Growth Mindset: “I can do it…just not yet…”

To those of you who know me, I am a keen advocate of making connections between people, ideas, places and spaces.

This week I have participated in 2 Twitter #edchats. Wednesday’s #dojochatEU hosted by @tafftykec featured a question asking how Class Dojo can promote ‘Growth Mindset’, while #aussieED focussed on the concept for a full hour. For more details of the #dojochatEU – Class Dojo Beyond the Primary Classroom, click here.

For thoughts, links and great visuals from the #aussieED chat, click here.

This link includes reference to Brudenell Primary School, who successfully use ‘Pits of Learning’ with learners in all their year groups. Here is a school endeavouring to change the mindsets, not only of their Learners, but the adults as well.

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The conversations after #aussieED chat also featured reference to the Harry Chapin song, ‘Flowers are Red’. For 2 distinct takes on this classic song, click here and here. As you listen to the lyrics, you will realise the damage caused by certain individuals with fixed mindsets.

Sandwiched between the 2 events, I had been invited to attend the ‘Wall of Sounds Artistic Directors Series #4’ organised by Brighter Sound at Band on the Wall in Manchester. The promo video featuring Beth Orton, a musical legend in my eyes, can be found here.

For details of the artists involved, click here, check out their music and hopefully engage with them via their websites and SoundCloud accounts. If the performances on Friday are anything to go by, you will be awed by the talents displayed.

During the week of the workshop I was quite surprised to discover that one of the artists, Vanessa James was rather nervous regarding performing to an audience, especially given her background in music and publishing. However, in conversation after the show, Vanessa explained why and how she had overcome her fears. The week’s residency had certainly helped Vanessa develop her own Growth Mindset.

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Vanessa and I were also able to catch up on what we had been doing since we last met on a film project at Bowling Park Primary School. I told her about my visit to New Zealand, where I had also had to overcome certain worries, wobbles and concerns, particularly on the Tongariro Crossing.

While on the hike, I decided to attempt ascending Mount Ngauruhoe without adequate preparation and equipment. I certainly had to dig deep into my physical and emotional reserves to reach the summit and just as difficult, make it safely back. At times, the words of the children at Bowling Park, where a ‘Can Do’ ethos is pursued, came flooding back:

You Can…If You Think You Can…”

This blog-post is certainly a bit of a mazy run, but take time to follow the links and help develop the Growth Mindsets of those around you…and yourselves, of course.

Don’t forget to join in with future chats:

#dojochatEU takes place every Wednesday 2030-2130 GMT

#aussieED takes place every Sunday 0930-1030 GMT

Other #Edchats are all listed here.


Blogging from a Plane*

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In the not so distant past, a not so young man moved from Yorkshire to London,

He had enough years under his belt to know that the streets were not paved with gold, but wanted to see if he could survive and enjoy the capital city.

Not knowing many people but willing to learn, he was introduced via Twitter to educators such as Dawn Hallybone and Tony Parkin, both of whom welcomed him into their circles, building on various bonds between the north and south.

Since those first intrepid steps, that man is now both honoured and humbled to consider many of these on-line connections as friends ‘both on and off the field’.

One Sunday morning a few months ago, when I should really have been doing something else, I stumbled across #aussieED through people such as @dughall and @urban_teacher. Maybe they too were pontificating and delaying what they should have been doing, but their tweets led me to a real sense of energy and collaboration. The willingness of teachers from Australia as well as New Zealand and various parts of the US to share and learn was obvious. #aussieED seemed to be taking the very best of #UKEdChat and various other online chat forums, while building their own unique identity.

Through Google Hangout, Twitter and email conversations with @dan_bowen and others, I was then able to build up a link of possible contacts for an upcoming trip Down Under with @tagtiv8.

In addition to the usual luggage, I packed leaflets, stickers, business cards, a presentation and even a Tagtiv8 Number kit in the belief that someone may actually want to play.

A stop over in Singapore opened my eyes and changed certain perceptions. The mass consumerism of fashion and technology was mind-blowing. The malls were in Christmas overdrive, far more so than the UK!

photoIt was also interesting to note the emphasis on android platforms rather than Apple. But therein lies the subject of another post further down the line.

