Out of our minds… radically shifting the way we think

After some of the brief tutorial sessions I had today, I remembered a book which I have recently read and which I believe is quite a good read for people who are interested in making a change. This book is called ‘Out of our minds’ and the author is Sir Ken Robinson. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to listen to Sir Ken Robinson, I recommend that you stop for a bit, and listen to his talk. It is just 17 mins of your life but they’re minutes well worth investing in.

I especially like one of his comments in this video… he says: I meet all kinds of people who don’t enjoy what they do. They simply go through their lives getting on with it. They get no great pleasure from what they do. They endure it rather than enjoy it and… wait for the weekend.

The book discusses this recurring theme. It also discusses the revolution that is needed in learning and in Education. As I mentioned during class, we are past the era, when as teachers we can just produce a handout, a textbook, walk in with the airs of a person who knows it all – because none of us really knows it all – and expect to be applauded in class. We need to work hard to make things work inside a classroom.

I mean this is not really Education per se, but I find it relates to many of the things we do – when I say we, I mean we as students, and we as Educators or teachers. We somehow have lost our craving for all that is playful and fun. We endure lectures, we endure assignments, we endure work, we endure teaching and finally we even mark on our calendars the next vacation day. Maybe I am slightly cynical at this point, maybe I am generalising, and maybe there are those out there who take great pride and pleasure in what they do. I would like to hear some comments on this matter, maybe links to sites and blogs that prove this generalisation wrong, or maybe some solutions (if any really exist) to this impending challenge.

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25 thoughts on “Out of our minds… radically shifting the way we think

  1. I once saw read a quote which said, “If you love your job, you won’t work for another day of your life”. However sometimes what we may wish to do, is not what we actually get in the end. Sometimes it is not within our reach, or we may not be in a place which allows it (such as musicians and artists in our country, who can’t afford to dedicate their full life to their passion)

    • As far as the ‘revolution’ attitude is considered when regarding education in Malta I cannot agree to the full. In the reform system there must be a lot of support for the educators and there cannot be generalisations made by similar professionals. The competitive atmosphere reigning everywhere in society has infiltrated too much in the educational system and it is now very difficult to melt away. It can only do so by careful modelling and a lot of support. The revolutionary way to go about it is not the way to do it in my opinion. It will kill all the enthusiasm and challenge of any new situation.

  2. It is always a pleasure to here Sir Ken giving his speeches. He makes it so marvelously simple and enjoyable. This talk reflects what our culture is hammering into us from a very young age – study, study and study and go to University. Now we are here and it is getting more blatantly obvious as days go by that soon our first degrees will not be a guarantee for us and we would have spent almost a quarter of our expected life in schooling just to be faced with very poor prospects.
    We need to tread softly on our dreams…ourselves.

    • Yes we are increasingly becoming a society seemingly dependent on certificates… but society needs something else. Society needs people who can actually make a difference in the world… with all due respect, we cannot have a society made up of “factory workers” (my utmost respect to them), who simply do what they are told, because someone tells them to. We cannot have people working by the clock, because they are only paid to do a job between 830 and 230pm… we cannot bury our heads in the sand, because what goes out in the world cannot affect us here on this tiny island. We need to believe that we can make a change, and try to do something more, to be able to make a change…whether we are teachers, whether we are entrepreneurs, across all walks of life and levels of society. I think that is the most important thing we can get from this talk.

      • I totally agree whit this statement. Sometimes people tend to go for the easy way out, even if it means that they will get to do what they are told. They do not fight for what they want. Maybe it is just because they want the money, but what about satisfaction. Why don’t people risk all they have to obtain their objectives? Surely it is easier said than done, but at the end of it all what kind of gratification will they obtain?
        During my teaching practice experience, the guidance staff held a talk for the fourth and fifth formers. They got a soldier to talk to them and to tell them what pre requisites they needed to join the Maltese army, and I could see students going in shock mode as they heard that even for this job they needed qualifications. I could realize that they had a completely different idea of the thing as they continued to pop out questions one after the other regarding the qualifications needed. The soldier told them that nobody was going to give them anything without paying a price. He also encouraged them to keep on studying as that was the only way in which they were to get what they wanted.
        I think that there is nothing worth doing if it’s not worth fighting for.

  3. I really needed to re-watch this video – it was an excellent reminder of why I decided to change career path and move into teaching. Over these past few months, with all the assignments, presentations and demands made of us PGCE students, I was losing the vision with which I started the course.

