There are some special events in everyday life which throw up more unusual experiences. Christmas is one of them. It's the 27th December and my son has just gone back to uni so it feels like the event is over. So why is this event special in my everyday life? First and foremost in our family Christmas is the one event we all share as being significant for the whole family. The coming together and connecting of different parts of the family - all ages from my parents in Australia who are nearly 90 to the newest editions of the family 6 months old twins and even the about to be born grandchild who we know will be born some time this week. And although we know there is stress around the occasion in terms of meeting expectations and preparing the house for visitors, preparing the Christmas meal, buying presents and a hundred other things.. there is also a deliberate attempt to create space for spending time with family and benefiting from the experience of giving and sharing memories and stories. More than anything else Christmas in my family is about renewing and maintaining family bonds - it's a relationship thing. Interestingly technology helps us connect... Christmas would not be Christmas without a skype conversation with my mum and dad in Australia.
But the best Christmas present ever was the birth of my fourth grandson - the first child of my eldest son and his wife. It took me right back to his birth nearly 34 years ago and completed one of the cycles of life of which I am a part. I could see we shared the same emotions about the birth of our first child.
I know I have the positivity gene which I inherited from my mother. I see it as a strength to think positively about events and situations even when most other people would think that there was nothing positive about them. The down side of that perhaps is that I generally don't acknowledge failure because my reasoning is that not being successful in something is merely one step on the journey to accomplishing something, or abandoning a particular course of action. I don't think that there is anything wrong with this but I need to recognise that it might be a weakness not to see something as a failure and to talk about it as a failure (rather than a step on the journey).. This was brought home to me in a TEDx talk by two college students Tara Suri & Niha Jain - Learning to Fail whose main theme was to admit failure and talk about it was good for you and provided an honest foundation on which to build. Rather, than perhaps a foundation of denial or minimalised interrogation that perhaps positivity encourages. By coincidence I was writing a background paper for my presentation at the International Forum of Innovators in University Teaching (IFIUT) conference in Riyadh next February when I saw the TED talk and I think it was helpful in enabling me to be honest and open about the failure of SCEPTrE and me as leader of the enterprise in securing a future for the Lifewide Learning Award - particularly my failure to persuade my line manager that the award was something that was worth nurturing. It's hard to put myself back two years to remember my actions, my feelings and how my beliefs evolved in response to my manager's actions and words. But the writing process combined with the TED talk that had made an impression on me, made me question myself more deeply as to whether I had been persistent, skilful, forceful and subtle enough in my pursuit of success. I will never know whether a different outcome would have been achieved had I been better at persuading, or whether things had been different had the previous line manager remained in post for the final year of the project. Being honest about failure raises lots of 'what ifs' and these I don't find helpful in moving forward. What I do know is that if I believe in something I will try to find a way to progress or make something of it and this is the way I prefer to live my life. So the failure of me and SCEPTrE to persuade the University that our concepts and practices relating to the idea of lifewide learning, education and personal development, would add value to the existing educational practices, provided me with the opportunity to take these ideas forward through a different mechanism (Lifewide Education Community Interest Company). Something that I would not have been able to do had SCEPTrE been successful.
But failure is rarely black and white. If I apply this way of thinking to the current Lifewide Learning Community enterprise in our first year I think we have been very successful - 200 registered members and an established presence, community website, Magazine, e-book and a Lifewide Development Award. We have much to celebrate. The current 'Failure' might be in not attracting enough people to the award - we know this and the focus in the New Year has to be on addressing this failure while maintaining and growing the other aspects of our enterprise. In other words failure is only failure when you give up and admit defeat. In the case of SCEPTrE we didn't give up- the university gave us up.
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life