Teacher Prestige

I have long believed that teaching and learning are separate issues and that the evaluation of a teacher’s effectiveness needs to be based on the personal and professional qualities that make for teaching excellence. However, presently teacher and school effectiveness is being measured by student test and examination scores. This system is a misuse of standardised tests and state examinations to hold individual teachers accountable for their students’ learning outcomes. There is a belief that schools can achieve miracles by treating parents as consumers, students as products and teachers as compliant workers who are expected to ‘teach to the test’ – strategies similar to the ones that resulted in the worst economic crash to hit the western world in 2008.

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Creating a Better Environment

Psychology touches every aspect of human behaviour – social, educational, economic, political, philosophical, scientific media, religious. We are psychological beings and we operate out from individual interior worlds creatively constructed in response to what we encounter in the outside worlds of family, community, wider society, nationally and internationally. Acknowledgement of the reality that all words and actions arise from each person’s interior world and that, ultimately, responsibility lies with the individual, is a pill that is difficult to swallow in a culture where judgement and criticism is more common than compassion and understanding. Again, my spiritual mentor, John O Donohue, puts it so well – ‘the process of self-discovery is not easy; it may involve suffering, doubt, discovery. But we must not shrink from the fullness of our being in order to reduce the pain.’

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The Emergence of Spring

Spring – the time of teeming possibilities – does not happen all at once – it slowly reveals its mantle of leaf, flower, colour, fertility, song and passion. So it is for us – our awakening to our true nature doesn’t happen all at once ….. we become. It can take a long time. Sometimes we can get stuck in the dark and cold of the winter of our discontent and, sadly, not emerge into the warmth and aliveness of Spring.

Spring beckons us with its emergence, growth, possibilities, beauty, freshness and, particularly, beginnings and newness. In his final book, Benedictus, the poet and mystic, John O Donohue, writes insightfully on beginnings:

                  “Sometimes the greatest challenge is to actually begin; there is something deep in us that conspires to remain within safe boundaries, to stay the same.”

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There Is No Blame

I would like to say without ambiguity that I deeply regret any hurt that has arisen for parents in my attempt to open up debate about ways of responding to children – and their parents, teachers and other concerned adults – who have been considered to suffer from a “disorder” called ASD. It seems to me that the hurt has arisen from confusion between “blame” and acknowledgement of influence. I understand that this may seem just a matter of words but, in truth, there is a profound difference between the two; a difference I am seeking here to clarify.

Blame implies intention; it implies a knowing of the effect on the other person; it implies lack of care. My track record as a clinical psychologist over 30 years, as the Founder and Director of the Diploma in Parent Mentoring, and as an author, clearly shows that blame has no place in my response to difficulties in life experienced by any person, in any setting. But it is important to acknowledge the reality that our lives are lived in the context of relationships with one another and the nature of those relationships has a huge influence on the quality of our lives.

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The Challenges of Teaching

There has generally been little consideration of teachers’ psycho-social readiness to teach and, indeed, of students’ psycho-social readiness to learn.  It appears to be the case that not many professionals – not just teachers – are conscious of the fact that their individual interior worlds hugely influence their professional practice.  The truth is that personal effectiveness determines professional effectiveness and affectiveness is the bedrock of effectiveness.  Current programmes for training of managers put personal effectiveness on the top of the training agenda. Sadly, some teachers and managers – albeit unconsciously – can act as if teaching and managing is a series of instrumental actions that have little or nothing to do with relationships and the wellbeing of individual students or employees and, indeed, of individual teachers and managers themselves.

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