Make the ordinary come alive

One o'clock...

One o’clock…

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.

 

A tree climbing gang

A tree climbing gang

 

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

 

Sticks and rivers

Sticks and rivers

 

And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

By William Martin

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

 

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The RNLI – the charity that saves lives at sea

Paul's Iphone 1252

The other crisp Sunday morning we had the great fortune to time our weekly promenade walk with the routine training exercise of the volunteer RNLI team in St. Annes. There are 237 lifeboat stations around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and 346 operational lifeboats covering 19,000 miles of coastline.  It was fascinating and inspiring to see these committed men converge in their own free time on a Sunday morning and in a disciplined manner prepare and launch such an impressive safety vessel.

Paul's Iphone 1259

I was surprised not more people were there to watch the lifeboat being lowered down onto the St. Annes sands and towed out towards the Ribble estuary.  I guess in many ways it summed up nicely what the RNLI is all about though, focused on the cause and with little fuss.  These men did not crave limelight or financial reward, it was obvious that they were doing something that they believed in and as Darren, one of the crew said to me: ‘the best thing about volunteering is being part of a team of people who don’t want to let anyone down.’

Paul's Iphone 1264

Without their volunteers the RNLI could not save lives at sea.  These volunteers account for 4600 crew members, 3000 shore crew and station management, and 150 volunteer lifeguards.  There are also tens of thousands of other volunteers that raise vital funds, awareness and give safety advice for the RNLI.  In 2012, the RNLI made 8346 launches of which 3120 were in darkness.

This resulted in 7964 people being rescued at an average of 22 people per day.  328 lives were saved.

Paul's Iphone 1265

 

As I read more about the RNLI and in particular the St. Annes station and crew I noticed a phone number at the bottom of one of the information posters.  Next to the number was a name and a notice to contact him if anyone was interested in volunteering for the station and crew.  I took a photo of the notice on my phone for future reference and turned to my kids and said: ‘I know what my next Global Citizenship Award target is going to be…’

Finding dinosaurs in the sand

What did you do this Sunday?  We decided to go for a walk around Fairhaven Lake in the bright late January sunshine.  An easy walk for a family of five, especially with scooters in hand, you may even call it a typical Sunday afternoon walk.  On this crisp and clear day we could see right across the estuary, probably the best view we have had since living in the area, with Southport seeming to be only a stones throw away.  Seeing silhouettes of people out on the horizon and giving in to the allure of the mostly untouched vista of sand in front of us, we clambered down the promenade wall and headed out into the estuary looking for the mighty Ribble.

A dinosaur in the sand

A dinosaur in the sand

Pretty quickly we could see a strange and weird shape in the distance jutting out of the baron sand.  It looked like it could be close to the river as the sand seemed to dip down just beyond the mysterious object.  So we headed towards it to investigate.  As we made our way out into the unknown and leaving the civilization of Lytham St. Annes behind us, Jonah observed that “this might be like walking on the moon.”  Although, even the moon is not as windy as the Fylde coast!  The closer we got to the object the more it began to look like a large skeleton, particularly one of a dinosaur – like you may see in a museum.

Young paleontologists

Young paleontologists

The dinosaur in the sand was in fact (disappointingly to the kids) a large piece of drift wood that had become well lodged into the sand banks and not a skeleton.  We did have a good chat about where the tree may have come from though and how it had got there.  It definitely created an eerie feel to the landscape, especially with the relentless wind filtering sand through the lattice like wooded frame.  We said goodbye to the prehistoric relic and completed our mission down the final dip to admire the Ribble as it glimmered its way past us and out into the salty Irish Sea.  Three tasty Drunmstick lollipops were freed from deep within the interior of the coat pocket as a satisfying treat for all, with the added incentive of being a psychological bribe, we turned 180 degrees head-on into the howling icy wind and made the long walk back to the mainland.  We had a typical Sunday walk to complete.

Getting to know the tax man

There have been many positives to coming back to my home land and re-introducing myself to the British idiosyncrasies that I had forgotten about.  Believe it or not I find it, literally, refreshing being able to walk home from work every evening with my eldest son Jonah – as we both get excited as the evenings gradually get lighter, although the Irish Sea wind does not get any warmer!  On the flip side though there has been a few aspects of British living that I did not fully comprehend and had never really acquainted myself with, even before I left these shores back in the late 90s.  One of these slight annoyances is the fact that I seem to be spending a lot of my time on the phone trying to pay bills or to set-up direct debits – it is definitely a world of monthly transaction out there – monthly wage in to be slowly eroded by a string of outgoing payments to just survive British routine.  In a perverse kind of way, this is one of the reasons we came back to learn and experience a ‘normal’ life, how to account for and budget for family living.  I never expected to be on the phone so much though, and finding it so hard to get answers to questions.