My first few days in Sydney were spent acclimatising and simply exploring, wandering, following @amazingholt‘s recommendation to utilise ‘the art of noticing‘ and believe me, I noticed a lot.

Owing to the size of Sydney and the work schedules of various people, it soon became apparent that one TweetUp would not be possible, so #tweetupsydX featured Parts 1, 2 and 3. Each was special in its own way and huge thanks are extended to @dan_bowen, @MRsalakas, @madgiemdEDU and @teachmisssutton for coming out to meet me. I learned so much about the education systems over here, the use of technology and the dramatic rise of #aussieED. The connections already established between educators from the two hemispheres was apparent:

“We’re already following each other…I love their ideas!”
“That @urban_teacher…he’s a legend, a rock star!”

As well as scribbling notes on napkins, a Google Document was set up so that we could continue to share the people, the links and join the dots and ideas in time. We also just swapped anecdotes, smiling at successes and rolling our eyes at various mistakes made along the way. What struck me was the real warmth of these people, their passion for learning and absolute honesty. There were no egos…the way in which they viewed and celebrated the online education community was genuinely rooted in discovery and collaboration.

@MRsalakas drew a parallel with elephant grass, whereby the roots are developed so well that when growth does occur, it is both magnificent and sustained. There was also a great comparison made between certain rugby teams  and Team #aussieED, whereby the props and forwards do not do what they do for individual glory, rather they run headlong into the opposition for the good of the team. This approach also links well with the wise words of @debrakidd, whose excellent book, ‘ Teaching: Notes from the Front Line‘ is being read and re-read during this trek.

So now the journey continues with the descent into Melbourne…and hopefully more links, connections and friendships…

*Thanks to @lordlangley73 for the title…a sequel to ‘Blogging from a Barge’ from even more moons ago.

Walking the Walk

Evolve Staff Conference 2015

It is now almost a year since I wrote the post, ‘Walking the Walk’, which means we must be approaching the Evolve National Conference for 2015. This year promises to be even better than previous years. Looking at the programme it would appear that there will be:

  • more activity;
  • a broader range of innovative speakers;
  • a large number of cutting edge school leaders;
  • greater involvement from senior Health Mentors;
  • hands-on workshops led by various educational partners.

This year at the National College for Teaching & Leadership, Evolve and their programmes will be joined by:

For highlights of the National Conference, 2014, read on…

Working with Evolve has kept me both busy and smiley, especially with Project HE:RO and  their XLR8 Transition Camps, which were more successful this year in terms of both quantity and quality. Over 1000 Learners participated in 24 camps across the UK and the initial findings indicate that the ‘worries, wobbles and concerns’ regarding KS2/3 transition have been eased considerably. The Learners I spoke with were clearly more confident, making new friends, while recognising and developing their various talents. For examples of what was said, click here.

The Evolve National Conference followed hot on the heels of the final camps and I was again left smiling by just how much talent there is within the company; #EvolveConf14 marked a distinct coming of age, with members of the organisation now able to ‘Walk the Walk’, rather than simply ‘Talking the Talk’.

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Certain Health Mentors I have known for some years have matured and I now feel 100% confident about recommending them to schools. The National Conference also provided me with opportunities to meet new recruits and learn more about their journeys and aspirations. Much of this growth in quality has come about through the leadership and nurturing approach of directors and conference hosts, John Bishop and Graham Morgan, supported by Jan Edwards.

Discussions with another Workshop facilitator, James Langley from the Curriculum Innovation Team, indicated just how impressed he is with Evolve and their Health Mentors. As well as his workshop, which featured the debut of the thought-provoking ‘I am Hollie’ message, James co-hosted not one, but two Mentor Meets, one of which was at the unearthly time of 0800!

The first Mentor Meet featured the Health Mentors and a surprise guest appearance by Paul Hutson from Night Zoo Keeper, who shared their new website and unique creative challenges for children.

