My greatest teachers Part 1: Primary school

My greatest teachers (and what made them great) Part 1: Primary school
We can all agree that teachers are very important people in our lives. Some of us had teachers that inspired us to want to become better, and some of us had dire teachers that we couldn’t stand. I think in our lives we do encounter both and you can learn from all experiences. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers in my life in education. They really helped shape my character in different ways. All of these teachers offered something different perspectives and paradigms. All of these people will always be special to me, and I will remember them always. What’s really funny is that looking back, it wasn’t their lessons that really made the most impact on me, but it was the way that they treated me and made me feel that I remember most.
Primary school: Mr Sale
Mr Sale was great because he had high expectations. I remember quaking in my boots the year before entering his class because every now and then you could hear him giving someone a serious ear bashing in the corridor. It always sounded brutal because you could only hear impressions of what was said, and his voice sounded so guttural and deep.
My first day in his class filled me with dread. What was he going to be like? Very quickly I realised that although he was strict, he was also kind and thoughtful. He loved the things that I loved. He was a huge football fan and he loved stories. One of my most memorable experiences was listening to War of the worlds on tape cassette in his class. It scared the life out of me, but it was one of the most exciting story experiences of my life and I spent six months checking the skies at night to make sure the martians weren’t on their way.
He made me the captain of the school football team and had faith in my ability to carry out the role. I was so proud when we beat our local rivals three nil and I smashed in a hat-trick.
He talked to us about our interests, and made us all feel important. He had the same high standards for everyone in the class and did not tolerate excuses.
I know that Mr Sale still works in the school today. He has been there twenty years since he taught me, so he also has immense experience on his side. He has committed himself fully to St Malachy’s primary school and that is really commendable.
Thank you Mr Sale. You had belief in me and had the ability to make all the children in the school feel important and valued. I wonder if he still makes the kids listen to war of the worlds? I will have to go back and ask him.

Want to learn the skills of the world’s greatest persuaders?

Do you find yourself banging your head against a brick wall when dealing with other people? Maybe you would like to learn how to persuade people that you have a good idea. It might be that you want to convince your child that going to bed is a good idea, or trying to convince your boss that you are the right person for the promotion.
This book could save you many headaches. This book will provide you with many solutions if you follow it. I honestly believe that this book if studied and applied could give you the skills to negotiate any issue or situation that involves dealing with other people. The book I’m talking about is the classic novel ‘How to win friends and influence people,’ I’ve not been re-reading it for long, but there are some principles that just ring true with how things should be with your relationships with others.
You will find this book to still be relevant even though it was first published way back in 1936. Human nature hasn’t changed that much. I plan to produce a much longer study of the book in future posts, but here are some of my main takeaway points so far. If these sound like ideas you would like to explore further, then I strongly recommend you read or listen to the whole book.
Principle 1: Criticism is useless. This is a massive concept and a huge challenge to normal thinking. People revere critics and are encouraged to take on board criticism and take responsibility for mistakes. Carnegie argues that people very rarely blame themselves for anything. Now this isn’t the ideal, we are dealing with reality here and 9 times out of ten, wouldn’t you agree that this is true? The book explains an alternative to criticism. Hint: it starts within.
Principle 2: People only do something because they want to do it. This idea is so simple, and yet so true. We can be forced to do things in the short term and through aggression and fear. True leaders create great enthusiasm through the way they treat their employees. If you would like to learn the secrets of these great leaders, then this book has the answers.
Principle 3: Become genuinely interested in other people. This principle explains the uncanny ability some people have to gain rapport with others very quickly. If you would like to learn how these things are done, then you might want to have a look at this book.
I know I’m probably preaching to the converted here, because most people who seem to read my blog are interested in their own personal development and growth. If you want some fresh new ideas on how to really get people on your side, in a genuine organic way, then read this book. I absolutely love it and am trying to bring some of these key principles into my life right now.
Be awesome.