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

There is a vast amount of information on the internet but that doesn’t always make life easier or getting things done straight forward. These are just a few of my observations, but I do get the general feeling that large companies and organisations want to make processing information and helping the general public as difficult as possible – why are they so averse to speaking with people on the phone or doing e-mails, how many people do they (or not) employ in their call offices?  Why can’t you just e-mail someone and get a straight forward answer and piece of advice?  Everybody is different and everybody has a different background and circumstance, whether it be; cultural, social, financial, personal and even educational.  Surely these service companies should be providing the best possible customer service to ensure there is no ambiguity or areas of vagueness… a cause of concern or doubt (legally or financially) can really loom over someones head for weeks on end until it has been sorted out.

Being reflective

Being reflective

We all have an impression of the ‘tax man’ in our minds, the perceived baddie of the financial accountability world.  Tax is something you can’t avoid and nobody should.  I believe in taxation and I am proud to be living in a democratic country that has a safe and reliable infrastructure that my family and I can take advantage of on a regular basis. That much makes sense and I have no quibbles over my tax rates and outgoings from my monthly wage. What I do have an issue with is that it is a complete minefield out there and you could spend your entire time trying to negotiate the abyss of the tax world just to make sure you are doing things right and can sleep at night.  This is a perfect example of lack of advice or guidance and keeping things simple, and I am (supposedly) an educated, native English speaker, think what others must be going through.  The website is like a maze of dead-ends and loops that bring you right back to where you started – just give me an e-mail address to get a straight forward answer!  No, you have to ring a certain number at a certain time, listen to a monologue of automated options and make a pot luck guess at which one to choose before being put on hold for half a day!  This is obviously an exaggeration, but it is claimed that average waiting times are around 11 minutes, but this is a lottery and you do actually have to dedicate at least half a day to get this done and hope that your questions are answered, which they are often not and you are then advised to phone someone else, with a different job title at another time.  In fact last week, I was told I needed a technician to answer a certain question and that they would phone me back within 7 days at a time that suited me – I said after 6.00pm would be great.  Walking home from work later that week I checked my answer phone messages and there it was a polite but brief message from the technician saying that they had called me back but I did not answer – that would be because it was midday when they phoned and I was fully engaged in my work, back to square one!

What can you do though?  They have you right where they want you, a captured market. You either have to persist with deadlines looming, the dreaded 31st January – it is like the ‘Day of Judgement’, or pay someone to do your tax forms and write off a substantial amount of well-earned income.  It can be quite depressing and distracts you from your work commitments and home life as I said before – it looms over you.  That is until you get through to Colette.  After negotiating the automated responses and listening to Greensleeves again on loud speaker phone whilst replying to some e-mails for however many minutes I am put on hold and trying not to waste the time, suddenly Colette’s angelic voice like a miracle reaches out to me and says, “Hello, my name is Colette, how can I help you today?”  There is a sudden mass release of frustration as I connect with Collete and say, “Am I glad to hear from you Colette, please don’t go any where – promise (?), I really need your help, this tax business is like a minefield.”  I hear Colette giggle down the phone as she becomes even more human and normal as I picture her helpful persona and sympathetic smile on the other end of the phone.  “Don’t worry Mr. Crouch, tell me what I can help you with and I will talk you through it, are you logged onto your computer?”  “Yes, yes I am Colette, are you really going to help me step-by-step, are you sure you have got the time(?), please don’t go anywhere!”  “It really won’t take that long Mr. Crouch, I am not going anywhere, are you ready?”

Community partnerships

Community partnerships

For the next 20 – 25 minutes Colette guided me and reassured me as I over-dramatically (not wanting her to disappear) plugged in what I needed to submit.  She was just herself and very personable but most of all she laughed and was supportive of the difficulties this process may create for some people.  She didn’t rush the conversation or sound frustrated at all, no mention of referring back to the website.  I don’t know if the time and guidance Colette dedicated to me was above and beyond her job description, I don’t know if this is profitable for her organisation to commit that amount of time per individual call, I don’t know if others had to wait even longer as Colette was dealing with me.  What I do know though is that in 2 months of trying to get this done she was the only person to actually take the time to engage with me and treat me as a normal person who just wants to do the right thing.  I hope they did record our conversation for training purposes and use Colette as a shining example at their next training day (picture that!), I would also like to put forward Colette for employee of the month and give her a pay rise for going above and beyond – which is surely what working in the service industry is all about.  If not then I would like to put Colette forward for Global Citizen of the week, thank you Colette.

