Difficult Conversations – and the 5 minute Difficult Conversations Plan

One of the areas that leaders at all levels and all industries struggle with is difficult conversations. It is easy to tell people they are doing a good job, it is harder to do the opposite – particularly in a productive way.

As a leader in education you will have multiple difficult conversations every day; these could be with:

  • Pupils
  • Parents
  • Co-Workers that you line manage
  • Your Boss
  • Co-Workers outside your management structure
  • External providers

How these conversations are handled is extremely important; and are frequently seen as the elephant in the room. Something that you rather not do – particularly with colleagues. We tend to find it easier to have difficult conversations with pupil’s rather than adults. However I would argue that sometimes the conversations with children could also be better planned to increase their effectiveness.

Language

The language used is important; as what may appear a throwaway comment from your point of view can derail the conversation. I remember having a conversation with a colleague that I managed who had been accused of by another colleague of bullying. I used the word bullying with the colleague and this meant that the colleague felt personally attacked – had this conversation been rephrased it might have been more productive.

One way to consider the use of language in such conversations is the acronym T.H.I.N.K:

True

Helpful

Inspiring

Necessary

Kind

Planning

Difficult conversations require planning, not scripting. A plan is important so that you can make sure the key points are covered; using a script is not

Concluding Thoughts

It can be difficult to say somethings – however by not saying anything you are doing no favours to anyone. Furthermore, if you are finding it difficult to say something to someone else, or your afraid of offending them, say so. Being authentic and open makes a conversation easy to say and easier to here. Authenticity is powerful.

To help structure difficult conversations I have put together the five minute difficult conversation plan:

RGS Heads of Geography Conference – 11th March 2020

11.50am – 12.45pm   Building Leadership Capacity: Middle Manager or Middle Leader?

On Wednesday 11th March 2020 I delivered a session at the RGS Heads of Geography Conference. Below you can find my presentation and other support materials.

Downloadable Materials:

RGS Nature Writing Book Club – Ghost Trees

Last night I attended the first nature writing book club at the Royal Geographical Society, it provided a really interesting way to discuss a single book. The book in question was Ghost Trees by Bob Gilbert. The evening was chaired by Olvia, an editor for geographical magazine.

The format consisted of introductions, and a discussion about what we had taken from the book, without the author present (although all readers were complimentary), followed by a discussion with the author and two panellists, Meredith Whitten and Marcus Nyman.

I had not read the full book, I attended with my wife and we were sharing a copy to read pre-event, however I will finish it in the next few weeks. The event provided a fascinating discussion of a book that was based in Poplar, very close to my flat in Whitechapel.

The discussion about the book reinforced that there are a range of ways to interact with nature – through observing but also through, maps, routes, stories, and examining species. The book manages to explore an urban environment with a wide notion of nature.

The author as part of the book walks every street in the parish of poplar and the book embodies the idea that attentiveness is love; with a strong relationship to place. It challenges the idea that urban nature is not a good as rural nature. The nature in the city does not need to be compared to the countryside. 84% of the population of the UK live in urban areas so there is a need to value the nature there.

Gilbert talked about some of the developments taking place in both Popular and further afield -and he asked the question ‘development for the benefit of who?’. He said that benefits of development, even when they were considered were often only considered on a very local scale and there is a need to regard the city as a whole as the habitat.

He drew on his experience managing parks and green spaces for Islington stating that by many measures parks are one of the most sterile places in a city in terms of nature. You can find a greater variety of spiders in underpasses and range of wildflowers in wastelands. He went on to talk about how this is changing with areas being left uncut and set aside to become more wild. He also cautioned about the creeping commercialisation of parks. The fact that many parks are being used for fee paying events in a effort to reduce the cost of the parks to municipalities. However he stated we need to move on from a model where we can only measure value in terms of GDP.

Overall the evening was enjoyable and thought provoking, however the biggest benefit of the evening was that it got me to read the book, which probably would not have been on my to read list were it not for the evening.

What makes great teaching?

When I was searching for material from staff CPD earlier this term I came across this report from 2014 that reviews underpinning research on teaching and learning. It is well worth a read for all teachers as it is accessible and something to return to again and again. The report is linked to on the image. I have put below some of my key notes.

