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Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying

Loudhailer

Loudhailer

 

It is often said, ‘Actions speak louder than words’ when we are talking about integrity between our actions and our words.

However, when the title of this post appeared in my Twitter feed, what struck me was that it could be interpreted in a number of ways and that it speaks a compelling message about leadership in particular and life in general.

 

Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

If I am saying one thing but my actions communicate something quite different, it is quite obvious that the message in both actions and words will be lost amidst the dissonance of actions versus words. Or worse, inaction or the lack of action renders the words empty and void. In a leadership role, it is very easy to say something and then not act on it because of work load pressures, for example. In this case, it pays to say less and then do more than you say – and, where possible, delegate action to someone known for their ability to carry things through.

And remember that old chestnut,

Promise little but deliver much.

 

Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

If my actions are in harmony with my words, observers will see that my actions embody my words. The message is compelling and the fact that actions follow words provides weight and credibility to the message. Having an accountability system in place helps to ensure I follow through our promises: as a leader, I can draw on my team and ask them to make me accountable to them for my words and actions. For example, when decision-making, I will ask team-members to hold me to account on the decisions I have made.

 

Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

You need not, of course, say anything. Perhaps the most compelling, of course, is actions that are not accompanied by words. The actions become a living example of a message that demands to be heard. The person who leads by example through their actions need not say a word. Consider the examples of Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, compelling in their actions more often than in their words.

John Locke emphasises this point:

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.

And Amit Kalantri urges us:

To assess the quality of thoughts of people, don’t listen to their words, but watch their actions.

And, if we’re still not convinced about the far-reaching impact of our actions, consider the words of Mohandas Gandhi:

Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words.
Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions.
Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits.
Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values.
Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.

 

For a completely different take on this quote, please read the post by my friend and blogging buddy, Nicola Marshall, who, as an adoptive parent, considers the needs of children whose behaviour is such that their actions are so loud that you cannot hear what they are saying.

The Problem With Religion is the People

Shalom Salam Peace
Shalom Salam Peace

Peace image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

I used this provocative title to introduce workshops at a school where I was asked to use Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to help the children discuss the issue of religious intolerance. As an opener, using WHITE HAT thinking  (facts / information), we talked about what we knew: names of the six main world religions, their differences and similarities, the difference between knowledge, belief and practice and the problems that arise because of differences – either on a personal or an international scale.

We concluded that, in fact, the problem is not with religion per se, but with the people – either between people from different religions or between people from different denominations within the same religion. And the problem is intolerance of each other’s beliefs or practices, largely due to ignorance, lack of understanding or prejudice.

Still with our white thinking hats on, we then considered an inspiring inter-faith project in Bristol, which started out as Radio Salaam Shalom (salaam and shalom being the respective Aramaic and Hebrew words for ‘peace’).

White hat thinking is essential as a foundation for solution-focused thinking: we have better ideas about how to solve a problem if we know something about the issues at stake.

The children were then asked to discuss in pairs ideas for ‘making peace with people’: practical ideas for bringing people together to help them know, understand and respect each other. This is GREEN HAT thinking – creativity. Children’s ideas always astonish me: we had suggestions for events such as street parties, football matches, visits to each other’s places of worship, multi-faith assemblies, information videos on YouTube, shared meals, clubs, workshops, an inter-faith fair… the list goes on.

As with all ideas, there are going to be a range of reactions from different people. The children thus shared in small groups their feelings (RED HAT thinking) about a particular idea. Naturally, there would be nervousness, anxiety, excitement and pride at setting up an initiative to bring people together.

Following that, the children considered the benefits of the ideas  (YELLOW HAT): Why might this be a good idea? What good would it do? They volunteered suggestions such as ‘making new friends’, ‘helping people to find out about each other and their religions’, ‘reducing crime’ and ‘helping people to feel confident about what they believe’.

Of course, we have to also consider the potential problems or pitfalls – why an idea might not work. This is BLACK HAT thinking (caution). This is often the most difficult stage but, in some respects, the most important: considering the potential problems (which may not even surface) will, in any case, prepare us for any eventually of a crisis, minor or otherwise. Perhaps this underlines Baden-Powell’s Scout Motto, ‘Be Prepared’. Having said that black hat thinking was difficult, the children did, in fact, come up with realistic possibilities that demonstrated an understanding of potential problems: ‘people might not want to join in’, ‘some might try to spoil an event’, ‘people might not like what was happening’, ‘some people might use the event to promote themselves’, and so on.

