Archive for the ‘Books & Resources’ Category

Today I wanted to write about something that’s so close to my heart that I almost overlook it.

It’s not a skill or a talent. It’s a natural gift in some – but everyone can choose to have it, if they want it.

It’s optimism.

Many people (pessimists some might call them) refuse to see the world through optimistic eyes as they think it’s unrealistic. The truth is that over optimism is possibly damaging, so it’s realistic optimism we’re aiming for here.

The kind of optimism that allows you to roll with the punches that life can throw. The kind of optimism that provides you with resources to keep finding creative solutions when all the options seem to be closing down. The kind of optimism that can raise someone else’s spirits enough for them to pick up momentum again.

As I said this kind of optimism can be learned and practised until it’s second nature.

And while your A*-C’s will get you to the next stage in life, whatever that may be. The choice of optimism will accompany you throughout your life and serve you, and others, over and over and over again 🙂

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And the end of last year I was approached by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) to comment on an invitation to tender they were putting together to develop some educational materials. The project was to pull together materials to demonstrate the range of jobs that will be generated by the Olympic Park over the next decade and present them in a way that would interest and engage young people.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

It’s a great project and I hope SCEP and NEBP will be able to be part of it. Since the meeting I had been thinking a lot about how to make careers ‘real’ for young people and it occurred to me that there was a huge opportunity to develop a new wave of educational resources, using all the new technologies that have quickly become part of our everyday lives. Especially with the smartphones / mobile platforms that are sure to eclipse the use of computers for surfing the web. I could see that there was potential to develop a resource containing all the jobs that were likely to be there and also had the capacity to expand to encompass the ones that haven’t even been invented yet! (See previous blog post).

The final piece fell into place when I came across a competition run by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) who are looking for ideas to use technology to re-engage NEETs (referring to young people Not in Education, Employment or Training).
 
I have now worked up a proposal to develop, not only a careers resource, but also one that would be acceptable for NEET and pre-NEET young people to use.
 
Another very exciting project in the offing . . .

An example of a vision board

This week the Imagine Project is kicking off in Forest Gate Community School. This has been a long time coming and I’ve had a whole half term to ‘anti-plan’ the direction I’d like this project to take. One of the things we’ll be doing quite early in the project is Vision Boarding. I know it has a slightly American twang to it and possibly viewed as a bit new age-y by some but I have found Vision Boarding to be a very useful way of making things I want to happen in my life, actually happen.

In the summer of 2000 I sat down with a large piece of card, some magazines and a vague idea that I wanted to clarify my future. I rifled through the magazine picking out images that appealed to me. Quite a lot were of other countries; beaches, cities, famous sights. There was also a laptop, various pieces of furniture, interior shots of cool houses, lots of healthy food (?!) and a picture of a couple on the deck of a boat. When I’d collected all the images I liked and stuck them all down on the card I was happy I’d covered all my future wants so I folded it up and put it away.

About five or six years passed and I discovered it again, opened it up and was truly shocked at the amount of things that I had ‘visioned’ had actually happened. I had met and married a guy, we’d started a property company, bought a big house in which we’d put some fab furniture, made loads of cash which enabled us to take trips to some great places in the world. Alarmingly enough I had even had a child, which was not technically on the vision board, but was included in a picture of one of the interiors. Be careful what you wish for !!

I will be using the vision board with the class at Forest Gate for them to envisage and engage in what it would look and feel like to achieve success in the Imagine project. But you can be sure some of them will be inspired to produce wider, personal vision boards. In fact I’m very much thinking it’s time to do another one myself . . .

Last week I went to the opening of The Skills Place and it was amazing. Located in a very prominent building, right at the entrance to Westfield, The Skills Place offers a wide range of training opportunities related to the retail sector.

Not only is the suite of rooms fabulously designed with training and conference facilities but also offer a replica shop environment, a cafe / coffee bar and a recording studio where hands on experience can be acquired.