Great teaching is defined as that which leads to improved student progress. Effective teaching which leads to improved student achievement using outcomes that matter to their future success.

The six components of great teaching:

  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge – teachers must have deep knowledge of the subjects they teacher, and understand the ways that students think about the content.
  2. Quality of Instruction – effective questioning and use of assessment. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses, given adequate time to embed skills, and progressively introducing new learning.
  3. Classroom climate – quality of interactions between student and teachers; and teacher expectations. Attributing student success to effort rather than ability. Valuing resilience to failure (grit).
  4. Classroom management – making efficient use of lesson time, coordinate resources and space, and manage student’s behaviour.
  5. Teacher Beliefs – why teachers adopt particular practices, their theories about what learning is and their conceptual models of the nature and role of teaching in the learning process.
  6. Professional Behaviours – reflection on and development professional practice, participating in professional development and communicating with parents.

Six principles of teacher feedback – sustained professional learning is most likely to result when:

  1. The focus is kept clearly on improving student outcomes.
  2. Feedback is related to clear, specific and challenging goals for the recipient;
  3. Attention is on the learning rather than on the person or comparisons with others;
  4. Teachers are encouraged to be continual independent learners;
  5. Feedback is mediated by a mentor in an environment of trust and support;
  6. An environment of professional learning is support is promoted by the school’s leadership.

Rosenshein’s Principles of Instruction

  1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.
  2. Present new material in small steps, with student practice after each step.
  3. Ask a large number of questions and check the response of all students.
  4. Provide models for problem solving and worked examples.
  5. Guide student practice.
  6. Check for student understanding.
  7. Obtain a high success rate.
  8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
  9. Require and monitor independent practice.
  10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review.

Notes on ‘Inspecting the Curriculum’

In May 2019 Ofsted released their new educational inspection framework; and alongside it a document that explained how they would inspect the curriculum. This document is a brief summary of the document ‘Inspecting the Curriculum’. 

The most significant change from current arrangements is a quality of education judgement. This combines aspects of the previous key judgements of ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ and ‘outcomes’ to provide a more holistic view of standards, particularly focusing on the curriculum. 

The new educational inspection framework puts a single conversation about education at the heart of the curriculum. This conversation draws together curriculum, teaching assessment and standards. This draws on a definition of curriculum that uses the concepts of ‘intent’, ‘implementation’ and impact’ to recognise that curriculum passes through different states: it is conceived, taught and experienced. The end result of a good, well-taught curriculum is that pupils know more and are able to do more. 

The new inspection method has three elements: 

  • Top-level view: exploring what is on off, to whom and when, looking at leaders understanding of curriculum intent and sequencing, and why these choices were made. 
  • Deep Dive: gathering evidence on curriculum intent, implementation, and impact over a sample of topics or aspects. Aim is to interrogate and establish a coherent evidence base on quality of education. 
  • Bringing it Together: inspectors will bring the evidence together to widen coverage and to test whether any issues identified during the dep dives are systemic. This will usually lead to school leaders bringing forward further evidence and inspectors gathering additional evidence. 

The pre-inspection telephone conversation will be used to understand: 

  • The school context and progress made since the last inspection. 
  • The headteacher’s assessment of the school’s current strengths and weaknesses – particularly in relation to the curriculum. 
  • The extent to which pupils have access to the curriculum. 
  • Discussion of specific areas of the school that will be a focus of attention during the curriculum. 

The deep dive is important as the primary focus of the inspection is on the education that pupil are actually receiving day -by-day in classes, rathe than simply being about the ambitions or intentions of senior leaders. A key mantra used by inspectors is ‘let’s see that in action together’. 

One deep dive is insufficient to form evidence on the school’s provision; but a collection will allow inspectors to form a reliable view of the education on offer. In primary school inspectors will always carry out a deep dive in reading, and deep dives in one or more foundation subjects that are being taught during the time that inspectors are on-site. In addition, there will often be a deep dive in mathematics.  

In Secondary schools’ deep dives will typically focus on a sample of four to six subjects, looking at a wide variety of pupils in different year groups. 

The deep dive includes the following elements: 

  • Evaluation of senior leaders’ intent for the curriculum in this subject, and understanding of its implementation and impact. 
  • Evaluation of curriculum leaders’ long and medium term thinking and planning, including rationale. 
  • Visits to a deliberately and explicitly connected sample of lessons 
  • Work scrutiny of books or other kinds of work produced by pupils who are part of classes that have also been or will be observed. 
  • Discussions with teachers to understand how the curriculum informs their choices about content and sequencing to support effective learning. 
  • Discussions with a group of pupils from the lessons observed. 

Context matters, so inspectors will want to know where each lesson fits into a sequence of lessons. Inspectors need to know the purpose of lesson, how it fits into a sequence of lessons over time, and what pupils already know and understand. The sequence of lessons, not an individual lesson, is the unit of assessment. 

Each deep dive is likely to include four to six lessons visited, discussions with the curriculum lead, and teachers. Inspectors should review a minimum of six workbooks per subject per year group and scrutinise work from at least two-year groups. 

The deep dive will look at lots of evidence; and there will not be any specific sequence to bring them back together; it does however provide rigorous triangulation. Bringing the evidence together will be a key inspection skill. Any weaknesses that are found in one deep dive will try to be replicated elsewhere in the school to establish whether they are systemic. Inspectors will not reach judgements based on any single inspection activity, rather judgements will be recached once inspectors have connected the different types and pieces of evidence. 

Ofsted have also carried out research on the validity of lesson visits and work scrutinies, which is due to be published this month (June 2019). 

The Full Ofsted Document can be downloaded from here: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspecting-the-curriculum

A PDF version of this post can be downloaded below:

Notes from: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

This blog post consists of some of the key passages from this book that I wanted to remember.

Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing. Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, etc. The problem is giving too many f*cks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a f*ck about less, giving a fuck about only watch is true and immediate and important.

Happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems. Joy doesn’t just sprout out of the ground like daisies and rainbows. Real, serious, lifelong fulfilment and meaning have to be earned through choosing and managing of our struggles. Whether you suffer from anxiety or loneliness or obsessive-compulsive disorder or a dickhead boss who ruins half of your waking hours every day, the solution lies in the acceptance and active engagement of the negative experience – not the avoidance of it, not the salvation from it.

Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of the gym are the ones who run triathlons and have chiseled abs and can benchpress a small house. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who fly to the top of it… People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainties of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live and make it.

The truth is that there’s no such thing as a personal problem. If you’ve got a problem, chances are millions of other people have had it in the past, have it now, and are going to have it in the future. Likely people you know too. That doesn’t minimise the problem or mean that it shouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean you aren’t legitimately a victim in some circumstances. It means you are not special.

The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies – that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “your actions don’t actually matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “the vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.

The fact is, people who base their self-worth on being right about everything prevent themselves from learning about their mistakes. They lack the ability to take on new perspectives and empathise with others. They close themselves off to new and important information. It’s far more helpful to assume you’re ignorant and don’t know a whole lot. This keeps you unattached to superstitious or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth.

We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness. Hell, we often fight over who gets to be responsible for success and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from. To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself.

People get addicted to feeling offended all the time because it gives them a high; being self-righteous and morally superior feels good. AS political cartoonist Tim Kreider put it in a New York Times op-ed: “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.” But part of living in a democracy and a free society is that we all have to deal with vies and people we don’t necessarily like. That’s simply the price we pay – you could even say it’s the whole point of the system. And it seems more and more people are forgetting that.

Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.

Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy. Even when you’re farting fairy dust. Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing. Don’t eve forget that. And don’t ever be afraid of that.

If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to do that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

Honesty is a natural human craving. But part of having honesty in our lives is becoming comfortable with saying and hearing the world “no”. In this way, rejection actually makes our relationships better and emotional lives healthier.

What if… our main objective in education was to build wisdom? #IOEDebates

On Thursday 10th January 2019 the first UCL IoE debate of 2019 was held. The discussion was around the purpose of education and the role of wisdom as an objective. I was unable to attend in person but followed the livestream of the event; and then re-watched the event again on Saturday. My notes which provide a brief summary of the events are below. The event was chaired by Professor Becky Francis and each of the speakers began by summarising their views on the key question.

Tony Sewell, CEO, Generating Genius

Knowledge is for everybody. The importance of knowing stuff and giving that to children has come to him through two personal examples. Firstly, as a child being made to go to church; he managed to get a good understanding of the bible. Secondly, through a retired Latin teacher who gave him Latin lessons; and he took an O Level in Latin.

When he had his English class at university – with students who had had a privileged education – he was able to go toe to toe. It is very difficult to understand English literature without an understanding of the bible. The accidental knowledge that he didn’t get from his secondary modern gave him access on an equal footing when in university.

It has become an issue for poor kids as you don’t give them stuff that is related to their backgrounds, and you don’t give them difficult stuff. Tony argued that we need to allow working class children to access the classics. At the moment we don’t give them stuff related to their background; nor do we give them difficult suff.

Knowledge is what you know, and it is good for you in itself; there doesn’t need to be a purpose in it. Education should stop pretending it can build a workforce. Knowledge has value in itself. Education is about knowing the mind of god.

Peter Hyman, Co-Director of Big Education and Co-Found of School 21

Knowledge is needed to pass GCSE exams.

Wisdom is knowing GCSE exams are crap; but you need to pass them to get to the next stage.

You need both but the wisdom to put it in some kind of perspective. It therefore needs an expansive form of education that is curious and handling things to make sense of it.

If you are just teaching knowledge it is only one 9th of an education. A balanced curriculum is balancing head, heart and hand. Being able to pass on the cannon and the classics is important. But you need to also enter into the conversation of humanity and wrestle with big ideas and themes, not just nuggets of information. It is about knowing the debates and applying knowledge.

Intersections and frictions between disciplines are where the interesting things happen; going on about core knowledge is doing students a disservice. Wisdom also comes from understanding yourself and your background.

There is nothing more tragic than the exam factory at the moment that you stop taking the creative subjects when you choose your options. 95% of children do no music, art or drama from the age of 14. The things that make us civilized human beings are being drilled out of the curriculum. The curriculum does not have space for you take it if you are not taking it as an exam subject. Learning to create is important. You can create meaningful beautiful work while you are at school at any age. The currency of the school should be what you create not exam grades.

A curriculum of head heart and hand transcends debate over knowledge. What people need for their sense of fulfilment is a balanced curriculum.

David Lambert, Professor of Geography Education, UCL Institute of Education

As a geographer he is interested in how we understand and encounter the world. Due to the challenge of climate; we (collectively) need lots of ingenuity; and wisdom, and they are not the same thing. David goes on to state: I am a great believer in building wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding common sense and insight.

Need to be very cautious about what school can do; need to be very careful about what overclaiming education can do.

Need to be careful about the use of the term ‘main objectives’ – discreet, measurable, and short term. Lessons can have objectives, and exams can have objectives. Wisdom is not an objective; as objectives are staging points towards something less tangible. What about Wisdom or something more like it serving as our overarching curriculum goal.

Wisdom becomes very similar to capabilities. This approach must apply to individual subject components in a curriculum.

All teachers need to do something with the idea if wisdom is going to be our overarching goal. Teachers need to take responsibility for how content is taught, how it is sequenced and how they think students process in their context Teachers need to take back control. Teaching students someone else’s interpretation of what is significant inadequate. Teachers need to be in the business of knowledge building not knowledge delivering. We currently have too many complacent practitioners.

There is both the how, and the what. The what is what it means to be a teacher of a subject. The potential of knowledge building and the building of knowledge is so powerful. David make reference to Michael Young’s 3 futures.

Imagine young people who were able to think geographically about the Anthropocene, and how it might enhance the thinking and engage with the wisdom of the day.

Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research, Chartered College of Teaching

Are we actually able to develops students who are wise? Or can we only develop that over time? Can an 18-year-old have wisdom – or does it take time. Is Wisdom individual or are we talking about building collective wisdom of society.

We can debate is it about knowledge and skills – is it important? The debate is not which matters more – but how we develop those. It is difficult to separate the what and how – and also the knowledge and skills. We need to talk about context and pedagogies.

When the debate is most polarised, they are talking about the hard to measure skills rather than the subject specific skills. The soft skills can be devolved through traditional teaching methods.

When we are debating skills and knowledge – it is also about thinking about the curriculum and pedagogy for teaching this. We need to think about what it is we want our students to have when they leave schools. Need to ensure our focus is high quality learning not just activities to engage pupils.