Creating a string of useful habits

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Post contributed by Kyu Bak Lee

I am a Korean national who grew up in Thailand. During my time in Thailand, I attended an international school that largely followed the British model. So, one can say that I saw the meaning of the word “education” being used and explained in many different ways. For the most part, due to my exposure to three different “worlds” (in a nutshell) from such a young age, my immediate answer to the question of ‘what makes a good education’ would differ tremendously in different cultures. However, now that I have gone through the likes of university, first job and now at a point where I can safely say that I have a career ahead of me, I have yearned for the ‘simple’ things in life.

A good education provides a student with a clear definition of what they are studying. Having a clear understanding of what they are studying provides not only guidance but fosters curiosity. Being curious is, and always will be, the pillar of human innovation.

A good education encourages the student to ask why and how.

A good education shows the student real-life case studies of what they have studied, so that they understand from the beginning that there are external and indirect factors that need to be considered.

A good education provides questions, discussions and potential scenarios for the student to show their understanding, and their ability to apply their knowledge.

A good education provides feedback that opens up a dialogue to foster more discussion with the interested parties.

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team - student leaders

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team – student leaders

I believe my time in University had the most profound impact on my life. You are at a place where everyone was a star pupil in their high school, the quarterback, the debate champion, the community leader, the superman of their respective school and organization. It was a place where I knew I had to challenge myself constantly. Not only that, but the responsibility that life threw me during my days as a university student was also a great lesson for me. From having your teachers, parents and friends help you one way or another to having nobody in a foreign land and culture put me on survival mode 101. I was excited to see myself change and adapt and I also learned to be appreciative of the people that I have in my life. I saw a new me that was scared, excited, sad and jubilant. Some turbulent times that proved that without education, there really is no basis in life that you can turn to. Another thing that I want to mention here is to look at “failures” differently. A profile in failure is as important, or even more so, than a profile in success. Failure should be welcomed if you want to better and further yourself in any given situation.

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

So far, my greatest achievement that I have experienced thus far is surrounding myself with awesome people. I have always believed in the power of storytelling and discussions. If you are able to surround yourself with people that not only carry different experiences but also are able to effectively communicate that with you, then you have all the tools you need to succeed. Human beings have always seen each other as part of a collective unit; part of something much larger than them. It only makes sense that we are able to draw out the best of ourselves through the collective help of people and their diverse and dynamic experiences. Finding the “right” group is always hard and I am not saying that it will always come naturally, but how do you know what works for you and what doesn’t from the beginning? You always need to fail, to succeed and to achieve.

DSCF5347

My next challenge is to push myself and become the owner of my own business. One of the things that I learned about myself in university was that I liked the responsibilities, I liked the leadership, and I liked the fast pace and ever changing environment that I found myself in. This all pointed to one thing, and that was entrepreneurship. I tested myself with a few serious projects here and there during my time in university, but those all failed. They were absolutely fun and enriching, but they all went up in flames. The failures only cemented my view that I would need to be my own boss and it only made me content that I was fortunate enough to do what I wanted and fail at it, and be okay.

Being reflective

Being reflective

I would like to share what I wish I had heard when I was a student at school; which is “to create a string of useful habits from a young age.”

Get in to a habit of carrying a small notepad around to write down your thoughts and opinion at any given time. In this day and age, it could be an app on your mobile device, but I like my piece of paper and a pencil. People could argue that they have diaries that they keep but having to recollect your feelings and ideas at the end of the day is a daunting task. So, why not keep it simple by writing it down throughout your day? By doing this, you will find your own efficient way of note-taking and drawing diagrams that you can always go back to and reflect on your days, weeks and years.

Get into a habit of reading. Whether they are books, magazines or online articles; find your interest and passion, and read about them and other people’s, take them on to help you gain an all-round understanding of your interests and passions. This will not only put you closer to your interests, but it will also surprise you as it will expose you to thoughts and ideas that you would not be able to generate on your own.

Get into a habit of playing sports. Playing sports is a great way to make new friends and to learn more about yourself as well. How are you different to playing team games to individual sports? What is it that gets you motivated? Was it the spirit of competition and sportsmanship? Was it the chance to win something? If you play sports, you will always learn more about yourself.

Get into a habit of joining social clubs. If you are a part of a club, then you start experiencing different responsibilities that will be different to finishing your group project, or your homework or your class presentation. It gives you a glimpse of life outside of school that we all need to prepare for.

 

What will you achieve in 2015?

