Lessons for schools from oil rigs

It may seem unlikely, but the social norms of school staffrooms could learn something from the rough, masculine world of huge oil rigs. Inspired by wonderful story telling, I’ve been thinking that if oil men can transform their social norms, then surely teachers can too.

Vulnerability, (when shared and supported) is far from a weakness, it is a strength. Not only should teachers do this to make their working lives better, but also to model better mental health to the children they work with.

The Ursa Platform

The joyous Invisibilia Podcast returned this month, with two stories about changing social norms; including one on the unintended consequences of McDonald’s teaching Russians how to smile, which I will return to later, exploring the dark side of emotional labour!

The central tale at the heart of the podcast, however, is the story of the hard-bitten Rick Fox, charged with setting up Shell’s new rig in the Gulf of Mexico. We follow the unlikely twist of what happens when macho men in an extremely dangerous workplace get in touch with their feelings.

Surprisingly, accidents decreased by 89% and productivity increased beyond any of industry expectations. Teamwork was transformed from thoughtless procedural clocking in, to a collaborative, safety conscious where people cared for each other.

To find out more about how this happened, I’d strongly suggest listening to the always entertaining and informative podcast from NPR. This incredible project was studied and reported by researchers, and their findings were initially applied to corporate life.

There are lessons for school here too. I’d urge teachers, especially SLT and middle leaders, to listen to this podcast episode and make the connections for themselves. Of course there are a few differences between schools and oil rigs, but people are more similar and our responses to fear and pressure are often the same.

Like oil rig workers of the recent past, teachers watch their colleagues getting hurt all the time, but have to keep going. There is a cost to seeing peers getting torn to pieces by misplaced accountability measures, deluged by workload pressures, and being powerless to express or improve their work environment. Under the tectonic pressures that (often) crush the management in schools staffrooms have become places where teachers are often able to admit that they are struggling.

If you make a mistake, hide it. If you don’t know something, pretend that you do. …never appear weak. if , for some God forsaken reason, you feel an emotion rising, swallow hard. Quote from Invisibilia episode

OK, we all hear complaints from colleagues. But, when was the last time you heard a colleague admit that they don’t understand how to spot progress in letter formation, or that they need your help with behaviour, or told you their real feelings. Not ‘I hate this job’ or ‘Yr9 are horrible’ but the honest internal struggles of people doing a hard job? Would you listen? Would you know what to do?

I know we think we are all very in touch with our emotion in schools, in touch with how the kids are doing but in a profession where ‘getting too close’ can seem dangerous. Perhaps the truth is that most teachers cover real emotions and function within a mask of toughness, only moaning through to let off steam, once in a while.

Like the millions of shop workers expected to smile and accept crappy behaviour from shoppers, described in the same podcast episode, there are many teachers putting on a brave professional face everyday. One they learned to copy from colleagues. The one they are told they need to wear to survive and to inspire children to learn

There is a growing research field in organisational psychology, and Invisibilia interviews Dr Alicia Grandey who explains that if social norms of false cheer, while it has some benefits, leads to health problems and an increase in mistakes in the workplace.

School leaders have a lot of responsibilities, that many wear as a badge or a shield. However, their primary role as a manager is the wellbeing and efficiency of their staff.

If an oil man, charged with exploiting natural and limited resources, can do this — then surely those leading schools can find time and commitment to do it too.

If you’d like to change the norms in your school or organisation, and want to replicate the sort of transformation that happened on those rigs…I am not a psychologist and for the sort of change described in the podcast, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

My experience at the intersection of education, technology and business is what clients are interested in, as I help make richer learning experiences, better edtech, and healthier ways of working.

If you’d like that kind of help, get in touch

(Please note — just because this post references a podcast that has Shell Oil and McDonald’s as reference points, I should make it clear that I in no way support either of those organisations or the work they do! Both are multinationals that are responsible for a lot of evil. However, good lessons can come from bad places.)

A Dynamic Duet

When do you sing? I’ve always preferred singing with others (partly as my voice can disappear into a broader sound). There is a simple joy in combining our individual differences to make music.

When you find someone you like singing with, it feels easy to find your voice. Well, I’ve found someone to duet with in my professional work, Maria Brosnan and I have teamed up to bring a new service to the world of education and technology.

