#edblognz Week 1 Challenge 2 People who inspire me

Mmm…

A good word…inspire:

1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Who has inspired me?  Got me thinking… so many areas to think about… and makes me think of what my passions have been over the years. There are two types of people who have inspired me; those who I have met and who through their interest in me and the care they showed me have had a profound effect on who I am today. And those who I have never met, but who through their actions, deeds, philosophies fill me with admiration and who make me want to aspire to be or act like them.

As an eight year old I was introduced to gymnastics by my PE teacher at primary school.  Mr Biscombe.  I was a quiet little thing, didn’t say boo to a goose in public (although a complete chatterbox with my friends).  He recognised that I had some talent, he nurtured it, he believed in me and he encouraged me.  I spent the next 20 years of my life pretty much immersed in gymnastics as a gymnast and a coach.  It is probably partly because of Mr Biscombe that I became a teacher.

As a nine year old I was introduced to French at the same primary school by Miss Larraine Francis. She was passionate about French and her interest in all her students was clear.  She treated us all as if we were special and brought out the best in us.  I have spent the rest of my life with a passion for learning languages, for exploring cultures and travelling.  She also shares my love of Roquefort cheese!  Miss Francis is probably the other reason that I became a teacher.

(Oh, and do you know the best part? Mrs Biscombe and Miss Francis, my two favourite teachers, fell in love and got married!)

My Mum and my Dad both inspired me too but I didn’t think they did when I was a teenager. They were just, well, Mum and Dad! Doh! Looking back though, how much of what you do is not inspired by your parents? They are the ultimate believers in you, everything they do is for you, even when you don’t think it is!

woman doing a handstand on the top of a hillAs a gymnast I was inspired by my coaches, Mrs Pollard and Mrs Marjorie Carter.   Mrs Pollard was an old lady – well she seemed that way to me as a 10 yr old – small, wrinkly, white haired and extremely agile. She could still do the splits and handstands.  I was determined that at 60-something I too would still be able to do the splits and handstands!  A few years to go yet but the challenge is still on!  I was terrified of Mrs Carter at first but soon realised her bark was worse than her bite and as I got older and started to coach alongside her I appreciated her determination, strength of character, integrity and absolute fairness.  Her belief in us all was absolute.

Olga Korbut – every gymnast’s idol in the 1970s. I so wanted to be like her, do what she could do. But it was Elvira Saadi who inspired me with her grace and poise.  She was the gymnast who “flew under the radar”. She didn’t turn the tricks of Korbut and the Comaneci, she did her own thing beautifully. I never met these people but I was inspired to train hard to be like them.

caver doing a handstand in a caveAs I left gymnastics behind, my new passion was the outdoors. In particular caving.  The old guard of the caving club were incredible. Their longevity, their dedication to their passion and their perseverance to keep doing what they loved was, is inspiring.  As their bodies grew old, they moulded their actions to their abilities. They caved less “hard” but still went out every week passing on their passion and their skills freely to any who would listen and accompany them.  They tell their stories, many have gone down in the annals of caving lore, embellished, growing richer in the telling.  I have moved on, I wonder if I was still in Yorkshire whether I would still be caving, but motherhood and a move to the other side of the world has broken the continuity. Who knows – it is never too late…

Man diving from a rocky outcrop into a riverNorbert Casteret is my caving hero.  Maybe partly because he is French and he links two of my passions? A highly talented sportsman he won many national honours in an array of sports; diving, running, boxing, ski jumping. He also explored more caves than appears humanly possible often with very little equipment. It is documented that he stripped off, attached his clothes to his head with a candle and matches firmly enclosed as he swam through sumps to continue exploration of caves in the Pyrenees. Anyone with that sort of dedication has got to be inspiring hasn’t he? But he was also deeply patriotic and risked his life in the Resistance during WW2 rescuing many fugitives and hiding important documents deep in the caves.

The last person who inspired me (not the only one but this post could get even longer than it already is if I go on!) is a colleague of many years in the UK. Actually, I’m going to cheat here and slip another inspiration in. Both these women, had qualities which I admire and aspire to. I’m still working on them.  Mrs Adam, a diminutive, white haired Scotswoman with half moon glasses who taught me Latin had such presence and commanded such respect that even the biggest, loutish boys at school would obey when she stood at the end of the corridor and shouted “WALK!”.   She was fair, had high expectations of us all, was always prepared and taught us with interest and passion for her subject.  Mrs Sue Cross, my dear colleague, just retired, had such serenity, her classroom door was always open, invited anyone in and her students were always clearly engaged in whatever task she had set them.  Her passion for French was, is, such that her students couldn’t fail to be infected by it.  She rarely raised her voice, was calm, firm, fair and stood absolutely no nonsense.  Of course, she had difficulties from time to time, don’t we all.  But she didn’t pretend, she asked for help when she needed it.  She accepted everyone and was generous with her time to help others.  And her sense of humour was infectious.

It is the human qualities of all of these people which connects them and inspires me. Their passion, their humanity, their integrity, the way they communicate with me and show absolute interest to make me feel special, their belief in me.  If I could go half way to being anything like any of these people, I would be a rich woman.

