The #DailyWritingChallenge Day 101: Reflections

At the start of lockdown I decided to use writing to create a positive daily habit and to also help me process my emotions about what was going on in the world. I started the #DailyWritingChallenge with the pledge to write every day, it was a pledge to myself.

I shared this idea on Twitter and lots asked if they could join me. Within a few weeks the DM group was bursting at its seams and I was starting a 2nd one as more and more people were asking to get involved.

The format was simple, each day I would share a one word, values-based theme. I would tweet it and anyone could post a piece of writing: blog, story, poem inspired by it. Each person who blogged shared their post in the DM group, and connections were formed as we each read, reflected on, discussed and shared each other’s contributions. I collated the group for each theme and put them in a thread for the day. I think one day we had 30 submissions. Sue Webb then very kindly published each collection on the VbE website.

I love the traction this simple idea has gained. A lot of new people have stepped into the blogging space, finding their voice and growing in confidence with each contribution. My morning ritual has definitely served me well in creating a routine and keeping me connected.

Acorn Quotes About Seedlings. QuotesGram80 Best Acorns & Oak Trees images in 2020 | Oak tree, Acorn and ...

Who knew when we started how many days we would be writing for and how cathartic this would be?

Who knew how this community would blossom and how many new friendships would be formed?

Who knew we would have contributors from all walks of life and from Canada to Nigeria?  

Who knew what a positive daily habit we were creating and how stimulating reflecting on a word a day would be? 

A lot of people asked me how I chose the themes. I am an organiser and a planner. I collapsed a load of values lists I found on the internet and began to group them into 5s for each week (we wrote Mon-Fri). I kept a few key themes in my back pocket, like ‘Hope’ for when we really needed it.

Being aware of what was going on in the world, in our schools and in our lives I then shaped our reflections for the week thematically. Here are the 100 themes from the #DailyWritingChallenge for your reference:

#DailyWritingChallenge themes People dipped in and out as they had capacity and inclination. There was no pressure to read them all nor to write every day, everyone set their own rhythm. Some people methodically plodded through the themes and looped back to close gaps. I know many intend to revisit the themes before they joined us, or the themes they missed when schools reopened and life got busy again.

I think I was the only one who wrote on all 100 themes, not that it was a competition with anyone apart from with myself. Some themes were easy to write about and they flowed out of my fingers, others were harder and made my brain hurt. Some themes that were symbolic to me did not resonate with others, some blogs I rushed and was not proud of became the ones that got the most likes and comments.

I still have a list of at least another 20 to go through at my leisure. For reference here are my top 10 most read blogs:

  1. Day 18: Freedom
  2. Day 56: Boldness
  3. Day 1: Kindness
  4. Day 7: Friendship
  5. Day 38: Authenticity 
  6. Day 59: Safety
  7. Day 27: Perspective
  8. Day 48: Compassion
  9. Day 33: Love 
  10. Day 64: Agency

I have received some lovely comments from people who have been involved saying thank you for initiating it, for creating this space and for bringing people together. It has been such a pleasure to do so. Thank you to everyone who got involved, the writers, the readers and the amplifiers.

thank you for bring so many wonderful souls into my life. I hope you know the impact you’ve had on me. You’re a wonderful human being and it’s a pleasure and honour to be a part of the #DailyWritingChallenge family”.

Baar Hersi

“Thank you so much Hannah for giving us all something to think about and be part of. Although I haven’t had the time to write for a while, it’s been fantastic to read the blogs. 100 blogs is impressive too. Amazing work!”

Mark Chatley

“So powerful, Hannah (your last blog). I really do hope we continue as humans in our « quest » and in our listening…« The year the earth paused. The year time was suspended. The year humanity looked up. The year humanity listened. The year humanity focused. » thank you SO much for organizing this and all the behind the scenes work you put in… huge hugs”.

Hugging face
Jennifer McDougall

“A wonderful final blog, Hannah, ending an incredible 100 days which have had a huge impact on many levels for many people. Thank you for your vision, actions, words ….and for your HUGE humanity!”

Two hearts

Inspirational reads by so many awesome bloggers….thank you all.

Sue Webb

Many people have asked for it to carry on but I feel like 100 days is a good place to stop. We will be launching the #MonthlyWritingChallenge at the end of August though so watch out for that and get involved!