    My decision to move into teaching was the result of a long journey where I came to understand that a job is not just a job that pays bills, it is not just something we do, but it is who we are, as Sir Robinson puts it, and that I wanted it to be something I could be passionate about. I agree that many many people out there are in jobs they might be good at, but which they don’t care much about and that much talent is going unnoticed or ignored because of a lack of self-awareness. I myself was one of these persons, until I heard a talk by Marcus Buckingham (http://youtu.be/0TZnqiSpmYk) at a conference which literally turned my world upside down. So I left my comfort zone and here I am….

    Why teaching? Because besides allowing me to fulfill my potential and to play to my strengths, it also gives me the unique opportunity to help students achieve their potential, whatever it might be…. as Sir Robinson says ‘human communities depend upon a diversity of talent not a singular conception of ability’ and my mission is to help students discover their talent and put it to use…

    Can I make a difference? I think I can… http://youtu.be/akoxhUTPlnE

  4. I think that if you don’t enjoy your job you will not be able to have a satisfactory experience and give your utmost on the job. this applies particularly for the teaching profession. if teaching is not your career you will not be able to deliver lessons in an interesting way and the students will sense that you’re not motivated. A lot of people are changing a lot their jobs to take new challenges in their lives. I think the trend has changed. Back in time if you started doing a particular job you’ll most probably be doing the same job when you retire. Nowadays even University graduates are trying out new things even if in the same area of study.

  5. It’s true that Sir Ken Robinson had only 18 minutes to discuss his points of view about living life rather than just exisitng but what he manages to transmit in less than 20 minutes is priceless. He knows how to play with words and this allows him to transmit his ideas to the audience.

    Because it is not what they do, its WHO THEY ARE? THIS IS ME! ( in his speech, by this, he refers to those who have feel they can make a change, those who feel they can contribute in way, for those who have something to say and are not afraid to show their beliefs.
    We have to stop for a couple of minutes, dedicate some time for ourselves and reflect on this statement by asking this question: Do we believe in ourselves? We can involve change, we can teach the right values in the right way. IT IS US!

    Another important issue is that we as educators have to continously ask ourselves consciously if we feel to have the spirit and the energy to involve ourselves in this learning process, because we are not there just to teach and assess but we are involved in a process of teaching and learning.

    Robinson claims that human flourishing is not a mechanical process but it is an organic process, he mentions a particular example of a farmer creating the conditions, in my opinion this example is very linked to what a teacher has to do when he/she comes to teach in a transformative way, the teacher has to customize the process of learning to the needs of our students.

    We are involved in it! Remember this Agricultural Model!

  6. I enjoyed listening to Sir Ken Robinson’s speech. It is food for thought. It caused me to reflect of what kind of teacher to be. I especially liked when he stated that some people love what they do and can’t image doing anything else & that their job is who they are.

    I believe that there are teachers who chose teaching as they enjoyed it and felt it is their vocation but it may happen that they experience burn out through various reasons- pressures from education, no support, continual changes etc.

    I would like to share the following quote “It is impossible to teach without the courage to love, without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up” (Freire, 2005)

  7. I watched the link posted by Yvanka on Marcus Buckingham . I agree what was said on the video clip. Sometimes we lose track of what we really want to do or what we are good at.

    I believe one of the roles as educators is to find the strengths of the students and encourage them to develop them. From experience I believe teachers can make a difference. Teachers can influence a student such as to love a subject or can motivate students to work hard to reach certain goals. A good movie on teaching is The Emperor’s Club (2002). See trailer on

  8. We are going to be the next generation of teachers. The ones who brought us up to here will be or are already pensioners. Let’s continue making positive differences and teach with all our hearts!!

    Teachers inspire greatness and change lives

  9. Actually this conference by Sir Ken Robinson is a sequel of another conference that he had carried out in 2006, the link of which I am attaching below.

    In this conference Sir Robinson stresses the point that our educational systems are actually killing creativity. So true! In most cases education trains us to conform rather to be creative. In this regard, we have to be the agents of change and be ourselves to elicit knowledge and thinking, rather than pouring our knowledge to our ’empty vessel’ students.

    Having said this I am reminded of what Albert Einstein once said: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

    so much to think about!

  10. It is true that we are going to be the next generation of teachers but our students are the futurists. We as teachers are supposed to influence as well as bring positive changes in the lives of our students since they are the individuals who will raise our future society when we become pensioners. In the face of such challenges, teachers must remain committed to ways of providing high quality education for the different needs of students (not just academically).

    In the 21st century Maltese educational system, government schools have become a mixture of students with a wide variety of needs, consequently requiring individualized attention and modified work programs. The introduction of Colleges and the use of technology are facilitating the teaching and learning on both classroom and school level. Some recent examples of these changes are: the integration of ICT in the School Development Plan, exchangeable projects between schools in the same College, blogs between teachers, parents and students, widespread use of ICT by staff and students, projection facilities in classrooms and recently the introduction of the interactive white boards.

