue to view pupil development holistically and support the people I work with to be the best they can be.

Finally, I will not beat myself up about the things I don't get done and be more accepting of the fact that not everything goes according to my own 'cunning plans.'


The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.

The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.

The ghosts of Christmas Past⤴

from @ blethers

It's a strange phenomenon, the power of Christmas Eve to resurrect memories so strongly and yet so randomly. As I listened to the first of the closing voluntaries from the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's, there came into my mind a memory of myself, in my late teens, stricken with some inconvenient malady on Christmas Eve and spending that short afternoon in bed with the radio on, drifting in and out of sleep. I can't remember what ailed me, and cannot think it lasted, but at the time it felt unreal and solitary as the day darkened.

The small me in the photo (I think I was two) lived in blue dungarees and had to be coaxed out of them for family Christmas tea. (The yellow duck didn't join us - his red felt beak was too chewed for respectable company). We ate Christmas lunch, I remember clearly, in our top flat in Novar Drive, Hyndland, and went for tea to my grandparents' house in Hyndland Road. The whole extended family - the Stewarts, that is - would turn up there at some point in the day, though as I was the first of my generation I was the sole child for the first few post-war years. Families tended to live close, and there was public transport for those who were beyond walking distance.

I was remembering this morning how in my early married life I didn't do any Christmas food: my parents' house was ten minutes' walk from our flat (still in Hyndland) and we went there for lunch and stayed, stupefied, until it was time for bed. My first ever Christmas cake was made just before I had my first child - I'm sure I've recounted how, having slipped on ice in Clarence Drive, I had such a sore behind that I couldn't sit down, and dispelled my fears by baking. But the Glasgow Christmasses didn't end with our emigration to Dunoon; Cal Mac ferries seem to me to have run on Christmas Day and we headed back to Glasgow with our baby son. I do recall, however, that on the first year in Dunoon I iced the cake just before heading out to Midnight Mass: for the first time in my life I was attached to a church and had singing to do.

The long years of running Christmas myself occupied the greatest part of my life, having ended only five or six years ago. It still seems odd not to be making stuffing on Christmas Eve, and ramming it into a recalcitrant bird before church, odd not to waken to the smell of cooking and worry that the overnight temperature had been too high - or too low if the smell wasn't making it as far as the bedroom. There are no small children for whom stockings will have to be filled. I no longer have the restless wait for all the grown-up family to be safely here, nor the unholy rush between the end of term and the 25th. There is, theoretically, all the time in the world.

Time, in fact, to miss family; to look forward to seeing some and regret not seeing others; to have a suitcase packed and worry about taking the right things or forgetting presents or cooking brandy. Time to think about having dinner so that we can have a proper rest before our midnight sing/play/pray (have I got the intercessions? the music?) Time to wonder how we ever had the energy to drag sleeping choristers from their beds to come with us (really).

Now these choristers are cooking turkeys, looking after young children, preparing for visitors, in different parts of the country, and we are here, with the dark firth calm at last and the rain peppering the windows. Everything changes but the message of that distant birth. Even the carols - tonight our introit will be Advent Song, which is only four years old. And then Advent will be over, the waiting over.

And it will be Christmas.

Curran Curran: Kindness & Homework⤴

from @ Edu Tech Stories

Two days before Christmas, no time for a blog post... or to talk shop. I could easily use the excuse that there's only 4 weeks before the UK Digital Citizenship Summit and there's lots to do. But that's not the reason for the post... this one is personal.

There's a young lad called Curran Dee who I need to apologize to because my crazy ideas have taken a good deal of his moms time over the last few weeks.

I'll be writing to Curran privately but I wanted to let him and others know the value of kindness and doing your homework... and the role that both have had in what has become a bit of a crazy month for the people involved.

#DigCitSummitUK: The first 4 weeks
  • A Tweet and Skype call has lead to a conference being organized by crowdsourcing by a growing group of educators
  •  Has lead to the establishment of “Connected Educator Appreciation Day”
  • An event being arranged on the 23rdJan at Bournemouth University
  • Sponsorship from Barclay’s Digital Eagles so the event will be free to delegates
  • 74 people interested in speaking at the event
  • Over 4,000 Tweets about the #DigCitSummit since the first event on the 3rd October
That was before the Thunderclap earlier in the week that reached over 600,000 Twitter accounts


Kindness
I've been trying to find a home for the ideas that I've helped to implement in the last four weeks for the last 3 years, but few people wanted to know or even took a moment to listen to the ideas.

I filled out application forms for grants and sent my CV along with these ideas to various organisations and reached out to the great and the good of the Further Education Technology Action Group to share my ideas and research.

