Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Emotional Literacy’

REFLECT (and THUNK) Yourself…to GREATness (the RE-boot)!

In Adult Learners, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Learning on 26/06/2013 at 12:38 am

big bad İSTANBUL


A couple of you have probably heard that I have “moved” …and have been “celebrating” that around half-a-million folk have dropped into the ole blog (shirously, guys…you have to get a life)!

OK – this post has been one of the favourite “hits” for many of you…and, as part of my 500K celebrations, I decided it needed a “re-boot”…so this is what you get!


Best way to be BORING (Voltaire quote)


Did you KNOW that:


  • 65% of conference attendees believe they LEARN nothing from plenary sessions…
  • 55% of conference attendees prefer the coffee breaks to the break-out sessions they attend…
  • 45% of conference attendees “sneak” off to do a bit of sight-seeing…or shopping…(!)


Did you also know that 33% of statistics are made up on the spot!



OK, OK – my conference “stats” may lack a bit of reliability…but it’s true – we EDUcators do not do our best LEARNing at conferences!

I lke boring things (Warhol quote)


Neyse…. to something totally different!


I have done a great deal of interviewing in my time (karma…previous lives poorly lived, no doubt) – but one interviewee still stands out for me…nearly 13 years after the fact.


I had probably interviewed around 15 candidates on the day I met him – and I was bored to death by people telling me what a great team-player they were…how flexible they could be in difficult situations…and, how they were really “interested” in all our “strategic initiatives” (that weren’t even on the website)!


He popped in (with no tie, I must add) – the “balls” on the guy…and I decided to ask him (first question – right in):

“Tell me why you are a great TEACHer…”!


His response:


Not sure I am that great…I’m good…but I’m good because I LEARN faster than most, I work harder at reflecting than most and I like doing “it” with other TEACHers…


OK – I had to hold back a “giggle” with that last comment (but “humour” is what we look for, too). 


I gave him the job!


TEACHers learn best by REFLECTing:

Classroom reflection (FQs for TEACHers) TG Ver 03


And, they do “it” best with OTHER TEACHers!


A TEACHer’s level of “reflective savvy” is essentially the product of “who they are“; their level of critical literacy, their level of LEARNacy and their level of emotional literacy.



This savvy is critical for the level of EDUcational Literacy that a teacher has – the GOOD news – it is “LEARNable”! And, LEARNable by just doing “it”.

OK – I really have to stop that…


I have to admit…developing your reflective savvy does take time (maybe, it never really stops).


It’s about asking the “right” questionsagain and again. Taking the time tostep back and weigh up what’s really happening around you…within you…as a LEARNing professional.



It’s about working towards greater clarity and understanding – by being “honest“.


BUT, most importantly – it’s about taking ACTION – and ACTION that leads to “improvements” in what you KNOW, what you DO and WHO YOU ARE as an EDUcator.


Many educators do this by asking questions about TEACHing:

These are “great” questions – but are they enough?


We all know that there is a huge difference between asking questions about TEACHing and asking others about LEARNing:


In fact, we can take the same 3 questions and apply them to LEARNing:


If you want…we can even push that boat out a little further…just a little, mind:



WHAT the HELL….in for a pound, in for a penny; Let’s take those THREE little questions and think about:

  • ASSESSMENT (and, TESTING – of course)
  • …the CONFERENCE BUDGET (and how we can spend that money so much more wisely)!


Hey, here’s a whacky idea  – …speak to your HoD and ask her to cancel the “boring administration meeting” she had planned for you all this week!

Get a cup o’ çay (and a biscuit) with your friends…take the time to “sit” and “chat“…and REFLECT!


Einstein and CPD


GO ON…do “it” with another TEACHer today

…you know you’ll have fun!


Got EDUcational Literacy…?

In Assessment, Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Educational Leadership, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning on 09/06/2013 at 10:10 am

Got EdL (TG ver)


I’ve just read Scott Thornbury’s latest (and last) post on his wonderful blog – An A-Z of ELT.

I was gob-smacked!

What a way to go out…with a wonderful list of “must-read” posts!


