By Anita Devi
I’m a firm believer that any environment which facilitates the learning of children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) needs to be conducive for all. In the last #senco5aday blog, I focused on people and leadership. In this piece, I take a closer look at ‘place’ and how we take ‘notice’.
For any practitioner working with children, the assessment tool of observation is vital. I have spoken elsewhere about the logistics of observation in relation to SEND. Undertaking observations, particularly of children, to understand behaviours and see patterns requires an intense sense of presence.
Imagine the timeline:
Most of us spend time thinking about the past, often with feelings of guilt or thoughts of ‘if only …’ We also invest time worrying and fearful of the future and unknowns ‘what if …’. We cannot change the past. Worrying about the future won’t change it, either. In fact, both these emotions drain us. Far better to be in the ‘present’, fully aware of things around us, noticing change and newness and acknowledging what works – gratitude and trust.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough” – Melody Beattie
Take a moment to celebrate all the things you have achieved this academic year.
Years ago, I read the book, “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma. In it, Robin shares the following fictional story, that brings a real-life twist to the forefront. I certainly spent some of my teens wanting to be older and part of my adult life, wanting to be younger!
Peter and the Golden Thread
Peter was a young boy who could never live in the moment. When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. When he was outside playing, he dreamed of his summer vacation. Peter constantly daydreamed, never taking the time to savour the special moments that filled his days.
One morning, Peter was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and eventually dozed off. After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling his name. “Peter! Peter!” came the shrill voice from above. As he slowly opened his eyes, he was startled to see a striking woman standing above him. She must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a matted blanket of wool.
In this woman’s wrinkled hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the centre and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread. “Peter,” she said, “this is the thread of your life. If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull harder, whole days will pass in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months – even years – will pass by in days.” Peter was very excited by this new discovery.
“I’d like to have it if I may?” he asked. The elderly woman quickly reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to the young boy.
The next day, Peter was sitting in the classroom feeling restless and bored. Suddenly, he remembered his new toy. As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself playing in his garden. Realising the power of the magic thread, Peter soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that phase of life would bring. So again, he held the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.
Suddenly, he was a teenager with a very pretty girlfriend named Elise. But Peter still wasn’t content. He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple wonders of every stage of his life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult, so again he pulled hard on the thread and many years flew by in an instant. Now he found that he was transformed into a middle-aged adult. Elise was now his wife and Peter was surrounded by a houseful of kids.
But Peter noticed something else. His once jet-black hair had started to turn grey and his once youthful mother, whom he loved so dearly had grown old and frail. Yet Peter still could not live in the moment. He had never learned to live in the now, so once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.
Peter now found that he was a ninety-year-old man. His thick dark hair had turned white as snow and his beautiful young wife, Elise, had also grown old and had passed away a few years earlier. His wonderful children had grown up and left home to lead lives of their own. For the first time in his entire life, Peter realised that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living. He had never gone fishing with his kids or taken a moonlight stroll with Elise. He had never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had loved to read. Instead, he had hurried through life, never resting to see all that was good along the way.
Peter became very sad at this discovery. He decided to go out to the forest where he used to walk as a boy to clear his head and warm his spirit. As he entered the forest, he noticed that the little saplings of his childhood had grown into mighty oaks. The forest itself had matured into a paradise of nature. He laid down on a small patch of grass and fell into a deep slumber.
After only a minute, he heard someone calling out to him. “Peter! Peter!” cried the voice. He looked up in astonishment to see that it was none other than the old woman who had given him the ball with the magic golden thread many years earlier. “How have you enjoyed my special gift?” she asked.
“At first it was fun, but now I hate it.” he responded bluntly, “My whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Sure, there would have been sad times as well as great times, but I haven’t had the chance to experience either. I feel empty inside. I have missed the gift of living.”
“You are very ungrateful,” said the old woman. “Still, I will give you one last wish.”
“I’d like to go back to being a schoolboy and live my life over again,” Peter quickly responded. He then returned to his deep sleep.
Again, he heard someone calling his name and opened his eyes. “Who could it be this time?” he wondered. When he opened his eyes, he was absolutely delighted to see his mother standing over his bedside. She looked young, healthy and radiant. Peter realised that the strange woman from the forest had indeed granted his wish and he had returned to his former life.
“Hurry up, Peter. You sleep too much. Your dreams will make you late for school if you don’t get up right this minute,” his mother admonished. Needless to say, Peter dashed out of bed and began to live the way he had hoped. He went on to live a full life, one rich with many delights, joys and triumphs, but it all started when he stopped sacrificing the present for the future and began to live in the moment.
- Focusing on the future (or event past), are we letting time pass by that we forget to live the moment?
- In doing so, are we missing out on the ‘Joy of Learning‘ children are experiencing now?
- How can we shift our gaze from the golden thread to The Golden Circle advocated by Simon Sinek?
Over the next few days, make an intentional effort, for whatever time you can to walk around your learning environment. Focus not on thoughts of the past (what should or could have been done) or even on the future (I need to do this or talk to). Focus on the NOW. Just BE.
- What can you see?
- What can you hear?
- What can you smell?
- What taste is on your tongue?
- What textures can you feel against your skin?
- Can you feel / hear yourself breathing?
- Is there anything you notice that is new or different?
- How can you authentically compliment colleagues on the learning environment they have created for their learners?
Remember, being is lost in becoming!
- N. Donald, et al (2016) Daily stress and the benefits of mindfulness: Examining the daily and longitudinal relations between present-moment awareness and stress responses, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 65, Pages 30-37, ISSN 0092-6566, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2016.09.002
As a former SENCO, Senior Leader, School Improvement Advisor and local authority SEND Advisory Teacher, Anita Devi carries a wealth of experience in developing leaders of learning. Her own teaching career spans early years to post grad in the UK and overseas and Anita lives her why through her belief in the joy of learning. Anita served on local and national posts for the National Association of Special Needs (nasen) for 10 years (2004-2014). It is during this period, Anita started the dialogue around SENCO wellbeing at a nasen AGM. In 2016 wrote a SENCo Time Management Book and in Anita launched #senco5aday. The same year, Anita was awarded the prestigious international Influential Educational Leaders Award for her SEND Pipeline strategy developing professional from initial teacher training to advanced and experienced SENCOs. Currently a PT PhD student, Healthwatch Trustee and Changemaker Education Consultant #TeamADL Twitter: @Butterflycolour