Both events featured many genuinely inspiring ideas, though personal highlights included:

  • ‘Art Attack’ by Ash Baker
  • ‘Dads and Lads’ by Luke Harding
  • ‘SEN Mentoring’ by Tom Pagett
  • ‘Play to Learn’ by Carl Hill
  • ‘Lego Therapy’ by Ollie Thurlby
  • ‘World Cup Football’ by Paul ‘Messi’ Norris
  • ‘My Huge Mentoring File’ by Serian Ganesh 
  • and the quirky but wonderful ‘Grass Heads’ by Naomi Lewis
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Grass Heads

Evolve National Conferences would be incomplete without the invited Key Note Speaker and this year the audience were both charmed and inspired by Karen Asemper. For further details of her story and determination click here. The fact that she is a fellow North Easterner and a dancer added the stamp of authenticity. As to the Awards, all the recipients were deserving of the applause, especially the Health Mentor of the Year, Rachel Barber. Well done to all of you…not forgetting the standing ovation for Dave Clifton.

For images of the event click here.




Special mention must go to the venue chosen for the conference. Thank you to the wonderful folk at the National College for being wonderful hosts and sharing their wonderful learning environment.

My own workshops on ‘Taking Mentoring to the Next Level’ had the strap line, ‘Making Myself Redundant’. This had nothing to do with me looking towards retirement and a series of cruises supplemented by days in the allotment. As I said earlier, the calibre of the Health Mentors is high enough that they can now collaborate on their own ideas and create their own schemes of work, session plans and resources.

As a result of an earlier email sent by Theo Harris and his Regional Manager, Damon Fox, I decided to include a video clip by the irrepressible Nick Vujicic. To those of you who have never seen Nick or heard him speak, I urge you to view his work and listen to his messages. For an example of just how awesome he is, watch this…

To me, clips such as these should be essential viewing for all children, as indeed should the experiences featured in a previous blog post.

This clip made me think of events in my own life these past few months. A serious back injury has meant that I have been unable to exercise, let alone move without excruciating pain, for almost a third of the year. Likewise, a series of very heated discussions with one of my closest friends has meant that I have doubted many things in my own life. These events were then eclipsed by the sudden illness and death of my father in July; the impact of grief and loss comes and goes, while providing me with more questions than answers.

But hey, as I keep telling others…”pain is all relative.”

If we can pass the baton on to others in the way that my father passed on his beliefs and ideas to me then there is always hope.

As the programme for 2015 says, ‘Here’s to a New Era…’

Making Connections…it’s Not Just a North Eastern Thing


“Sir…You know when you taught us in Year 6, you used to always go on about connections? You used to keep going on about how one lesson links to another…and one subject links to another…and one person links to another. Well, now I get it.”


These were the words of a Learner I once taught and recently met. These words keep resonating wherever I go, whether or not via work with Evolve SI or more recently with Tagtiv8.


Life really is all about making the connections.


Recently, I attended the EICE Conference, Manchester, where I was entertained yet again by the inimitable Tim Rylands, a man who regularly induces ‘genuine wobbly chin moments’ in me.


Towards the end of the event’s first day, I picked up the distinctive tones of a fellow North-Easterner. Following the trail of ‘whey ayes’, I introduced myself to Animate2Educate

Our conversations naturally featured the plight of ‘wor team’, Newcastle United, but then it transpired that A2E used to teach at the same school in South Shields that I attended as a child. I hasten to add that we were not there at the same time. Not only did we share schools, but A2E also used to live on the same street as my cousins in Felling.


As I said, “it’s all about connections”.


I need to point out that our conversations were not purely nostalgic, as is the wont of many meetings between folk from the North East. A2E told me about the planning for his event, ‘Bringing Primary Computing to Life’, featuring the aforementioned Tim Rylands as key-note speaker.

Summer Conference Flier (1)

I highly recommend the event, as it promises to offer that perfect blend of innovation and entertainment.

In exchange, I signposted A2E to Camp Ed 14, where the links and connections, both new and old, amongst young and not so young, will once again be made. To those of you who enjoy the occasional Teach Meet and want to participate in grassroots CPD at its’ very best, click here.


As the Year 6 Learner realised, “it’s all about connections”.


Later in the evening, A2E and I enjoyed a meal in the company of Oliver Quinlan*, who once again shared his wisdom regarding education training and research, highlighting the innovative work of both the EEF and NESTA.  Oliver talked about the research by Tom Doust, whose recent work with Clore Social Leadership, ‘Flight: Teacher Networks in the Sharing Economy‘ highlights trends, both positive and negative, in the roles of social media in CPD.


