Friday Mindset #79

Free resources, fresh ideas, sessions and offers

It's Friday!

Break open the finest booze and most-luxurious finger-foods, for we deserve a splendid spread, a banquet of glorious sustenance following our five days of back-breaking endeavour...

Wait - what? There's nothing in the building but three Custard Creams and a confiscated grab-bag of Maoams? Oh alright, hand 'em over, they'll do.

Let's dive into this week's stuff -

Something to try...

We saw two separate keynote presentations last week. It was striking how different they were.

The first took an upbeat, optimistic stance. The kids are full of potential was the whole posture of this presentation. It was energising; a dissection of effective staff CPD and its impact on classes, the joy of teaching and leading, the possibility of changing lives, the improvement in behaviour and enjoyment for pupils. The second examined the effect of the pandemic. The kids are damaged was its position. It looked in lots of detail about how stress, anxiety and personal trauma had inhibited learning; how it's impossible to think clearly when in a hyper-vigilant stressed state and how the day-to-day of teaching has become ever-harder as a result.

Of course we're not arguing one of these perspectives is true and the other isn't. We're not saying one of these approaches is better or more desirable than the other. We're not even saying both are true, or that neither are true. What struck us was the effect of putting the presentation at the start of the day; the first conference placed emphasis on possibility, the second on the immense challenges ahead. The contrast in the room was palpable.

Our conclusion, neatly tied-up with a bow on top, is this: not all kids are brilliant, but a large majority are. Likewise, not all kids are damaged, but a small minority are. This is worth remembering when we talk to large groups of staff. Our well-intentioned tendency to focus on a troubled minority - particularly if we unintentionally give the impression the problem is bigger than it is - can leave everyone feeling overwhelmed.

So here's a final thought, lifted from Ryan Holiday's book The Obstacle is the Way. "What stands in the way," Holliday says, quoting Marcus Aurelius, "becomes the way." Have a look at this video - it's one we share with students:

So here's the thought experiment that follows the clip. What if those external things we think of as obstacles, are in fact vehicles for change? One to think about next time we feel the pull of fatalism.  

Something we're reading...

From external obstacles, to internal ones.

This blog-post by Matt Might (director of precision medicine, University of Alabama, lecturer at Harvard Medicine School) looks at willpower - but, most interestingly for us, introduces the idea of will-energy.

Where the phrase 'willpower' implies an ability to resist temptation like a developed muscle (we're either 'strong' or 'weak'-willed), Might argues that will-energy is an exhaustible resource of internal strength, like a phone battery. Basically, decision fatigue is a real thing - we get tired of exerting will-energy when we wander into the gravitational field of temptation. Eventually we succumb; we avoid revision and watch TV, we skip class and stay at home to play Fall Guys, or we put down our book and hang out in the canteen instead.

That's why Might suggests a 'should' and 'shouldn't do' list, as well as a 'to-do' list. It's really good stuff, folks:

Portal Talk...

Another shout-out for our exciting new project: we've teamed up with the Psychology department at MMU to look at retention. We're studying students who've taken the VESPA Questionnaire, then dropped out of college. 

We've been analysing these results and building a picture of the factors that may have led to the student decision to leave. Early indications suggesting that low VISION and SYSTEMS score are often key factors in these decisions... but we'll find out more as we go.

To ensure our analysis can be conducted on the largest sample possible from across the UK, we're requesting that any schools or colleges who are currently subscribed to the VESPA Portal, and interested in being a part of this study, get in touch with us as soon as possible.  In return we will list you in a feature on our website and share the results with you first. We will also provide any early, trial, resources for free to schools taking part in the study.

Please use the link below to express your interest in joining the study. Thanks!

Our latest offer...

Remember our free online webinar about teaching effective revision? The one where fifty people requested the link for the zoom meeting, throwing us into a panic, but we were rescued at the last second when about 25% turned up? Yeah, that one - well, if you're one of the folks who couldn't make it and emailed to ask for a recording and/or repeat - no worries, we're going to run a mop-up session.

Here's the details:

Teaching Effective Revision - a little theory plus 5 new VESPA activities. Tuesday 28th March, 3:45-4:45pm, zoom. 


Meeting ID: 868 6869 8210

Passcode: 026189

...Aa-and that's it for this week friends. See you next Friday. If we want the snacks to be better by then, looks like it's on us. Bring something classy.

All the best to you and yours,

Steve, Tony and Martin