Are You Suffering From ‘Wonder Fatigue’?

I’m re-reading a great book called ‘Re-Think – How To Think Differently’ by Nigel May Barlow

One of many quotes from the book …..“The creative mind is so often trapped by dull routine and the sheer exhaustion of the workaday week that we need to stage a revolt against the unholy trinity of doing, hurrying and achieving.”

He also talks about ‘Wonder Fatigue’ – we are so busy that we do not see the wonder around us or take time to consider, discuss or just contemplate some of the amazing things that make up our life. Have a look at this list below – allow yourself some time and space to reflect on any of the items that stretch your mind. Go for a walk & just let the idea play on your mind or discuss what it means with a fiend:

  • There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Is there life out there?
  • There are over 200 billion galaxies (in the observable universe)
  • The solid matter we see is completely insubstantial; we are 99.5% space.
  • You now have in your body more than a million of the atoms that were once in the body of Jesus Christ, Gandhi or Mother Teresa.
  • Of all the atoms in your body, 98% are replaced within a year = new body!
  • We share 96% of our DNA with a chimpanzee and half the banana genome is also found in the human genome.
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Do We Live In An Age Of Information Overload?

We live in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips.If you have a question – ask Google. Apparently Google logs 2 billion searches every day! What did we do before Google? For me, as a child in the 1950’s and 60’s, my teacher was my ‘Google’. It was the teacher who had the knowledge and we went to school to learn from them. My access to knowledge at home was limited to a very cheap children’s encyclopaedia, which soon became out of date.

The role of the teacher today needs to change – they are no longer the ‘wise guardians of knowledge’. Information today is easily accessible through a myriad of technological devices. Teachers today have to be guides, showing children where the information they want can be found, but more importantly how they can navigate their way through the wealth of information out there to ensure relevance and accuracy. It is time to rethink the role of the teacher in the classroom and this will inevitably make us re-think the role of learning.

The following is taken from the introduction to something written in 1605 by Sir Francis Bacon:

In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon, the father of scientific thinking, outlined these essential habits of minds:

  • Nimble & versatile to see relationships among things, in addition to subtle distinctions between them.
  • Inquisitive.
  • Patient enough to doubt and ask questions.
  • Fond of reflecting.
  • Slow to assert and ready to consider multiple points of view.
  • Careful to support their points of view and to formulate an argument with reasons and evidence.
  • A slave neither to passing trends nor to established traditions but capable of judging  the credibility of sources and making independent judgements about information.
  • Alert to all deception.

This left me with some questions:

1. Are these ‘habits of mind’ even more essential in 2012 than they were in 1605?
2. Who are the ‘teachers’ of the 21st Century?
3. Are schools, as centres of learning, an outmoded idea?

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What Are Your New Year Resolutions For 2012?

It’s that crazy time of the year again when lots of people will be thinking about their New Year Resolutions. We rarely stop and ponder the fact that many, if not all of them, will be the same as last year. It’s as if we have forgotten why they failed last year and the year before and the year before that. We always tell ourselves that this year is going to be different, but deep down we know that it wont.

Why do we make them? – One of the problems is that we get caught up in that New Year euphoria. All our friends are talking about their New Year resolutions and we don’t want to be left out. You know very well, despite what you might say, that you are not going to keep any of them. In fact you will be surprised if you manage to keep going until the end of January. But it doesn’t matter because that is part of the game that we all play. In some ways you almost want to be the first to fail, it will give you some bragging rights. You can almost imagine the conversation, “What you kept going for a whole day. Wow! I gave in after just 5 minutes.” (Beat that!)

What do we resolve to change? – Have you ever noticed that most people’s New Year resolutions are often about giving up the very things that they most enjoy. It’s as if they have to make the resolution as difficult as possible – nobody takes any notice of you if your resolutions are easy. The more difficult the ‘thing’ that we promise to give up the more sympathy we will get from friends when we fail.

  • Me – “I’m giving up chocolate for the New Year.”
  • Friend – “Never! But you love chocolate. You’ll never do it. I’ll give you a week.” (Have you noticed how your friend is helping to reinforce what you already know, ie “You’ll never do it” and then gives you a get out clause, “I’ll give you a week”)
  • Me – (A week later) – “You were right about the chocolate thing. I only managed 3 days before temptation got the better of me.”
  • Friend – “I told you so. I know you so well, that’s why we are such good friends. Do you want another chocolate muffin?”