Focus on the positive

When working with the children in the classroom I sometimes have to resist the temptation to be negative and focus relentlessly on the positive. There are times in the classroom when the children will be very challenging and it is at these times that this skill is the most important, for you and the child in question. This is a difficult technique to develop and goes against the natural instinct to immediately correct the child or person with which you have an issue but it has many benefits.
* It allows the child to get back on track without conflict.
*It allows you to avoid getting stressed and burnt out with poor behaviour because you constantly focus on the good.
*It gives the children a clear frame of reference for good behaviour from the positive role models in the class without comparing them to each other and belittling them.
Here’s one way that it could be done. Positive directing.
Child misbehaves in some way.
“Do you notice what we are doing right now? You can do that can’t you? O.k then, let’s go.”
If at this stage the child continues to play up, I don’t ignore it, but calmly give them another chance to fix it before going down the route of sanctions. The minute I see the child doing what I asked, I get another reminder in.
“That’s exactly what I was looking for. Now keep that up.”
It works, and leads to positive dialogue in the classroom. When this isn’t going so well, the atmosphere in the room changes and there can be a tendency to single a pupil out for not doing what they should be. We want to break the loop of the child expecting to be in trouble with the teacher and the rest expecting the ‘naughty child’ to be in trouble. How the child sees themselves has to change, and then the behaviour can develop from there.
This can also work internally.
Question: When you make a mistake, how do you react and what do you say to yourself?
If you are negative, what value will this have for you? Will it really encourage you to become better, or will the effort to create change not be worth it?
Can you see how positively talking to yourself will allow you to be kinder with yourself and start seeing yourself in a different way.
I am speaking from lots of experience here. Negative talk leads to exasperation, anxiety, anger, disappointment and limited thinking. Positive talk leads to encouragement, hope, seeing things differently and eventually positive change.
None of us are perfect and so this does take lots of work, but it is worth it.
Listen to how you speak to yourself and others and think. Am I really as positive as I think I am? Or am I horrible and nasty to myself in my own head.
Realising that you could be far kinder to yourself is a great way to start changing this dangerous habit.
I wish you the best.

Why the E-Myth is a must read for those interested in business.

I just finished reading an excellent book that has been around for years. It’s called the E-Myth and starts by painting a picture of working in business that intimidated and scared me into thinking that I couldn’t possibly do it. More than that, I would always ponder why someone would go through so many intense challenges just for the sake of their business. 

Gerber attributes the failure of many small businesses not to a lack of skill, but to lack of knowledge about what the priorities are. The image of the small business owner as the lone crusader in a fight to keep the business going is a reality for some people. Someone close to me was having many very similar challenges quite recently with their business. Gerber then proceeds to describe an alternative way to establish, run and grow a business so that it achieves predictable results of success. Now obviously, that isn’t a guarantee, but the main ideas that I took away from the book were:

* Your business should become your vehicle and help you to live the life you want to, not become a burden and source of misery.

* In the words of Stephen Covey, beginning with the end in mind will ensure that you have a broader vision of what you want your company to eventually blossom into.

* The best businesses have create a culture that compels everyone connected to it to produce good work. This is down to creating an environment of purpose where each person feels their work is valued and important.

* Well thought out systems of operation go a long way to making sure that people who enter the business understand exactly what is required of them meaning that business owners can focus on strategy rather than technical work.

* Well planned systems means that your business can operate without you even being there. Thus creating the freedom that all business owners went into enterprise for in the first place.

* The organisational hierarchy of the company should be created at it’s inception, not when the company grows as that might be too late.

*Discovering your primary aim (The reason why you want to start a business) will help you make decisions about the company that allow it suit your needs and wants. 

If any of these ideas or concepts interest you, I would strongly encourage you read the book. I gained a huge amount from it, and will no doubt be referring back to it over and again once I start creating my own business.

I wish you the best


Post 013: Let’s just be who we are

Inspiration can come from many sources.

I was just marking my class’s P.S.H.E work from last week. (Personal and emotional aspects of learning) The question we had tackled was ‘What makes me special?’ The responses that the children had come up with were fantastic and really made me appreciate just how creative and free thinking children can be when we ask the right questions. However, one response blew me away especially considering the child in question is 8 years old. After listing some things about what makes her special in her opinion, she then said. “I know that in the future I will learn lots of skills, but for now let’s just be who we are.”

Wow! I hope that she can stay true to herself and be who she is for the rest of her life. If she can, it will be one of the greatest blessings she ever has. I was amazed and humbled that someone so young could have such an insightful and beautiful view of the world. My job and the job of all teachers and mentors is to allow her and all children to keep their uniqueness alive.