Public speaking

Public speaking

As we begin 2015 I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the the Global Citizenship Award website and to review some of the statistics so far.  I would like to thank everyone who has followed the development of the site and award over the last six months and especially to all those people who have contributed, commented and (especially) achieved their award – 9 amazing global citizens so far.  I am sure that there will be many more in 2015.

Patrick and a piano

Patrick and a piano

A London underground train holds 1,200 people. The GC Award website was viewed about 7,850 times in 2014. If it were a London underground train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.  The busiest day of the year was November 11th with 328 views.

The most popular post / blog was: One Man and a Piano.  This post was inspired by a talented young man, called Patrick, who we met at Heathrow Airport back in November.  He was playing one of those stand alone pianos and instantly caught the imagination of my two oldest kids.

A Christmas Gift

A Christmas Gift

The next four most popular posts in order were:

2. Thailand Reflections

3. The Rice Challenge – A Scottish Perspective

4.  A Christmas Gift

5.  Congratulations to Karen Partyka on achieving the Global Citizenship Award

 

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

 

People who have viewed the GC Award website are from 101 different countries; with the UK, Thailand, US, Australia and Brazil the top five countries that have made the most views.

The New Year has arrived and what better time than to make new targets and to challenge yourself to bigger and better things through learning and reflective practice.

Personal target setting

Personal target setting

The GC Award team would love to hear from you and will monitor and celebrate your progress as we bring new ideas and developments together through a global citizenship approach to education. Remember you can choose to submit all 16 Identities together once completed (see these Global Ambassadors for example) or submit them one at a time as individual reflections / posts (see this post by Manoj on service learning).  You can submit your post / reflection/s here.

We will always give individual constructive feedback and can guarantee that your achievements and experiences are inspiring others elsewhere around the world at the same time helping you to build a digital portfolio of personal achievement through global citizenship learning – something you will always have and use in the future.  Don’t let those amazing opportunities and experiences be wasted.  2015 is your year – go grab it!

When 1000 pieces all come together

1000 piece festive jigsaw - who would do that?

1000 piece festive jigsaw – who would do that?

Jigsaws were not at the top of my ‘must do activity list’ on returning back to the UK. Mother has always insisted on a family jigsaw around Christmas time and for some reason brought one up with her when visiting our new house last month.  I did have to question why she thought it a necessity to pack a jigsaw, and the specially tailored homemade plywood board for doing jigsaws on, and impose it on us when we are just settling in to a new routine and way of life and trying really hard to de-clutter.  I acknowledged it and quickly tucked it to one side in the back room with other boxes and items that could be forgotten about for the time being.

A long way still to go...

A long way still to go…

The festive jigsaw didn’t stay tucked away for long though as over the weekend of her visit she persuaded me to open it up suggesting “it would be a nice family activity to do over the Christmas period.”  So we plonked the plywood jigsaw board in the middle of the living room carpet and opened the musty box of 1000 intricate pieces of cardboard and started looking for the edges.  Both my older kids asked “why are we looking for edges dad?” both thinking they would start putting together the big santa being the main feature in the middle of the puzzle.  I explained carefully the importance of a patient approach to jigsaws like this one and forming the perimeter or boundaries of the picture first before constructing the images in the centre – “we need to no what we are working with and where our limits are.”  I gave them the challenge to look for the four corners and they eagerly set about searching for them as if it was a festive Christmas dip.

Pieces everywhere!

Pieces everywhere!

The thing with jigsaws is that they take time to get going.  You have to be resilient and focused to get beyond the early stages of locating corners and edges and sorting similar colours, shades and patterns.  It can be a lonely affair in those early stages with no sign of a successful completion in sight.  It is always better if you can recruit a team of jigsaw helpers and all agree on a role for each other – delegating specific shades and patterns to be found, distributing personalised collection and sorting (Tupperware) boxes for maximum effect and ownership.  This organised and strategic approach is key to jigsaw teamwork and avoiding the ultimate chaos and predictable disaster of vigilante jigsaw building when every one is in it for themselves and not thinking big picture.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction

There is an addictive satisfaction to that click of a jigsaw piece slotting neatly into place.  In the box a midst hundreds of other coloured pieces a single piece is lost and has no sense of place and is easily overlooked as multiple hands rake through the box on their own agenda.  The picture on the front becomes key, this is your guide – the code to success, the plan that enables you to focus on what you are trying to achieve.  It also gives you the confidence to know what unique pattern is required to make the selection of other shades and colours complete and form the picture you have been working on.  Even though it looks nothing like it in the box each piece plays a key role and you must put in the time to look for the right one and find it.  Clicking pieces into place is a satisfying process and encourages you to continue doing it (long into the night!) – and before you know it you have 1000 little pieces all coming together and the picture is clear.