To finish on a high, we considered alternative ideas: more GREEN HAT thinking. As expected, having now discussed in depth the topic of overcoming differences and making peace with people, the children readily supplied other possibilities: a bouncy castle party, links with other schools, brochures, outside speakers, performances, sharing stories from different religions…

Thanks to Stanton Bridge Primary School in Coventry for an inspiring couple of days: children representing several different countries, languages, religions and cultures sharing ideas about bringing people together. It gives me hope for the future…

 

How much do you know about world religions? Take this 10-question World Religions Quiz from York College.

How does P4C impact on a child’s resilience? Part 2

Image: Idea Go / www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Idea Go / www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
For knowledge is limited, whilst imagination embraces the whole world.
– Albert Einstein –

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I outlined the rationale and key outcomes of using Philosophy for Children (P4C), including the ‘c’ words espoused by Matthew Lipman, the acknowledged founder of Philosophy for Children.

In this post, I explore some of the specific benefits of using P4C, in particular, four fundamental skills that I promote constantly and which help children develop practise resilient thinking in all my workshops: the capacity for self-control and the ability to create, communicate and collaborate. P4C (also known as PwC – Philosophy with Children) follows a very simple but clear structure to enable children to follow a line of enquiry – but it provides opportunities for creativity, communication and collaboration in many forms, some of which I will outline here.

Firstly, though, the structure: using literally ANY stimulus (I’ve demonstrated it with a pencil in classes and staff training events):

a) WHAT I KNOW: make objective and factual observations about the stimulus, such as events in a story, characteristics of an object

b) WHAT I DON’T KNOW: open-ended questions about characters or events in a story, features of an object, a scene in a painting, eg. I don’t know why / how / what… OR, I wonder why / how / what…

c) WHAT COULD BE: a range of possible answers to one of the questions put forward, eg. I think…, Maybe…

The thinking processes involved present excellent opportunities for children to learn the skills of observation, recollection, assimilation, making links, identifying gaps and anomalies, asking questions, making critical judgements, thinking rationally, arguing points of view and surmising. However, the real strength of this process lies in collaboration: children thinking for themselves but then sharing their thoughts, ideas and viewpoints – and being able to strengthen their thinking through the sharing process. Clearly, not all children are comfortable with articulating their thoughts so it is important that structures are in place which encourage the more reluctant speakers.

Many schools use Kagan breakout structures to facilitate opportunities for individuals to share their thinking. These are very effective and easily implemented. I often use what I call ‘Speed-Dating’ (go and share your thinking with a partner for a minute then, on the signal, find another partner, and so on) or ‘Sliding Lines’ (children in two lines facing each other share thinking with the person facing them and then one of the lines slides along two people so that the children have a new partner, and so on – the two that ‘drop off’ one end join the other end). In this instance, EVERY child is involved in conversation: the effect is energising and the impact is almost guaranteed.

When it comes to collaborative thinking, I ask children in small groups to agree on an idea (eg. a good question or a good answer to a question). This does not always come easy, as you can imagine: some children are very precious about their ideas and quite unwilling to let go of the notion that their idea is the best. However, in a group context, each child has to recognise and value the contribution of each and every other child – and listen to and consider their viewpoints. This often means conceding that another person’s idea is actually better than your own and that their ideas enrich yours. Just imagine every child in a class learning to think like this! The resilience is in that the child maintains their dignity and poise as a group member, whilst exchanging and modifying their ideas. This process fosters mutual respect and consideration and promotes creativity, confident communication and effective collaboration. It also ensures that each child’s thinking is validated, which naturally builds their confidence and resilience as thinkers – and contributes to what Robert Fisher calls ‘building community’.

As resilient thinkers, children are more likely to hold their own viewpoint, listen to and consider others’ viewpoints, be willing to change their viewpoints, be willing to try and persuade others to change their viewpoints – and accept that others may think differently from them. This also enables children to justify their thinking and be able to rationalise their viewpoints – essential in today’s multi-media, information-saturated knowledge climate. I often tell children that what we are practising in their classroom are the skills they will need in the future to solve the world’s big problems.

 

Let your knees do the talking

Troll-Victor-Habbick-Free-Digital-Photos-ID-10078887

Working with a Reception class recently, we recounted the well-known fairy tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. With a little imagination, a low-level chair became a bridge and a child duly took on the role of the troll. In this version, no less than six billy goats trip-trapped across that hapless troll’s bridge, much to his consternation.

