Open Thinkering


Tag: Keith Belshaw

Keith Belshaw’s contribution to the #purposed debate

Keith BelshawMy father currently lives and works in the United Arab Emirates. He taught PE and Maths, and was Deputy Head in schools in the North East of England until he left for the UAE in 2009. He’s returning in July 2011.

In this (unsolicited) 500-word contribution to the Purpos/ed debate, Keith Belshaw uses his multi-faceted experiences as an educator, traveller, father and grandfather to question whether the institutions within which he’s spent his working life continue to be relevant in their current form.

Please do comment and ask questions below; I shall encourage him to respond to each directly. 🙂

Purpos/ed “Education in the 21st Century”
Why? What? How? Where? Who?

Keith Belshaw

It is easy on this platform to forget that the majority of readers have gone through the tried and tested “traditional” route of “being educated”. By this I mean school followed by college/university and into a chosen profession, trade or job. For the majority, their outcomes -when viewed from the perspective of what is valued educationally by present day society – have been successful. There will have been real life experiences that have shaped outlook on life, morals and values. There will have been role models who have shown how things are done effectively. There will have been opportunities for learning co-operatively, experiencing cultural diversity and sensibilities in the “global village”. The different “intelligences” which we are given and learn will be factors in the way our relationships are formed – and with whom to a large extent. As this “growth” – intellectual and physical – matures over time, relationships built on the bedrock of mutual empathy, respect and healthy conflict resolution prosper. BUT…

…what is absolutely necessary in the 21st Century are adults who are critical thinkers, reflective problem solvers, who adapt and refine strategies and processes for the common good that is society. Above all, adults must pass on all these meta-cognitive skills that I have mentioned to the next generation, through extensive interaction with those children, and where positive modeling is evident.

School is now an outdated institution! The influences within can be harmful to the positive development of young children. Certainly, many parents will echo that viewpoint! Therefore, what skills and what knowledge will a youngster need before being let loose on the information technological overload that is “out there”?

With whom will they choose to learn? With their good friends! How will they learn? Looking at my grandchildren as they use software – I think we are missing a major opportunity for educational growth if games for all ages, which are motivational, intellectually stimulating, competitive, available and affordable  are not developed soon.

There needs to be ongoing assessment based on agreed rubric that covers all aspects of human development. This can be done at various “hubs” – centres which provide purely arts, or technologies, or mathematics and science, or sport. They should be able to be accessed 24 hours a day to suit the individual. The “hub” will have nationally agreed benchmarks that allow students to move from level to level in various aspects. Being able to study, investigate and explore when the motivation takes learners will be key to success. Universities will eventually be on-line and open to all, being the ultimate certificate providers at every level. So who learns? Everyone! No-one stops learning – learning is life-long! The system needs overhaul to afford opportunities for learners to opt in – opt out – and then opt back in again. We need to make education totally flexible, relevant, readily available with support – and FREE!

A civilized country is measured by the number of educated people in it’s population!

A (temporary) farewell to a hero.

Doug Belshaw and Keith Belshaw

We didn’t take the footpath to the terminal; he’s always taken the path less travelled. He didn’t turn around as he strode purposefully to the gate. I didn’t cry. We all knew it was inevitable.

A month away from retirement he announced he was off down to London.

“What for?”

“An interview.”

“What, for a job in London? I thought you were retiring!

“No, a consultant job in Abu Dhabi.”

I laughed, thinking he was joking. He looked up from the laptop upon which he was booking his train tickets. It was at that point I knew that not only was he not joking, but that he would indeed be spending some time in the Middle East. He’s never done things by halves.

He didn’t get the consultancy role. He’s a teacher. Having tried his hand at Senior Management for a good fifteen years he’d returned to the classroom for the last ten of his career. It’s where he belongs. He’ll be team-teaching, working alongside native teachers in the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT). I’m not sure you can teach enthusiasm and passion, although he’ll do his best to try!

It’s hard to measure the impact this man has had on my life. But it’s a lot easier to write down your feelings rather than say them. He was my junior football manager, the Deputy Headmaster of my school, and when I was younger a superhero. Without always needing to say anything he’s guided me through lived example. He’s certainly not perfect, although upon reflection I’ve realised that the times I find him inappropriate can usually be put down to his exuberance and zest for life.

His M.Ed. spurred me on to do my MA and now my Ed.D. Until a few years ago I assumed that accumulating degrees and job titles would be enough; enough to command respect and guarantee a safe and easy passage through life. It’s not. The number of letters after your name and/or job title is irrelevant. It’s what you do with your life that counts. He’s ‘walked the walk.’

It’s common to trot out the platitudes and trite phrases when a teacher nears the end of their career about the ‘number of lives they’ve touched’ and ‘lives they’ve influenced.’ I wish no-one had ever said these things before so I could apply them for the first time here. It’s never been more true.

So here’s to you, Dad. This is for all the times I should have said ‘I love you’ but haven’t. This is for the times I’ve got annoyed and snapped at you. And this is to let you know that even when you weren’t talking, I was learning from you.

God speed. 🙂