In praise of pen and paper

I’m drafting this blog post on Evernote, knowing it will sync across all of my devices. I will then edit into Windows Live Writer and my blog and then I’ll tweet the link, which will be copied onto my Friends’ Facebook walls. I am keen to develop a learning community and the feedback and information from these powerful tools is brilliant. I am confident about receiving a wide range of advice about how I could blog and post with even greater productivity. DHSB is launching an i-pad pilot today being led by @steve.margetts and the school is on the brink of revolutionising its learning environment. 2012-06-10 15.33.17

Yet I’ve also spent a few hours this half term updating and re-reading my A4 reflective journal. I used paper and a pen and when I’d finished a kind of inner peace swept through me. A legacy from the NPQH era but also resonant with my Action research reflective journaling during training, reading and writing for me is therapeutic and a process that will last my career. Maybe it’s an age thing?

I have tabbed the book into years and also into the terms of the year; I feel they have rhythms. How were things developing at this time in the last four years? Are there patterns? The journal contains four years of evidence-based approaches to school improvement and decision making, some good some bad but I have never made the same mistake twice.

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“History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme.” (Mark Twain)

The journal is also a record of “state of mind” reflections – all the emotions are there, from joy to rage to sorrow. it’s good to look back and see that things get better when everything seems to be going wrong and good to be reminded how flexible and prepared for the unexpected we need to be in schools. Anyone can walk through your door on any given day and change things.

Leadership is about demonstrating a consistent approach with humanity, urgency and humour but it is also about filtering, protecting and re-framing. Some of these things should not be repeated to anyone but ourselves.

Social media is a wonderful tool for sharing and will be a crucial element in our community move towards online ubiquity but it seems that some people are increasingly sharing the things that should be for their eyes only. Today there will be a high court hearing surrounding vicious Facebook attacks. I have been forced to un-friend and block people who have surprised me with comments and posts that do them no credit.

I am not an advocate of thought-policing but it would be worrying if our internal dialogue was lost to an external dopamine hit, if the need to get a response became more important than honest self reflection and thinking – alone.

We still deal occasionally with issues arising from some highly intelligent students who seem bent on destroying their nascent reputations with immoderate language and hurtful statements. Having strong opinions and a passionate vocabulary isn’t an offence but sharing them publicly can be offensive. Put them in a diary. Take to pen and paper.

I am ready for the challenges and opportunities of this half term; a casual review of my calendar suggests that these are going to be six exhilarating weeks. I’ll enjoy reading about them and learning from them at the start of the summer break.

Does Social media signal the end of the diary? How do you use journaling? 





6 thoughts on “In praise of pen and paper

  1. Robert Maitland

    My NPQH diary was digital. Being dyslexic the use of program’s pages etc has completely changed my thoughts about myself and my written ability. Maybe young people have to learn for themselves, if they write something on a blog (etc) and it means they fail to get accepted for a job, then perhaps they will learn by this. We can only guide others we cannot live their lives. We are told that a fire is hot but until we burn our fingers we don’t really learn for ourselves.

    1. Kieran J Earley

      I agree, Bob. The school has taken a constructive view of social media and we believe it has the potential for more good than harm. I feel that the development of judgement is part of the curriculum at DHSB.

  2. System

    Please type your comment here.

  3. I agree completely and utterly with Mr Maitland here. Punishing students for speaking their mind breeds worrying animosity amongst the school, especially between staff and students, and the senior staff in particular. The rule that applies to free speech, in my view, is that curtailing it in any way can only end badly. However offensive an opinion may be, and however profanely it is put forth, there is never justification for silencing it, especially not in a school environment, in which freedom of thought, speech and expression should be encouraged, not stamped out.

    However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call what is taking place in the school at the moment thought policing, but the punishments and dressing-downs received by a few members of the Sixth Form has certainly ruffled a few feathers of those of a more libertarian persuasion, myself included. To say that students who speak their mind are “bent on destroying” anything is dangerously hyperbolic, and certainly gives off the wrong impression of the school, and the behaviour of its student body, to an outside viewer.

    I do appreciate that the consensus is in favour of tempering certain views and behaviours when inside school, and I do agree with that to a certain degree, but when it comes to policing social media and social networking, I feel that the school oversteps its boundaries somewhat. There must be some way for people to express their views, whether that is to themselves in a diary, or to other people, on social media for example. Though I understand diaries are important, I hardly expect that people like Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone merely wrote down their thoughts into a journal.

    Sorry for writing yet ANOTHER essay on your blog, sir, but I feel it needed to be said. I’ll finish with a fairly apt quotation from Evelyn Beatrice Hall, which sums up my position on the matter fairly concisely:

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  4. Karen Stears

    The reality of our personal life is that people (myself included) say hurtful and rash things (or we perceive them as being such when we are on the receiving end) and that usually we just have to get on with it. However, there are also laws of slander and libel and these are the realities of our public life in Britain. Distinguishing the divide between private/personal and public/professional can be a tough call for us all, but particularly for the quick-minded, fast-tongued and those of us who are quick to hit the send/enter button. But there is a demarcation and we all have to learn it. It is socially and professionally unacceptable to blur the divide; so yes having a chat and a moan privately or keeping a journal for our eyes only is one thing, expressing such opinions (often intemperate, ill-judged and transient, sometimes downright rude, insulting and odious) in a public place is another. That is the problem for the start of the 21st century; it is now evident that the courts do not regard Twitter or Facebook as private spaces, so be careful how you employ them. That is not to deny honest debate or constructive criticism taking place in these domains; just thnk carefully about what you are saying, why you are saying it, who might read it and in what context, before you press send. These are largely uncharted waters and we are all on a very steep learning curve here whatever our age – now should I post this?

  5. Ffion Coombs

    Once it’s posted, nothing ever seems to go away. Even the boring stuff. Why is even the family history information request I posted in 2004 still out there, ignored?
    I very much like the idea of the reflective journal. It is useful to have other outlets for thinking things through than posting instantly. When I started as a lawyer in London, I had a difficult situation to deal with. My boss told me NOT to pick up the phone but to go back to my desk and write the seething letter I would dearly love to write; then don’t send it; tear it up, get on and write the polite sensible letter I should write, and send that. It was not only then that this advice has been helpful.

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