As Ofsted is more involved in curriculum, we need to ensure we are not moving from the pendulum swing just from skills to core knowledge and knowledge based curriculum.

It is about giving teachers wisdom, and knowledge to allow them to make good decisions.

Schools should be able to say this is what our curriculum is and why. Schools need to reflect on the key debate of what and why.

Questions

The second part of the event was questions from the audience to the panel; I did not take many notes from this section however a couple of points are below:

Peter – it is good if Ofsted are looking at a broader view of the curriculum. Schools that are exam factories are marked down will be a good move. All incentives for schools are still linked solely to exam results.

David – I don’t see the point of GCSE anymore; they are not as necessary as they distort education, experience, and students don’t leave school at 16 anymore. There is a lack of public trust in teachers; teachers should take more responsibility but there needs to be more trust and support.

The full debate is available on youtube to watch; and the event page is available here.

Top Books of 2018

I set myself a target to read 52 books in 2018; and so far I have read 52 books. I suspect the count will be 54 – as I have one book I have nearly finished and I suspect I will come across a book that I did not log at some point in the next few months. This is less than in previous years – however I have not counted most of the academic reading I have done; this is as it is mostly academic journals and sections of books rather than complete books.

To log and record my reading I use goodreads; you can see all my 2018 reads listed here. My full profile on the site is available at https://www.goodreads.com/gceyre which catalogues all my reading. This year I have also catalogued the books my wife and I own as part of our house moving project. This is using librarything and tiny cat – this has created a searchable catalogue which is useful when you have a fair number of books in different formats and locations. The full catalogue can be viewed here: https://www.librarycat.org/lib/gceyre

When I viewed my list of 2018 reads there were none that were stand out amazing books. However if I was have to come up with a top five they would be:

Best Education Read – How I wish I’d Taught Maths – Craig Barton

Although I am not a Maths teacher this was a great read – it was able to mix practical advice with the theory that underpins it. There is something in this book for everyone; not just Maths teachers! Craig has a down to earth writing style with all the tips routed in his experience as a classroom teacher.

Best Non-Fiction Read – First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents and the Pursuit of Power  – Kate Anderson Brower

This year was dominated with a number of high profile ‘tell all’ style books about US Politics. This book took a very different approach – there was information about the current Trump administration but it was not exclusively about the Trump/Pence relationship, but instead talked about the role of the Vice President in a historical context. This is a quick and easy read and balances politics with the personal stories.

Best ‘Geography’ Read – Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls – Tim Marshall

This book is all about borders and not just the US/Mexico border. The walls discussed in the book are also not just physical walls but much broader. I have blogged about this book separately here. An interesting fact from the start of the book is: At least sixty-five countries, more than a third of the world’s nation-states have built barriers along their borders; half of those erected since the Second World War sprang up between 2000 and now. Within a few years, the European nations could have more miles of walls, fences and barriers on their borders than there were at the height of the Cold War.

Best ‘Fiction’ Read –  Stolen Prey (Lucas Davenport #22) – John Sandford

This book typifies nearly half of the books I read – fairly disposable crime fiction / thrillers. The likes of Lee Child, Ian Rankin, and Michael Connelly. However I choose this book because it is the first I read by John Sandford and the first I read of the Lucas Davenport series, though the 22nd in the series! I have since read a few more in the series and will probably finish the back catalogue throughout 2018. Frustrating the library does not have all of the older books so some I have had to resort to buying second hand on AbeBooks.

Best ‘Academic’ Read  – Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research – Barney Glaswer and Anselm Strauss

The reason why this book made the list as it is an accessible academic read – many academic books are not accessible or I do not read them all as only part is relevant. This book was both accessible and relevant. It clearly laid out grounded theory as a research methodology and gave practical advice for the researcher.

Reading Bestsellers

TitleDate
Read
This is going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor – Adam KayNov 2017
The Midnight Line – Lee ChildNov 2017
Becoming – Michelle ObamaDec 2018
The Rooster Bar – John GrishamDec 2018
Camino Island – John GrishamOct 2017
Fire and Fury – Michael WolfFeb 2018
No Middle NameJul 2017
Munich – Robert HarrisDec 2017
Prisoners of Geography – Tim MarshallJul 2015
Why I am no longer talking to White People About RaceOct 2017

The list shows that I read 10 of the 100 bestselling paperbacks and hardbacks of 2018. This is based on sales from 31st December 2017 to 8th December 2018. Some of the books on this list I suspect it refers to the paperback version and I will have read the hardback version.