I read with interest Tom’s findings on Teach Meets, and agree we need to encourage more educators, not just the Twitterati, to use this platform and other forms of social media to not only ‘spread the love’, but also to stir emotions, create debate and bring about change, where needed and desired.


When I was teaching in Year 6, the Learner and I would never have recognized the role or influence of social media in the statement, “it’s all about connections”. However, Twitter has ensured that those connections and links have been made and continue to widen and grow, both professionally and personally.


Since my meeting with A2E, two subsequent Tweet Ups have involved quality conversations with fellow North Easterners, one involving one of the cheapest curries ever, with NightZooKeeper, Paul Hutson in Bradford.  The other involved Steve Bunce, who cast aside his image as ‘the second nicest man in ICT’ in order to show off his mercurial footwork as we played football at the NEC in Birmingham. Match Report to follow, Des? But therein lies another connection…

*For details of Oliver’s highly recommended book, ‘The Thinking Teacher‘, click here.

Photo Source:







A Celebration of Talent

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What is Talent?

According to various definitions, people with talent possess natural ability or skill.

As the football transfer deadline approaches, the sporting media continue to pontificate on whether or not Gareth Bale is worth €100m. Terms such as ‘Prodigious Talent’ and ‘Precocious Talent’ are often read and heard, though too often are over-used and abused.

This summer I have been invited to various events in order to witness talent in many different forms, many resulting in ‘genuine wobbly chin moments’.

At the Alhambra in Bradford, I joined hundreds of others at ‘For One Night Only’, an evening of Dance and Music, organized by Deana Morgan as a fund-raiser for the Haven Breast Cancer charity. The performances were truly outstanding, the result of long and intense rehearsals, either live or online.

Dance and music also featured at the XLR8 Camps across the UK this summer.

This year Evolve operated 18 Camps in Birmingham, Bristol, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and for the first time ever, in London and Wales, with over 1000 learners attending.

Children making the transition from primary to secondary school were involved in two themes, ‘Super Heroes’ and ‘My Tribe, My Land’. Each theme featured four elements:

  • Vitality;
  • Enterprise;
  • DigITal Me;
  • Talent.

At Camp, the learners identified and developed their talents during various activities delivered by the Health Mentors. The performance of these talents was improved by the introduction of ‘PB:ME’, a concept developed by @ProjectHEROMan.

Many of the talents were showcased to parents, carers and teachers at their new secondary schools. Performances included dance, song, rap, comedy routines and more. Some of the performers had to overcome nerves in order to take to the stage, while others seemed to be ‘naturals’.

This year, XLR8 Camps benefitted from the presence of Volunteers who had just completed their GCSEs. The talents of these young adults simply astounded me. Their ability to inspire their future Year 7 students was nothing short of outstanding, with skills in drumming, rap, choreography and sport impressing both participants and visitors, who also recognized the pastoral abilities of these role models.

These summer observations raised the questions:

How do we nurture these talents?
How do we ‘sign-post’ learners so that they can realise their potential?

This latter question was the subject of a presentation by Josh Cronin at the inaugural Mentor Meet at Evolve’s 2013 National Conference, where some of the Health Mentors shared their own talents and ideas with their peers.

So, as yet another series of X-Factor begins and the heated debates surrounding Bale’s transfer continues, we should remember that most of the talent out there will not be recognised by the mass media. However, we need to realise that the talent is out there and it is our responsibility to nurture the learners with whom we work. They will make mistakes along the way, but by developing characteristics such as resilience as well as creativity, we can allow them and their talents to grow…

“Enough Food For Everyone IF…”

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Last year, I talked about reacquainting myself with Environmental Education and the reasons why I initially became involved in teaching and learning. In that post, I talked about Oxfam and the Land Grab campaign. For further information, click here.

Today gave me the opportunity to find out more about current global issues with the #BigIF event at Hyde Park. The stage was adorned with the phrase, ‘Demand G8 Action to End Hunger’.

The #BigIF event was remarkably well organised, with friendly, effervescent supporters and campaigners throughout the park.

The installation was awesome, though the photos struggle to do justice to its scale. However, the best image I have found can be viewed here.