Not to worry…he’ll have a new one  for us after Summer!


Scott’s blog personifies…for me…the thunks that characterise an educator with a high degree of “fluency” in what I have dubbed EDUcational Literacy (esp. for those in the world of ELT) – just take a look at the 30 posts he highlights in that last post of his!

Soooooo much great “bedtime” reading for the Summer!


Yeah…you guessed it! I was in the middle of doing my own “Sunday Post” when Scott’s landed in my in-box! But, I meant what I said…he just gave me a nice “hook”!


“What exactly is EDUcational Literacy”?


Pretty reasonable question, actually!

In a nutshell:



In a way, Educational Literacy (let’s stick with the abbreviation – EdL) is something that should concern everyone on the planet. Any parent wishing to help his or her child make “wise” decisions about schools, colleges or university – needs to have EdL. Any teacher walking into a classroom (for the “first” or the “50,000th” timeneeds to have a lot of EdL, if she wants to be truly effective.


EdL is something parentsstudentsteacherseducational administrators or anyone involved or interested in the world of learning (including, dare I say, media representativespublishers and politicians) – must have!


In the case of teachersEdL is more than the teaching-related knowledge and skills required to manage a classroom, present content and practice teaching points – that is known as Pedagogic Literacy. Nor is also just our knowledge of grammar, structure and vocabulary (major components of Disciplinary Literacyin the world of ELL and ELT).

It touches on a teacher’s beliefs and values, the way she interacts with her learners and the extent to which she reflects on her own practice – to grow professionally and create even “better” LEARNing opportunities for those around her.

As such, EdL is a multi-dimensional construct – a true “multiple literacy”. It is not simply the product of adding to “a stack of facts and figures” or throwing more tools into “a bag o’ tricks” – it is experienced and lived through the synaptic-type interrelationships between a number of literacies (and fluencies)…


EdL is also something that many people (sadly) do not possess – and this is what lies at the heart of many of the challenges we face in education.

For example:

  • Parents that tell teachers that their job is to “create” an engineer or doctor out of “Little Mehmet” – have low levels of EdL…sorry mum (and dad)!
  • Students that “blame” their failure on a given exam or the “academic clubs” that manipulate exam cut-offs – have low levels of EdL…sorry guys, time to take some responsibility (unless, that is, their educators also happen to have low levels of “Assessment Literacy”)!
  • Lecturers and teachers that do not even bother to learn the names of their students or “care” what these students “bring” to the classroom – have low levels of EdL…no apologies required here!
  • Educational Managers (up to and including Principals and Rectors) who value their “seat” more than the LEARNing of their learners and still fail to see the importance of “walking-the-talk” – have low levels of EdL…guys, just move aside (the 21stCentury is here)!
  • Schools that live off the “fat” (or prestige) of the “past” or try to “fake-it-till-they-make-it” – have amazingly low levels of EdL…time to “get real” and evidence what you “say” you “are”!
  • Media representatives that report the “league tables” without helping students and their parents to ask the right questions about how the “rankings” were carried out – have no EdL wotsoever…come on, guys – earn your pay-cheques!
  • Publishers who tell educators/teacher-trainers to put on a “show” and not bother with all that “LEARNing stuff” – fail the “EdL test”…totally…!
  • Politicians…Mmmmm…hey, who the hell said it was possible to “save every soul”!?!?


You get the idea!


EdL is essentially “realized” (and developed or learned) through the application of Critical Literacy to allthingseducation – critical reflection as applied to LEARNing and TEACHing.


However, because of the very nature of both LEARNing and TEACHingEdL has a powerful emotional componentEdL appreciates that EDUcation and LEARNing are fundamentally “emotional experiences” that require Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is also brought to bear on matters of LEARNing and TEACHing.

EdL (Care and Emotions)


This is why LEARNing and TEACHing professionals need to exhibit high levels of Emotional Literacy:

  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Emotional memory
  • Emotional problem-solving ability
  • Emotional learning ability

and, to borrow from Gardner:

  • “Intrapersonal Intelligence”
  • “Interpersonal Intelligence”


With so many abilities, skills and talents required of TEACHerstell me again:


I must have missed that memo!


