The adventure of escaping the past?

Following on from Shareholder Value and my blog on the demise of strategy I thought I would share some of the subsequent fun I am having.

A disagreement with an idiot who happened to be my boss found me on the street in 2008 after 22 years of bringing exceptional value to my employer. The rest of the place fell apart soon after, so much for Shareholder Value.

The corporate world was in a flat spin, so I thought what can I do where my passion for team, for marketing, for learning and developing would energize me. The self-esteem from being booted out the door hits an all time low.

The gym was good, but so expensive. However, I started going from 6:30am to 7:30am every day (I figured I would arrive at the gym and start doing something before I had truly woken up – I must admit a few times I woke wondering how I managed to get on the uppy downy rolling road thingy that was half stepper and half jogging track) and start setting up meetings from 9 to 11 and then out networking from 11am to 8pm most weekdays. Nothing, all the people I know were caught in exit danger. Some of those I managed to link to through conversation (not LinkedIn) and had a role were being exited during the interview process. So many times I called up to find “Oh, he is no longer with the company”, yet he had interviewed me the week before for a role.  The safe age group were those between 25-35, the rest seemed to what I deemed cannon fodder.

A friend recommended a book which I read named ‘What color is your parachute’ and did some of the tests that it provides. The book is written in a friendly manner and I think should form a curriculum subject in all schools, by the way. You need to be a teacher, it concluded. You have to be kidding I concluded. However, I always explore, love to learn (in everything I do – even tried Surströmming and Lutfisk in my travels just to be sure I do not like them … no, cannot stand them!) and so I engaged the idiots called Student Finance England and figured out, with all the help of loans, grants, bursaries I could secure a significant income as a student (mainly due to the two hostages I am responsible for (parent), my arriving from the world of business and my age. I convinced myself that teaching and marketing are very similar disciplines, both raise awareness and understanding about the world around you and the value a specific brings to the needs you have. My challenge would be to make the teaching relevant, easy with equations of motion and football, near impossible with something as boring as friction.

Learning to teach is like learning to fly. I don’t mean like a sparrow; leaping out of a nest and hoping it becomes obvious what to do next (although I do think some of my cohort were that way inclined). No, more along the lines of securing a pilots licence.

First the theory, for a free weeks, and then you sit alongside an experienced teacher and observe while taking notes. After many (a dozen or so) observed, noted, reflected on and discussed lessons you then share a lesson. Typically the trainee will do the starter (hello, I’m new and you can try all those tricks that failed on others on me and revel in joy that they are likely to work on me) and the resident teacher teaches the middle and the end. That continues until the day the teacher asks whether you are up for your first whole lesson. You agree, build a plan, share the plan, redo the plan, share it again, wonder how long you will last and then deliver the lesson, watched by the teacher.

After the first, you get to repeat it with other classes, other age groups, different subjects, different teachers and each time the resident teacher is present and watches and help you reflect on the experience. Occasionally the University appears and watches you too. At this stage its 2 days at the University and 3 days at school…. that first day each week at the school giving the feeling of being thrown in an ever deeper pool each time.

Anyway, my mission was to escape the past. Get out of IT (which is in a flat spin collapse as the margins vanish from the innovation) and into something else. Why did I abandon the plan, well the second year of the teacher training is called the NQT year. You have qualified on the academic side and then you have to stand on your own feet and get the flying hours up, you need 12 months experience alone in the field.

The schools know this and so the pay grade is lucky to deliver £26k per year before tax. No loans, no grants, no bursaries, no tax credits, no help whatsoever .. and no way I could continue. Seems the politicians have made a noise about how they are doing something to address the poor quality of teachers by investing in attracting the best, when in fact it’s all smoke and mirrors and behind the curtain its low-cost childcare.

Now, recently the UK government have decided it’s clearly the fault of someone else that the teaching quality is poor. Without much thought at all they have decided to pick on the Universities. They have the intention of having the trainee teacher taught by the school., the school with no resources, little money and no time to understanding education research on learning. It’s not broken, but they are going to fix it anyway.

When I was at school the teachers tried to cram facts into your head. Then test you to see what you remembered. Black Box research has determined that formative assessment is the way to teach, to engage the student in testing themselves, exploring the ideas and working together to determine an understanding. The inclusion of learning styles, the addition of reflection on what has been learnt … Education is a word derived from Latin that means “to draw out” … schools will not have time to develop that.

Escaping the past is tough, in the IT space the book Escape Velocity outlines how NorTel, DEC, Kodak and Compaq lost their way, Nokia is heading that way too. They have not figured out that markets move and that what worked last quarter is unlikely to always work. Phones with Digital Cameras has seriously impacted Kodak and yet they had a digital camera before most.

Likewise, Escaping your past in employment is a challenge. The typecast world wants you to carry a title, the one I use is “forklift truck driver”. If a company is looking for a “van driver” and the applicant has experience of driving forklift trucks then its likely they will take an applicant with experience of driving vans as “its more relevant and a closer fit”.

Those in employment will think I am kidding, those looking for their next role will understand my point fully and be able to provide hundreds of examples. Transferable skills, there is no such thing in an employment bear market.


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