Tuesday, January 31, 2012

what a difference a day made

Musing about what I suppose was a fairly ordinary day. What learning took place for me?

Between 8 and 9 a.m. I darted around seeing people and discussing various bits and pieces.
9 - 9:30 received some training in online data interrogation from a colleague.

spent some time re-learning stuff I already knew about resource preparation and also did a bit of Management by Walking Around.

Lunch time walk around and a chat to some young people - always a learning experience.

2-3 meeting regarding premises - food for thought here.

3:30 - 4:30 attended inclusion CPD

5 - 6 impromptu team meeting.

7 - 8 wrote some academic references.

How lucky I am that this was a fairly normal day!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

always worth a try

I was at a very good staff development day yesterday and I chose two workshops: one on improving student retention and one on personal career development. Surprising cross overs and also with my day job.

Well, no time like the present to try ideas out. So, I spenf a couple of hours today writing personal post cards for students to emphahsise the progress they have made and to make suggestions for further improvement. It will be interesting to see what effect this has.

So that's my bit of learning for today. Short but might be useful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

a good apple crumble

The day started with a lovely surprise with a bunch of daffodils from a friend - smashing! Daffodils - a splash of sunshine and a dash of hope (see Wordsworth for a more eloquent description!). Thank you to her.

Later on I was at a funeral which was as happy a celebration as one can hope for in such circumstances. The eulogies made me think of that saying: they won't remember what you said or did but they'll remember how you made them feel. As time passes that may well be true. It was a good man we said farewell to today. It was especially nice to see a mutual friend who I haven't seen for about a decade. She reminded me of a day when the kids were all young and we had overheard them saying that a good apple crumble is one of life's essentials!

Life's essentials - what have I learned about those? Does apple crumble sum it up, I wonder. Nursery food that remind us of childhood, when the summers were always sunny and the winter snow was just deep enough to make a snowman. Can we retain that simple happiness throughout life? Of course we accumulate worries, stresses, problems, things we might have done better. But, to me, these things do not take away the small or great wonders of nature, or the friendships that span time and distance. They do not diminish our happy memories nor cloud daily delights.

The nightime wakefulness might still find me a little weaker than in the full sunlight - but I still know that the dawn will arrive (sometimes with alarming regularity!).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

fortune cookies

Well, one of those roller coaster days today. Left feeling a bit drained and strangely other worldly.

Colleague gave me a fortune cookie today: success is a journey not a destination. Interesting. I keep coming back to the same idea: learning sometimes has to be done over and over. Then on Twitter this eve I saw this from @timbuckteeth : Without disruption there is no innovation

I've also been thinking about a quote from Ursula le Guin: It's good to have an end to journey towards but it's the journey that matters in the end. This always made me think of my mother, who epitomised the fact that it is not our outward achievements in life that matter, it is not our worldly successes that count, but how we make people feel is perhaps the defining characteristic of our lives.

And sometimes we get it wrong - no point beating ourselves up about that. And sometimes others get it wrong and it hurts but no point bearing a grudge.

We cannot move forward without disruption. The journey is everything. As Peppermint Patty said: how do you wake up with a smile? Go to bed with a coathanger in your mouth.

Tomorrow is another day. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

salt and vinegar

I do love to see my best friends down at the seaside - and always a learning experience. The younger of the two came up with a brilliant comment - we were discussing 'first boyfriends' etc. I said I had once been walked home by a boy called Chris Smith and gave him a kiss (this would have been circa 1974). Then I didn't go out with him again. She said "did you think he'd taste of salt and vinegar and he turned out to be cheese and onion?"

Brilliant! And it's sort of the story of life isn't it? We think we'll get just the thing we want and quite often it's not quite the way we'd like it to be. I loved this youtube clip  http://fb.me/Zb1zl0kR via @busynessgirl on Twitter based on Dr Seuss Oh the places you'll go, a book I've always liked.

I had a brilliant Friday eve and Saturday this weekend. Friday night I treated myself to a dinner, bed and breakfast in a lovely posh hotel - even got a free upgrade! The grounds were amazing. The room luxurious and the meal delightful.

Sat in the bar afterwards with a pot of mint tea and my book.

On the way there, I went along some of those roads that have trees arching over like tunels. With my full beam headlights on and the winter bareness, the trees took on a spectral beauty, like driving through the skeletal belly of some vast beast.

The following morning, I drove towards the Sussex coast and saw the sun blinking off the sea as it appeared on the horizon.

And St Matthew's Passion on the radio http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=475pqwwbZ1w

Then a lovely day with my friends, chatting, giggling - all that stuff.

But life isn't always that way. Somtimes, as Dr Seuss says, you're in a slump and it's hard to get out.

I really believe that we have to take into acount our friends and family and how they'd not have had quite the same life had we not existed (a la It's a Wonderful Life), the achievements we may have had, the fun and the laughter. And the love of course.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

leadership and learning

When I first became a Head of Department I suppose that I took some interest in a range of leadership styles that I had encountered personally or through reading. I remember two things quite clearly (though, of course, memories are personal and others may remember differently). Firstly, I remember walking round my 'empire' after everyone had gone home one day early on and realising the responsiblity and the thrill! Secondly, in my first department meeting, I told my new team that whatever went well, I'd ensure they got the credit and whatever went not so well that I'd carry the can. I think I stuck to that. I also said that I'd be in early every Wednesday if they needed to see me for a chat. After about four weeks, I wondered why they kept asking me things - then I remembered: I was the 'expert'!