EdL thus describes what an individual (especially EDUcators) “thinks” or “knows” about EDUcation, LEARNing and TEACHing, what s/he “does” with what s/he knows and also what s/he does to “improve” what s/he knows, does and feels in regard to allthingsEDUcation.



EdL also respects the role of theprofessional teacher – and what an “effective” teacher can do with what s/he can do with what s/he knows – as such, Pedagogic Literacy is also a focus of its attention, as is Curriculum Literacy and Assessment Literacy.

The problem is, taking Assessment Literacy as an example:


Assessment Literacy is perhaps the best-known of the components that make up EdL – well, in educational reading circles at least. It has been described in the following way:

Assess Lit 01

BUT…I have to admitI prefer this one:

Assess Lit 02


If most of us were really, really honest…we’d recognise that we all need to do a bit of LEARNing in this area – especially, when we remember these two little thunks

Assess Lit 03

And…then…we have the matter of Curriculum Literacy!

from A1 to B2 (in 9 months)


Have YOU…has YOUR school (and its leaders):


Got EdL (TG ver)


Scott does! Thanks for the thunks. brother…


What makes good “academic” or “pedagogic” discussion?

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 03/11/2012 at 10:45 am
As some of you will have noticed, I have been MIA in the blogosphere for a fair bit – been on me travels, seeing my big, little girl in big, bad London and buying stuff I really do not need!
A change is as good as a rest – and I wanted to do both…
I was just about to start banging away on the keyboard, when my old friend Laurence dropped me a line. He had noticed that I ain’t done a lot of blogging of late…and that he had not much guest-blogging either.
Laurence is an academic / educator here in in Ankara and is also the editor of the Journal of American Studies of Turkey (despite his very British accent) – he’s also the chappy that I am co-authoring my new book with…
I’ll let him take over…
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, after having read posts on a listserv (which shall remain nameless) focusing on issues of academic freedom, bullying, and the right to express one’s opinion. Sometimes the posts have become quite libellous.
So what is “academic” freedom anyway? The right to express oneself is an important one, and should be developed in every educational sphere, whether in school, university or elsewhere. Group work is an ideal method of doing this, allowing participants to “uncover” new truths, as well as develop their own approaches to LEARNing.
However freedom of expression must be tempered by a concern for other people.  Respect for feelings, emotions, and beliefs is as important as developing one’s own perspective.  LEARNing depends on being able to LISTEN as well as comment.  If we don’t believe this, then we might as well give up the idea of discussion.
Just listen to THE JEREMY KYLE SHOW someday, or any one of those so-called ‘chat’ shows where people come and talk about their (failed) marriages, and just see how the guests shout at one another without giving anyone the chance to speak.  In that kind of atmosphere, no one LEARNs anything, either about themselves, or those around them.
The business leader John Bryan once remarked: “You have to be willing sometimes to listen to some remarkable bad opinions.  Because if you say to someone, ‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, get out of here!– then you’ll never get anything out of that person again, and you might as well have a puppet on a string or a robot.
Make no mistake: I believe in the importance of free speech.  At a northern university in England, an educator has been suspended with no right of reply, either in spoken or written form.  He should be given the right to put his point of view.  But there’s a world of difference between expressing one’s viewpoint and ranting for the sake of it.
The same goes for blog posts: people will listen to you if you listen to them.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Learning depends to a large extent on asking questions; but to ask questions, you have to be engaged in what you’re reading or listening to.  Ranting turns people off, rather than engaging them; as a result, no one wants to ask questions.
So next time you feel like ranting against someone – in public, in print, or online, just bear the following idea in mind: “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.  The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
That is what academic “freedom” truly represents – the power to be able to understand.
Laurence Raw,
Baskent University – Department of English
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
@laurenceraw (Twitter)

What do GREAT Classroom Observers “Know” – and, what do they do with what they know?

