I remember the day very clearly, it was a Monday towards the end of July and the year was 1981. Botham and Willis had yet to etch their sporting heroics into the annals of English cricketing history against the crack Australians who had cheekily, perhaps, laid bets upon themselves becoming victors once more against the maligned and defeated English. It was a good month. Summer was here but more importantly I had left school. The Winston Churchill School, St.John’s, Woking had been my social hub and play ground but now the reckoning had began. My secondary exams had come and gone, gone being the operative word. I was lost, I remember in History lessons watching over the road that bisected the large school with Britain’s oldest cemetery, a rather dubious claim to fame and sadly one which I had visited on an official capacity fourteen months previously. I watched the smoke arise from the large chimney and ash settle on calmer days upon the outside window ledge. I hated the sight of it after 4th May 1980. My mother, Iris, had succumbed to a rare brain tumour and that was, as they say, that. She was cremated there. After that I lost any interest in learning, as a fifteen year old I was the youngest in a family of now four, with one, my elder, autistic brother, recovering we earnestly hoped from Leukemia. He was lucky, he survived.
Education I loathed but learning I loved and there was so much to learn. I hadn’t the slightest inclination to go back to school to resit. I therefore innocently went about the month, July also being the month my father remarried. I anticipated a year, maybe two at Woking Sixth Form and then what? I hadn’t a clue. July definitely brought about many changes, educationally, family and geography as I was moved to Hampshire and the concrete metropolis of Basingstoke.
Mike Brearley, above, the England Captain, was instrumental in the Ashes Victory, brought in from retirement, to replace Botham as Captain, was a mediocre batting average and a gentle character. However, a scholarly man with an eye for getting the best out of what he had on the field Brearley epitimises what a great teacher to me would have been. What he did best was allow and enable the individual to perform their best, to the benefit of the team.
It must have been very traumatic for my father, everything that went on that month and then me. A year of life learning with a pretty college drop out called Ann made me learn more about other aspects of life. Fun as they were my father subtly encouraged me not to continue on an academic road and I soon found myself in the RAF. I had found a YTS job in a dental laboratory locally and for a few months I was cleaning flasks, made cups of tea and aimlessly earned my 25 Pounds a week of which I had to pay board to my father. This was indeed a message, and I understood its meaning. I meet a Flt Lt Rimini at RAF Halton for an interview in the October of 1982 and within two months I was bound for a career in the RAF. That’s when my learning journey made a radical turn. Self Loading Rifles, don’t call them guns for Christ’s sake, bed packets and blanco for whitening muddy gym shoes became enforced learning and submission, surrender even. Six weeks later I passed out and began a fourteen year journey in blue. It ended when I decided the Mob was not the cushy number it’d been for a while. Postings started becoming tougher with family and yes a wife, Toni, who wanted, fairly too, her chance of a meaningful career. I had achieved my goal of getting to the dizzy heights of a technical rank and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer. My work was done in uniform.
So, as I tap this introduction to my early learning journey I must confess a lot has been left out, maybe for another day when life is less busy. Suffice to say I am more aware of who I am as a learner now and how best I do it. I am a visual learner, an activist and a contrarian, someone who tries not to be too bound to convention but is deferential to those that impress and make sense to him. I am not impressed by letters after names but would find it in my mind to seek their discourse, where others would shy away and accept their authority as a “given.” I am also aware of the towering presence of the interests of others who benefit from our lack (willful ignorance) of wanting to gain knowledge and not knowing or caring how or where to achieve it. The architects of these organisations are very keen to have our obedience, loyalty and indifference. It is their craft to keep it that way it seems.
I believe we are the stakeholders in the destiny of our own educational journeys. We have choices, the routes to the destinations are as diverse or narrow as one chooses to make them. The ultimate goal can be as gracious and simple or can also be towering and majestical. My gut feeling tells me to tread a route that is true to my instincts, to plough the learning field between toil and struggle, to labour with like-minded fellow scribes, to challenge the established professional authodoxy of knowledge and learning with a blend of individual or group collaboration, reflection and new knowledge creation. Spread, broadcast and disseminate its truths where they maybe heard, critiqued and learned. This is known to only some, but where it is, it is called Action Research, a vehicle similar to Inquiry-Based Learning. Such a beast is within our scope, our purview and the tools to equip it are at hand, a curious questioning mind, the ability to critically gather information and research, the technology to combine words, thoughts, data, conclusions and new lively theory reflectively to others. This sounds like revolution, however to me its not, more akin to evolution, to taking what once was face value and using its veracity if born out by our workplace experience and revelation to proper purpose, the benefits felt and taken by those we are committed to appropriately and effectively care for, our clients.
Ian and Bob Triumphant
So, to come full circle to those Australians who back in the July of 1981 thought Ian and Bob were a spent force, that they were “lambs to the slaughter”, I am now myself living in that part of the globe, with their “poorer cousins” across the Tasman. I feel that it is my time to show some steel, gird my learning loins and to step back into action, Action Research.
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