I love reading the inspirational column ‘Smart Talk’ which appears weekly in the BRW magazine. So many successful entrepreneurs, company directors and successful business people regularly share advice from their own experience.
Well ….. a week or two ago, Richard Branson hit the jackpot with me when he wrote about how older people can use their age to their advantage. The online version of this short piece, with the groovy title “Older Entrepreneurs Rock” is worth the read, but if you can’t be bothered, you can have a think as you read through my reflection on his words and how those of us in the educational sector can take so much of his advice on board. Branson’s words are in bold. My take follows.
- “….. look to some new sources of inspiration – innovative ideas or fresh strategies from other fields …..” Never a truer word said. I like to indulge reading in a wide range of sources including the business slanted publication BRW. Years ago, I’d never have picked up this magazine. When duplicate copies started accumulating on my desk in the library though, I started to thumb through them. I was amazed at how many of the articles spoke to me. I quickly discovered how much inspiration can be drawn from reading outside of the narrow field of education. Nowadays articles from a wide range of sources often give me a fresh take on an old problem or show me an approach which could very easily be implemented in education. This was very much my thinking when I penned my posts: 10 things school libraries can learn from the Apple Store and Ever thought of applying the Apple management style to schools?
- “….. take a break to learn about something new ….. newfound knowledge can be applied to ….. business, helping to tackle long-standing problems from different angles.” Many of us indulging in our passion of lifelong learning know that learning something new inevitably opens the flood gates to new thoughts, new ideas and new discoveries. Being able to look at problems through a new lens or being able to present the same ideas and concepts in different ways is indeed very powerful.
- ” ….. can sometimes fall into a rut by working only with the same team of colleagues …..” It’s easy to fall into a rut if you keep teaching the same classes or imparting the same lesson content in the same manner and style year after year. Change is needed to ensure we stay fresh. Mixing up the colleagues with whom we work is important.
- “….. wary of newcomers’ youth and inexperience …..” New teachers are full of enthusiasm, excitement and an array of new ideas, techniques and approaches. Having a teaching team made up of a good mix of young and fresh out of college teachers working alongside a group of experienced and well-seasoned teachers most definitely is the ingredients for a ‘win-win’ outcome for everyone: both students and teachers. Sharing and learning from each other is what should be happening in all our schools.
- “surround yourself with energetic like-minded people, no matter what their ages…..” Being able to work with energetic like-minded people is inspiring and empowering. How do I know? Because I am lucky enough to enjoy this on a daily basis! Each day is a buzz of exciting new discoveries!!
- “A way to expand your contacts among younger generations is to volunteer as a mentor.” Teachers who take on the role of mentoring trainee teachers are winners! While imparting skills to the next generation of teachers, an experienced teacher inadvertently learns from those they are mentoring. Evaluation of the skills of those being mentored allows us to self-evaluate and weigh up new methods and techniques.
- “If you are having trouble finding an engaging new project, step back and look at your situation in a different light ….. Are you doing something you care passionately about?” Passion is probably one of the most important factors in teaching. There’s no way to hide a lack of passion when standing in front of a class of students. Sharing passion for a subject and the content being taught is essential. Being able to step back and see how we perform is important to ensure we stay current, relevant and inspired.
- “….. keeping fit will help you to remain a creative agile thinker” What’s that saying …..? ‘Healthy body, healthy mind!’ Little more needs to be said. It’s true. We all need to keep fit, eat healthy and sleep well to ensure that we function well. Its a ‘no-brainer’.
- “Older employees who have learned how to inspire and lead people, and how to remain persistent and optimistic despite changes in circumstances, will have an edge.” Older teachers sometimes feel that they are being outpaced by younger teachers. Self-analysis doesn’t come easily, but being able to run an inventory of our talents and skills is an important life skill. For the older teacher to recognize that they have strengths that are both marketable and valuable is essential to maintain self esteem. Self-promotion then becomes a second important life skill. If you know you can, but others don’t see you can, it is certain that the older teacher may well be ‘passed over’ when roles are being assigned by school administrators. Getting out there and telling the world how great you are may not be all that comfortable, but it’s important! Experience is definitelly an ‘edge’ that older teachers have over their younger, less experienced colleagues.
- “Be flexible and seek out inspiration …..” The nature of teaching means that we are constantly looking for different ways to achieve an end result. Teaching requires constant flexibility in both approach and presentation. Seeking out inspiration from both within themselves as teachers and from within their students is part and parcel of being a successful teacher. Maintaining inspiration though, is the challenge!