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training on 09/04/2012 at 12:35 pm

I’ve just finished reading – Personal Misfires as an Observer – a new blog post from Micheal Griffin.

Mike and I have kinda become partners-in-crime with allthingsobservation of late – he from Korea, me from Turkey (gotta love Twitter and its abilty to function as a “çöpçatan” for we educators)!

In his latest post, he gives a really open, honest review of his own experiences as a “green” observer (a fair few moons ago). This is the kind of stuff I “love” – as it’s these “stories” of LEARNing that really help others develop their own reflective savvy.

See Mike’s full post HERE

What I thought I’d do (as a bit of a follow-up) is re-post a few thunks I had on what makes GREAT Classroom Observers “tick” – I used this earlier (in the series I worked on with Mike) but think it may have got lost in that longer post.


So, here is the short n’ sweet version:

I have had the pleasure of meeting loads and loads of classroom observers over the years – and, I can say that all of the “best” CLASSROOM OBSERVERS…(yes, you can “smell” a list coming a mile away, can’t you?):

…(really, really) “know their stuff” when it comes to TEACHing (and, more importantly, LEARNing)

…have some form of ESP when it comes to “seeing and analysing classroom interaction patterns” (remember those teachers with “eyes in the back of their heads”) 

…pay as much “attention to detail” as they do in looking for the “big picture”

…know the value of “service” (and actually like being called “servant leaders”)

…love “recognising others” and “giving praise” (all the time)

…are “authentic, open communicators” who can build “trust” naturally (and from day one)

…have uncanny “relationship-building abilities”

…know that they have two ears and one mouth (and use them in proportion)

…ask amazingly “sensitive and non-judgmental questions”

…are both “low-ego” and “low-maintenance”

…are NOT afraid of “having difficult conversations” (whenever needed) and know the value of “tough love”

…(but also) know when to “back down from a fight” and suggest a “time-out”

…do NOT “sweat the small stuff” and know when to let a few things “slide” (it’s OK…really OK to do this)

…(really, really) care about those around them and those they work with

…have masses of emotional literacy


Sounds like I am describing “most” women, yes guys? So, I guess it will be no surprise when I say:

…are (frequently) the female of the species



Most of us have to make do with only a handful of these abilities…but I, for one, have seldom found that my genitalia get in the way of helping others…if I focus on my own LEARNing!


Emotional Literacy for Educators – the 12-step programme!

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, Educational Leadership on 05/04/2012 at 10:45 am

In a recent post I talked about the idea of Emotional Literacy – one of the core human literacies that drive great TEACHing and also great educational leadership.

Some people call it Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI), educational leaders often use the term “Conscious Leadership” – I prefer to think of it as the “people STUFF” in LEARNing and TEACHing.

Call it what you will…it is here to stay! And, as a concept, it is attracting more and more interest in education as we all get to grips with balancing the “digital literacies” (and fluencies) of the 21st Century with the “human literacies” that are the very foundation of good LEARNing and TEACHing.

In an earlier post, I told you that Tom Peters believes that the world today needs “leaders” who:

OK , I might re-name that 6th one – “LEARN, LEARN, LEARN”!

You know me so well…


For me, all TEACHers are LEADersand Uncle Tom puts his finger on all the major elements that TEACHer LEADers (and their school LEADers) really need to emphasise as they work with 21st Century students. If we do not walk-the-talk, how can we expect our students to even LEARN the talklet alone “walk” it!

The internet is today awash with advice for 21st Century Educational Leaders – these leaders are not only 21st Century Learning Specialists, they are also:

These ideas are also reflected in the work of educators like Marcy Shankman and Scott Allen – who believe that all leaders (and there are many all over our schools and colleges) need to think more about their own “consciousness”:


…if we are to do the same with our LEARNers!


This notion of Conscious Leadership has also been around for some time.

Deepak Chopra tells us we are beginning to see, thanks to information technology (those damn computers, again!), a paradigm shift from a material worldview to a consciousness-based worldview. This makes a great deal of sense – after all:

  • What is consciousness, if not information and energy that has become alive with self-referral? In other words, consciousness is information that responds to feedback, which is also information.

This self-referred information, if applied to “what matters”, supports the process of “consciousness” becoming “intelligence” – and even more LEARNing.


This, in essence, is what we teachers call “reflective savvy”:

– the very process of what we all do to improve what we do with what we know and understand about LEARNing and TEACHing and adapt or transform ourselves as educators…yes, I know – a mouthful!


Being a great TEACHer in the 21st Century, to go back to Marcy Shankman and Scott Allen, is not just about the “tech” – it is not even just about LEARNing and TEACHing practice in the classroom (“virtual” or not). Though, I have to admit, the whole idea of LEARNacy is probably on a par with these:

It’s essentially about exercising our Emotional Literacy “muscle” – knowing and understanding more about our SELF, our OTHERS and our CONTEXT…and being “savvy” on the INTRAPERSONAL, INTERPERSONAL and ENVIRONMENTAL levels, too.

And…how we critically apply this knowledge to all our EDU understandings:


So, how should we exercise this muscle – to make it more emotionally intelligent and make ourselves more emotionally literate?


A while back, I tried to develop a “12-Step Plan” to help teachers set up their own D-I-Y professional development process (if their schools were not helping them out as much as they should).

I thought I’d try the same for Emotional Literacy:

STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about emotional intelligence and conscious leadership (book learnin’ be good – sharing be better)!

STEP 2 – Know thyself (and know “others” and “context” more)! This needs a couple more steps…

STEP 3 – Try to become more aware of your own “emotional style”. Ask yourself – What do I do in more emotional situations? How do I try to avoid discomfort? What do I know about the emotions of those I work with (and how do I know this)? What role do emotions play in my institution (and how do I know this)?

STEP 4 – Get to know yourself better by trying out a few of the many EQ assessment tools you can find nowadays – to understand your strengths and “soft spots” a bit more. Be careful – there is a lot of “rubbish” on the web!

STEP 5 – Focus on your own “listening skills” as a priority – listen in to others (and yourself) and see what lessons you can learn from feelings and emotions. And, remember “listening is often the best way to get your point across”!

STEP 6 – Be the change you want to see in your leadership style (OK – slight modification on what Gandhi told us) and work to increase positive feedback to yourself (and those around you) and increase your appreciation of others (try counting how many times you say “thank you” – each day)!

STEP 7 – Just do it! 

STEP 8 – Start small, begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” (Rome was not built in a day…)!

STEP 9 – Don’t use technology – remember what we said; the people “stuff” (and LEARNing) is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the headware, heartware and careware!

STEP 10 – If in doubt (and you have some “spare cash”), try attending a programme on EQ (but watch out for “EQ sharks” – those buggers that read-a-book and tell-the-world). Hey, if you can do it (and we do not do this enough in education, at all) – get yourself a “coach” (but remember – you get what you pay for)!

STEP 11 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough (and the attitude of “fake-it-till-you-make-it” is quickly sussed out by others) – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” in ourselves! 

STEP 12 – Always my favourite – remember: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference…

Hey, I’m getting better at this “12-step thing”!


But, then again, I’m sure you have some other ideas!

The HUMAN Literacies of TEACHing…

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training, Technology on 11/03/2012 at 12:42 pm

I wasn’t planning on doing any blogging this weekend – even thought about reading one of those “book-thingies” or three!

What changed?


Well, I was wandering around the web-cum-blogosphere (as any “digitally-literate grown-up” does when there is nothing better on the telly) and came across an advert that took me to a siteand, on this site I found this:


Read it carefully! Twice…


OK – it’s not as bad as Yul Bryner’s “My name is Yul Brynner – and I am DEAD  – his posthumous, anti-smoking advert!

But, it’s pretty scary…especially for those that do not own a “digital green-card“…

What struck me about this (and many other “Techie Support and LEARNing sites” like it) was how it plays on the “fears” of many grown-ups – our very “human” fears about being “inadequate” or being “left behind” (if I get one more spammy e-mail asking me if I am happy “with the size of my breasts”, I’ll just die – my breasts are just fine, thank you very mucho)!

I won’t be too mean – as Cyberwise has some great tutorials for teachers and parents wanting to LEARN more about media literacy – or even Twitter, Prezi or Glogster.

Just remember what Uncle Doug and Auntie Nancy told us earlier!


More importantly, however, a couple of people got in touch and asked after some more information on the “human literacies” that I mentioned in my last post on 21C Teacher Skills and Literacies .

There is probably a really bad global shortage of good weekend television these days!

Those of you that follow the blog will have seen a couple of the (in)famous jpegs and pngs I like to create in my “spare time” – images like this one:



Many Techies “hate” them – many “non-techies” love them…and both get a bit confused when I do a mini-series of three on allthingstechnology.

For me, this is the real “digital divide” in education – the divide between the “doers” and “non-doers” with allthingstechnology.

However, if you are anything like me – regardless of how digitally literate (and fluent) you are – you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions:

  • What makes a really great teacher? How can I get there?
  • What can I LEARN from all those great teachers we hear about? How can I get as good as they are?
  • How can I be the best teacher I can be? Will technology help me?


You might have seen one of the “answers” I have come up with:


…and you can take that one to the bank (or pin-board)!


In matters of technology, I always ask one of the following questions:

I’ll leave it to you to “guess” which one I prefer


I mention this as we’ve been “talking” (well, I have – but my trusty PLN has also been coming up with some great “co-THINKing”) about how the “21C Movement” is not really a “techie” movement at all – as I have noted, it is… 


I’m going to push that little envelope a little bit further today and say it is also…

  • …a HUMAN LITERACY (and FLUENCY) Movement


And, that’s because (unless you work on one of these projects that are teaching orang-utans to use iPads) our “business” in education is LEARNingnot TECHNOlogy.



As I write this, I am listening to “Adajio for strings” (by Samuel Barber) and getting ready to listen to the “Theme from Schindler’s List” (by John Williams) or even Mahler’s “Symphony No.5 Adagietto” (let’s see what my iTunes playlists can come up with).

This music is so…HUMAN – and, as far as I know, no bit of technological wizardry has been able to co-create one of these! Of course, composers use a great deal of hi-tech these days. Sam never had the chance – John does! But the music just wouldn’t be the same without the “heart” of either of them

TEACHing is the same! 

We’re told again and again that 21C Skills are not “new”:

And, if we were really honest…there isn’t a lot that is “new” about great teaching.


…but before we get to “DIGITAL Literacies”, and “EDUCATIONAL Literacies” that we need to get “right” as educators,

…we have the“HUMAN Literacies” that great teaching is built on!


Why do I say these are quintessentially “human”?

I guess I need to get a wee bit personal for a minute. The human literacies (or the lack of them) are what stop me bonding in the same way that I did / do with my daughterÇ–A-Ğ-L-A hanım – with Dexter (my “son”):

I love him to bits, I do – but he lacks the “literacies” to really make it worth me bringing my “work” all the way “home” (now my big, little girl is in London – “bad” London). I know we are not supposed to “compare” our kids (even though “Dex” is a fair bit cheaper than his “abla” – “bad” London) – but, he does not do well in the LEARNacy stakes. And, although he has shown promise in the domain of EMOTIONAL Literacy – not too strong in the old CRITICAL Literacy stakes is young Dexter!


Teachers are not as lucky as Dexter – the human literacies are the very foundation of our “business”. We can’t afford to skip these areas in our practice – which makes me wonder why so many educator preparation and education programmes do not even mention them!

Teachers have to walk-the-talk of the human condition itself – and are (sadly) frequently rewarded with the type of “pocket money” that even Dexter would turn his nose up at!

 We do it anyways!


Great TEACHers are…

  • great LEARNers – and can LEARN even when others might choose to “quit” (in addition to viewing the passing on of this ability to others as their core purpose)
  • great QUESTIONers – and engage critically with their “business” (as well as helping others do the same)
  • great CONNECTors – and are “in tune” with their “self”, their “others” and their “context” (not only able to connect the dots, but also create “new dots”)


The first of our human literacies – LEARNacy – is what fuels these “being”abilities.

I wish I had come up with the term LEARNacy – this is why I write a blog and Guy Claxton runs a “LEARNing Empire”. Guy’s concept is, for me, at the heart of what TEACHing is all about – and it does not just take his 4R’s. LEARNacy is concept we have to “live” – and role-model. After all, it is the very reason we have teachers, isn’t it?


We talk a great deal about “critical thinking” in education (it is at the centre of almost all disciplines in our institutions and also hard-wired into most models of 21C education) – but teachers have to be “critical thinking doers”.

Critical literacy (in non-literary usage) connects more dots than we can shake a stick at – from analysis to adaptation, from applying creativity to solve very real problems to transforming ourselves, from going it alone to working with others. It’s about using the right questions to get the right forms of productivity – and doing the “right thing”.


Questioning lies at the heart of critical literacy – and questioning what we do, how we do it and what others tell us what we should be doing is what great teachers do. The same is true for our learners – if we want them to become “critical thinkers” (better still – “critical thinking doers”) they must also be LEARNed to become “critical consumers” of what we “do”.

The challenge is, of course, that LEARNing and LEARNacy are not, like tomatoes (thanks Krissy) or coal, something that can be “delivered” – neither is critical literacy!

Tell me again why we pay teachers so little!


However, both LEARNacy and Critical Literacy need to be lived at the level of feelings and emotions – teaching is, after all, the personification of “emotional work”. Teachers have to be amazingly “savvy” in terms of:

  • What they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • What they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • How they improve and grow with what they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?

This is why social awareness and empathy play such a critical role in the way we manage our relationships in education – and why we love our “sons”!


OMG – just had the shock of me life…Bach just jumped in with his “Toccata in D Minor”! 

Bloody iTunes!


The human literacies are very different to the “technological or digital literacies” (and fluencies) we talk about so much today – and it is fair to ask:

Can technology help us do “more” with these most human of literacies?


But, that’s for another daywhen there’s nowt on the telly!



In Classroom Teaching, Conferences, Teacher Training on 27/09/2011 at 12:38 pm

Did you know that:

  • 65% of conference attendees believe they learn nothing from plenary sessions…
  • 55% of conference attendees prefer the coffee breaks to the break-out sessions they attend…
  • 45% of conference attendees “sneak” off to do a bit of sight-seeing…or shopping…(!) time!


Did you also know that 33% of statistics are made up on the spot!


OK, OK – my conference stats may lack a bit of reliability…but it’s true – we educators do not do our best LEARNing at conferences!


I have done a great deal of interviewing in my time (karma…for previous lives poorly lived, no doubt) – but one interviewee still stands out for me…nearly 12 years after the fact.

I had probably interviewed around 15 candidates on the day I met him – and I was bored to death by people telling me what a great team-player they were…how flexible they could be in difficult situations…and, how they were really “interested” in all our “strategic initiatives” (that weren’t even on the website)!

He popped in (with no tie, I must add – the “balls” on the guy) and I decided to ask him (first question – right in):

“Tell me why you are a great teacher…”!

His response:

Not sure I am that great…I’m good…but I’m good because I learn faster than most, I work harder at reflecting than most and I like doing “it” with other teachers…

OK – I had to hold back a “giggle” with that last comment (but “humour” is what we look for, too). I gave him the job!


TEACHERS learn best by reflecting:

And, they do do “it” best with OTHER TEACHERS!


A teacher’s level of “reflective savvy” is essentially the product of “who they are“; their level of critical literacy, their level of learnacy and their level of emotional literacy.

This savvy is critical for the level of Educational Literacy that a teacher has – the GOOD newsit is “LEARNable”! And, LEARNable by just doing “it”.

OK – I really have to stop that

I have to admit…developing your reflective savvy does take time (maybe, it never really stops).

It’s about asking the “right” questions…again and again. Taking the time to “step back” and “weigh up” what’s really happening around you…within you…as a LEARNing professional.

