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Exam season: eat, sleep, exercise the mind!

Exam season! It's time to eat, drink, and sleep well...Many of our pupils tell stories of students trying to do all-nighters as their panic finally kicks in and all the weeks of not doing anything towards their exams hit them hard. I've seen it in the class room and I've seen it in my practice with students who come in for tuition for the last furlong. The stress is palpable, the focus minimal. We've probably all had to pull off an academic or professional assignment at the last minute, drin...

Exposing young minds to the rubbish of modern life

In the seventeenth century, the great English philosopher John Locke penned "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" to his cousin's family. Today they remain highly erudite and insightful - indeed, I've had the pleasure of writing a book on them which is now published by Bloomsbury.   A couple of the many pieces of advice that often resurface in my mind is Locke's thoughts on the impressionability of young minds. (Here we find one of the earliest but certainly the most influential...

Entrepreneurs and school - time for a change!

Last week we all worked with several students (different ages, genders, and schools) who were strongly frustrated about school: about the perceived lack of respect or disinterest in them or their ambitions or about having to do courses or exams they don't want to do. I wondered if we were attracting children and young people who struggle with institutions, and the answer is certainly yes: but they are a minority amongst our clientele. We also attract many more from the category of those who ...

Don't give negative beliefs negative energy!

"Were the storms worse then before?" a BBC page asked on the web. Apparently not, but naming them gave them more attention and hence the appearance that the wintry weather was worse than previous years. It was wetter - the wettest since 1947 - but the storms were normal winter storms. When we draw attention to something, we give it energy and that energy in turn draws more attention from ourselves during the day or week as well as from others. I was listening to an excellent audio...

Follow the heart - not just what you're academically good at!

We all have different intelligences and some of those intelligences shine in certain areas even though we may have no liking for them. In my practice I meet undergraduates who have fallen into a course because they were told that they were good at and who are now ruing the day they applied for chemistry, medicine, languages, events, business and I’m hearing from several students that their teachers are recommending doing a degree or an A-level in something they’re scoring well at: but if the hea...

Impressions on tender minds: John Locke and keeping our kids healthy

Wise words from John Locke: "The little, and almost insensible Impressions on our tender Infancies, have very important and lasting Consequences...the Minds of Children are as easily turned this or that way..." A few years back, I wrote a book on John Locke's educational philosophy: his thought reflected the philosophy I was creating on what I considered important for our young children and so it was a pleasure to walk with a master philosopher for a year and to return to hi...

Education versus schooling: why we need more education and less schooling

In life the great educationalists have sometimes made a distinction between schooling and education. The two - I teach my pupils - overlap but they's also distinguishable. Schooling is an institutionalised form of education in which the material may or may not be relevant either to the individual pupils or to a generation of pupils even. Educational fashions come and go in schools and some get stuck in the institutional framework and become just part of the material 'to be delivered...

Philosophy and teenagers

Philosophy is the love of wisdom - the study of the great thoughts written by the sages since Ancient India and Ancient Greece. It is often dismissed as an airy subject in which philosophers run around in circles not getting anywhere, or, as George Berkeley commented, 'philosophers create a dust storm and then complain that they cannot see.' ( Or words to that effect) In his Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking argued that philosophy needs to catch up with physics - again, the sugges...

Purpose - says it all

The importance of purposeful action cannot be underestimated. Our purposes may be short term or long term - weeks or years - but the longer we reach out, the more powerful and confident we can be now. I've worked with many students recently whose lack of purpose and direction has begun to to take its toll in the sense that they are finding it hard to motivate themselves to study: if we don't know why we're climbing the mountain, why bother? Certainly some people look at th...

Parenting zombies - we do our best

I met two zombies in the past couple of weeks. One was 7 the other 17. The former creates the latter. The 7 year old had an ipad, x-box and I don't know what else but had the attention span of a fish. Crikey. I asked the parent to go cold turkey with him - no electronic games at all. The 17 year old had a plug, was unemployed, failed all GCSEs and was frankly not going anywhere fast. A waster wasting his precious time. As parents we're all trying to deal with the balancing of values and keep...

Standing up to work

I heard a hard hitting podcast earlier in the summer, which is still reverberating. In it, a top personal trainer went through the usual excuses people make for not getting fit the top one being "I don't have time." His reply ; "You have time to be ill?" Wow. Then I caught a video by Dr Mercola whom I read regularly on back pain. I don't suffer from back pain, but most people do - indeed, I was training in chiropractic several years ago as I thought that was a great servic...

Get the best out of a poor situation by thinking different

The commercial message begins earlier and earlier so that it's now out even before they've left school! But rather than facing this new school year with a sense of dread or boredom as unfortunately many do, you can change it all right now with a few simple alterations to your thinking. The environments we inhabit are not just fixed and unalterable; they are very much a product of our own thinking: not someone else's thinking that means but yours. The world around you is a product of what...

The crazy blueprints we create...