As a freelance consultant, I’ve been fortunate to build great relationships with clients. I have been called back to help as an occasional board member for new edtech companies, a digital trustee for charities and a critical friend to well established organisations. Singing solo in these settings can be daunting, as my voice is in the spotlight.

My experience in founding an edtech company, creating products and services for schools, and communicating with the education sector is grounded by my passion and expertise as a teacher. The tone/timbre/register that I offer is in demand with organisations when they are about to start something new, when they want to change tack, or when they just need an outside eye on their work.

So, when I recently  found myself across the table from another freelance advisor to a client, as another critical friend to this edtech company, I was a little worried how it might work. Having been in this position before, I wondered if we’d work well together and if the client had made the right choice bringing us together. Would it throw me off? WouId my voice get lost (and would I lose the client)? What would happen if we disagreed with each other?

But it was great! Maria Brosnan is hugely knowledgeable and has valuable experience in founding edtech firms. In a series of meetings, Maria and I seemed to fall into an easy duet, taking different parts, encouraging and supporting each other to help our client in more ways than either of us could have done alone.

If you don’t know the film this pic is from, or get the reference, I don’t want to spoil it for you by explaining it. Just go and watch Casablanca as soon as possible.

Inspired by working alongside the growing choir that is weareopen: the cooperative set up by the dream team that is Laura Hilliger, John Bevan, Doug Belshaw, and the visual thinkerer Bryan Mathers;  I suggested to Maria that we team up and a new service.

Not only did Maria jump at it, but the feedback from our network of clients has been very supportive. It turns out that not only did we enjoy singing together, but other people liked hearing it!

As these are early days, we have an MVP in terms of sharing our new offering. We know we will need to adapt our message for the charity and arts sector, for startups, and other potential clients. We’d both love your feedback on this one page summary of our offering.

If you offer digital services or products to schools we believe we can offer considerable value as a duet. We will both continue to work as solo artists, and you can chose to take on one of us, but if you’d like to know more about what we could do for you as a team, please get in touch with either of us. 

You can contact us at eylan@ezekiels.co.uk     

Maria Brosnan at mariabrosnan@tiscali.co.uk

 

Black Box Swap Shop

 

Photo credit: HDWallpaperia.com

I need help getting out of a black box. But first, a few confessions. There was a time when I could build websites from HTML, could code most devices, messed with wires and was as savvy with tech as a teacher who loved tech could be. But that was back in 2000. Since then,  I left teaching and went into publishing and digital technology- and I have fallen behind. I need help to catch up. In return, I have ‘swaps’ to put on the table.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/Blackbox.svg/200px-Blackbox.svg.png

For the past 16 years, I have taken a ‘Black Box’ approach to making digital things happen. I focus on the input and the output. I learn enough to understand the framework (give the box a little shake), and then leave it to experts who know what goes on inside the box to make great stuff come out..

  • That worked great for when I worked in large organisations.
  • It works great when I work with clients, as I don’t get pulled into details that belong to team members to own.
  • It works great when I am working with kids, as it makes them the experts and problem solvers.

However, it is increasingly dragging me back as a freelancer.

I have begun to lose track of myself online. I have google apps, but want to move to more open tech.  I manage my WordPress site – but I know it could be better. I have a bunch of domains, which I don’t know what I’m doing with, but need sorting. I have a Pogoplug as a personal cloud – which I barely use – as my storage is now a mess of systems. I use a bunch of web services for work which don’t talk to each other as much as they could.

Finding a series of MOOCs, tech guides, etc, is another chimera of hassle.

SO, I need help. I need a guide to help me untangle the loose ends and help me get back on track. Is this you? Can you help me with any of the above? 

Multi-Coloured_Swap_Shop_Titles

Obviously, I have kind friends with skills, but I refuse to take without giving.  So, even if you don’t want what I can offer, perhaps you know someone who does. Gift me to person or an organisation you care about.

So, what can offer in return?

If you think you’d like to Swap – get in touch eylan@ezekiels.co.uk

If you know a skills exchange that this belongs in, or can suggest a way to manage this sort of swappage, please let me know!