It’s about working towards greater clarity and understanding – by being “honest“. BUT, most importantly – it’s about “taking ACTION” – and ACTION that leads to “improvements” in what you KNOW, what you DO and WHO YOU ARE as an educator.


Many educators do this by asking questions about TEACHing:

These are “great” questions – but are they enough?


We all know that there is a huge difference between asking questions about TEACHing and asking others about LEARNing:


In fact, we can take the same 3 questions and apply them to LEARNing:


If you want…we can even push that boat out a little further…just a little, mind:


WHAT the HELL….in for a pound, in for a penny; Let’s take those THREE little questions and think about:

  • ASSESSMENT (and, TESTING – of course)
  • …the CONFERENCE BUDGET (and how we can spend that money so much more wisely)!


Hey, here’s a whacky idea…  – …speak to your HoD and ask her to cancel the “boring administration meeting” she had planned for you all this week! Get a cup o’ tea (and a biscuit) with your friends…take the time to “sit” and “chat”…and REFLECT!


GO ON…do “it” with another teacher today…you know you’ll have fun!

Imagineering the 21st Century Teacher…the SEQUEL!

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Technology on 19/09/2011 at 8:59 am

It’s funny…as soon as we mention phrases like the 21st Century Teacher, people immediately assume we are about to launch into a diatribe about the wonders of allthingstechnology!

Yes, it’s truetechnology is everywhere, it is getting easier to use and it can help us learn more – faster than ever before. However, and as we all know… learning (and teaching) is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the “headware”, dummy!

It’s also the “heartware” – and how much we focus on “what matters”!


I think this is perhaps why I tend to put so much emphasis on how literate a teacher is with LEARNing – but also how much of that “learnacy” is related to what are known as 21st Century Fluencies:

Many of these ideas were developed to discuss the type of learning we educators need to be co-creating with our primary and secondary learners – but surely we also need to be able to role model these, if that learning is to occur.

The guys at the 21st Century Fluency Project remind us that the students our schools need to be “producing” should:

  • think creatively to solve problems in real time
  • unconsciously and intuitively interpret information in all forms and formats
  • work cooperatively with virtual and real partners
  • use design, art and storytelling to come up with creative solutions
  • look analytically (and critically) at any communication media to interpret (and evaluate) the real message and create and publish original (and effective) digital messages and products

This last one clearly shows the importance of Critical Literacy – for both teachers and students. Indeed, a man far smarter than I asked:

Is it enough to help children and adults to achieve literacy if this simply means they read only sufficiently well to be seduced by advertisers and tabloid newspapers? (Brian Cox, 1998)

What is interesting, however, is when we take a closer look at the elements that make up Critical Literacy – and notice the degree of overlap with the 21st Century Fluencies:

Whoever said that teaching was “easy” needs a kick up the rear!


Obviously, the above ideas are closely linked under the umbrella of “digital citizenship” – but as we noted technology does not an effective learner or teacher make…it can help if used wisely!

What is important is that today’s teachers talk the same language as their learnersLEARNing as a First Language (LFL) – in addition to applying Critical Literacy to all they do.


However, Educational Literacy does not stop there:

A little earlier I mentioned “heartware” – the emotional side of Educational Literacy.

We all know, from experience, that:

Adults neither!


But…if most of us were asked (during an interview for a new teaching post) – “How Emotionally Literate are you”? – we’d probably get all flummoxed!

Emotional Literacy is at the heart of what we do in education – and “great” (or even “effective”) teachers know the power of:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management 


  • Empathy

Effective teachers know that they are leaders and that:

  • When we feel “good”, we perform better – at everything we do!
  • Everyone watches the “boss”!
  • Leaders set the “standards” of any group!

More importantly, they know that:

  • All communication, all relationships and all learning works, and has always worked, through emotions!

OK…where were we?

  • Critical Literacy – CHECK!
  • Learning Literacy – CHECK!
  • Emotional Literacy – CHECK!

Tonyhave you not missed a few? In fact, should you not have “started” with the THREE you have missed out?

…I feel a PREQUEL coming on!