A blueprint or a framework is the principles from which and through which we look at ourselves, other people, and life. We can call it the subconscious - the tacit notions we hold, barely articulated but loud and clear when our emotions kick in. Generally, most people's blueprints are a mess and so we get pulled back and forth: from a young age we're driven from one subject to another with little regard for what we're interested in and rarely do we make the connections to what truly fires us ...

Is your child in the wrong school? And what to do about it...

We've been dealing with a few issues and concerns over the past term about whether a pupil is in the right school. Most children are content with the school they're in - and logistically, many parents don't have much choice about moving them. But when a child is suffering from headaches and stomach ache or complains of weak teaching or a bullying mentality at school - the option to stay is no longer an option. A school is an environment and it comes with a culture. Rarely can teachers change ...

Why bring the past into it?

This is a short excerpt from my next book: Getting out of the hole (tentative title) Like many, I was conditioned to ‘be in trouble’ if I did something wrong. Recently, I heard a crash on the patio outside and I saw my younger son. A three foot statue lay next to him, broken in half. Watching his reaction, I observed him sit down and look very uncertain. He wasn’t upset, as most of would be as we would be expected the parental shouting the being sent to the room palaver. He sat uncertain as t...

The beauty of dinosaurs and their crazy names

Can you say, "Coelophysis, children?" I've become a great fan of palaeontology ever since my elder got into dinosaurs. Well, we didn't just 'get into dinosaurs', we got into dinosaurs. We bought many basic books on dinosaurs (we have a shelf full) but we also invested in Walking With Dinosaurs, the BBC book of the programme that came out in 1999. We also have the download - it is one of the few programmes we watch: we don't have a tv in the house and we don't let the children watch ...

Books - lovely picture and why books mean freedom

I love electronic gadgets as tools for writing, communication, and business and the odd bit of reading the the Kindle but seriously nothing beats a good book. I'm a serial bibliophile. I think it comes from the very few books I had as a kid - and then the insatiable curiosity that overwhelmed my mind in my later teen years. I started to 'get' things - first, maths logic (which is why I love teaching the basic fundamental logic of maths - it's relatively painless and it teaches us to work thro...

SMART targets - what does realistic mean? Keeping the dream going!

The famous SMART targets are great: SPECIFIC MEASURABLE ACHIEVABLE REALISTIC TIMED Most business people and high achievers know them and many others who are not immersed in the world of self-development may have encountered them at one time or another in a work seminar or professional development course. I used them recently with a client (17 years old) who said he'd do his revision "this week." "When?" "This week." "No, what days? When is...

Plugged in symptoms - brief comment

Based on conversation with a pupil early... With one to one tuition, my practice often runs like a doctor's office. Funnily enough, I explained to my pupil, I am a doctor (PhD in philosophy). People come in with similar symptoms all the time. So, imagine a medical doctor sitting there with patient after patient coming in with a runny nose and sore throat. What would be the problem? Cold, she says. Great. Most probably. Now, when student after student comes in who struggles with spell...

In support of Guy Caxton's desire to ban rubbers...

Why erasing can be unproductive and has deeper psychological and cultural implications. In an article in May 2015, a cognitive scientist argued that rubbers (erasers) should be banned from the class room. As reported by the Daily Telegraph: "Guy Claxton, visiting professor at Kings College London, has sparked arguments with his comments that the humble eraser is "an instrument of the devil". Rubbers create "a culture of shame about error. It's a way of lying to the wor...

Why Classical Foundations Tuition?

A short video introducing director Alex Moseley and what Classical Foundations have to offer you: ...

Preparing for 11+

Head teachers of state schools that use the 11+ examinations to filter students are often heard saying that you don't need to have a tutor to prep and even that it's best to turn up on the day and see how the boy/girl fares. Hmm. The English football team don't prepare for penalties I hear too. Result? Yep. Now, I can't blame state sponsored grammar school heads from saying don't buy tutorial services. After all, they get their funds from the taxpayer rather than from clients directly and...

How schools can kill confidence

I had an interesting discussion with one of my younger pupils this week: her school have her down at a certain level that is below the level she's working at. Schools sometimes do this to ensure the pupil scores well at the lower grade. But her replies opened up a huge area in my mind. "Sometimes" is a flexible word - some schools do this more than others when it comes to GCSEs: for instance, they may keep a student who is working at a B/C level on the foundation maths as they are m...

The effects of academic labelling

Another anecdote from one of my older pupils similar to last week's. She explained how it felt to be firstly lost in maths - her mum had remarked how her daughter looked as if she had been falling behind and that the teachers initially ignored her concerns. Having twenty plus other pupils to look after, it's easily done - but the repercussions can run deep. When 'action' was finally taken, it was to pull her aside during the day for 'special lessons' - for this girl, she admitted, this w...

Pain is resistance to what is...

"Pain is resistance against what is..." This is a deep one! I heard this on an audio and thought it was worth analysis. To many people, pain is an objective assessment of what is going wrong in the body; poke someone in the arm and we call that painful. Makes sense. Yet we don't feel pain until we know we're in pain: we can sit on a leg for twenty minutes and then shift our position and then feel the pins and needles, which were there all along but now we're consci...

Bored at school? - not surprising

“I didn’t get that.” says the pupil…”And I’m not interested,” says his or her demeanour. “It’s boring.” The national curriculum is set up to provide a broad exposure of subjects to pupils from a young age up. The idea is that we don’t know as adults what subjects and hence professions or vocations the youngsters will head towards when they’re older. So the powers that be (Ministers, top Civil Servants) have, over many years, set up a curriculum that presents a such a range. It sounds reas...

Why kids "don't get it" PART TWO

“No, I didn’t get that,” replies the pupil. In that last issue, I reviewed some of the reasons why a pupil may not “get something” and focused on not being ready. As adults, there are times when we are not ready for a life changing event or ready to learn something new. When we’re fourteen, learning about other religions barely makes sense, but as adults we meet more and more people, we often become curious and become “ready to learn.” It’s the same with young people: sometimes children and ...

Why kids "don't get it" PART ONE

“No, I didn’t get that,” replies the pupil. Or should it be the teacher? When a pupil doesn’t understand something – we need to step back and assess our own reaction. “Why doesn’t he get it?” we may scream internally – “it’s so obvious!” Well, what are we saying? That “we don’t get why he doesn’t get it.” So let’s put us in the same frame – we both may learn something. In a classroom situation, when she doesn’t get something the pupil may not enunciate the thought, as she may not want to...

When a pupil doesn't understand

“No, I didn’t get that,” replies the pupil. Or should it be the teacher? When a pupil doesn’t understand something – we need to step back and assess our own reaction. “Why doesn’t he get it?” we may scream internally – it’s so obvious! Well, what are we saying? That “we don’t get why he doesn’t get it.” So let’s put us in the same frame – we both may learn something. In a classroom situation, when she doesn’t get something the pupil may not enunciate the thought, as she may not want t...

Multitasking does not work

Do schools let us down in conditioning us not to focus? One of the fashionable elements to productivity (and education) over the past twenty years is the concept of multitasking. Multitasking is the supposed ability to get more than one task done at a time: multitasks bask in a personal glory of how efficient they are. The problem is that the evidence doesn't stack up. Sitting in my living room or in the kitchen to do work was one of the most unproductive things I did. I had no focus...

The benefits of one to one mentoring and tutoring

What is the difference between going to school and having a private tutor? It's a bit like going to a gym: if you wander in by yourself you may feel intimidated and either lose heart or fall into classes and do what everyone else is doing... but having someone their to guide you and encourage you, to push you and to lay off when appropriate - that's how we get the best out of learning! I invest in the services of Guy Baker, PT working from Nottingham (he's also on facebook!)...

Seasonality and education

Why summer holidays should be sacred to our children's development It's been a while since my last posting - it's been the season of summer term exams and we have worked beyond our normal hours to cater for our students needs: we're alway happy to try and accommodate last minute panickers to ease their worries and provide some useful input but it has been a joy to see our regular pupils take the exams in their stride. Just like running a farm, you can't cram a harvest! ...

The power of labelling - and a note on smiling!

Educationally labelling another individual is one of the most insidious things we can do. By labelling, I mean providing an adjectival description of the educational ability or potential of the pupil. However, as we'll see, the label rarely creates potential and progression, it creates regression. Many students come to us for one-to-one attention with a label that is cast out by their parents or themselves before we have even assessed their skills. It's quite unnerving at times when...

Zorro and the circle of focus...

Something I've been explaining to pupils recently: when we focus, we get more done, we got it done more effectively, and that means we have more time to do other things and enjoy life. In the film, The Mask of Zorro with Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, a young, wayward man, Alejandro Mullieta, full of revenge for his brother's death is taken to train by Don Diego de la Vega (the original Zorro). His training involves bowing to discipline and, most interestingly, to learn to fi...

Discipline - pain or pleasure?

Discipline conjures up images of strict headmasters whipping boys with canes, of repressing natural instincts through institutionalised learning and creating schooled zombies, of standing in line and doing as one's told. It implies pain. Yet discipline - and the word disciple - comes from the Latin word discere to learn. A disciple is one who follows a teacher or a set of principles, and it is instructive to note that when we think of discipline we think of a set of principles involvi...

Time to celebrate rather than moan - a confession!

I had revelation today. It's been a long time coming but from now on, my articles will seek out the positive and accentuate the great, the wonderful, the beautiful. Criticising is an easy sport, and I am, as a philosopher and educator, highly concerned about some trends we're in - ranging from diet to curriculum to the mass media and environmental issues; but we can all gripe, and I gripe enough about gripers...but it's time to change. I'm a very positive chap: I look f...
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