Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

The Importance of Employability Skills: Let’s Create a Nation of Edupreneurs!

January 5, 2015

I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity this morning to listen to a motivational speaker: Richard Gerver.  His speech resonated so strongly with my current thinking that I have dusted off my blog to add this entry.  This led to a password reset because its been so long since by last entry that I’ve forgotten it!  I’m ditching my insecurities about Blogging.  You’ll either enjoy my blog and overlook any grammatical errors (I’m a fiend with the comma) or you won’t.

Richard started with the expected jovial warm up, which was so entertaining that he could have said anything and I would have continued to laugh.  He then want on to share a number of experiences, which illustrated key points that he wanted to share. Each of the challenges that he posed, I’ll type in bold.  I have included a subsection ‘Clarity’, which is based on my opinion.  This is aimed at adding some additional thoughts, to reduce misunderstanding.

Richard talked about a discussion that he had with Sebastian Foucan, founder of ‘Free Running’.  As Richard remarked to Sebastian, as he stood admiring the Church of the Savior on Blood, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, he was astounded that Sebastian hadn’t noticed the buildings. The conversation progressed to reveal Sebastian’s obsession with the space between objects.  He sees himself as water, rather than a ‘rock’, which he believes many people represent themselves as due to the way they view the world, in particular obstacles in their way. Water in contrast is fluid, adaptable and always finds its way around obstacles.   People can be categorised as rocks or water due to their mindset.  Most people are ‘rocks’ who spend their time obsessing over the obstacles, reeling off the reasons why they can’t do things.

We shouldn’t expect to be treated like a professional but to behave like a professional. Professionals find solutions.

Richard went on to talk to us about a topic that has been bogged about a lot over the Christmas holiday.  Many educated people believe that if we work hard enough then things will work out.  If they don’t work out then they interpret it to mean that we didn’t try hard enough.  Most teachers believe that the harder that you work, as in the number of extra hours that you put into your working day, the more successful you will become.  This was very much in accord with what people have been blogging about over Christmas that many of us have fallen foul to this thinking ourselves, at some point (usually the start and middle) of our careers.  Many have blogged about their personal points of realisation of how this impacted on other relationships, often their children. One teacher openly blogged that during an English lesson, a poem that he identified with moved him to tears because he realised that he had damaged the relationship with his son and couldn’t regain the years he had missed due to the long days and weekends that he had worked with stern instructions to his family that he wasn’t to be uninterrupted, and the type household that his had become: one where his son’s friends didn’t want to go because they had to keep so quiet .  After this, he went on to build a very strong relationship with his son but it was a lesson to us readers.

Clarity: do not confuse Richard’s advice with ideas of ‘working to rule’ or think this means that deliberate practice isn’t effective.  Deliberate practice is effective for learning new skills.  The point Richard made is not to equate things not working out at work with not having not worked hard enough.  Rather to take time to consider how to do things differently for more successful outcomes.

Teaching has never been a 9-5 job, it is a vocation that involves planning and marking some evenings, during weekends and holidays. However, it is important to maintain a healthy work life balance. This involves developing the art of keeping your values clear and close, being discerning and organising yourself.   The latter, I believe is vital for a successful and happy life.

I made a claim in August 2014, which I have repeated a number of times: ‘I am 100% confident’ and I believe this too!  This does not mean that I am perfect or have nothing to learn.  Indeed, I see myself as a lifelong learner and seek to continually improve.  Being 100% confident is based on the premise that I do my best in all I do with the time, information and resources that I have.  It doesn’t guarantee me anything but I can deal with the consequences when things don’t work out, without self-flagellation and a negative impact on my self-esteem.   My attitude of 100% has led me to greater success, more risk taking and feeling happier.  I love my job even more that I did before.

Richard asked us to consider how can we tackle problems in a different way to this 20th century industrial model of working.

Richard suggest that we identify your own answers to these questions:

  • What’s your personal vision?
  • Why did you come into this profession?
  • What makes a good day for you?
  • What makes your heart pump faster?
  • What happens om your teaching day or interaction with learners that makes you go home thinking ‘this is all worth while’?

Eric Schmidt (Google) pleasantly surprised Richard during a lunch by stating that ‘technology will never replace the teacher’.  Eric expanded that he believes that education is the development of human intention and human interaction is fundamental to this. Computers cannot replace human relationships and the interaction that teachers provide.  Eric made the point that Google can provide the information, which replaces the type of teacher who stands at the front to impact knowledge.  This was music to my ears, when Richard shared this with us.  I strongly believe that there is a clear value of technology and it’s key that we embrace it with all of its uses, to enhance the learning experience but will never replace the teacher.  All of the research that I have read on this matter concurs, making it clear that inter student relationships. the rapport with the teacher and the collaborative climate that the teacher creates is vital for learning with technology.

Eric had shared with Richard that at one time Google became less successful, when it changed from a being vibrant environment with a clear vision and values when all meetings consisted of sharing ideas: ifs.  The meetings became fearful places, when the focus turned to what their competitors were doing.  This anecdote is a warning that we must never stop trusting our own vision, values and purpose  This simply leads to reactionary action when people copy what others are doing.  This is disastrous but sadly what many people are keen to do throughout the educational sectors.  We believe that the answer is out there by identifying and copying what’s working for others.

Don’t stop thinking and never stop trusting your own values, vision and purpose.

Richards penultimate point is vital and one that is very much at the heart of Derby College: the link between education and employability.

  • We must not teach students to pass tests but develop their employability skills.
  • Qualifications are becoming less important, it is vital that we develop people.
  • Interpersonal skills are the most desirable skill set for employers. We must contextualise everything that we teach in developing our learners interpersonal skills, or there is no point to what they know.
  • The key ability for success is to be able to continually adapt and change, with a hunger to learn.
  • We must all strive to develop an even better link between the world of work and education.

Richard shared his believe that he had met the man who has changed the world, and explained why.  The man is Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.  Steve had shared his own story with Richard, which included that he had been labelled at the age of eight, as dysfunctional, because he couldn’t build relationships with other children.  Having encountered an exceptional teacher, who made him feel that he could achieve anything, he fostered a desire to teach.  After Steve’s success with Apple, following an Engineering pathway, he fulfilled his second ambition and became a full-time teacher.  Steve believed that what you teach is irrelevant, it is how you learn, which is most important.

He told Richard  that Steve Jobs and himself had stated right at the start of their entrepreneurial career that ‘We need a company that invents stuff, rather than a company that makes stuff’, or words to that effect.  They made themselves a promise that they kept: ‘At Apple we will never employ anyone who needs managing’.

How do we create a climate where students can become this time of individual?  How can we create a Nation of Edupreneurs?