Making promises is easy. –  Anybody can make promises, it’s keeping them that is the hard bit. Look at politicians just before an election, they will promise you the earth, then once they’ve got your vote and are in office, they find any number of excuses for not doing the very things they promised they would do. Unfortunately breaking promises is as easy as making them. Keeping them involves perseverance and commitment and that is hard work.

Resolutions I won’t be making. These are some that I’ve tried in the past and failed and if I made them again then I would only be setting myself up to fail again.

  1. Start jogging every day – have you ever seen a happy jogger?
  2. Go to the gym every day – tried that one. The problem is that in the first week of January you feel quite at home. Everyone else is as unfit as you and doesn’t have a clue how any of the machines work. By the end of January most have given up and wishing they hadn’t signed up for a whole year. Those that are left are extremely fit and make you feel even more inadequate and, to be honest, need to get a life.
  3. Stop eating chocolate – not a good idea, the latest research suggests that chocolate helps fight off coughs and colds (or am I just making that up?)
  4. Cut down on the wine – would seem such a shame as there are still so many that I’ve still not tried, and anyway, isn’t their some medical research that says drinking wine is good for you?

My New Year resolutions. – Well, to be honest, I’m not going to make any. Instead of making a list of promises that I’ve no intention of keeping I’m going to set myself some cosy, realistic targets instead. They are:

  1. Spend more time blogging – something I really enjoy (who says New Year resolutions have to be difficult?) and I am meeting some great people.
  2. Participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. Last year was my first time and it was such great fun.
  3. Write more chapters to my book – notice I’ve not gone mad and said “Finish my book.” nor said how many chapters.
  4. Enter some short story competitions – ‘some’ may be one or it may be more.
  5. Visit the local coffee shop more often – another excuse to write.

Well, that’s me sorted for the New Year. I hope that you have a great 2012 and don’t resolve to do too much.

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A Manifestation Of Educational Fleas

Even though I’ve been retired from Headship for more than two years, comments from Ofsted can still get me going.

This BBC headline ‘Local trouble shooters should be appointed to identify failing schools and sack incompetent heads, England’s new chief education inspector has said.’  was just such a comment. Sometimes you come across a headline that just sucks you in!

Some time ago, when I still read the TES, I found this – ‘Plagued by an army of fleas that won’t get off our backs, is it any wonder teachers descend into mediocrity?’ The article was written by Dr. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers & Lecturers.

She was complaining, as many of us have done in the past, about the number of different people who seem to think they need to be forever watching and judging our teachers:


There can be no profession which is more watched over, more regulated and more directed, than teaching.

There is a saying – big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them. The teaching profession is flea ridden – bitten by armies of ‘others’ who watch over teachers and attempt to direct their every move.

This is so true. If you work in a school ask yourself, “Whose back am I on and who is on my back?” If we are to rid ourselves of this flea infestation then the best place to start is with yourself. Who can you stop watching and directing? The article goes on to say that if we are to change then we need to re-examine our schools, how they are led and how our staff develop professionally.

We need to remake our schools as learning communities, for staff as well as pupils.

Once again this takes us back to the role of school leaders, in particular Headteachers. Many have so many ‘fleas’ on their back, sucking them dry, that the best that they can hope for is to manage their schools and keep the ‘watchers’ at bay. This might be a good and sometimes necessary survival tactic, but does it help children’s learning?  We need to reform our schools and the rest of our archaic education system. This is not going to be done by politicians and their ‘White Papers’ but by giving schools and their leaders the freedom to innovate. Not only do we need to recognise the mavericks in our midst but also  encourage and support them. As Seth Godin in his great book ‘Tribes’ said,

We live in a world where we have the leverage to make things happen, the desire to do the work we believe in and an opportunity for us to be remarkable – but we still get stuck. Stuck following archaic rules; stuck in a system that avoids change; stuck in fear of what ‘our bosses’ will say: stuck acting like managers instead of leaders.

Or we could argue that we are stuck with the fleas, unless we make a concerted effort to get rid of them.

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Ten Blogs To Get You Writing

I love the following quote, “Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~Gene Fowler.

