Teachers Are People

A classic 1952 cartoon titled “Teachers Are People” is interesting on a number of different levels.

It almost feels like a parody in how pertinent it is.

Quick observations:

  • The rhetoric of “Today, more than ever, school is playing an important role in preparing students…” is prevalent even in 1952 and will probably be common in every time period forseeable in the future
  • Student’s found school boring well before the internet & video games.
  • Society’s perception of teachers hasn’t changed. I find the casting of the teacher interesting (or maybe that’s reading into it to much…)
  • Student’s engaged in make-believe violence well before the advent of video games.
  • Kids will be kids. 1952 or 2013.
  • Encouraging kids to be ‘creative’ in 2013 is nothing new.
  • The teachers work is not done at the end of the school day (contrary to popular belief)
  • Parents will always be defensive of their own child. Sometimes mistakenly.

It’s only a cartoon, but gives insights into societies perceptions at the time. Give it a watch.

Comfort Zones


Our greatest moments in life come from extending ourselves and pushing outside of our comfort zone.

Too often however, it is easier to just stay put rather then moving forward and trying something new. There is comfort in what is familiar. There is fear associated with the unknown. Fear can rule you – if you let it.

Something that I have always been fearful of is public speaking. I think this fear developed through not doing any at all during high school. My first year at university, I had to give a 5 minute talk in front of a tutorial group of 25 peers – I was sweating, felt clammy, shaking and feeling violently ill. I was in fact shaking that bad that our tutor went out of his way to make sure I was alright. I’m not sure what I was scared of….

In order to conquer your fear you need to confront it. That’s what successful people do – feel the fear & then do it anyway. (I’ve started listening to Susan Jeffers audiobook on the way to/from work.)

There were three subtle shifts that dramatically changed the way I approached public speaking:

1) People want you to do well (that’s why they are there)

2) It’s not you versus them. It’s what you can offer your audience.

3) The technique of ‘over extending’ when beginning a talk.

Imagine that you have to deliver a public talk to a large audience. You have prepared well but are still nervous. To alleviate these nerves, make the first thing you do on stage bold – walk with purpose, speak slightly louder than what you normally would, make hand gestures slightly more dramatic than normal, or tell a joke (takes courage, needs to be relevant & funny.)

By ‘over extending’ in this way you restore a balance between the feelings of under-confidence that you had and the over-confidence of your actions. Suddenly your audience isn’t as scary as you thought and feelings of nervousness start to disappear.

By confronting my fear of public speaking I allowed myself to push outside of my comfort zone. Closely related to comfort zones are goals.

It’s not surprising that Zombies, Run! motivated me to return to running during 2012, as this geo-location running game has specific goals to achieve as the story plays out. Once the story finished however I found that I had little motivation to run – I was goalless. So I decided to register for the 10K Foreshore run with the aim to do a sub 50 minute 10k – thanks to my colleague @carlieba for the inspiration. Now that I have a goal, once again I am extending myself in training and running with purpose.

Ironically, from my own experiences, sometimes meticulously defining goals can be counter-productive. If you don’t have any guidelines you are free to take everything in, rather then pursuing something with laser focus. So on occasions, to push the boundaries of your comfort zone you need to remove any goals, plans or boundaries.

Pushing outside our comfort zones can be liberating and is necessary for personal growth, but sometimes we can extend ourselves too far. Push too many boundaries and you have the potential to lose sight of the here and now.

2013 for me is a year of consolidation. I have the great fortune of working with some incredibly talented people and want to learn from them as much as possible.

What does 2013 hold for you?

The Way We Have Always Done It

Asking someone to depart from the norm is often greeted with looks of incredulity and if nothing is actually spoken, the subtext reads, “But this is the way we have always done it.”

Take the cutlery draw in your home. Moving in with my fiance two years ago, we found that the order we placed the cutlery differed. I placed them in the following order: knives, fork’s, spoons whilst my fiance placed them fork’s, knives, spoons. This was a classic case of “the way we have always done it,” (granted, learned behaviour from the way our parents (and their parents before) had done it) and whilst I couldn’t comprehend why my fiance would do it that way, I relented so now in our house the cutlery is placed fork’s, knives, spoons.

Perhaps, as a graduate teacher, you just asked a question at a staff meeting. The room went silent and at least one person rolled their eyes and explained to you that “But that’s the way we have always done it.” The majority of staff nodded their heads in approval, whilst glancing at you dismissively out of the corner of their eye. What “The way we have always done it” actually means is “I’m not sure why we do it this way and to be honest I haven’t given it much thought” or “I’ve never thought to question why we do it that way. Your question makes me nervous and uncomfortable.”

Often, and ironically, as a teacher I came across parents who readily admitted that they sucked at mathematics and then eye’d you with suspicion (or in some cases openly questioned you) if their kids weren’t taught with the exact same same methods that they were. With the recent industrial action here in Victoria, and the imposed 38 hour working week, some (not all) parents were shocked that their students report cards came home with no comments. Why? Because there is always comments on reports.

Let’s put that in perspective:

1) Many teachers work 60 to 70 hours a week and give up most of their holidays in the pursuit of quality education for the students in their care. They do this because they love kids.

2) Reading Innovation in Education: Lessons From Pioneers Around The World you will find that the state of education in other countries pale’s in comparison to ours. 72 Million children in India are not in school. We only have 23 Million people total in Australia.

What about Pakistan? From Leadbeater page 31,

“A third of school age children do not go to school. Six in ten schools have no electricity and a third have neither water or toilets. Each day a quarter of Pakistan teachers do not turn up for work. Not surprisingly perhaps, only 1 in 100 children who start kindergarton finish their studies in year 12.”

1 in 100!

Instead of complaining that there were no comments on your childs report at the end of 2012 how about being thankful that they have a qualified teacher in front of them that does their best and spend’s their whole life doing what they think is best for your child. 

The way I have always done holidays is preparing for the new school year. Writing lesson plans, driving questions, crafting great projects that will engage kids, learning a peice of new software and reading the latest research or book on education – well not this year. These holidays are about painting the house, exercise, reading for the joy, family, playing games and spending a lot of time on the beach. It feels great – the way holidays should.

In 2013 lets not settle for the way things have always been done. Examine the decades of literature about how kids learn best, draw from your own intuition and experiences, back yourself and look at how current and new and emerging technologies can enhance the best of what we already do in our own contexts.

Better get back to the painting.