It is a challenge, because for me I spent so long trying to be all things to all people that I forgot about being myself. Far too often in my job as a class teacher I feel the pressure to do this to the children as well. According to the powers that be, they should all progress at the same rate, get fantastic grades in all areas and basically be clones with different faces. At first, this overwhelming pressure was crushing to me. Then I realised that the problem wasn’t mine but the systems and that made the pressure ease massively.

The best thing I can do for the children I teach and my own children is to develop myself into the best person I am capable of and be an example for self improvement.

The spark that really ignited my passion for personal development was the birth of my son. I need him to know that he has no limits and that he can create whatever reality he wants for himself. In order for that message to be authentic, I have to live it myself and pass it on through example. I now visualise our family experiencing so much of what life has to offer. I imagine taking my family to seminars and talks with exceptional people who have positive messages.  I want to pass on the wisdom and knowledge I have gathered throughout my life to help them to get where they want to be. I want my children around adults who will allow them to ‘Be who they are’ by being in touch with their own unique voice. Surely this is true success. Not money, status, or fame. But satisfaction, development, progress and service.

I wish the girl who wrote this all the happiness in the world. I also hope that she comes to recognise that if she can be who she is and stay true to that, the world is hers for the taking.

Post 010 : What should education be about?


‘I saw one of his videos a few weeks ago and it really struck a chord. As a fifty something year old, I feel that my education aimed to prepare me for narrowly defined roles within an ‘establishment’ society. It didn’t encourage me to think creatively, or to seek less conventional opportunities, or indeed to try to change society. When my son went to school a couple of decades later, much the same was happening, and I’ve no reason to believe it’s changed now. I’ve spent all my working life in a reasonably well paid job which I hate. OK, so its kept poverty at bay, but surely there’s more to life than that. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that my so called ‘good’ education has held me back, and I’m finally doing something about it’

I read this when reading the comments after an article talking about spoken word artist Suli Breaks. He has a problem with the current education system in England. He basically believes that the emphasis on passing exams and grades is to the detriment of the children going through the system.

I agree with this. I am currently a teacher, and it is being turned into a place of cold efficiency, teaching tricks and uniformity. I was recently in a meeting with other teachers where we shared our practices and what we were doing with our children. More than ever before, there is a growing relentless drive on driving up standards of performance in the classroom. So much so, that teachers are feeling burnt out, tired, stressed and uninspired by the massive opportunities that they have to work with the future generation on a daily basis. The ironic thing is that in most cases, the standard of teaching that our children receive is good. However, if you read the media recently, you wouldn’t believe that.

On a personal level, I find the whole business  overwhelming at times because there are according to who you speak to so many ‘priorities’ that it can be easy to get lost in a black hole of paperwork and fads.  I think that this is the main problem with the education system in the u.k today. There doesn’t seem to be a collective spirit anymore of what education should be about. Do we want our children to be able to regurgitate facts, or do we want them to learn how to think? Do we want to challenge and expand their thoughts and feelings about the world around them or do we want them to focus on academics at the expense of building character and a world view. The education system will stay in a perpetual state of chaos until there is unity between all people who participate in it. Either that, or we allow the parents to choose the type of education that their children go on to pursue.

I feel that my time is coming to an end in the classroom simply because I’m not sure that I’m doing the best work that I could with the youth in there. I feel a growing need to leave the classroom and create something new and unique that could help children and adults focus on all aspects of themselves and to learn how to connect with who they truly are. I haven’t got it all planned out yet, but I feel that I will offer much more true value when I do this because I will be connected much more strongly to the principles behind my actions. Young people today need guidance in many areas. When I think back on my school days, the idea that your grades were everything was very strong. We were told on many occasions that the grades we got would be the passport to success. I now think differently. I believe that the character and values we have as well as the actions we take are the true determinant of success in the real world. School is so extrinsically based that the opportunity to go inward and discover ourselves and unique abilities can sometimes be missed.  I want to become a facilitator of that self discovery for as many people as possible and provide opportunities for this to take place in and out of the classroom.

I basically want to help create life long learners.

 What do you feel are the most important aspects of a first class education? 

I wish you the best