    I think everyone has umpteen reasons why s/he decided to become a teacher. Though being the facilitator of knowledge in the 21st century is far from perfect, as long as we love what we are doing, it offers the fulfilment no other career can. That’s why we have opted to be teachers not by chance but by choice .

  11. Aħna bnedmin u hija ħaġa naturali li jkollna xi jkollna xorta waħda nsibu fuq xiex nilmentaw. Filfatt Sir Ken Robinson iddeskrivihom bħala dawk in-nies li l-ħin kollu jaħsbu fil-weekend. Min-naħa l-oħra hemm oħrajn li jqisu x-xogħol bħala parti integrali minnhom. Nemmen li kull persuna għandu jkun bħat-tieni tip. Hemm bżonn li kulħadd jibda jemmen iktar fih inniofsu u jemmen li jista’ jasal hu u jwassal lil ħaddieħor. Dan ifisser li kulħadd, anke aħna bħala edukaturi nistgħu inġibu bidla b’kull mod; ngħidu aħna fil-mentalita`, fl-attitudni jew fl-imġiba tal-istudenti tagħna. Il-ħajja fl-iskejjel mhijiex faċli iżda biex għalliema tkun soda u tajba ma tridx tqis it-tumbati li tiltaqa magħhom bħala muntanji iżda trid tagħmel ħilitha u tisfidhom biex tmexxi lill-istudenti ‘l quddiem bħal ma għamel dan l-għalliem partikulari fil film ‘Take the Lead’.

  12. It is a pleasure to watch this video and to find out that there are people, out there, who understand the need to revolutionise education. Everyone is talking about, the need to provide caring, collaborative classroom environments. The NCF is the way forward in Malta etc… However, in this same PGCE programme, is that what we are being taught? Is that what is being communicated to us? We are constantly hassled trying to keep up with linear programme of studies. Furthermore, I can say that my dreams of enjoying learning, and enjoying learning how to impart knowledge and that same learning, are being trampled. I am quite disenthralled, as Sir Ken Robinson puts it. What worries me mostly, is that there is a lot of motivating material out there, and intrinsically we are motivated to give our best to our students and to not tread on their dreams. I know I can apply communicative teaching and build positive rapports with my students when hopefully I start working full-time. However, my main concern is NOW. The coming teaching practice. I will communicate knowledge to students in six weeks, I will be their main referent in my subject area which is English. I am afraid that since this will be an exam for me, I will be linear, and not organic with my students. So what I am trying to say is, that it all depends on context. However I do believe that one person is enough to start change, and I see many like minded people here and out there. So perhaps locally, we will start to create a fun, interactive learning environment where students feel happy in class and enjoy the learning process, rather than compete and stress themselves over deadlines.

  13. I have to say that after hearing Robinson’s talk I was left speechless. It is true; we are treating pupils like some kind of product which is continuously being updated and scrutinized by our sorting machine (ie. our education system). Furthermore, if children do not conform with the system by doing things in other ways hence being imaginative and innovative, they are punished. This means that children are being discouraged from being creative.

    However, I was even more surprised when I came to know that Sir Ken Robinson has been talking about this for the past more/less 20 years. How come little or almost nothing has been done about it? Is this in conflict with the main reason behind public education?

  14. The overall solution to the concerns being communicated in this blog evolves around one important attribute that anyone should possess when doing something, which is that of having a PASSION for what you do. Infact, a good and professional teacher should have a Passion for Teaching. If a teacher has a passion for teaching, then, I think that the above arguments would be solved naturally by the person himself.

    However, we as teachers should go away with the traditional way of teaching that is by transmitting knowledge to students where we are the experts in the subjects and the students are the empty jars that should be filled with knowledge. Instead, we as Teachers should seek to be Transformative Educators who emphasise that students should be actively engaged during
    lessons through challenging activities, problem solving exercises, groupwork, discussions, debates and so on, and not being treated as Passive receivers of knowledge. This will facilitate the transfer of higher order cognitive skills to students which are Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Problem-Solving among others. The delivery of the lessons should be student-centred and not teacher-centred. Moreover, students should be viewed from a holistic perspective and Self-Enquiry should be central to the Learning Process. We, as educators should facilitate students’ learning and development through Reflection in class. When I start teaching I will make my best to motivate students intrinsically and not extrinsically. Regarding Assessment, I agree that it should be based on a formative approach that is, students should be assessed on a continuous basis in order to result into Transformative Education.