#MonthlyWritingChallenge

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 100: Humanity

noun. human beings collectively; the quality of being humane; benevolence.
Humanity comes from the Latin humanitas for “human nature, kindness.” 
Humanity. Human nature. Human kind. 
What have we learned about ourselves as humans in the last few months?
2020 is the year we will not forget in a hurry.
The year the world stopped. The year the earth paused. The year time was suspended.
The year humanity looked up. The year humanity listened. The year humanity focused.
I have said many a time to friends and family over the last few months that I feel like I am on the Truman Show and one of these days I will find the ladder, the exit and the sky will be peeled back to reveal life has been going on without me.
If everything we experience is a lesson, and everything is an opportunity to learn and grow, what has this situation taught us?  
Prior to the global pandemic, prior to the lockdown, what state was our humanity in?
How has, and how will, our humanity change as a result of this collective experience?
How has our lens changed and how will we see things differently moving forwards?  
humanity 3
Humanity is the entire human race, every being who exists on Earth.
Humanity is the feelings humans often have for each other.
Humanity is the characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy.
Humanity means caring for and helping others whenever and wherever possible.
Humanity means helping others at times when they need that help the most.
Humanity means forgetting our selfish interests at times when others need our help.
Humanity means extending unconditional love to each and every living being on Earth.
Humanity is a virtue associated with the ethics of altruism derived from the human condition.
Humanity is about helping others, understanding others and empathising with others.
Humanity is symbolised through human love and compassion towards each other.
Humanity is the strength of individual commitment and the force of collective action.
Humanity relieves suffering, ensures respect for human dignity and creates a more humane society.
Humanity can be shown in many different ways – by helping, by supporting, by sharing.
Humanity is underpinned by  Empathy… Compassion… Gratitude… Kindness… Respect… Humility…
Humanity is a virtue.

Humanity 4

We are human beings, not human doings. We sometimes need to remind ourselves of that. For me lockdown has reminded me to give myself time and permission to just be. It has given me a lot of time to reflect. The thinking and the writing space has helped me to explore some of life’s big questions:
Who am I? What do I do? Why do I do it? What is my purpose? What impact do I have? What will my legacy be?  What kind of human being do I want to be? How do I want to be remembered? 
Who we are… What we do… How we show up… What we share… Everything is a choice.
We need to have faith.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean is dirty; the ocean does not become dirty”.
Mahatma Gandhi 
We need to serve others.
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity”.
Leo Tolstoy 
We need to be compassionate. 
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive”.
Dalai Lama
Humanity 5
Thank you to everyone who has written, read, reflected, discussed & championed our growing series of blogs for the #DailyWritingChallenge. It has been a privilege & a pleasure to initiate and curate. I have loved reading all of your posts and amplifying so many new voices. You all have a very special place in my heart for how we have supported each other through the last few months. The writing process has been self-care for me and a cathartic process, I know it has helped a lot of you manage the emotional rollercoaster too. The love from the community has brought me so much joy.
humanity 2

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 99: Belonging

noun. an affinity for a place or situation.
To have affinity is to have a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something.
To belong is be the property of  or to be a member of (a particular group or organisation).
We all want to belong. We all want to feel an affinity for a place or situation. We all we want to belong as equal members.
We long to be seen.
We long to be heard.
We long to be accepted.
We long to be valued.
We long to be loved.
We long to…be.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”.
Maya Angelou 
We want children to belong in our classrooms. We want want colleagues to belong in our workplaces. We want individuals to belong in our communities. We want to citizens to belong in our society.
When we belong we are healthier and we are happier.
When we belong we take less sick days.
When we belong we stay in roles for longer.
When we belong we perform better at work.
So how do we create, build and nurture a sense of belonging? How do we create inclusive cultures where everyone belongs? How do we build a sense of affinity?
To build a sense of belonging requires active effort and practice. One way to work on increasing our sense of belonging is to look for ways we are similar with others instead of focusing on ways we are different.
Three ways we can create  a sense of belonging for others:
  1. Establishing trust
  2. Developing a rapport
  3. Managing our impact
Feeling like an outsider can create a greater sense of loneliness.
Four steps to achieve a greater sense of belonging:
  1. Challenging our core beliefs
  2. Practising unconditional self-acceptance
  3. Making room for “and”
  4. Prioritising healing ourselves
We all need to feel that we ‘belong’ somewhere – fostering this feeling in our employees  can make all the difference when it comes to building an effective team.
Four ways to foster belonging in the workplace have emerged from research:
  1. Creating allies at work
  2. Engineering empathy-building experiences
  3. Encouraging healthy interactions
  4. Processing exclusion verbally

As educators, we all want to create a sense of belonging for the children we teach.