The hosts for the event, Gethin Jones (@GethincJones) and Myleene Klass (@KlassMyleene) set the scene for the day, before introducing Danny Boyle to the participants. Danny talked about ‘People and Parks’ in his own inimitable way, before urging us to strive for our own Gold Medal for 2013…’the eradication of hunger’.

This sentiment was echoed by Bill Gates, who stated:

Ask yourself what you can do…then go out and do it.

The actor, David Harewood reminded us to visit and tweet using the hashtag, #BigIF

Many in the crowd were seen to both tweet David Cameron and text him on 6777.

The speakers reminded us that world hunger is not a natural disaster, but a human one, with 3 million children dying every year, i.e. 25, 000 every day.

The phrases that resonated most were relayed by Jai Naidoo, who referred to Nelson Mandela, as well as Alvin Masiola and other guest speakers:
  • Tax dodging denies resources to those who need them most.
  • There must be no more empty promises…we need to close the loop holes.
  • Injustice will not be tolerated; it triumphs when people do nothing.
  • What we are attempting is an act of justice rather than charity.

We must:

Say no to hunger…it must not happen on our watch.
Encourage governments to do more.
Make our voices heard.
Be relentless in our demands for a just and fair world.
Show both solidarity and dignity.

Rather cliched maybe, but need to remind ourselves that we do not inherit the world from our ancestors. Rather, we borrow the world from our children.

Some of the banners that abounded, proclaimed the injustices of Multi National Corporations and Land Grabbing.

‘Food not Fuel’ was just one recommendation.

On the tube journey back, one fellow traveller stated that the highlight for him was the humble Satish Kumar, who had walked the 8000 miles from India to London in order to put the spotlight on the plight of the farmers, as well as global warming.

Another highlighted the performance of Lucy Rose (@lucyrosemusic).

On a personal note, the day made me consider again the quote:

‘What’ and ‘if’ are two words as non-threatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: 

‘What if…?’

For further information about the #BigIF campaign and it’s associated partners, please click here, where you will find  links to:

amongst others.

Reflecting On The Week That Was…

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Well here I am writing my first ever blog post from the delights of a service station, Leicester Forest East on the southbound side to be precise, reflecting on ‘The Week That Was…’

The start of Spring Bank was shared with friends from Yorkshire, the highlight being a much anticipated visit to the Shard. The panorama was truly breath-taking, enhanced further by a stunning sunset and reflections both in the water and windows.

Now that I am no longer a full-time teacher, I do not view half terms breaks as holidays. My week involved training the wonderful Health Mentors of Evolve, first with Team Tarling in London, then with the Pioneers in Birmingham.

The Pioneers training day focused on importance of Reflective Practice (RP). We looked at the work of Brookfield and his 4 lenses to becoming a critically reflective teacher, as well as considering the influential work of Schon, Kolb et al.

However, it was not just published academics who were to inspire us. The Health Mentors also considered the wise words of Dave Hulston (@dhulston), from his work, ‘Roots and Routes’:
Who are we?
Where are we?
Where are we going?
These three underlying principles or guiding questions were developed further to include:
How are we going to get there?
Who will we travel with?

It was acknowledged that there are barriers to RP, mainly to do with time. However, the benefits of RP to both the individual and organisation are immense. We considered ways to facilitate RP, for example:

  • Self and peer assessment

  • Problem-based learning

  • Personal development planning/portfolios

The latter method included reference to the outstanding work of Oliver Quinlan (@oliverquinlan) who shared the blogs of students at Plymouth University. For further details, click here and here.

The words of Confucius were highlighted during the day:

By three methods we may learn wisdom:

First, by reflection, which is noblest;

Second, by imitation, which is easiest;

and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

With this in mind, we recognised that reflection often involves recognition of the mistakes we make. We realised that making mistakes are good, but only if we learn from them.

Later in the week I had the chance to catch up with Chris Mayoh (@chrismayoh) who was reflecting on his recent recce to Russia and how he now intends to take his latest route to the International School in Moscow. I admire Chris’ courage and look forward to hearing more.

So the end of an eventful, if not entirely relaxing week is here and I will reflect further, now knowing that: