Posts Tagged ‘10000 hours’

Character is Destiny

February 8, 2014

We like to believe in hard work getting us places, that a bit of talent and perseverance tossed in with perspiration and persistence will get us what we want in life, will make us successful, happy and perhaps rich. But we know that luck also plays her part. But more and more, dear readers, I am coming to the conclusion that our character is more defining that we realize.

As you know, I spend my working life with the teenage beast in all its glorious incarnations – amazing to awful. But what I have noticed over the years is that some kids are destined for success, in whatever field they choose, not because they are the brightest, the cleverest, the hardest working but because they have an excess of self belief, not ego per se, but a willingness to take things on board, to accept responsibility for their own lives, their own way in the world and get up when they get pushed down.

We see this sort of thing everywhere when criminals and other losers in life blame their background, their parents, their poverty and plethora of disadvantages for their lot in life, and make it their excuse for a life of crime and damage, for a life less lived. They spend their lives lost in blame and injustice – if only someone else had… what?

Successful people take responsibility for themselves. They have ambition and drive and they don’t give up and they’re out there, making their dreams come true, working hard every day to get where they want to be. They take the knock backs, dust themselves down and get up and fight on. And on and on. Not just once or twice but repeatedly. Stories of successful people are littered with set-backs and failures: no-one gets an easy ride.


Recently two things have brought this idea about character being destiny home to me. One was reading about the work habits of well-known writers: how, despite their disparate backgrounds and genres, they worked – wrote – every day and not for half and hour but for several hours and up to 5000 words or so. Every single day. Athletes follow similar regimes, training hours every day of the week, hours and hours of practice for miniscule time performing. But to be successful in any field you have to devote the time. Remember Malcolm Galdwell’s 10,000 hours, blogged about here in the past?

The other thing that happened was that a writer visited our school. Not a young self published wunder-kid but an older gentleman who has a best-seller on his hands that’s about to be made into a Hollywood A-list blockbuster. His story is somewhat incredible and except for the fact that publishing is full of incredible stories it would have been too fantastical to believe.

David Albert is the epitome of character being destiny. He and school weren’t that well suited and he left without any seriously useful qualifications. But after a while in the workforce it became apparent he needed to up-skill if he was going to get anywhere, so he went to night-school, (it was hard going back to school and working) got qualified and moved onward and upwards, from the rag-trade to stock-broking across the world. People told him no along the way but he believed in himself and was a worker and a bit of a charmer, as well as a chancer so he pushed on and was highly successful.


His book, Tentacle: Chameleon 2012, is an action thriller centered on the 2012 London Olympics and has an involved plot covering drugs, espionage, politics, murder, terrorism, spanning the major continents, finally converging on London for its climax. No, it’s not my sort of book but so what. It’s a Bond-Bourne mélange and it’s selling big time and getting great reviews, so good on him. But this is the interesting bit for me and I think for you. He wrote his book, almost got published, then got knocked back and then rejected a great many times – yes more fingers and toes than he has. But he didn’t stop. He believed in his book and himself and then luck struck. He met a man out walking his golden retriever, Honey. Well, don’t we all? But David Albert is a chatter-box, he likes meeting people and getting to know them. So he chatted away to this man, the owner of a chocolate brown Labrador, about dogs and David’s book, because it was the thing he was most passionate about and, yes, the man knew a person who could…

So David Albert got published and now he’s a best seller with a big movie deal on his hands and more books to come. And yes, dear reader, as you will have guessed, I am beastly jealous.

Why, I asked my David, didn’t you chat to a man with a Labrador when you walked Zanz in the very same wood? Why didn’t you have a casual conversation about your amazing wife and her amazing books, that would sell like hotcakes and be great movies if only she got the chance?

Simple answers:


Labradors and German Shepherds don’t mix and I don’t push myself forward and share my stories beyond my circle. I don’t have enough front to be David Albert and so I don’t have Hollywood on my doorstep. And, I think I have to face the fact, from the writers’ stories of work habits, that I simply don’t write enough. I don’t work hard enough; I’m not devoted enough to my passion. So, David Albert has the charm and push to get himself noticed. Other writers write every day.