How often has that happened to you? You know that you want to write and last night you had some great ideas, but now they seem to have deserted you. When this happens to me I find myself turning to some of my favourite blogs for inspiration.

There are many out there giving daily or weekly writing prompts. What I like most about them is that it also links you with fellow writers, all interpreting the prompts in different ways. Here are ten of my favourite:

1. The Sunday Whirl

Every Sunday Brenda takes a dozen words and puts them into a wordle (Incidentally, if you’ve never played around with wordle you should give it a try, it’s great fun.) The majority of people who respond to this weekly prompt are poets. You post your submission to your blog and then link it through the Linky List. The skill is getting all 12 words to fit neatly and inconspicuously  into your piece of writing. The words are always challenging.

2. Inspiration Monday

Stephanie, at Be Kind Rewrite posts 5 or 6 writing prompts each Monday. While there are no hard and fast rules, it is recommended that your short story be somewhere between 200 and 500 words. No Linky List with this one, just post to your own blog with a link back to Stephanie’s blog. She will then give everyone who has joined in a mention each Monday.

3. Artwiculate

I’ve only just discovered this one, but it looks like fun. We are now talking about Twitter Fiction – stories of 140 characters or less. Either through their blog or by following them at @artwiculate you will get a daily word. The challenge is to use that word in a tweet. These then show up on their blog and you can then vote for your favourite.

4. Haiku Heights

Every Wednesday Leo will post a word on this blog and challenge you to write a Haiku or two. You then post your Haiku to your blog and link through the Linky List. Watch out for the Height Of Haiku Challenge which is a month of writing Haiku with a different word prompt every day. Here are the rules for the weekly prompt:

“Write a haiku on the prompt given and post in your blog. Link back to Haiku Heights either with the code given in the bottom bar here, or with a hyperlink. Enter your name and link into the Linky widget. (It should be the post link, and not your blog link in general) Read and enjoy as many of the other writers as well.  Some of my readers, and new writers at Haiku Heights had asked me how to write a proper Haiku. Haiku is Japanese poetry form that has three meaningful lines which are complete and reflecting nature. Haiku have syllabic limitations as well. A traditional one has eleven or seventeen syllables, in a strict 3-5-3 or 5-7-5 format.”


5. d’Verse Poets

d’Verse Poets Pub is a place for poets and writers to gather to celebrate poetry. Lots going on all through the week and a great following. Every Saturday they have a pos called ‘Poetics’ this is all about inspiration. You will invited to write about a provided prompt, whether music, art, photography, quotes or other challenges. Again you are invited to post your poems to your blog and then link through the Mister Linky list.

6. Velvet Verbosity

A weekly 100 word challenge. That’s exactly 100 words. The Rules are Loose. You get a word at the beginning of the week (Sunday), and you take up the challenge to write exactly 100 words in response to the one-word prompt.  That’s it.  Write 100 words however you like.  Make it a long haiku, write 100 random words that you associate with the prompt in no particular order, write a short vignette, tell a true story, relate it to your day, describe the word, use the word or imply the word — it’s up to you! Again there is a Linky tool to share your story with others.

7. One Forty Fiction

“The name “one forty fiction” refers to the 140-character limit imposed on users by the online service Twitter. This site is dedicated to fiction. Not poetry, but fiction. Stories told with beginnings, middles, and ends, and characters who want things. But how to tell such stories in such limited space? How to create love, and want, and derision in 140 characters? How to deliver your heart? We have no answer for you. We just know that you have 140 characters to make us see, feel, live, & yearn for the world beyond your 140. Give us all you got. But give it to us wrapped tight, a Big Bang of a universe, a history of life itself, communicated wisely, and with love.”

A great site. You have to submit your stories and then wait to see if they have been accepted. I’ve had a few rejected but also some accepted and that is always a good feeling. Sometimes there are themed weeks and other times it is entirely up to you.

8. Nailpolish Stories

Another great blog that I’ve only just discovered. You are asked to write a 25 word story with a nail polish colour as the title (Title doesn’t count in the 25 words.)  Until I tried this I didn’t realise how strange and varied nail polish colours were, with names like ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, or ‘Trophy Wife’ or ‘I’m Not Really A Waitress) …… and the list goes on. They make great story titles.

