Tag Archives: education

The Importance of Personal Contacts

I have pretty much lived clinical trials, clinical research & drug development for 18 years of my life! So, when I was made redundant in 2007 I decided to try something new as a career. I focused on my drumming & percussion workshops for schools, businesses, community groups … and I discovered the importance of previous experience and exposure.

I am reasonably well-known in a few circles locally for my percussion and drumming work, but my workshops, though plentiful had been voluntary input to a couple of schools for friends who were teachers: I worked full-time and did the workshops as favours. These were extremely well received and over a period of 5 years or so I made many visits.

Unfortunately, around the time I left work, there were major changes in the teachers (specifically, head teachers) at the schools where I had worked. My friends retired or left the profession and so many of my contacts evaporated overnight.

The last 2 or so years has been spent building links with new schools, but with many competitors already established, it has not been easy.

And through all of this, the old adage that “It’s not what you know, but who you know” has shouted in my face many times. Sure, I’ve had breaks and done workshops, and the future is looking bright, but it is difficult to express the frustration and sometimes blind panic that ceases hold when the very thing you’re wrestling with is what puts bread and butter on the table, clothes on your back and keeps your car on the road.

So what have I learnt?

In three words, “Never give up!”

I’ve learnt more about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses during this time than at just about any other period in my life. And I intend to work on these as I move forward.

But if you’re a teacher, or a manager who is looking for creative drumming & percussion workshops to spice up your lessons or build your times (and you’re based in the UK), I can help! 🙂

Knowing, Doing, Teaching

I meet many knowledgeable people who are excellent at their job or in their area of expertise who then make the mistake of thinking that they must also be good teachers.

No matter how much we know or how good we are at what we do, there is not some mysterious connection which allows others to ‘catch’ what we do.  Admittedly, it is often easier to pass on practically-based skills through demonstration. 

But is that enough?

Learning, the assimilation and acquisition of knowledge and skills, is as dependent on the recipient as the teacher, possibly even more so.  Put simply, unless our knowledge is translated into a form which can be received, understood and acted upon by the recipient our efforts are in vain.

The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that each of us thinks and learns in different modes:

  • Some learn best when the ideas are translated into mental pictures (I am one of these)
  • Some need to see things written down before they can take them in
  • Some learn better one-to-one
  • Some learn best in group settings where they can discuss ideas and bounce them around members of the group.

So, if we are to be good teachers we cannot adapt a one method fits all approach, neither can we simply assume that what works for us will work for others too.

If we are to be effective teachers we must recognise how our audience responds and which methods will work.  This may mean including a number of different approaches throughout a session.  But perhaps the most important skill it requires is the ability to listen to our audience and to read their body language.  We also need to take feedback at the end of our session so that we can learn how to be more effective in our communication.

We also need to be honest and acknowledge if we are not good teachers, wherever we ‘teach’ others.  If we are prepared to learn and acknowledge that we are a work in progress, our teaching and ability to pass-on knowledge and skills will evolve and become more successful.

Sometimes we will also need to acknowledge when we don’t have the answers, expertise or ability and look for those who do.

I remember times throughout my own education where people have crossed my path who were gifted teachers.  What stands out now is that these people had a real passion to pass on knowledge and skills in ways that I could understand.  The amazing thing is that many others in my class at the time also remember these people as being ‘inspirational’ even though their method of learning was different to my own.

For all the rubbish people throw at teachers/lecturers/educators, there are those whose vocation in life is helping others to learn.  Everyone needs to learn and we have all benefitted from those we all-too-often to slag-off.  We all know those little ‘funnies’ like, ‘Those who can, do: those who can’t, teach.’   What a load of spheres!  The skill of teaching others requires as much ‘can’ as any other job; probably more.

There will always be those who leave us cold or even turned-off; those who tar the rest with a bad image.

Our responsibility is to make sure that whenever we teach others, from bringing up our children, to helping others join in with our hobby, to teaching in schools or showing people what to do in our places of work, we take into account how our audience learns. 

That may even mean being radical and actually asking them!  Be assured that if we listen to the answers and act on them, our teaching will be more effective, more fulfilling and a great source of learning for our audience and for ourselves.

And sometimes we will need to be honest enough to admit that we need to ask others for help … or even let someone else do the job.

Creativity: The Other Global Crisis

Perhaps one of the most eloquent and engaging speakers I have heard is Sir Ken Robinson. he has this style which instantly puts one at ease whilst totally drawing us in to what he has to say. If you want an example, pour yourself a coffee and Watch Ken Robinson Talk to see him in action (opens in a new window … use the ‘Close Window’ button after viewing).