Goals for 2019

My only reading goal for 2019 is to read; and so again I will set myself a target of 52 books

Subject Leadership – Reflective Questions

The majority of this post is a list of questions I wrote for subject leaders considering the progress of their GCSE students (though the questions can easily be adapted for Post-16 or KS3 students).

Leadership requires reflection; and this list of questions – although not exhaustive helps think through exam results and how to improve. That is not to say that as equators we should only focus on our examination results; but examination results are important – our students will carry them with them for the rest of their lives.

Last Year’s Exams

  • Which teaching groups did better than others? Why?
  • Which papers did students do better than others? Why?
  • What questions did students do better on than why?
  • Why were predictions not accurate?
  • What did the examiner’s report say?

The Current Cohort

  • Coming from Year 10 to Year 11 – which groups have the weakest progress? Why? What is being done to improve that?
  • Do all teachers who are teaching Year 11:
    • Have the ability to answer GCSE questions?
    • Have the ability to teach all topics?
    • Know what is required of students for each question time?
    • Are they able to accurately mark?
  • Are you address gaps in knowledge for any failures in teaching in Year 11?
  • How confident are you about what is going on in every lesson – are teacher ‘following the script’?
  • How are teachers and the department as whole building relationships?
  • When will you finish the syllabus?
  • Do students have revision materials?

Planning for the Year Ahead

  • What is being done every week between now and the mocks?
  • How are assessments being planned for?
    • What is being covered in each assessment?
    • How do you know that teachers are not ‘over preparing students’?
    • Are the grade boundaries set at the right level (the Goldilocks Zone)?
    • Is time for feedback in long term plans?
  • What intervention is taking place in lessons?
  • How are you using extra support in departments? (consultants / trainees / NQTs)
  • What is going to happen in interventions that is different than in lessons?
  • What are other schools / academies doing that we are not? Look for next level schools!

Future Planning

  • What are Year 9 / 10 teachers doing?
  • What is being done to upskill teachers that don’t teach Year 11?

Notes from ‘Shadow Work: the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day.’

This book starts with the premise that lives are getting busier, time is not vanishing but free time is. The author states that we find ourselves doing a stack of jobs we never volunteered for, chores that showed up in our lives below the scan of awareness. The are the incoming tidal wave of shadow work. Shadow work includes all the unpaid tasks we do on behalf of businesses and organisations. The author’s key aim is to make the unconscious conscious.

Examples of shadow work:

  • Pumping our own gas (this is an American book)
  • Scanning and bag our own groceries
  • Assembling our own Ikea furniture
  • Washing and sorting recycling

Computers are a key source of shadow work. They require i sto delete span, book travel, and manage dozens of usernames and passwords. Gift cards, which give you the job of choosing and buying a gift for yourself come wrapped in shadow work.

Shadow work is empowered by four major forces:

  1. Technology and robotics
  2. Democratisation of expertise – the average person can now retrieve knowledge once monopolised by experts.
  3. Information Dragnet – institutions dedicated to collect data.
  4. Evolving social norms.

Historically automation has cut jobs at the point of production. Shadow work deletes jobs at the point of sale – for example checkouts, self check-in, online shopping. Shadow work that requires no training can spread readily. There are however benefits of shadow work. An example cited by the book is the ‘Ikea Effect’. Although buying furniture from Ikea creates significant hidden work, making something boost the makers sense of pride and competence.

One way to fight back against shadow work is to hire others. Taking on others, turning unpaid tasks into paid ones. This links to the fact that time is money, and any unit of time can be turned into money. The author goes on to give the example that although secretaries still exist only high-level executives have someone to help them through their daily routine. Receiving live human service has become a mark of the elite.

The penultimate chapter focuses on the shadow work generated by technology – applying upgrades, learning new processes, changing passwords. The author talks about the multi-billion dollar valuation of facebook comes about due to the content generated by its users.

The book ends predicting that shadow work will grow, as it provides large rewards to businesses and organisations.