Thanks

Be more Goat

Sir Michael Wilshaw says he wants more mavericks in education, to help increase the creativity in our schools sector. I don’t believe him. Rather than Cowboys, Gamblers and other heroes from his childhood, we should ignore this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Fixed: In sheep clothing

Photo by pierre_tourigny

Because, hard as it might be to admit, people who work in schools have become like sheep. We have a flock mentality. For more creativity and positive change we need to look to a more hardy version of ourselves to find a way forward. We need to be more goat.

What follows is polemic and is intentionally broad and sharp. Sorry for any offence if it doesn’t fit your experience or world view – and for all the ill informed animal husbandry and ecological metaphors.

Constantly aware of potential threats and quick to startle, educators bunch together with like people like who are like us, huddling close for protection and comfort. Even EduTwitter and the TeachMeet scene has become like this. We have been bred to like our boundaries… as long as we can graze and look after our young… we don’t look too far ahead to wonder what might happen to those little lambs after they are out of our view. We bleat. Boy can we bleat. But we do not bite or butt our attackers back, or hold our ground.

Like a wolf who is part of the pack that has the flock surrounded, Wilshaw is making an opening for more of our brightest and most caring teachers and leaders to break for the open, but who will only find themselves exposed and alone. The academisation policy is ensuring that our already empoverished ecology is now experiencing Enclosure, as did the British countryside of the 18th Century. And as the live stock in those fields, to use Matthew Taylor’s lovely taxonomy, we are being Split, Sorted and Subordinated.  

Barks and nips from policy makers dogs, managed by dog whistles, keep us in place. Even when a few brave sheep make a run for it, they only get themselves marked out for slaughter or sale faster. The number of ways out of the fields we are allowed to graze from are constantly monitored and even those who seek to help us find gatekeepers that turn away catalysts for possible change from within.

Of course, a few ‘prize’ sheep will get special attention, and taken to shows, as examples of exceptional examples….but once out of their natural environment, they tend to lose their lustre and become mutton.

Wilshaw, is calling out to a state sector to encourage more risk taking, while simultaneously thinning the flock of creative educators – who often escape to the relative freedom of the independent sector, or go to teach abroad.

I could extend this painful metaphor even further, and ewe know I could get away with lots more puns, but, on with the main point.

Asking a ‘profession’ to completely change to cowboys, outlaws and gamblers is crazy. We cannot change so far – not least as our work means that we need to manage and protect the children we work with and created nurturing environments for this. Not gambling dens or the wild west.  And, of course Wilshaw knows that. This is a pretty dirty trick from a wolf wearing a bloody fleece.

So, instead of looking way outside our evolutionary ability, we should look to our goat cousins.

Credit Tom Pennington http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/352800

 Hardy, omnivorous, able to function independently and in small family groups, goats will travel for the best and most nutritious shoots, even if halfway up a crag. Ready to defend it’s position, a goat will defend their young and territory.

OK, sometimes they eat the wrong thing. Sometimes they can be obstinate and, well,… annoying. But they have a tough digestive system able to extract goodness from most environments and once they trust you – are loyal and loving

When I left full time teaching 16 years ago, I swore I’d never be part of a flock again. Sometimes it is hard to be outside the comfort of the crowd (and consensus) and to be unpopular. When ever I go back to teach (which I do regularly), I feel the pull of the flock, and often think it would be easier to go for the simple life of not challenging the status quo. 

But, since I turned goat, I have found pedagogies (including #PBL) that suit my professional style much better and have made me a better educator. I have found great ways to work (agile / smarter use of technologies), that I now share with others seeking new pastures. I’ve also trained Channel 4 staff in creativity and helped NGOs be more nimble: but I have always come back to education as the sector I want to work in and love. 

Being a consultant/advisor means that I get to help all sorts of people involved in education find new and creative ways to help children and teachers. I know that, beneath the weight of the wool that so many professionals have gathered; are brilliant, caring and able professionals. Once they see what is possible when they leave the flock, few look back.

So, join us. Be more goat.

via GIPHY

Oh, and Mr Wilshaw… Please flock off.

If you’d like to talk about the work I do helping schools and organisations to realise more of their potential, why not drop me a line at eylan@ezekiels.co.uk

 

Obstacles? No way!

I’ve been lucky. Without much effort, for much of my life, I’ve ridden the wave of my advantages; often unaware of the obstacles building up, below the surface. OK, so I have made some great choices, and done some good work, but so many of the external markers of success have been gifted to me, through genetics, class and geography, that I have been/am often lazy. The simple power of questioning how one deals with obstacles has raised some interesting questions for me, not least on how I take advice.

The Obstacle is the Way, written by Ryan Holiday, was a gift from my friend, fellow slacker, and (more recently) critical friend, Doug Belshaw .  

I’ve been told by clients that I can get the heart of a problem quickly and turn them to advantages through action. When I reflected on this with Doug, it became clear that I do this well for others, but not so well for myself.

Reading this well written, balanced and accessible book has been an extremely useful challenge to some of my most established behaviours. Not least my tendency to turn obstacles into defensive walls that I can protect my ignorance/insecurity behind. Perhaps a result of being bullied at school, this habit means that I reflexively talk myself down. I am often able to talk myself out of more positive action, and tend to feel happier clanging up against my obstacles.

So, when I read a book like The Obstacle is the Way, I find myself forced to ask why I don’t turn my situation (often MUCH better than I think, and privileged !) to my advantage. It did this by offering learning around simple headings (see the excellent summary list in this Lifehacker review/post)

Great sketch of the book from Sachachua.com

So, why wasn’t it an easy read? Having pulled out of a tricky time (that is a euphemism, by the way!) I do struggle with the need to place the change in terms of material success throughout the book.

There is a trope in most books that find themselves in both the ‘Self Help’ and ‘Business’ sections; that ‘reflection’ on a ‘problem’, followed by ‘action’ + ‘inspiration’  leads to ‘success’. It is a very compelling vision, and one that reads so well, as it imagines us (the reader) as the hero/ine  – as modelled in the hero’s journey, monomyth, we know so well.

Like so many ‘advice’ books, the authors seek to make their arguments more compelling because of all the figures from history and celebrity littered across the book. I found this approach familiar, too pat, too easy, too deterministic.These sorts of narrative bother me – but that could be because I don’t want to make it easy for myself.. but have, perhaps gone too far, and made it too hard!

So – I am going to embrace this book and the lessons within it. Even if I don’t buy into the post-hoc fallacy, I can chose to use the structure within it to help me do good work for myself, as well as others.

I’d hugely recommend Doug Belshaw as a critical friend for other freelancers out there – and Doug can be found here. If you’d like to talk about the edtech services I offer, there is more info here and  please get in touch at eylan@ezekiels.co.uk 

 

GoLittleZeek

Noticing when a child is ready to move toward the next stage of their development is as hard as actually letting them go. LittleZeek has just turned 11 and is currently going through her SATs. However, our eyes are looking ahead, and the next few months are all about helping her prepare for the transition to secondary school. As part of this, we have given her a GoHenry card – to allow her to manage her money better and stay safe. 

 

LittleZeek with her GoHenry card and the app open on her Kindle Fire

LittleZeek with her GoHenry card and the app open on her Kindle Fire

GoHenry offers a prepaid debit card service, plus online/app tools to help parents and children communicate about money. There is a parent account, from which pocket money and chore rewards can be moved into the child account. Regular transfers (like weekly allowance) can be scheduled (and stopped). Chores can be detailed and different amounts can be set for specific monetary rewards.

LittleZeek can also set savings targets, for items she really wants – which we can boost as needed. The card can be used like a normal debit card, and has contactless payments.  We can set daily and weekly limits, as well as where it can be used, Online/High St/ATMs. Importantly, parents can cancel the card with a swipe, and change passwords/pins for the child – so she won’t need to ring customer service if she loses any of those things!

This service costs nearly £2.50 per month, and we are going to test it till Xmas to see if it works out for us. You can order personalised, decorative cards  but we just went for the plain one to start with. If she likes it, uses it, and we think it is working out – we’d happily upgrade to that later. But, it is not about a card as a fashion accessory – it is a functional service. Unlike LittlestZeek (8), LittleZeek struggles with saving her money – so we think it’s worth a go!

When we set up the service online, I tried to move money around, though it wasn’t clear that I needed to wait for the card (and activation codes) to arrive before I could make use of some of the features. The online chat /help was quick and very friendly, and explained why I was struggling.

Now that the card is here, we have installed the app onto LittleZeek’s new Kindle Fire (11th birthday pressie), so she can manage the account for herself, and start to plan how she’ll spend and save her money. Hopefully, we can relax a little.

She is very happy, and a little prouder and (even) taller now that she has her GoHenry card. It doesn’t just feel more grown up, it is more grown up. Yet, like most kids under 16, she still wants, and needs, the connection to us. The GoHenry service feels like a good balance for her and for us, and able to evolve with our changing needs. So, let’s see.

In the meantime, she is now set for some of the aspects of secondary school life, ie, getting there and back safely, and paying for her ‘wants’ (as opposed to needs) without driving us nuts. LittleZeek has bike, which she can ride around on safely. She has a very basic Nokia phone (another 11th birthday pressie – but not a smartphone/no camera – as what good can come from that combination when most of the schools take a ‘ban the evil new tech’ approach to kids and mobile. I should say, I wish this were different, but given the stories we all hear, I hope my caution makes sense), and the Kindle Fire for homework, communication and fun (at home).  But most of all, she has a smart head on her shoulders. Evidence? Here it is…

This week, I packed her off to to a local class on her bike. On her own. For the first time. GulpI have shadowed her in the past few weeks, hanging back further and further behind her… so she knew I was there. But this week, I waved her out the door, her mobile, and GoHenry card in her bag – and felt confident that she’d be fine.

Of course, the moment she was out the door, I completely lost it… and could not believe I’d been so crazy as to let her out on her own… freaking out about all the bad stuff that could happen,  – natch. So when I got a call from her on her mobile, to say she was fine and that she might pop into the shops on the way back… I nearly cried with relief and pride.

The GoHenry card, devices, bikes, and mobiles are great, but the best gifts we can give our kids are the critical faculties to navigate the world safely and the confidence to step forward as they grow.

Go LittleZeek, Grow!

 

The edtech Pull Buoy

Keeping any collective (business, school, charity, family, or cooperative) afloat is a balance and coordination of limbs, harnessed to move forward. It’s a bit like swimming. Sometimes though, you are so busy keeping your head above water that, without help, it is hard to improve your stroke. Everyone needs a swim aid at some point. 

Thanks to some brilliant local teachers, both my kids have gone swimming since the were 6 months old. Now 11 and 9, both LittleZeek and her younger sister swim effortlessly. Not so their dad.

However, as they have improved, I have really worked at it; I now have a passable breaststroke, and no longer fear open water. However, my front crawl is a disgrace. I get the end of a length gasping and complaining.

So, I am getting help, from a friend who swims extremely well. The first thing she asked me to do was swim with a pull buoy. If, like me you have never used one of these before, it is a float that fits between your thighs: to give you lift, and keep your legs still; while you focus on what you are doing with your arms – the bit of the stroke that ‘pulls’ you through the water.

Today, during my first UK open air swim of the year, I discovered the power of this simple tool. As I did not have to worry about my legs, and could concentrate on what I was doing with my arms I discovered that I was wasting lots of energy removing my arms from the water; they were dragging me down and back.

As I swam, I realised that this is a lot like the work I do with my clients. I help them to focus on one aspect of their work, often taking some of the heavy lifting , so that they can concentrate on pulling themselves up and ahead.

For example, an edtech client was struggling with sales, and while we looked together at how the service could better help schools; I did some targeted work with part of the team on the way they communicated with teachers, building campaigns and learning in the business. This released the MD to work on harnessing the many strengths of their offering, and within the team, to move forward more positively.

Like psychotherapists, I think those offering critical friend services should experience it too. I’ve been really lucky to get some excellent support from Doug Belshaw, who has been helping me rebalance and, as a result, offer a better service.

Being a critical friend is not just about kindly pointing out what is wrong, or jumping in to fix a problem. It is about adding a little lift to a ‘dragging’ limb, and ensuring that each stroke takes you closer to the goal. As a recent client said:

“It was priceless! …There was huge value in gaining the overall view of the business from critical friends… of what should be obvious, but when you are in the thick of it, is hard to see.”

