Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Challenge by Choice... a more personal Journey

As we move into a new school year, I have come back from a holiday with an incredible amount of hope and confidence that I can be even more effective, not only as a teacher but also as a learner, a Dad and husband.  I have been on a journey that has seen me critically examine my own mindset, or in my case, my own fixed mindset. I was given the Carol Dweck's book, Mindset just before Christmas and thus began my journey.

Have you ever had a knitted jersey? I remember as a kid having a few of them, but one particular Aran Marino wool Jersey was given to me on my 10th birthday.  Knitted by one of my Grandmothers, this item was handed over to a 10 year old Pete as if I had been presented with the family treasures and now I felt like I was the guardian of the entire wealth and worth of my family and it had been entrusted to me.  What fools they were! You see, there is something about a wonderful knitted jersey and a ten year old boy that does not quite work. (OK...so maybe the jersey is not so wonderful now...but then it was)  You see, this jersey was for Sunday best and strictly for church,  or else, but I needed to show it off in my other circles.

Monday morning at 8:09am I peered into my duffle bag as I waited for the bus.  I had been successful in sneaking it past the security and the jersey was securely stuffed into the bag ready for deployment.  9:01am, shortly after the bell I excused myself from class and went to the toilet.  I grabbed my bag, deployed the jersey and checked myself out in the chrome-like reflection of the sparkling clean urinal.  I was ready to make my entrance into the room of my peers and they would "oooohh and aaaahh" in complete admiration of Pete who had acquired a Hand-Knitted Arun Marino Jersey, complete with cabling.

As I entered the room I caught the last of my class mates disappearing outside to make the most of the sunshine on the the early June morning.  I chased the class across the field and onto the tennis courts.  We began a game of 'Rounders' and very soon we were entwined in stiff competition, the two teams neck and neck as we approached the end of our game.  With only one run required to win outright, I was given the bat and instructed to "whack the shit out of it", by our team captain and Tania was not a girl to be let down, so I whacked the shit out of it.  The ball shot high into the air and promptly sailed over the fence into the yard of the neighbouring house.  I was out without getting the run and my team jeered at me in disgust as they packed up the bases and the bat.  I was left to retrieve the ball.
At this point you may be wondering where I am going with this, but you need to trust me.  There was no gate into the private yard, so I had to climb the 5 meter high wire fence.  I got to the top  and over and retrieved the ball.  Making my way back to the fence I discovered that the house possessed a dog.  Actually the house had a possessed dog, who was in full flight snapping and snarling, managing to reach the arm of my new jersey just as I reached to fence.  I tried to climb as the demon tried to claim me back into his realm, pulling on my sleeve, trying to make me lose my grip.  I could feel my fingers hurting as the grip on the wire slowly relinquished.  I was about to let go when it happened.  The dog mysteriously let go, much to my relief.  I was able to climb and free myself from this hell-raising scenario.  Upon landing I looked down at my sleeve and was relieved to see that the dog had left no noticeable damage. "Whew" I stammered.  I picked up the ball and headed back to class.  I only managed a few steps when I felt something strange on my back.  I turned to see a strand of Arun Marino wool extending from the back of my new jersey to the top of the fence.  My heart sank!

I carefully took off the jersey and discovered a 25 x 10 centimetre segment missing, including cabling.  I thought if I could just wind up the wool and be careful then I could find someone to fix it for me.  Each time I pulled on the wool more of the jersey would disappear and unravel.  Each time I showed someone, they would have a fiddle and also pull more wool. The ball of wool grew bigger and the more of my jersey with incomplete cabling would disappear.  There was no hiding this anymore and the Hand-Knitted Arun Jersey was now useless until it could be craftily refashioned again.

How does this relate to mindset?  Quite simply mindsets are the beliefs that we have.  They are core beliefs and are responsible for the way that we act, respond, think and function in all aspects of our lives.  As I delved into the core beliefs that I had while reading Mindset, I could see that changes were required.  I pulled a little on the thread of my upbringing.  I pulled a little on the thread of religion.  I pulled a little on the thread of abuse and bullying.  I pulled a little on the thread of my health and fitness.  Before I knew it I had a gaping 10 x 25 centimetre hole in the middle of my belief structure and the garment that I wore was rendered useless, except for the lovely ball of wool that was developing and could now be re-crafted into something new and special.


Sometimes a personal, critical inventory of our well-being is the only next step available and that was certainly the case for me.  I would like to think, as I started, that I am immensely better off for working through the process.  I realise that most of the beliefs that I had and used were the ones that I was told to have by the many people that I have encountered through my life.  I never knew how to decide for myself or how to critically think.  This has brought me to an understanding and firm belief that we, as teachers, have a responsibility to NOT tell our learners what to think or believe, but we have a responsibility to teach them how to think.  The journey continues.