We had ups and downs in that eight years. I tried to stick to my principles; sometimes I succeeded.

Since then, I've had a senior leadership role and I've tried to help others in middle leadership roles. I like to think I've been a 'buffer' when needed and that I've supported both practically and just being around for a chat. In 14 and 1/2 years, I've line managed every subject area at some point; I've done some pastoral lin management; I've stood in as Head of Dept and Head of Year for a term or two when needed as well as doing other roles. It's been an education!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

sunshine on a cloudy day

What a glorious day! I did a bit of tidying in the garden and built a new compost bin from a kit. Filled it up with leaves!

Then I sat for quite a long time in the sun with a book and a succession of cups of coffee.

This the view from where I was sitting. Two parakeets flew over.

So what did I learn from this? I don't know, I was thinking how lovely it was just sit in the sun, with birdsong in the background and a good book on the go. Small pleasures, who can deny us these?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

it's important to just keep working on stuff

Live to work or work to live? We probably all ask ourselves that question every so often and resolve to improve the balance. I suppose it's why I have hobbies like handicrafts and gardening.

Funnly enough though I often think of my work as a bit of a hobby in that it's such good fun. My brother asked me again recently whether I always know if I am working or having fun. I replied that quite often I'm just messing about!

However, we do need to take things seriously as well. What I am learning so far in 2012 is that (occasionally) you have to make sure that other people know you are serious as well.

But not always.

can't remember where I took this pic of a shopping mall in France but I reckon it's fun working there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

getting around to it

Missed a day or two again. This doesn't mean I haven't learned anything- just that I am not keeping up!

Yesterday I re-attached the polytunnel cover that had come off in the wind, only minimal damage luckily. I also collected a wheelbarrow full of dead wood blown down in the garden. Quite looking forward to the little fire in the outside fireplace that I'll be able to have with that when there is a dusk worth sitting out for (maybe they are all worth sitting out for?).

Today it's been a different sort of dead wood; I finally did a job I've put off for months - the sort out of my wardrobe to take to the charity shop. Once again, I have kept a few things that I'll probably never fit into again - and even if I could, I'd probably be so pleased that I'd treat myself to something new. Well, I'll call them motivation items.

There's loads more throwing away etc. to be done around the house but I am pleased that I have made a start this first weekend of 2012. By the last weekend of the year I hope to have a much more minimalist existence.

Having said all of that, I bought myself a nice book yesterday with ideas for upcycling so of course that means there are some things I am hanging on to with the purpose of makiing new things! Well, maybe everyone will get upcycled Christmas gifts next time around.

It's only half way through the day. I am still trying hard to practice kindness in thought as well as deed. Maybe this afternoon I'll do a little sewing ...

(Sewing .... or sowing ideas ..... hmmm)

Indeed I made two bags from accidentally shrunken woolens and some bits and pieces:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ripples in a pool

I knew I'd miss at least a day or so!

I've just finished reading The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism.

I marked several passages; here is one of my favourites:

"Try to consider as transitory all adverse circumstances and disturbances. Like ripples in a pool, they occur and soon disappear."

Or, in other words, will this matter this time next week, next month, next year?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

scarf thing

Here's the scarf thing I've just knitted - it's kind of loopy!

Three things learned today:
Knitting can be fun
Knitting can be frustrating
Always read the instructions!

( the project I started after the above, I wasted about an hour grr)

Monday, January 2, 2012

The World Turns on a Sixpence

What has today taught me?

When the sun shines I feel better and it even encourages me to get on with indoor tasks that I have been putting off (like the ironing - Before enlightenment, chopping wood, fetching water. After enlightenment, chopping wood, fetching water. (Confucius?)).

And of course, doing those chores made me feel better.

The world turns on a sixpence; one minute we feel happy, the next not. Perhaps what I am learning is that I have to keep on working at learning! It's as though I have to learn the same things over and over. Or at least, reflecting on them. Learning should perhaps involve some sort of struggle to understand. Sometimes, we learn best by trying to explain to others. And I still think that there are some things we are not meant to understand straight away - like that moment at the end of the film, The Last Samurai, where he finally understands that all cherry blossoms are perfect (sorry if you haven't watched it yet, spoilers!). 

I was reading something by a colleague today that made me think about that last point: "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" (Aristotle - he was not my colleague, I'm not that old.)

I have lots of pictures, cards from children and snatches of poetry etc on my office wall at work. The one people never get is the picture of a hippopotamus - no, it's not strains of Leonard Rossiter - it's to remind me of my insignificance in the universe but that if I did not exist, there would have been a small gap, and that's why I have to keep learning!

Phew, a bit circular today, sorry.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Thanks to @ for passing on this idea via Twitter: : A 365 project for learning   ” 

I am hopeless at keeping these kinds of projects going myself. But I do like this idea.

Learning - is it about learning a fact, a skill, from an experience? Is it about reflecting on your day? All of these and more I guess. 

I liked this blog post http://daviderogers.blogspot.com/2011/12/what-is-learning-personal-reflection.html passed on to me by Hayley Allan (http://educatingtrainers.blogspot.com/)

So what have I learned today (1.1.2012)? That staying calm isn't always easy but it almost always pays dividends.

And that's all for now. :-)