In one of his more recent appearances he continued to present some uncomfortable facts which will impact us all unless things change. Here is a sample of out-takes from his talk. Full article here (opens in a new window).

  • The world is facing a crisis of human resources … “I believe that fundamentally we have both underestimated and continue to misuse – if not actually abuse – many of our most important talents; our talents, our children’s talents, and the talents of the people who work with us. And unless we fix [this crisis], I feel we’re not going to make much progress fixing the other one.”
  • Both crises are the result of our “industrial mindset,” which is incompatible with modern society and modern business. Both manifest themselves in terms of imbalances. In the natural world it is the imbalance of gases in our atmosphere, although human activity is also disrupting many other ecosystems. In society we have legions of people dislocated from their own talents, legions of people suffering from all kinds of anxiety, legions of people in dysfunctional communities. And there is an enormous cost of handling this.
  • In California (Robinson’s new home town) spends $3.5bn a year on the state university system; it spends $9.9bn on the state prison system. Similar figures exist for other Western countries, as well as other US states. The UK spends millions of pounds a year on remedial education, to try to get kids through a system which many of them are bucking against. And we spend millions of pounds a year on career counselling, because people have not found their way.
  • The result for educators, employers and HR professionals is that it is vital to have an understanding of “the ecology of human resources.
  • As a society, we must improve our understanding of human capabilities. We believe mistakenly that creativity and intelligence vary in inverse proportion to one another. The things we take for granted as being true are the real problem; the enemy of making the best of ourselves is common sense.
  • Thankfully creativity is not dead but merely latent, in most adults.
  • Work by Land and Jarman showed that in a smaple of 1,500 children aged 3-5, 98% ranked as “geniuses” in divergent thinking. In children aged between 8 and 10 years the figure fell to just 32% and by the time children had reached between 13 and 15 years it had declined further to a mere 10%. In other words, children become less creative as they grow older. What coincides with this period of development, aside from hormonal changes and socialisation, is that they enter formal education where they have learnt a) there is one answer to every question, b) don’t look, because that’s cheating and c) don’t copy from anybody else, because that’s cheating too … even though outside of school we call this collaboration.
  • This mindset goes well beyond school and college. Land and Jarman also performed a control test of two-thousand adults (aged 25+) where only 2% ranked as geniuses. We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, because of the ways in which we become institutionalised and socialised. Education is a big piece of this, but work is an even bigger piece.
  • Creativity is most frequently associated, in the workplace, with innovation but it is equally important in helping society cope with, and harness, technological advances. No matter what we do or where we do it, technology is going to swamp us: new information systems are going to subvert all the things we take for granted.
  • The over-25s think we’re OK, but we’re not that great. We have learnt digital technology like a second language, so we kind of speak phrasebook digital compared with our children. IT systems are becoming more and more pervasive, but they’re not fundamentally avoiding the powerful need for better and better use of human resources. To the contrary. Human resource is the only way we can engage with these things properly … and at this moment we are locked into an industrial mindset about our own capabilities.
  • Business people can help to nurture creativity and imagination by thinking of organisations as organisms rather than organisations A better metaphor is from agriculture. A farmer can’t make a plant grow. A plant grows itself. A good farmer provides the conditions for growth. And a great plant doesn’t just grow from the top, it grows everywhere simultaneously, as do healthy organisations, which have a reciprocating relationship among the parts.
  • There is a huge difference between a creative team and a committee: great creative teams require real expertise among managers and leaders to work. It’s a skill-set that we need to be teaching managers and leaders.
  • Great teams, large or small, are deliberately diverse: they have people from different backgrounds, experiences, ages and responsibilities in the organisation. The processes employed by these teams ensure that their diversity is not an impediment but a resource.
    The best senior managers are those who are not afraid to let teams congregate for specific tasks and then disband, to form other teams as necessary, perhaps one of the best ways to spread cultural information around the organisation.
  • It is essential to create the right habitat, in terms of culture and environment. Anyone who is serious about making more of people must be serious about the environment in which they work. And not just the colour of the walls: innovative organisations have a rigorous approach to questioning algorithms of behaviour and changing the environment as need be.
    Challenging stuff.

What I think is obvious is that we have a long way to go. BUT we need to make a start, no matter how small to change the inertia of creative decline. and just perhaps some of our organisations and social structures will be rebuilt into healthy living cultures.

Until next time …

My Zimbio

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