The Skills Place Newham

And it’s only when you look a bit closer at the workings of such a vibrant environment like Westfield that you realise the number of different work opportunities there are. Because we also have a number of hotels and a large casino on site the training also covers front of house and gaming training. and for those not interested in the limelight (!) there’s a logistics, warehouse and office skills training too. I’m not sure how they’re going to manage to fit it all in.

As far a s SCEP is concerned, I would love to be able to bring students to The Skills Place to show them, not just a fully functioning retail ‘city’ in action, but also the investment being made in each of the people who work there.

I am very much looking forward to seeing it teeming with people keen to learn and making the most of the opportunities around them.

I used a lot of Belbin Team Roles profiling when I worked with management teams undergoing change in the workplace. What is great about a Belbin assessment is that you get feedback on the range of team skills that you have and the positive contributions that you make to a team. Yes, there are also drawbacks to each of the identified team roles but, largely, people identify with their roles very strongly and are keen to understand the differences in their fellow team members. I’ve often seen lightbulb moments when team members get to appreciate a ‘stubborn’ colleague’s tenacity, or learn to manage a free-thinker who brings up unscheduled items in a meeting.

Basically there are nine team roles that make up a fully functioning team. And it’s important to identify what roles are covered by team members (we all have a tendency towards two or three preferred team roles) and, possibly more importantly, if any team roles are severely lacking in the team. If these can be identified then the team can either support a team member to adopt that role, or learn to self-regulate themselves in its absence.

It’s all about understanding & balance. The nine roles fall broadly into three functions:

  • Thinking (sometimes called Ideas)
  • Social (sometimes called People)
  • Action: (sometimes called Task)

For the individual team role descriptors please see the  Belbin Website.

I have had the go-ahead from the Belbin Institute to develop a classroom based resource to help students understand Belbin’s Team Role theory and see where it applies to them. Tomorrow I am meeting Steve Gillatt at Forest Gate Community School to see if he will allow me to develop this resource by providing a class to trial the ideas on. If this pilot can be refined enough using the students’ input I will be keen to use this as a kick off to every SCEP project.

 . . . is a well-known resource base where teachers can upload their own materials to share with other educators. It is very easy to see how many people have looked at the resources and users can actually rate your materials and ‘like’ them to show others that they are worth looking at.

SCEP has uploaded some very popular resources over the years and the past projects have been well received by other professionals in education. Particularly the resources related directly to the curriculum. But, having spent some time looking into other resources available in the ‘careers’ section it strikes me that there are very few large resources like work books and packages of materials.

Is this due to the fact that:

  1. Teachers just aren’t producing such things anymore?
  2. Teachers are producing materials but not having the time or inclination  to upload them to the site?
  3. Any professional outfit producing materials are doing it for profit, not free download?

I’m sure I don’t know, but I do know that my remit is very much to get good quality resources out in the name of SCEP for anyone to download and use for free. Hopefully spreading the message about what’s been going on in this part of the world so it can be used, adapted and valued by other schools with similar agendas. It’s only right that funded project such as SCEP produces a quality legacy that lives on long past the end of the funding.

And I love the fact that SCEP could give a teacher as much joy as I experienced when discovering ready-made resources that I knew would excite and inspire my young learners.

I simply LOVE Amazon.

Last week I was looking for new sources of ideas to apply to some of the projects being developed this term and I went on to trusty Amazon to have a good browse.

I came up with two great books that I immediately ordered and one came yesterday:

The Big Book of Independent Thinking edited by Ian Gilbert. What a great guy – have a look at his profile and all the books he’s produced: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Gilbert/e/B0034NFB9K/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1315381916&sr=1-2-ent 

The Big Book of Independent Thinking is a series of essays by leaders and innovators from a wide range of backgrounds ranging from an American Football coach, a consultant paediatric neurologist and a comedian to name but a few.

Here it is . . .

My own view of education is to get as much real life,  fun and action into the delivery of projects and this kind of book reminds me of the many different ways people learn and how many different ways we can encourage and embed that learning. I’m SO excited and busily plowing through the book wondering how many of these great ideas and concepts I can apply to the world of SCEP.