Something in my character can’t push far enough. I have won prizes. I am published. I’ve been writing all my life. But I’m not where I want to be and I fear I never will be. Good on David Albert for making it with his first book, he had the range of skills needed to make a big break-through. And you’ll be able to say you read about him here, on my blog. Remember the title when the movie comes out next year and look out for the dashing older gentleman, with steely grey hair and glasses, smiling gleefully on the red carpet. That’ll be David Albert, who never gave up, who never blamed others for his fate, who got lucky because of his character, and is now giving some back through his talks in schools and helping students make connections too.

Is it too late to be the person you want to be? Can you make the small adjustments to get what you want? I’m hoping I can. Change your character a bit and change your destiny a lot!! (Images from David’s book and Private Collection)

If you want to know more about David Albert and Tentacle: Chameleon 2012 follow these links:


Gove v Teachers – Round X

December 9, 2012

Have you read the weekend papers? If you’re not a young teacher but an older-type one then perhaps you’d better not. The article in the Sunday Times is grim and an example of incredibly biased reporting. Ah, perhaps I should take in for my KS4 lot to tear apart??

The glove are off: our dear friends Michael G is after teachers’ pay because good teachers – no, sorry – good young teachers should be rewarded for all their hard work and efforts and extra hours by getting the pay they deserve. They should be able to move from approximately £21,000 pa to £50,000 in six months if they are worth it. All young teachers, it seems are worth it and shouldn’t be constrained by out-dated modes like pay for experience and age; or the hard won teachers’ pay scales.

boxing gloves

Mm? So, where are the good older teachers – do we not exist? In Michael Gove’s world and the Sunday Times, it seems not. Clearly they envisage a world of Teach –first’s and young, enthusiastic teachers, all with passion and energy, willing to work extra hard, motoring up the food chain to be in charge of everything by the time well before they are thirty. Well, good luck to them.

There is a serious flaw here, and those of us who have been teaching for years know. In fact, those teaching for a few short years with a degree of awareness and intelligence know too. You need to put in the hours to develop your skills and your craft. Teaching is a craft. There is a reason for the pay progression by years and experience – most young teachers aren’t that spectacular in their first couple of years. Many have flashes of brilliance but good teachers become so through experience. Good teachers, no matter what their age, should be rewarded.

war o theacers

In fact, my own utterly delightful Teach-first reminded us all of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory in his Outliers book. The idea goes that to reach expert level in your field you need to spend 10,000 hours mastering that skill. So, the theory about work says you need five years to become proficient in your field. Interestingly enough when I worked in the Northern Territory of Australia that was their line in the sand about applying for promotion. You would not be considered ready for your promotion assessment until you were in your fifth or sixth year of teaching.

It made sense: the first year of teaching you make all sorts of rookie mistakes, the second year, if you’re smart you don’t make those mistakes, you make others! By the third year you’re developing well and probably ready to take on year 12s and by the fourth you’re actually adding to your school and department, so by the fifth – your 10,000 hours, you have mastered your field and ready for the next challenge. Although, I would be very hesitant to say that it is possible to fully master such an fluid and every changing profession as teaching.


So, why is there such a rush to take young teachers to leadership when they are not ready? Why is there such an emphasis on young teachers being the only ones of value in schools these days? What’s happened to experience and wisdom, to a calm steady hand; one that knows what’s important and what’s ephemera?

How can an inexperienced head-teacher really judge fairly and objectively the worth of a teacher to the profession? Because, let’s be clear here, many head-teachers on the basis of the rush-through Teach-first, Future Leaders programs have not had the requisite 10,000 hours at the various levels on the way up to be prepared to run a school or make valid judgments.

snarling wolf

Talent, hard work, dedication, spark and flair – all these things should be rewarded. But to overlook wisdom, experience, gravitas in the headlong rush to break unions and push teachers out of the profession, will only weaken the schools that need strengthening and will not deliver anything for the kids.


The pay-scales are there for two very good reason:

1.Experience matters and is worth it and is hard won

2.Head-teachers are not always objective rational beasts: they have their favourites; they have their ‘to die’ list – they are like all of us; fallible and flawed. I am on my 17th head-teacher – I speak from experience.


Again, I can only wonder at a government and a minster hell bent on ripping into teachers once more, blaming them for all the ills of education in this country for the last 30 years. Ironically, teachers know that to help students make progress you emphasis what they can do, show that you believe in them and tell them they are worthwhile human beings.

happy PB

A shame that governments and too many head-teachers ignore this bit of truth about the world. (Images courtesy Google Images)