Seven ways to foster belonging in the classroom:

  1. Making introductions immediately and get started on the right foot
  2. Prioritising high-quality teacher-student relationships
  3. Creating a supportive and caring learning environment
  4. Being sensitive to students’ needs and emotions
  5. Setting standards and expectations for discourse
  6. Showing interest in students
  7. Fostering a sense of community in the classroom by establishing classroom respect and fair treatment
To belong is more than being tolerated, it is being accepted and celebrated.
To belong is to be included, to be welcomed, to be loved.
To belong is to feel secure, to feel stable and to feel safe.
Definitions | Brené Brown
When we belong we are authentic.
“True belonging does not require that we change who we are;
it requires that we be who we are”.
Brene Brown 
When we belong we are courageous.
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect”.
Brene Brown
When we belong we are at peace.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other”.
Mother Theresa
Diversity, equity and inclusion are the words of the moment in our world.
Belonging is found in the space at the intersection.
Belonging is every individual’s ideas mattering.
Belonging is everyone’s identity being represented.
Belonging is power being distributed equally.
Belonging is everyone being valued.
Belonging: A Conversation about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion ...
A quote I use a lot as it is a great metaphor about being seen is:
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being invited to dance”.
Verna Myers 
But I also like this variation about being heard:
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, belonging is having that voice be heard”. 
Liz Fosslien 
Let’s all reflect on our own sense of belonging but also on how we create belonging for others around us too.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 98: Justice

noun. just behaviour or treatment; a judge or magistrate. 
Justice, in its broadest sense is the principle that people receive that which they deserve; with the interpretation of what then constitutes “deserving” being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.
Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, is a common symbol on courthouses in and inside some court rooms. She symbolises fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice.
How do we do justice to the theme of justice? I am not sure I have the bandwidth today to go deep into this theme, so I will start sharing my thoughts and I will then return to develop them later…
Is our world just?
My world is and always has been just. However, my world is white. I live in a privileged bubble where I do not experience prejudice and I am not discriminated against. I am straight, white, heterosexual, cisgender and able bodied. I care about and am committed to social justice as an ally, but I am painfully aware that justice does not always prevail.
Judgement
Justice is the result of the application of the law of the land. I have never been a juror, but the jury are a sworn group of people who are convened to make a judgement. The jury decide the penalty of a law being broken, and following their verdict they serve justice.
With the focus on unconscious bias in the education system and in recruitment processes, there is data being published in the UK this week about the disproportionate number of black children being excluded compared to their white peers. Meanwhile in the US the for-profit prison system is incarcerating a disproportionate number of black men.
How does the justice system address the social stereotypes and the biases at play to ensure that judgements are fair and just?
“Justice and judgement is often a world apart”.
Emmeline Pankhurst
Universe
We would all like to think that the universe is on the side of justice. Justice relies on integrity – on the universe imparting what is right and what is wrong. Justice relies on perspective, but perspective comes from knowledge and experience.
There is a proverb that says “The more laws the less justice”.
Do we have too many laws? Do we disempower ownership of behaviour and consequences through the red tape?
This can be linked to schools with too many rules. In a school or  society founded on global human values, the culture and ethos is based on contracting withing the community about how we treat each other.
Justice is thus about relationships, commitments and accountability. A commitment from us as individuals, a collective pledge re how we behave and interact, and how the universe holds us accountable.
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.
Martin Luther King
Society
We all aspire to living in a just world, in a fair society, but we don’t. In fact the social inequities are becoming starker.
Justice requires those with privilege, those with advantage, those with dominance to relinquish some of the power that they hold.
The privileged, the advantaged, the dominant have established the systems and structures that trap the marginalised in the injustice.
How can we address the imbalance in society? How can encourage the privileged to reflect on the power they hold? How can we hold the people with power to account?
The are 5 principles of Social Justice: Access (greater equality of access to goods and services); Equity (overcoming unfairness caused by unequal access to economic Resources and power); Rights (equal effective legal, industrial and political rights); Participation (expanded opportunities for real participation in the decisions which govern their lives).
One of the ways of addressing the power imbalances within society is through advocacy.
“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both”.
Eleanor Roosevelt
Truth
Justice is based on truth, on what really happened. A basic problem in law is that facts are usually contested. The legal process is designed to uncover the truth of what happened, and perjury is a serious offence.
How do we establish the truth? Who’s truth is the truth as there is your truth, my truth and somewhere in the middle there is ‘The Truth’? 
Truth in the law means objective, reliable facts that may be admitted as evidence in a trial. Yet, some critical theory philosophy rejects the idea of justice because it rejects the existence of truth.
The Socratic vision of justice is of natural law. Natural law is a theory in ethics and philosophy that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern our reasoning and behavior. Natural law maintains that these rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by society or court judges.
“Truth never damages a cause that is just”.
Mahatma Ghandi
Interpretation
Justice requires human interpretation. The situation and the facts are reviewed and interpreted through the lens of the law.
How do we interpret the law? How do we perceive justice in society?
I dabble with having card readings to help me clarify my thinking. In Tarot card readings the Justice card indicates that the fairest decision will be made. Justice is the sword that cuts through a situation, and will not be swayed by outer beauty when deciding what is fair and just. The meaning of the card is interpreted differently dependent on which way it faces. The perspective of the judge alters our view of the situation.
“Justice is invisible. You can’t decide who gets civil rights and who doesn’t”.
Angela Davis
Concepts
Justice is underpinned by different concepts and theoretical frameworks.
Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which one of the responses to a crime is to organise a meeting between the victim and the offender, sometimes with representatives of the wider community.
As a school we embraced restorative justice instead of a punitive sanctions policy. Restorative justice is about finding resolutions and about learning from our mistakes.
How do we teach morality in schools? How do we instill morals in our children? How do our morals guide our behaviour? How do our morals shape our sense of justice?
“Justice is the sum of the moral duty”.
William Godwin
Equity
Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges.
Social equity is concerned with justice and fairness of social policy.
Social policy is policy within a governmental or political setting, such as the welfare state and study of social services. Social policy consists of guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare, such as a person’s quality of life.
Social advocacy is the concept of empowering a team or group of individuals to support an idea, need, person, or group.
In #FastForwardDiversityInclusion this weekend we talked to Dr Fran Johnston, a researcher and transformative change leader. She stated we can judge the success of an organisation or a society by how they treat the marginalised.
How do we fight for social justice as an individual? How do we advocate for social equity? How do we challenge social policy?   
“Justice will be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.
Benjamin Franklin
This theme has made my head hurt today. It is our 98th day, it has been a long few months and I am tired, but it is when we are tired that we slow down, that we step back and that we can lose momentum. Let’s stay focused, committed and purposeful to address the injustices in the world.
“Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Martin Luther King