If you’d like me to be your ‘pull buoy’ , and support the work that you do in the education sector, then please get in touch.

In the meantime, I will continue to work on my front crawl. Happy swimming.

3 Reasons NOT to be a FreeSchooler

I recently had two prompts to reconsider my experience of leading a free school proposal a few years back. If you are even thinking of it, (perhaps feeling inspired by the recent TES/NSN campaign/confection) and you are an individual, then this post is for you!

Laura McInerney contact me about an article she was writing, that appeared in the Guardian as “How the Tories picked free schools: chaotic, inconsistent and incompetent”. In talking to her I realised that something I had tucked away in a box marked ‘Danger – Do not Open – painful memories within’ – was full of useful lessons I had not shared. Beyond my resentment was a fear that the harm I exposed myself to, was being inflicted on others.

Like so many people, even those who were successful, for me the whole process was incredibly painful; and I recommend Toby Bloom’s article here, for a broader view of why the process itself is hard.  But lots of good things involve must involve pain and suffering, right? Wrong. I’d suggest that this sort of masochism is not good for most (good) people.

Someone else asked me how much it cost to apply – which was such an impossible question to answer simply in general terms, that I decided to write this post to add to those I wrote closer to the bid. The advice that follows below purely personal – and does not dwell on the rights and wrongs of this policy – but might offer a reality check to anyone thinking of jumping in.

The odds are against you and the house always wins

Not only is this process closed to proper and helpful scrutiny, it is part of a genre of government bids processes that would make Kafka question whether he was up to the job of parodying them. Read Laura’s article. It is a bad process, and those of us who believe in better education, for whom the process is intended, should have been better consulted and considered in it.

Obviously it is a competitive process, and the likelihood is you will not be successful, however good your application and ‘right’ your cause.

But, what really hurts is that you will not see the dice rolling, or watch the deck being dealt. You will see ghosts of logic, and wisps of decent explanations for decisions, but will feel out of control… cos you will be. This is a rollercoaster – and from the moment you announce, your hands might be on the tiller – but the currents are stronger.

Even if your application is approved, that is no guarantee of you being the masters of your own school.

It will cost you more than you can afford

Not just in terms of money, though that will be part of it. Even if you are used to protecting your family budget, and the time you work, the expectation and sheer gravity of this endeavour will pull in more than you can allow for.

If you have savings, or advantages (in terms of capital, social connections, favours etc) you are going to find them being hacked into on a pretty regular basis. Unless you are very financially secure, with a great job and understanding bosses (or board members), with a whole community of people to support you (over 30 hard and fast friends) … then you are in for a loss.

Of course, I should have been smarter, and ignored the advice from NSN and others, that the more time and effort we commit to the project, the greater our chances of success. This was rubbish, and I should have known that. I risked too much, and lost even more. But, it’s easy to beat myself up and see all the mistakes in retrospect. I was passionate and committed to the project. So should you be.  Be ready to lose and protect your family and those things you love, too.

Your authentic voice will be lost

You are going to have to talk a great talk and become part of a government policy – and become part of the national and local political debate. You will not be able to say how hard anything is, or question the few organisations in a position to help you (the NSN, for eg) because they are the gatekeepers and they are all deeply political.

You will be on show all the time, and your network will want to know all about ‘your’ freeschool – and it will seem like you are having to pitch it constantly, making out that everything is going great – cos, positivity breeds success, right? Except that this sort of ‘spinning’ is not going to be good for you longer term – trust me!

So What?

Of course, there are lots of possible fixes to these problems – and I’d urge you to find those that work for you. If you’d like help from me squaring the circles, please see my services here. Otherwise, I work in the open, so share your questions or thoughts below.

To all those who might think these points are a product of sour grapes; you’ve got me wrong. But more on that in future posts. Partly to support my own mental health, I have notched my foray into free schools as a failure – but one that I am also kinda relieved about.  Applying to set up a free school nearly broke me, but I learned a great deal and am even more focussed on the principles that underpinned our bid.

