So this’ll be a short one, then. Actually, I was going to title this ‘On Creative Schools’ as it was prompted by reading Ken Robinson’s latest book of the same name. Whilst I could simply review the book and share his thinking, I’m sure it has been done better then i could already. If you are involved in any way in education, I urge you to read it. Very little I’ve read recently compares in its insight and urgency. Teaching, learning, educating… these things have always been vital.
Ken Robinson talks about personalising education, moving from the mechanistic model of education which was dictated by the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century to a more organic, individualised, looser system, no less rigorous, but more caring and compassionate. He cites various examples of grass-roots practice where the ‘revolution’ is taking hold. He decries the politicising of education and the test-driven agenda which is destroying creativity and destroying lives.
It’s a call to action. If you are involved in education, there is something for you to do, now, to make a difference.
I am ending a six year stint in China and taking a break from education, which is perhaps ironic. I’ve done this before – a year off in Greece led to ‘The Alpha to Omega’ and a year off in Vietnam led to ‘Is’ as well as all the benefits of being a home-dad to our new-born daughter. And now, the plan is different, and evolving. There is a large wall map of Canada up in the lounge, and we are in the midst of buying an RV in Quebec, our intention being to tour across Canada from August to October, and then down the West coast of the US to finish up in California, sell the RV and head back to Europe for six months of rural France and no school for the kids. Which is why I’m feeling enthused about Robinson’s book as well as, at the same time, wondering where I fit into this picture.
I began teaching back in the very early 90’s as a Reception teacher in Blackpool in the UK. By ’95, I’d been an Early Years Coordinator and then a Special Educational Needs coordinator, completing a post-grad. certificate in Special Ed. I had had my fill of teaching in the UK, along with other good reasons for a change of scene, and ended up back in the role of Early Years coordinator at an International School in Athens, Greece. I was told on arrival, to stay for no more than to years, otherwise I’d never go back to the UK. I took little notice then, but I now find myself contemplating a 26 year career of teaching in Greece, Belgium, Vietnam, Thailand and China. I’ve taught every age group from 4-18, been an ICT teacher in the IB Diploma, a Drama teacher, a Geography teacher, a Theory of Knowledge teacher, a Primary School Headteacher and lastly, a High School Counsellor. It sounds eclectic. I’ve completed a Post-Grad Diploma in Counselling and a Masters Degree in Philosophy. And I wonder what it is I’ve been looking for. I love to learn, to understand systems from within and to make real connections with people. But what next and how to make a difference?
This upcoming year off will undoubtedly result in more writing, lots of reflection, and some soul-searching. I was very kindly offered the chance to come back to my existing job. But a personal revolution is afoot. I want to explore other possibilities. I want to visit some of the excellent Universities I have been advocating our students for. I’ve often thought of a closer involvement – teaching maybe – at a higher level. But now I’d also like to visit one or two of the schools Sir Ken cites in his book, and talk to some of the people about their work and how I might be a part of it. I’m not job-hunting, but doing some serious reconnaissance for the future. Our one year off is potentially going to be two; some frugal living and back-to-nature, back-to-basics lifestyle changes could see us living in France 2017-18 for the year, having the kids either attend local schools or be home-schooled, whilst we explore a mini-retirement à la Tim Ferriss.
So, whilst education has so far been my life, it now feels both scary and invigorating that I don’t know where that life will take me over the next two years. There will always be opportunities on the International teaching circuit – and our own children deserve the opportunities that presents. But once I get my head out of that rather narrow mindset, I see immense possibility and opportunity. But for now, not working and being as present and mindful about life as I can be feels like the right and best thing to do.
As a post-script, if you’ve never heard Ken Robinson talk about education, do yourself a favour and settle down for 20 minutes of thought-provoking education: