Try. Try again.

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I have grown to believe that the most important word in education is ‘Try’ and that the most important sentence is ‘Try again’. I believe that learning is spelt T.R.Y. Progress is spelt T.R.Y. Development is spelt T.R.Y and Innovation is spelt T.R.Y. However, ‘try’ can only be realised if we have culture where failure is not only accepted but expected. Why? Because failure (First Attempt In Learning) is proof that we are trying.

In my experience, people are often put off from trying and trying again because of the way in which failure is viewed and reacted to within their organisation.

What is the first thing you do when a bomb goes off? You treat the wounded, right? There may be a time and a need to send in the soldiers. There may be a time when policy change is required. In the following months, there may be a need for heightened security and monitoring. However, the FIRST thing you should always do is treat the wounded.

I have been in countless situations when the metephorical bomb has gone off –  when failure and disappointment have struck. On so many of these occasions, the first people sent in have been the soldiers, law enforcement, the policy changers and the monitors. In doing so, they have left the wounded lying on the floor. You see, when you’ve been injured by failure or disappointment, the FIRST person you need is a ‘medic’ – someone who is going to pick you up, check you’re ok and say ‘try again’… ‘Only this time, let’s do it together’… ‘Let’s evaluate what went wrong and try again’. When failure hits, when disappointment strikes, let’s not leave the wounded lying on the floor.

Only by treating the wounded, following a fail, will we create a culture where failure is not only acceptable but expected. Only by treating the wounded will we create a culture of ‘try’ and ‘try again’.

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The Future?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

As an educator, I believe that our sole purpose is to see how education can change the world. In the context of Sinek’s Golden Circle, this is my WHY. When we look at the world ‘now’ and consider the possibilities for the future, it is easy and understandable to be pessimistic. However, when I listen to, and read from, the likes of Mark Stevenson and John Hagel, I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Stevenson describes advancements in the world of science and technology that are seeing scientists in North Carolina, 3D printing working kidneys. We are hearing about technology that will enable us diagnose our illnesses on our smartphones and 3D print the appropriate medication in the comfort of our own homes. There are many more examples of these kinds of advancements and if you are interested, I highly recommend checking out Mark Stevenson.

My issue, is that when I look at what is happening in the world and the possibilities for the future… and then I look at what is happening in our schools… it is impossible not to notice the enormous void between the two. Moreover, those of us who acknowledge the void and the need for change often ask ‘how are we going to innovate and change education so that our children leave school ready to enter this ever changing, ever developing world?’ However, I believe that this is the wrong question to ask because I don’t believe that the goal of innovation is to change education, but to see how education can change the world. If we only ever think about innovating education, education will always be playing catch-up and will have little impact on influencing and inventing the world and the future.

When I think about the future of education… YES, it needs to be REAL and relevant. YES, children need to learn to filter information, analyse it and think critically about it. YES, we want children going home at the end of the day asking more, bigger and better questions than they went to school asking. BUT, most importantly (for me) – and Ron Berger sums this up perfectly – we want children at school to be contributing something to the world beyond their classrooms. In Berger’s Hierarchy of Audience, right at the top… BE OF SERVICE TO THE WORLD. For me, this should be the baseline, the foundations on which the future of education should be built… its purpose.

However, if we are to revolutionise education in this way, many barriers, obstacles and challenges stand in our way. Here are just two…

1. The system

Government policy, tests, Ofsted, targets etc…

2. People

By people, I mean us; the people who work in our schools. Educators, teachers, school leaders, support staff; our cultures, our comforts, our mindsets and our traditions.

So how can we overcome these?

Sinek says that there are two ways to influence people… you can manipulate them, or you can inspire them.

Here is the brilliant part! There are hundreds of examples throughout history where people have inspired others with BIG dreams. Those inspired people have gone on to change culture, which in turn has changed policy. Martin Luther didn’t  say ‘I have a plan’; he had a dream. His dream inspired others, the inspired changed cultures which in turn changed policy. Want to see how education can change the world? IT’S TIME TO DREAM BIG!