9. 330 Words

330 Words is a blog for writers. Or more specifically, writers with a digital camera or a camera phone. The concept behind 330 Words is simple. Take a photograph and let it inspire you towards a piece of fiction. Let your photograph form the foundation of your story. Choose your own genre and style. Keep the entire thing under 330 words. When you’re done with the story, email it to 330 with the photograph which inspired the work. It will then get published on their blog.

10. Three Word Wednesday

Three Word Wednesday gives writers, poets and those who journal a mid-week jolt of creativity. Each week, three words are selected; you create something with the words. Put your  story on your blog and then post a link to your contribution. Everyone  is encouraged to check back often to read and  comment on other contributions. “This is, after all, a community for writers who clamor for feedback.”
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Should Writers Twitter?

I have just read a great book called “Twitter Your Business’ by Mark Shaw. One of the many quotes from the book that really  hit home with me was, “Twitter is not a broadcast station. It is a communication tool.”  My problem, when I go on Twitter, is that I either use it to  write some ‘Twitter Fiction’ or to link to short stories I have posted on my Short Stories blog.

 I know that Twitter is a great way to share ideas and when I do go to my Twitter page I’m never disappointed by the people I follow, however I know that I’m still not using it as I should.  I’m hoping that ideas I’ve picked up from Mark’s book will make my future Twitter experiences more worthwhile.

As an aspiring writer I feel that I’m missing out in some way by not making better use of Twitter. At the same time I personally get annoyed with people who merely use it to try to sell their books. Surely there must be more to it than that?

Back in July 2010 a lady called Ivy Bean died at the age of 104 years. Apparently Ivy was the oldest ‘Tweeter’ in the UK with over 56,000 followers – impressive. She was also an avid Facebook user with over 5,000 followers. She first accessed the internet in 2007 via a computer given to the care home she was in by social services. When Ivy was born in 1906 it would still have been another 7 years before the first national telephone network was established.

Marc Prensky talks about ‘Digital Natives’& ‘Digital Immigrants’   –

Today’s students represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using  computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.

But Digital Immigrants typically have very little appreciation for these new skills that the Natives have acquired and perfected through years of interaction and practice. These skills are almost totally foreign to the Immigrants, who themselves learned – and so choose to teach – slowly, step-by-step, one thing at a time, individually, and above all, seriously.

Where does that put Ivy? A  digital immigrant keen to embrace the world of her younger digital natives ……. and me, someone who prides himself on using technology …. in terms of ‘Twitter’ I’m still a Digital Immigrant.

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Observations From A Different Coffee Shop

This week’s Friday observations are from a different one to my local. I’m away at the moment and spent a pleasant hour this morning in a delightful coffee shop in Alnwick. While I was there finishing of a poem for my short stories blog I found myself staring out of the window. Across the road, in the main street, were four buildings which seemed to epitomise life today.

Building number one was a Bank, part of the great institution we have to blame for all our present recessional ills. I couldn’t help smile when I noticed that it didn’t open on a Saturday, obviously it opens at its convenience, not ours. Though money was still available via our plastic and their hole in the wall. Often money we don’t have but they will still let us borrow, at a price. One reason why they are still rich and we grow poorer.

Next door was a shop well-known for its cheap food. Its windows enticed you in with slogans such as ‘More For Your Money’ or ‘8 Chicken Breasteaks Only £2’. The emphasis on more for your money not quality for your money. It was busy with people trying to make a meagre budget stretch further. The emphasis on bulk rather than nutritional value or healthy eating.

The third building of the four was your friendly Building Society. Once a place for savers and house buyers. Now few people can either afford to save or have the money to buy a house. This is now the building you go to in order to delve into past savings accounts to top up the threatened pension scheme. Or somewhere you go to ask them not to repossess the house they were so eager for you to buy when times were good.

The final building is the Hight Street Chemist. This is where you find all the answers to your prayers. There are the shelves of vitamins you need to supplement your poor diet, or the bottles of tonic to give you the energy to keep up with the demands of everyday life. It is the place to take your prescriptions for those pills that you need to fight off the stress and depression.

What made the whole scene even worse was the fact that I was looking at these buildings as the rain poured down. Another wet July day. Next time I go to this great little coffee shop I think I will find a chair where my back is to the window.

Posted in Life, Modern Life, Saturday, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments