I’m not a teacher but I do believe education and a love of learning are the most precious and sustaining gifts we can give to children, and through them, to society. One way we excite that love of learning is by making everything associated with learning less like a punishment and more like a joy; that includes changing the current culture in schools where teachers feel guilty when they are not driving themselves like Roman galley slaves, to one where they acknowledge the long-term benefits of paying attention to their own health and wellbeing – and act on that knowledge. Hooray for @MartynReah and his #teacher5aday initiative.
I’ve been listening to this year’s Reith Lectures by Dr Atul Gawandi. He’s a very engaging speaker and his fourth lecture, The Idea of Wellbeing, struck me as containing messages for leaders, and particularly leaders in schools.
Gawandi’s grandfather inherited the family farm and all its debt when the monsoon rains didn’t come and the harvest failed. Bread and salt were all his grandparents had to live on. They were starving to death.
‘But he prayed, he stayed at the plough, and his prayers were answered’
Whether you are a person of prayer or not, having faith and staying at the plough, are essential in leadership. You need faith in others: that they will fulfil the potential you have seen in them, and you need the determination to ‘stay at the plough’ even when the ground is uneven.
Our minds love to be busy, and the busier our lives are, the busier our minds are. How often have you driven a familiar route and arrived at your destination with only the haziest memory of what happened on the journey? Luckily, many of our daily activities don’t require much thought. It would be exhausting if we had to keep telling ourselves to breathe, for example, and we wouldn’t have much headspace to carry out other activities. But you can have too much of a good thing. Perhaps we would be less exhausted if we occasionally did tell ourselves to breathe.
As I round the corner into the cathedral grounds at ten to 12 it’s obvious that something significant is scheduled. Outside, men in dark suits stand talking in groups, shepherded by officials. From College Street a stream of people flows towards the cathedral, many dressed in green and gold blazers, drawn as iron filings to a magnet. The magnet is Larry Montagu.
Have you heard about the Spanish athlete who gave up his chance to win a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre? He was running second as the athletes entered the finishing straight, when he saw the Kenyan runner Abel Mutai (3,000 meter gold medallist at the London Olympics) mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line. Not being a Spanish speaker, he didn’t understand the shouts from spectators to keep going.