After spending two years focusing in one area of education I moved on. Pitching in and helping with the #SaveEdShelf campaign made me realise that UK Further Education Colleges wasn't the best place to try to explore these ideas.

#SaveEdShelf 12 Months Later:
A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way
I try to ensure that I "Always Show my Friendship First" and do "5 minute Favours" as and when I can. I would also have said that the kindness of three people made the last 4 weeks possible.

Ramona Pierson
In March I wrote to Ramona Pierson the Chief Executive of Silicon Valley startup Declara which was about to launch their social learning platform.

Ramona who was kind enough to reply to my letter of introduction and my crazy ideas, she and her colleagues also helped me understand why some of these ideas were not being adopted and encouraged me continue to pursue them.

Ideas can come from anybody... and anywhere
Bob Baldie
In September I wrote a post that was intentionally a little grumpy in tone. The reason for this was to see if educators in Scotland were open minded enough to engage with someone who was being slightly dismissive of the parochial outlook and the apparent waste of money on expensive consultations when initiatives in other areas were working well.

Bob Baldie was one of the people who replied to Tweets on an Education Scotland account. Bob was able to see past the snarkiness and was keen to engage with me and understand my perspective.

This led me to wonder if the culture in Scotland would be a good place to test these ideas... I was soon to find that they were not, but it only took 3 months as opposed to 2 years to discover.

Marialice Curran
Curran, your mum may have been a little busy over the last month but she has been one of the kindest, most considerate and empathetic people that I have ever met while I've been involved with education... or anywhere for that matter!
I'm not sure where it will all end up but she's achieved more in four weeks than many teams would achieve in months.

No doubt the speakers and delegates at the UK Digital Citizenship Summit will be taking about social media and technology a great deal.

One on the biggest lessons that I learned about with social media is that it's not the number of followers that you have or the technology that you use, what matters is that you engage with people in a meaningful way.

Whether online or "IRL" I keep the words of Shackleton and Emerson in mind. 

 “Some people say it is wrong to regard life as a game; I don't think so, life to me means the greatest of all games. The danger lies in treating it as a trivial game, a game to be taken lightly, and a game in which the rules don't matter much. The rules matter a great deal. The game has to be played fairly, or it is no game at all. And even to win the game is not the chief end. The chief end is to win it honourably and splendidly. To this chief end several things are necessary. Loyalty is one. Discipline is another. Unselfishness is another. Courage is another. Optimism is another. And chivalry is another.”  Shackleton

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded" Emerson

Based on Emerson's definition I can tell you that your mom has overwhelming succeeded!

Homework
The kindness of these three people will not be forgotten in a hurry, but I would not have been able to implement any of these ideas if I had not done my homework.

If I had not listened in on EdChats like #DigCit we might not have the results that we have today. I followed #EdTechChat for over a year and a lot of the ideas being implemented at the moment came from listening to what I felt the issues were based on listening to the experts.
  • I felt bad when EdChat Moderators were not able to attend Tweetups at events like ISTE
  • I noticed how educators were getting frustrated with suppliers at conferences, but the reaction to the TweechMeApp was very different to the reaction of other suppliers
  • I saw how EdReform was more likely to come from educators and technology companies than from our "Right Honourable" politicians  
  • I saw that current sales practices were becoming more and more unwelcome and that new models would be prevalent soon... I saw the value in attempting to reskill.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I saw that the pace of change was so fast and the education/skills gap so great that the best (and possibly only) answer to this challenge is that diverse groups of reformers and change agents need to come together to discuss their ideas in a SAFE, SAVVY and ETHICAL way where everyone's views and voice is welcome.

Curran, when you're mom told me about her event and what it stood for I'd done my homework, I felt I knew what was needed and knew who to contact. I hope that my core values played a role to some extent in how the people in my PLN responded to your mom's #DigCitSummit.

I look forward to seeing you next month, in the mean time I hope you have a great Christmas and I'll leave you with the wise words of Max Ehrman.
    Desiderata

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    Max Ehrman

Curran Curran: Kindness & Homework⤴

from @ Edu Tech Stories

Two days before Christmas, no time for a blog post... or to talk shop. I could easily use the excuse that there's only 4 weeks before the UK Digital Citizenship Summit and there's lots to do. But that's not the reason for the post... this one is personal.

There's a young lad called Curran Dee who I need to apologize to because my crazy ideas have taken a good deal of his moms time over the last few weeks.

I'll be writing to Curran privately but I wanted to let him and others know the value of kindness and doing your homework... and the role that both have had in what has become a bit of a crazy month for the people involved.

