Teaching is hard work. Sure you get great holidays, but they’re both well-deserved and absolutely essential. Having said that, why is the first week back after a break so exhausting? If you work for a school that’s anything like the schools for which I’ve worked, most of the term you’re running at a supercharged pace. Usually this pace during term time is ok, however, for me, the start of every term is particularly taxing and I put it down to compulsory meetings about absolutely nothing.
There's nothing more boring and draining than sitting in a pointless meeting listening to someone rubbish on about strategic plans for the department. In my experience, these have been nothing more than pointless time wasting activities in which nothing is achieved, or if something is possibly decided as perhaps a good idea, the good idea is deferred to a committee or held off until ‘later.’ Everybody at the meeting knows that ‘later’ means never! So why is this?
The failure to achieve anything at all is completely counter to what teaching is actually about. Teaching is about everyone learning new things and about getting things done. It's about moving forward, about improving oneself and growing! So why is it so hard for this to happen within a school? As educators, we should be at the forefront of innovation and making things happen. Yet the overall culture of schools tends to be hell-bent against new ideas and innovation.
The sad fact is that the majority of the education system in Australia is still stuck in the 19th century. Principals who should have retired when Mr Squiggle was still drawing his upside down master pieces just keep hanging on to what worked ‘back in their day!’ Well their day has come and gone and now with Australia falling behind Kazakhstan’s educational standards, something has to change. But if the top down approach isn't going to work, who's going to change it? Well you have to! If there's ever a time to get to and do something, it's now! Every time you have a good idea that could improve the education of your students, then make it happen. You might get told no five times, but don't give up.
If you really want to make something happen, then it's up to you to find a way to do it. It's time to be bold and push the boundaries. Too often I've seen teachers spoon feed kids the answers to everything just so they get results, but this shows a complete lack of innovation and is ultimately damaging to the student. Sure they might get a good result on one thing, but then they become dependent on the teacher giving them everything. The same goes the opposite way. The teachers who are prepared to spoon feed their students everything, are the same ones who put road blocks up to new ideas and innovation. You know the ones I'm talking about because someone's name had just popped into your head.
On staff development days, they're the ones ready to kill off all good ideas because it's uncomfortable to them to try something new and something different. After all, they've just got back from the holidays so they couldn't possibly do something new so soon. They're great with the excuses! However, anything worth doing comes with challenges. To achieve great things, you need to be bold and it will feel uncomfortable, but it's so worth it.
To kick off this new academic year, don't give up on your bold ideas. Make them happen! No matter how grand the challenge might be, you can find a way! After all, it’s about developing the best educational opportunities for your students, through which you can help everyone to achieve great results.
I've been reading a lot of business books lately. Some are amazing, some are total crap and some are just repeating everything else that everyone else has already said, yet still pretending that they thought of it first. Whilst business books are great to read, I reached saturation point last week and everything started appearing to be exactly the same. I've also been driving thousands of kilometres to get to meetings and listening to audio books along the way, but again everyone's sounding the same, telling me the same thing over and over and I needed a break. Ok, so quick sidebar and for those of you thinking about writing a book on business. Please resist the temptation of reading the audio book yourself, unless you have some form of training in media production. It's a rare thing to come across someone who can write logically and fluently and perform their own work with an entertaining flair, most business writers can't!
Having said that however, in my frustration of endless repetition in business tomes and the drones of their authors reading them to me, I woke the other morning to an offer I couldn't refuse! It was a free gift from my purveyor of fine audio books, obviously because I either spend too much money with them, or just not enough. Anyway, the gift was in the form of Girt, (a mysterious word whose usage came to prominence when written into Australia’s national anthem and means surrounded).
The book Girt is about the settlement history of Australia. “Ugh! Yuck! Australian history,” I hear you cry. “How boring!” Well having a degree in Medieval European History, I thought that too. However, nothing could be further from the truth (with the exception perhaps of Hilary's approach to online messaging). I downloaded my free gift and started listening to it right away. Written and narrated by historian David Hunt, this is an astoundingly hilarious account of the unspoken tales of Australian history that show how a nation was discovered by accident more than design and built on the back of dodgy deals generally involving rum and settled predominantly by people who really didn't want to be here. However, due to their rampant compulsion to blow their noses on something nice, rather than wipe it on their sleeves, they were transported here for all the handkerchiefs they borrowed!
I won't go into all the details of the book as I can hardly do it justice and, after all, you can read or listen to it yourself. I will say however, that it was a rolling barrel of laughs as David explored how dysfunctional the early days were in the new British Colony of New South Wales. Although I do note some important general guidelines for those future empire builders looking to send their criminals far far away:
If I'm not making any sense, it's either because I'm writing this late at night, or you still haven't read the book!
Ok, so there is a point to all this, other than recommending a fantastic book. The book was so far removed from business, it was the refreshing break I needed from my business. When we focus on something so much, we often lose touch with other things which excite us and make us happy and that's been the case for me. Listening to a wonderful and interesting history that had nothing to do with work or business was great. It gave me the chance to switch off and really enjoy myself and that's so important for anyone, not just entrepreneurs, to be able to do. Take some time for yourself, recharge, refocus and just take the time to enjoy life.
As for Girt, even if you're not into history, read it. It's the most engaging and interesting history book I've ever come across and you will be richer for the experience.
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