I do believe we need new schools, and some genuine innovation in the education system.  I am sorry that free schools have not been that vehicle, and am now exploring other ways to do this, especially looking at how open badges and blockchain technologies can help disrupt and improve our vision for a better education for our kids. If you’d like to talk to me about that work, I’d be happy to do that too!

Do you think my points are true? I’d love to hear about your experiences if you are thinking about doing this – or have already been though the free school journey. Thanks for your time.

School Communication under the microscope

It is one thing to want to make change, but to maintain a focus on impact: it takes respect, discipline and patience bring a team with you on that journey.

As of our meeting last night, ‘Improving School Communication’ is now part of the strategic planning at the school at which I am governor. Which is great, but not enough. 

We’d like to invite others to help us research this better, and help us test the hypothesis that we can balance our work better, if we change one variable. Help us learn how better communication makes schools better.

Although, we agreed that good communication, like healthy arteries, makes for a healthier organisation, it was a matter of faith that it would have benefits for teaching and learning, and for the administration (& even the finances!) of the school. Faith in my experience, and in the statements of others. In reality, there was precious little evidence for tangible impact on school life. We want to change that.

Understanding an ecosystem requires a bit of distance! Tx to Parents@Play.com for the use of this image.

We agreed to start a major communication audit of the school, and explore the blocks, wins, and opportunities that exist now. As I have said in previous posts, about the scope of the work and the nature of some of the problems with school communication, there is a problem of objectivity.

We need outside help from expert researchers. This post is an open call for academics, perhaps from Oxford Brookes University or Oxford Department of Education (or both!) , to join us in this work. It is a hot topic, with a poor evidence base – and a real opportunity to make a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning, as well as the workload of staff in schools.

If you are interested, please get in touch with me at eylan@ezekiels.co.uk, or in the comments below.

Also, please get in touch if you know of some good research, or sources, tools or evidence we could use to help us on our way: we’d also welcome those! We can’t be the first school to do this, and I am sure that some if this is out there, but hard to find.

If you are also just interested in this topic, thanks for reading this far and watching us on our journey. I hope we can make it useful for others, so let me know what might help you and your school.

Day Zero

All too often, we find ourselves in organisations doing the work, without thinking about why we are doing it. As a consultant, I am often asked to help organisations change and do new work. Quite often, this starts with trying to fit the work strategic goals and vision. To help them do this, I have developed a simple workshop approach which carefully builds focus and effectiveness. And… it starts with a bit of imagination and a bang.

Imagine your place of work: the organisational HQ, offices, registered address, server farm; or whatever physical structure constitutes your business.


Imagine that, for good reasons, that the building is empty of people/life, and that no one has left anything of personal value.

Then: one night, totally unexpectedly, the whole building is destroyed. Boom!!!

via GIPHY

The next morning, all that is left is a smouldering pile of rubble.

Nothing is spared. Every document burnt, (including articles of incorporation, contracts, etc), all digital files and networks lost (backup access is lost – and cloud storage is no longer available – for some reason).

Collapsed roof. Gas leak. Structural deficiencies.  Insurance will cover everything. Everyone who works there now can get new jobs and clients/suppliers will be ok. (Depending on the organisation, geography, the nature of the business, sensitivities in the news, I normally spin a story that matches the place and people.)

It’s all gone. Nothing left. Your business has disappeared overnight.

You’re not out of pocket. No one was harmed. Life goes on.

SO, what would you do?  Would you rebuild? Is it worth it?

Does your work mean anything more than the exchange of money, emails and responsibilities. Does your organisation/business not being around really impact the world in a negative way?  

Is there anything worth recovering that means anything more. Commerce is not enough. Legacy / nostalgia are not sufficient to justify the effort of starting again.

It’s Day Zero. You can start anything. 

But what does it matter? Where are the values? Is there clarity about your purpose?

The answers tend to release all the positive energy in a group and and is all comes down to clarity of values and a real purpose. Building brick by brick.  All the work I do starts there. Once this conceit in in place, it provides the structure for doing the work that my clients need.

This is just one of the workshops I use, and a glimpse into why so many clients trust my approach to their organisational change and the work they do.

If you’d like me to bring this model, or my expertise in education and technology, to your organisation, please get in touch.