#DigCitSummitUK: The first 4 weeks
  • A Tweet and Skype call has lead to a conference being organized by crowdsourcing by a growing group of educators
  •  Has lead to the establishment of “Connected Educator Appreciation Day”
  • An event being arranged on the 23rdJan at Bournemouth University
  • Sponsorship from Barclay’s Digital Eagles so the event will be free to delegates
  • 74 people interested in speaking at the event
  • Over 4,000 Tweets about the #DigCitSummit since the first event on the 3rd October
That was before the Thunderclap earlier in the week that reached over 600,000 Twitter accounts


Kindness
I've been trying to find a home for the ideas that I've helped to implement in the last four weeks for the last 3 years, but few people wanted to know or even took a moment to listen to the ideas.

I filled out application forms for grants and sent my CV along with these ideas to various organisations and reached out to the great and the good of the Further Education Technology Action Group to share my ideas and research.

After spending two years focusing in one area of education I moved on. Pitching in and helping with the #SaveEdShelf campaign made me realise that UK Further Education Colleges wasn't the best place to try to explore these ideas.

#SaveEdShelf 12 Months Later:
A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way
I try to ensure that I "Always Show my Friendship First" and do "5 minute Favours" as and when I can. I would also have said that the kindness of three people made the last 4 weeks possible.

Ramona Pierson
In March I wrote to Ramona Pierson the Chief Executive of Silicon Valley startup Declara which was about to launch their social learning platform.

Ramona who was kind enough to reply to my letter of introduction and my crazy ideas, she and her colleagues also helped me understand why some of these ideas were not being adopted and encouraged me continue to pursue them.

Ideas can come from anybody... and anywhere
Bob Baldie
In September I wrote a post that was intentionally a little grumpy in tone. The reason for this was to see if educators in Scotland were open minded enough to engage with someone who was being slightly dismissive of the parochial outlook and the apparent waste of money on expensive consultations when initiatives in other areas were working well.

Bob Baldie was one of the people who replied to Tweets on an Education Scotland account. Bob was able to see past the snarkiness and was keen to engage with me and understand my perspective.

This led me to wonder if the culture in Scotland would be a good place to test these ideas... I was soon to find that they were not, but it only took 3 months as opposed to 2 years to discover.

Marialice Curran
Curran, your mum may have been a little busy over the last month but she has been one of the kindest, most considerate and empathetic people that I have ever met while I've been involved with education... or anywhere for that matter!
I'm not sure where it will all end up but she's achieved more in four weeks than many teams would achieve in months.

No doubt the speakers and delegates at the UK Digital Citizenship Summit will be taking about social media and technology a great deal.

One on the biggest lessons that I learned about with social media is that it's not the number of followers that you have or the technology that you use, what matters is that you engage with people in a meaningful way.

Whether online or "IRL" I keep the words of Shackleton and Emerson in mind. 

 “Some people say it is wrong to regard life as a game; I don't think so, life to me means the greatest of all games. The danger lies in treating it as a trivial game, a game to be taken lightly, and a game in which the rules don't matter much. The rules matter a great deal. The game has to be played fairly, or it is no game at all. And even to win the game is not the chief end. The chief end is to win it honourably and splendidly. To this chief end several things are necessary. Loyalty is one. Discipline is another. Unselfishness is another. Courage is another. Optimism is another. And chivalry is another.”  Shackleton

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded" Emerson

Based on Emerson's definition I can tell you that your mom has overwhelming succeeded!

Homework
The kindness of these three people will not be forgotten in a hurry, but I would not have been able to implement any of these ideas if I had not done my homework.

If I had not listened in on EdChats like #DigCit we might not have the results that we have today. I followed #EdTechChat for over a year and a lot of the ideas being implemented at the moment came from listening to what I felt the issues were based on listening to the experts.
  • I felt bad when EdChat Moderators were not able to attend Tweetups at events like ISTE
  • I noticed how educators were getting frustrated with suppliers at conferences, but the reaction to the TweechMeApp was very different to the reaction of other suppliers
  • I saw how EdReform was more likely to come from educators and technology companies than from our "Right Honourable" politicians  
  • I saw that current sales practices were becoming more and more unwelcome and that new models would be prevalent soon... I saw the value in attempting to reskill.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I saw that the pace of change was so fast and the education/skills gap so great that the best (and possibly only) answer to this challenge is that diverse groups of reformers and change agents need to come together to discuss their ideas in a SAFE, SAVVY and ETHICAL way where everyone's views and voice is welcome.

Curran, when you're mom told me about her event and what it stood for I'd done my homework, I felt I knew what was needed and knew who to contact. I hope that my core values played a role to some extent in how the people in my PLN responded to your mom's #DigCitSummit.

I look forward to seeing you next month, in the mean time I hope you have a great Christmas and I'll leave you with the wise words of Max Ehrman.
    Desiderata

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    Max Ehrman