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#efellows14 Auckland March 2014

group photo of 7 people taken in office

efellows14 – a video

I am sitting in a cafe in Auckland feeling both exhausted and energised at the same time.  I have so much to think about and to write about but my head is still spinning from the inspiring conversations I was a part of over the last three days.
We have just had our first Core Education  Master Class as efellows for 2014.  It was great to finally get to know Marnel @1mvds , Rowan @RowanTaigel, Ben @Mr Ben Britten,  Tim @nzteachology,  Vicky @hagrnz,  and Bec @Bec_Power.  What an awesome bunch of creative and enthusiastic people.  It’s going to be great being on a journey with you guys. John and Louise from Core were incredibly exciting to be with and learn from and we had the opportunity to visit two fantastic schools.

Since being awarded the efellowship back in October, the excitement of getting the “phone call” and being introduced publicly at ULearn, all has been quiet on the efellowship front and we might almost have thought it had been a figment of our imagination. The last three days brought us firmly back to and the excitement has returned.  I am BUZZING!

#edcmooc Sleek and white – a utopian vision of the future

I just watched the first two videos for Week 2 and am struck by the sterility of the environments that are portrayed. Where is the reality of a world of busy people rushing her there and everywhere, living, playing, eating, making a mess for heaven’s sake?!  Is the message somehow that the arrival of these amazing products will make our lives serene, stressfree, and successful? I guess that is the utopian model that is promoted but maybe I am unusual in enjoying a bit of colour, dirt, feeling and real life.

Yes, I would welcome less stress and for centuries man has striven to make our working and home lives easier by developing machines to do jobs for us. I would not do without my washing machine, car, tumble drier, dishwasher now that I have them. I reckon that there is no way that women would be able to work full time and manage a house without those machines because, at the risk of upsetting a minority of good men (my husband included), the housework and cooking does, more often than not, still get done by women!  That these machines have had an impact society and the way that we live is incontrovertible. However, there is a long way between making my life easier and the anodyne, emptiness of feeling that is suggested in these films. I think there also comes a point when a machine can’t do a job better than a human. I think that the idea of soul, feeling, emotions has been touched on in many posts and we haven’t quite managed to invent something that can replace the human touch.

But what of education? What is being learned and taught? I like the way that the computers used by the family in the second film are used to connect the family even though they are apart. The child could research on the computer for a recipe but also involve her Mum and tap into her experience and knowledge. They connected in a real way – what is more basic than cooking? There was the opportunity for emotional connection, to nurture relationships. Much has been made of the social impact of absent parents, the effect absences have on a child’s emotional and social development. Maybe that is the difference these tools can make? Maybe that is the impact the will have to change society? I think it is important that in both these films the children are seen using computers in a supported environment, they are guided by their parents. And because the whole environment appears to be connected the idea of being raised as a digital citizen, learning to interact and react within a virtual as well as a real world, is evident. Will this technology help shape and hone the social nature man? Will it change the way we think, act, interact, learn, work, live and die?

The ability to collaborate, share information, talk, communicate, connect – all key skills. But I don’t really see how the hardware they were using does that any differently to the way we can do those things now. Yes the gadgets are prettier and shinier, they have more potential but unless we change the way that we do things and not just the gadgets we do them with, what is the point?  I like the practical applications of the tools in the second film especially at the beginning when the two people communicate about accommodation and travel arangements.  Communication is clear, concise, effective; real communication in a real life contexts.

I go back to the sterility of the environment though because it was striking to me. The work environments had white walls, white or glass benches and tables, there were no pictures, no external stimulus. Even in the house which had some warmth, everything was in its place, it was a house and not a home. The only break in the whiteness was the “living” wall; a wall made of foliage. A connection to the outside worlds, to nature. This motif apears again and again in the course videos; the connection or disconnect between technology and nature.  How can we maintain our humanity, our soul if we don’t connect with nature? Surely a dystopian vision?

#edcmooc “Inbox”

Boy jumping off high diving board at swimming pool“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Mahatma Gandhi

I found this quote as I was reading through some of the blogs featured in the edcmooc news.  It has no real relevance to our theme of Utopia and Dystopia but I like the idea of learning for as long as you live and living life as fully as you can.

Living in the here and now – is that what the characters in the “Inbox” were doing? Making the most of a random opportunity, responding to a situation, communicating, connecting, building futures?  Utopian or dystopian? Once the connection was made there was hope, when the link was broken, hope remained. Makes me think of La Condition Humaine – Man’s Fate – an existentialist state where man chooses his own path, his own destiny, which dictates how people communicate with each other and how they interact with the world.

“Existentialists believe that when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed it destroys individualism and makes a person become whatever the people in power desire thus they are dehumanized and reduced to being an object.” 

So where am I going with this?  I’m not really sure but I have a glimmer of something in the back of my mind that is glinting that I can’t quite grasp!

Does technology, do the shiny, pretty things, the gadgets and gizmos, the tweets, FB, the constant updates impose rules, beliefs, values on us that we don’t want to accept?  Do we risk losing our individualism and our personal freedom?  Or do they offer us the opportunity to discover ourselves, to find out who we are, to unlock our potential, and find happpiness?  Or is that just too black and white?  Are there more shades of grey?  Do we need to recognise that life is an essential mixture of utopian and dystopian experiences?

Communication, connections, webs, networks …..