The rest of the children joined in with trip-traps and rumbling (the troll’s hungry tummy) and the troll eventually received his comeuppance and was tipped into the river, never to be seen again.

You can imagine the enthusiasm of the 5-year-olds. So much so that they did it again in smaller groups outside – using an upturned crate for a bridge and building a wall of foam blocks behind which the troll could hide and spring up from. By far the most exciting part was the biggest billy goat knocking the wall down on top of the troll…

But don’t we all just love a good drama?

What is so compelling about role-play, about that often-admired but seldom acquired skill of acting?

At the start of a drama workshop, I often ask children when they last saw a drama – people acting. They respond with suggestions such as a Christmas nativity, a pantomime, a school trip – but are surprised when I state that most of them would have watched drama on their TVs the evening before.

Drama is a natural part of our human experience – we use it to communicate, to tell a story, to persuade, to deliver a message, to make sense of our humanity. Drama is compelling form of communication – and it sticks.

Drama requires us to capitalize on forms of communication that we take for granted: voice intonation, facial expression, body language. Try NOT using your voice, relying only on your body – let your knees do the talking. Children find drama empowering and they often surprise us with their insight, interpretation and ability. It brings out essential creativity and communication skills and, within a group, builds collaboration effectively. This clearly has the potential for impact on their learning and achievement right across the curriculum and, of course, in their relationships and personal well-being.

Even a troll can work that one out…

 

Some useful drama resource websites:

www.dramaresource.com

www.dramagames.info

www.creativedrama.com/theatre.htm

www.wholesalecostumeclub.com/articles/dramateachersresourcepage.jsp

 

Image by Victor Habbick, courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Immersion in chocolate is a lot more fun than just dipping your toes in it

Chocolate-Salvatore-Vuono-Free-Digital-Photos-ID-10019336

Having just completed nearly a week of consultancy work in a school in Wiltshire and reflecting on the inspirational experience that it turned out to be for me, let alone anyone else, I reflected on what had helped make it make an impact.

Over the four days I was there, I delivered four mornings of lessons about Fairtrade chocolate. This could have been a tedious exercise about cocoa farmers earning far too little and the fat cats at this end earning far too much but that’s not where we started.

We started by giving out chocolate. Unfairly.

The children, surprisingly, didn’t complain that much – I think they were just glad to have chocolate.

We then looked at the process of making cocoa beans into chocolate bars, a fascinating one, whichever way you look at it, and we discussed the fact that cocoa farmers receive less in wages than the average UK child receives in pocket money (that was a new one for me).

Chocolate and injustice: the children are hooked.

After a session role-playing cocoa farmers, chocolate manufacturers and retailers – and putting the world’s injustices to rights – the children were firing on all cylinders and ready to write.

Letters.

To Cadbury and Tesco and anyone else who had clout and a lot of chocolate for sale and who could make a difference to the impoverished cocoa farmers.

By the end of the morning, each child had written an empassioned letter to a ‘Consumer Relations Department’ and, by Friday afternoon, all the letters from four year groups were in envelopes, ready to post.

I really wanted to shrink myself down into one of the envelopes so that I could see the look on the face of the person who read the letters.

I shall just have to be patient and wait for the replies – which there will be, I’m sure.

So, there was chocolate and injustice – and purpose and problem-solving and role-play and action.

As I drove home and reflected, I summarised the experience under four I’s:

1)  IMMERSION: we gave the children a whole morning to scour the breadth and depth of Fairtrade chocolate and the injustices in the cocoa-farming industry

2) INSPIRATION: the range of stimuli meant all children were engaged and interested: it was Visual, Aural, Kinaesthtic and Tactile

3) INNOVATION: the children had to discuss real solutions to real problems and come up with some original ideas – these are the next generation of thinkers who will have to solve the problems that we, the adults, are currently creating

4) IMPLEMENTATION: the children were given a purpose to write and they applied knowledge, skills, experience and passion in their letter-writing

I suspect that, if it had been a morning of SATs practice questions, the children may not have been as nearly motivated.

Like I keep telling anyone who will listen: we don’t teach children to get ready for SATs – we teach them to get ready for the rest of their lives…

Image by Salvatore Vuono (courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)