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 97: Challenge

noun. a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength; a call to prove or justify something.
verb. dispute the truth or validity of; invite (someone) to engage in a contest.
The global pandemic has been a challenge. The challenge has been complying to lockdown. The way we choose to live our lives has been challenged.
We have been challenged personally and professionally. We have been challenged individually and collectively. We have been challenged mentally, physically and emotionally.
What have we learned from the challenge? How have we grown as a result of the challenge?
A challenge:
Different people respond to different challenges in different ways. As a competitive person I like rising to the challenge, but in areas where I know I can potentially excel. Challenge me in an area out of my experience, my expertise or my comfort zone and I might not be as up for it.
A challenge is a situation we find ourselves in, posed to us by someone else. To receive a challenge is to have an opponent, someone to compete against. Sometimes a challenge is posed by ourselves to ourselves, we compete against ourselves.
Who are we a challenge for? How much do we allow ourselves to grow when a challenge is given to us? How selective are we in each challenges we take on?
A challenge can be learning a new skill or flexing an old one.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson  
A challenge can make us look at things differently.
“Challenges are what makes life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”.
Joshua Marine
A challenge I have recently faced is having a lodger, and his partner, trapped in my house with me during lockdown. I have lived by myself for a few years, I love my own company and my own space. Having not one, but two people, in my space, all day every day had its challenges, but we made it work.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on how my lifestyle serves me. 
The Challenge:
We face challenges day in and day out. We rise to them consciously and sub-consciously. There are challenges with a small c and there are challenges with a big C.
The Challenge is an obstacle or a barrier. It is something bigger than us. It is something out of our control.  It is something to fight against.
The Challenge is systemic. It is structural. It is societal.
The Challenge is limiting. It is the double standards. It is the inequities. It is the injustice. It is the missing rung on the ladder. It is the reinforced ceiling.
How aware are we of the scale of the challenges we face? How often do we compare our challenges to the challenges of others? Do we check the privilege of the challenges we face?
The challenges we rise to enables us to learn and grow.
“Don’t limit your challenges; challenge your limits. Each day we must strive for constant and never ending improvement”.
Tony Robbins 
The challenges we overcome empowers us.
“Accept the challenges so that you can feel of the exhilaration of victory”.
George Patton 
The Challenge I am committed to taking on via my work with and for Diverse Educators is the challenge of diversity, equity and inclusion in our school system. The challenges faced by people from diverse backgrounds in our teaching workforce and experienced by the children from diverse backgrounds that we teach, need addressing. The challenges are societal, systemic and structural. The challenges need collective agency.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on my own privilege and I have scrutinised where the power is above and around me. 
To be challenged:
To be challenged relies on us to be humble.  To be challenged requires us to be resilient. To be challenged needs us to be receptive. To be challenged compels us to be vulnerable. 

Challenge is a two-way process.
We challenge and we are challenged.
To be challenged can often feel uncomfortable. It invites us to raise our game, to justify our position, to explain our standpoint.
How do we receive being challenge? How do we process being challenged objectively rather than subjectively? How do we not let being challenged get under skin and respond with grace?
To be challenged is an opportunity to win or to learn.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional”.
Roger Crawford
To be challenged is an opportunity to learn and to grow.
“Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation”.
Bernie Siegel
I am challenged by those around me. I invite challenge and I am open to it. I have critical friends who I trust, who I seek challenge from. I am currently going through the branding process for Diverse Educators and I have sought challenge from people in the community to stimulate the creative process.
As a result of being challenged I can see situations from different perspectives.
To challenge:
To challenge takes courage. To challenge takes action. To challenge takes commitment.
We all have the capability and the capacity to challenge the people, the ideas and the things around us. But sometimes it is not our way, or it is not the way the team or the culture around us works.
We need to create cultures where it is safe to challenge. We need to cultivate teams where we can have fierce and courageous conversations that challenge us.  We need to create the conditions for challenge being delivered and received in an objective way, where we depersonalise the challenge from the person articulating it, where we can listen to and learn from the challenge.
How do we perceive challenge? How do we challenge others? How do we respond to external challenge? 
To challenge is to feel the fear and do it anyway.
“There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet”.
William Halsey
To challenge is to take a risk, despite the consequences.
“The greatest glory in living, lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. Nelson Mandela
To challenge is in my DNA. I ask questions. I ask for detail. I ask for evidence. I ask  for reasoning. I encourage people to look at things from different perspectives.
To challenge does not always make you popular, but so be it.
To challenge is to have a voice and to use it. To challenge is to have strong values and to live by them. To challenge is to have a loud, positive inner voice and to listen to it.
As a result of this challenge I have reflected on how I have challenged in the past and how I will challenge in the future. 
A challenge… The Challenge… To challenge… To be challenged… Each reveals our true character.
How do we reflect on, capture and learn from the growth we have experienced by our resilience being challenged?
Martin Luther King Jr Challenges Quotes | Inspiration Boost

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 96: Knowledge

noun. facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
To know. To be familiar with. To be aware. To understand.
We all know a lot… Or we like to think we do… However, the more we know, the more we realise what we do not know…
We all read a lot… Or we like to think we do… However, the more we read, the more we realise what we have not read…
We all reflect a lot… Or we like to think we do… However, the more we reflect, the more we realise what we have not reflected on…
Thus knowledge for me is a cycle, an ebb and flow. Moving in and out of knowing, being familiar with, aware of and understanding something or someone… to not knowing, not being aware and not understanding.
Knowledge is stepping into the light, out of the darkness, and then the lights being switched off, until daylight emerges once again. Knowledge is those light bulb moments, those epiphanies of clarity and sense making.
Our knowledge is constantly evolving, flexing and growing, it is not fixed.
“Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested”.
Proverb 
Many people are obsessed with ‘knowing stuff about stuff’, humans, especially educators, legitimise themselves through anchoring their knowledge in theory.
Knowledge is often led by the head. Knowledge is intellectualised, theorised and academised.
Knowledge is knowing the facts, the information, the detail. Wisdom is knowing what to do with it.
Knowledge can sometimes become a regurgitation of what we know. When we truly understand something we explain it, we can paraphrase it and we can simplify it.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
Albert Einstein
Knowledge is the theory. Wisdom is the practice.
Many people are obsessed with ‘knowing stuff about stuff’, but how well do we know ourselves? How much internal knowledge and wisdom to we focus on?
In the ongoing Diversity and Inclusion conversations I am in, we reflect on and discuss the need for the ‘inner work’ to take place to empower the individual, to enable the ‘outer’  work to manifest.
The relationship between the internal and the external can be paralleled to the relationship between theory and practice. Which comes first? Which shapes the other?
“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand”. Frank Herbert
So how well do we actually know ourselves? How much kudos do we place on this aspect of knowledge?
How familiar are we with us? How self-aware and socially aware are we? How deep is our understanding of our internal worlds?
Knowledge could and should be led by the heart. Knowledge should be personalised, emotionalised and humanised.
Knowledge is important. Intelligence is important. But emotional intelligence is really important.
“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite
of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head– it is the unique intersection
of both”.
David Caruso 
This year it has felt at times that we no longer know the world we live in. The system we know has changed. The  society we knew has changed. Thus it is on us to develop our knowledge and deepen our understanding.
“Knowledge is power”.
Francis Bacon
What we know is important. What we do not know needs to be discovered.
Who we know is important. Who we do not know needs to be discovered.
“Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous”. Confucius  
Knowledge is power.
Knowledge is empowering.
Knowledge is enabling.
Knowledge is liberating.
Knowledge is progress.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premised of progress in every society, in every family”.
Kofi Annan
Knowledge unlocks us.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 95: Influence

noun. the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
verb. have an influence on.
As a verb, influence typically means “to affect or change someone or something in an indirect but usually important way.” Something or someone that influences a person or thing, then, has an influence on that person or thing.
Social influence refers to the way in which individuals change their behavior to meet the
demands of a social environment. It takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialisation, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing.
Some questions to consider regarding influence:
How are we influenced to think and behave? How are we shaped as human beings?
There are so many things that influence us in our lives:
Society… Culture… Language… Word of mouth… Family and Friends… Community… Social status… Cultural Capital… Persuasion… Knowledge… Education… Experience… Profession… Storytelling… Media… Advertising… Propaganda… Arts and Music…
Each sector of our lives, each social sphere, each segment of our identity influences us.
But influence is not a one-way process. As we are influenced, we also influence others. So other question to consider are:
How do we influence others? How do we increase our influence as an individual?
As individuals we influence our friends and family.
As parents and carers we influence our children.
As teachers we influence the children we teach.
As leaders we influence the teams we serve.
As tweeters we influence who follows us.
As writers and bloggers we influence who reads us.
Quotes about Society influence (50 quotes)
We all have a sphere of influence. Whether we like it or not. The more established we are, the more senior we become, the wider the reach we have, the larger the following we have, the bigger our sphere of influence becomes. With influence comes responsibility and accountability.
But our ability to influence and be influenced, is also framed through biases. These biases come from the values instilled in us, the experiences that have conditioned us, the circles we move in. A bias is a frame, a lens, through which we see, hear, filter and interpret information.
Biases distort and disrupt objective contemplation of an issue by introducing influences into the decision-making process that are separate from the decision itself.
Emotional biases typically occur spontaneously based on the personal feelings of an individual at the time a decision is made. They may also be deeply rooted in personal experiences that also influence our decision-making.   
We often see what we want to see, and hear what we want to hear.
The confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to search for, favor, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms their preexisting beliefs. The confirmation bias affects people’s thinking in every area of life.
So when we are thinking about influence we also need to think about power and privilege. When we are reflecting on who influences us we need to think about the subliminal and sub-conscious messages we absorb through the choices we make – what we read, what we watch, what we listen to, who we follow and who we engaged with. Each choice influences our thinking. We need to filter the dominant narratives and the loudest voices, we need to select our thought leaders carefully.
Robert Johnson quote: Leadership is the ability to influence ...
To influence others is to be the best version of yourself you can be.
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why”.
Stephen King
To influence others is to be a visible role model with conviction in each action.
“The most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of they’ve taught me”.
Scott Adams
To influence others is to model the behaviours we want to see.
“If you want to help others and become a person of influence, keep smiling, sharing, giving and turning the other cheek”.
John Maxwell
To influence others is to lead by example, with integrity and authenticity.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority”.
Kenneth Blanchard
To influence others is to share a vision, a mission and values and to create a legacy.
“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence”.
Sheryl Sandberg 
To influence is to empower.
“Having influence is not about elevating self, but about lifting others”.
Sheryl Drew
To influence is to serve others.
Leaders with influence... | Leadership inspiration, Leadership ...
As leaders, we need to harness our influence and use it for good. We need to influence positive change. We need to influence values-led decision-making and ethical behaviours. We influence society as educators. As leaders we need to influence the system and the structures that inhibit progress and transformation.

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 94: Openness

noun; lack of restriction; accessibility; lack of secrecy or concealment; frankness.
Openness to experience is one of the domains which are used to describe human personality in the Five Factor Model. Openness involves six facets, or dimensions, including active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity.
I am naturally a very open person. I have an open mind, an open heart and I am quite open in what I say. My body language is usually very open too.
I was brought up in a home where doors and windows were always open. Conversations were very open too. Becoming a teacher, open door policies did thus not bother me.
My happy place is an open space, I love being at the top of the mountain looking out over the open vista or on a beach looking out at the open sea and the open sky.
The ability to be open relies on a number of things. Firstly, internally openness comes from a place of authenticity, a place of confidence and a place of courage. Externally openness comes from a place of truth, a place of honesty and a place of respect. Openness needs these conditions to exist and to thrive.
Being brought up in an open home, with open relationships and the value of openness being instilled in us has shaped who I am, how I am and what I do.
Openness Quotes. QuotesGram | Words, Inspirational words, Wise words
As a school leader I had an open-door policy for staff and students. My openness meant I was approachable and welcoming to my community and openness was part of our culture and our ethos.
As an educator on social media I am open to new ideas, people, connections, collaborations and opportunities. My openness means that people reach out to me and share things with me.
As a human being  I am open to different people, different cultures and different experiences. My openness means that people feel connected to me, trust me and often confide in me and disclose in me.
Openness also leads to the ability to be, and to embrace being, vulnerable. At a Big Education event earlier in the year I was asked to speak about vulnerable leadership and I blogged about it here. I quoted Brene Brown who talks about openness, and specifically open-heartedness, in her work:
“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people,
but we’re afraid to let them see it in us”.
Brene Brown 
This quote makes me think about the space we created with #WomenEd for women in education to be open and honest. The stories are often raw and painful as we share our journeys. Similarly in the #IamRemarkable workshops I facilitate, it is about creating a safe space where we can be open about our fears, our personal and professional barriers and become more open in celebrating our accomplishments and what makes us proud.
For me, being open, means that people see me and understand me. My openness encourages acceptance and creates a sense of belonging. By being open I give myself permission to be me.
For me, being open also means that I can heal by talking out my experiences and sharing my feelings. By modelling this to others, it also gives them permission to be open too. Through openness we heal from the hurts of the past, we become comfortable in the present and hopeful for the future.
Inspiring Quotes from John de Ruiter
Openness is inclusive as it reflects our reach and our relationships.
The openness of our hearts and minds can be measured by how wide we draw the circle of what we call family”.
Mother Theresa

Openness is insightful through the conversations that evolve.

“Honesty and openness is always foundation of insightful dialogue”.
Bell Hooks
Openness is revealing through the journey we begin.
“Openness isn’t the end: it’s the beginning”.
Margaret Hefferman
Openness is liberating through the lens of transparency.
“…approach change with an understanding of the process
and an openness to the pain”.
Elizabeth Lesser
Openness is empowering through the inner work we commit to.
“Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears
but rather from getting to know them well”.
Pema Chodron

Openness is enlightening as it is a way of being.

“There is just some magic in truth and honesty and openness”.
Frank Ocean
Life Style Quotes : People who have no love, peace, or openness ...

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 93: Wonder

noun. a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar; a person or thing regarded as very good, remarkable, or effective.
verb. desire to know something; feel curious; feel doubt.

 

To wonder is to be curious. To feel wonder is to be stirred by something remarkable. To know wonderful people. To witness wondrous sights. To bear testament to the wonders of the world.

Wonder Quotes

As children we wonder. We are curious. We ask questions. Our wonder develops knowledge and deepens understanding. Wisdom is formed as our imagination is stimulated and our minds are formed.

I wonder…

As we get older and wiser, do we lose our sense of wonder in the world? Do we become accustomed to its magnitude and take for granted the things that evoked wonder in us as a child?

Wondrous people inspire us to be better, to do more, to fulfil our potential. Princess Diana of Themyscira or Diana Prince of the modern world (aka Wonder Woman) defies all limits placed on her by using her super powers. Auggie Pullman, the child in Wonder with Treacher Collins syndrome, defies all limits imposed on him by choosing kindness – his super power is his heart and soul.

I wonder…

Who inspires us by defying the limits? Who in our real lives rather in works of fiction are the Dianas and the Auggies? Who feels us with wonder as they unleash their ‘super powers’?

The Wonders of the World – ancient and modern – inspire us both through their natural phenomena but also through human actions.  There are places in the world that I have visited that have literally taken my breath away. I have sat in wonder for a prolonged amount of time to absorb the sublime beauty such as the immensity of canyon and the enormity of a mountain range.

I wonder…

Which of my travels to far flung destinations has instilled the most wonder in me? Was is Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Ephesus, Christ the Redeemer or the Colosseum? I wonder if I will get to Petra this autumn as planned or when in the future I will experience this wonder again?

As we went into lockdown, the natural world replenished a sense of wonder to our lives. As clouds lifted and as waters cleared, a wonder in the world around us and in the every day things we had been taken for granted was restored. Over the last few months, the oohs and the aahs of these occurrences have become normalised once again.

I wonder…

If we have deeply listened? If we have fully understood the message? If we have truly appreciated the wonder of the world? If we have wholly embraced the opportunity bestowed on us?

Wonder Quotes | Wonder Sayings | Wonder Picture Quotes

Reading the other blogs today has just triggered a memory that has meant I have come back to write more following this thread I posted on Twitter. The wonder of music and songs about wonder has encouraged me to reflect on my Headship. It is the last day of the summer term and perhaps it is not a coincidence that my sub-conscious selection of today’s theme takes me back to my first official day (I had done a year as a Headteacher Designate without a team/ without a building) and our INSET to kick of our opening.

Magnus Joenck | Director of Photography | Profiles | Promonews

I chose a song to frame our year, a song with a metaphor to give a message to the staff, a song to ‘nurture hearts and minds’ as was the mission statement I had crafted for our community. I selected ‘Wonder’ by Emile Sande as the music video is about a woman, leading a group on a journey, as they travel towards the unopened door, through the wilderness, colours explode around them.

Naughty Boy ft Emeli Sandé / Wonder - Nadia Marquard Otzen

I wonder…

How my old team are feeling? How the students are doing? How their families are keeping? What song symbolises their academic year? What song will frame their next year? 

The lyrics of Wonder are symbolic and I have copied them here for you to read and reflect on:

Wonder

I can beat the night
I’m not afraid of thunder
I am full of light
I am full of wonder
Wo-oh, oh-oh, I ain’t falling under
Wo-oh, oh-oh, I am full of wonder
Though our feet might ache
The world’s upon our shoulders
No way we going to break
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we ain’t falling under
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we are full of wonder
This light is contagious, go, go tell your neighbours
Just reach out and pass it on, ooh, yeah
This light is contagious, go, go tell your neighbours
Just reach out and pass it on, ooh, yeah
This light is contagious, go, go tell your neighbours
Just reach out and pass it on, ooh, yeah
This light is contagious, go, go tell your neighbours
Just reach out and pass it on, ooh, yeah
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we ain’t falling under
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we are full of wonder
When everything feels wrong
And darkness falls upon you
Just try sing along
This is a message from Cabana
If your heart turns blue
I want you to remember
This song is for you
And you are full of wonder
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we ain’t falling under
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we are full of wonder
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we ain’t falling under
Wo-oh, oh-oh, we are full of wonder

There is much that we can make connections to for the journeys we have been on this year. Let’s leave the thunder and the darkness in this academic year and seek out the  wonder of next academic year. Let’s make the light contagious.

emeli sande wonder | Emeli Sande | Emeli sande, Song quotes ...

#DailyWritingChallenge Day 92: Contribution

noun. a gift or payment to a common fund or collection; the part played by a person or thing in bringing about a result or helping something to advance; a piece of writing submitted for publication in a journal, book, etc.
The gift we bestow… The part we play… The result we create… The help we give… The contribution we make. 
We are all capable of contributing. We can all show up. We can all lean in. We can all be brilliant. But we need to make sure that these contributions are seen, that contributions are acknowledged, valued and celebrated as some contributions are ignored, diminished or misattributed.
Michelle Obama quote: Value everyone's contribution and treat ...
We all contribute. Contributing gives us a sense of fulfilment. To contribute is to serve others.
“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfilment”.
Tony Robbins
We all contribute time, energy, ideas, money and resources. Contributing gives us a sense of purpose. To contribute is to be generous with what we have and to share it with others. 
“Life is not accumulation, it is about contribution”.
Stephen Covey
We all contribute by making a choice. We all choose how we spend our time and energy. We all choose what we prioritise. To contribute is a choice about the impact we have. 
“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die”.
Eleanor Roosevelt 
We all contribute to our communities. We all contribute to society. We all contribute to the wider impact. To contribute is to set the tone and to affect change. 
“Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution”.
Aung San Suu Kyl  
We need to celebrate the gifts we bestow… the parts we play… the results we create… the help we give… the contributions we make. We need to own these contributions as accomplishments we should be proud of.
Quotes about Making a contribution (48 quotes)
Some questions to reflect on as the academic year ends:
  • How have you contributed your time?
  • How have you contributed your energy?
  • How have you contributed your resources?
  • How have you contributed your ideas?
  • How have you contributed your joy?
  • How have you contributed your passion?
  • How have you contributed your money?
  • How has your contribution made a difference?
  • Who has your contribution impacted?  

Sheryl Sandberg - It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and ...