    We, as Teachers should build a meaningful vision and really make a change in education. However, HOPE is the main important criterion to achieve this. We should never loose HOPE. This forms part of the revolution that is needed in learning and in education. Furthermore, we should conduct the lesson in an enjoyable and attractive way to the students and meet their needs and interests simultaneously. However, we should enjoy Teaching and be enthusiastic during lessons because otherwise, it will transmit negatively on students’ motivation. Therefore, the whole issue starts from us, the TEACHERS.

  15. Recently I came across an article about Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about passion held on Sunday 13th March 2011 in Conway Hall, London. Sir Ken Robinson says that everyone is born with an extraordinary capability and that we just take it for granted and forget all about it as we struggle through life, Sir Ken Robinson also says that the problem in human beings is not that we aim to high and then fail but it’s just the opposite- we aim too low and succeed. That is why sometimes we are not so motivated about what we do.
    We need to find that magic spot where our natural talent meets our personal passion and thereby that is when we will get all the satisfaction we need. We have to find something that contains both our natural ability and our passion. In my case I think that teaching can give me both as I would really like to transmit to my students both my knowledge and passion towards my subject. I would really like that my students see how much my subject and what I’m doing mean to me and maybe motivate them to do the same thing with what they like.
    Sir Ken Robinson says that in order for this to happen we have to know who we truly are so that we can excel in what we do. It is not only about doing the things that we are competent at; it is also the finding of an emotion while doing it. Finding the passion changes everything as it makes us look at the world from a different point of view.

  16. Sir Ken Robinson believes that we are having a crisis in human resources, and the problem source is in the educational system. He argues for, not a reform, but a total revolution of the educational system. There are many things that we take for granted. We must realize these things and adapt to formulate a curriculum that takes the changes of reality into context. ‘’We have built our education … on a fast food model’’ meaning that we are treating students like a product on a production line in a factory. We promote a linear life and a life of conformity, but this is not reality. ‘’Human communities depend upon a diversity of talents’’ and ‘’Human talents are diverse’’. Education should be about ‘’passion, what excites our spirit…’’ and not a monotonous manufactured production. A good educational system should provide the right circumstances and environment for future generations to flourish in their own respect.

    I fully agree that we must move from an ‘’Industrial Education’’ to an ‘’Agricultural Education’’, one which caters for the differential nutritive talents.

  17. I completely agree with the quote that Luke Bonnet mentioned in his comment here: “If you love your job, you won’t work for another day of your life”. Because that is the way I see it. People who are completely satisfied and fulfilled in what they do treat their job as a friend. They accept the pitfalls of it and embrace the meaning it gives to their lives. While burn out is completely normal even for those people who are truly happy in their job (you never know, maybe teachers (for example) feel burn out because the job got harder and different, they’re getting older and more tired and don’t feel as effective as they did when they were young and had the strength to do it. Maybe it’s the inability to do it as effectively that is what’s bringing them down!) I don’t like hearing teachers who discourage me from the profession because of ‘how hard it is’ etc, or people who complain about new technologies being used. Are you seriously shunning the beauty of your job and focusing on what it, allegedly, takes out of you? Aren’t you happy that your profession is being facilitated with new technologies and this could be a milestone in your career? People who complain about their jobs and seem to see the bad outweighing the good… should look for something they’re willing and happy to do. After all, if you don’t love your job it’s all downhill from there. The students will pick up on the fact that the teachers aren’t keen on teaching them, the students won’t feel supported, their behaviour will probably take a turn for the worse, making the job more stressful on the disgruntled teacher. I clearly picture it becoming a vicious cycle.

  18. It is ironic how sometimes we are so much focused and stressed on what we want to achieve that we do not enjoy the process while achieving it. Sir Ken Robinson’s concept of endurance struck me so much and it is good food for thought. A simple reflection in this regard is that, I think it is not only a question of loving what you do, but also a question of whether we have time to enjoy it in the first place. It seems like we always have something to do and everything we do, we do it in a rush for there are other things waiting for us. I feel sometimes deadlines put is in pressure and we may tend to see our work as a burden rather than an opportunity to explore our abilities.

  19. I must ask one question though – is it only us, the students, teachers and educators, who have to go through a radical shift? Sometimes there are genuine teachers who absolutely love to teach but because of certain agendas imposed upon them by the school or administration they end up losing their passion because they wouldn’t be practice what they love, how they like it.

    I strongly suggest that everyone watches Dead Poet’s Society. It’s a classic movie about (spoiler alert!) a college professor who, because of his radical teaching methods, was blamed for the death of one of his students.

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