As many long time readers of my blog will know I used to work at Clevedon School in North Somerset. It was a great learning journey working there for lots of different reasons. There were so many inspiring people to work with and reflecting upon my time there, it definitely helped shape me into the educator I am now and I owe much to many of my old colleagues there.
One person who had a big impact on me there was one colleague called Jim Smith. Jim is quite literally larger than life… always buzzing with great entrepreneurial ideas for bringing on teaching and learning; I learned so much from my time working with him (thanks Jim). One of the things with Jim (and some of the other colleagues at the school too) was that they were published authors. Jim was also someone who worked with and supported lots of different schools with his ideas all over the UK and beyond.
When I joined social media as an educator, everyone knew Jim. His book, ‘The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook‘ was and still is a massive best-seller – with 149 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5 star rating you know it’s going to be a good one and its contents are still relevant today 6 years on from its original publication. His work, innovative ideas and brilliant presentation style made him popular wherever he spoke too. It is also the case that Jim was an ITL (Independent Thinking Limited) Associate.
Independent Thinking Ltd are a collective of educators from all over the world led by its founder Ian Gilbert. Ian is really well known in education circles all over the world. His books such as ‘The Big Book of Independent Thinking”, “The Little Book of Thunks”, “Independent Thinking” and “Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google?” are essential reading (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of great books that Ian has written or been involved with) and through Jim, I’ve been fortunate whilst as a teacher to have been involved in Insets and other learning opportunities with Ian. He is an inspiring, witty, challenging and charismatic presenter and now a great mentor too.
I was lucky enough to become an Associate almost by default. My book, ‘Perfect ICT (Every) Lesson‘ was released on Independent Thinking Press and so leading on from that I was invited to be an Associate. There are lots of stories about how all of that came about but enough of the tales though; why am I so very proud to be an Associate? Aren’t ITL just a bunch of teachers looking to deliver Inset? Well, no…
Perhaps this statement from the ITL homepage will help:
“For over twenty years, Independent Thinking has been helping schools help young people be better, both in the classroom and beyond.
We aren’t a speakers bureau, although our Associates are some of the world’s leading educational speakers and practitioners. We aren’t a consultancy, although we are more than happy to work with you to help you become great at what you do. We aren’t a panel of educational experts because we don’t believe there is such a thing. We aren’t a publishing company, although the Independent Thinking Press has won awards for its ground-breaking education books. And we aren’t a training company because, well, the word ‘training’ comes from the Latin ‘to drag’.
We don’t employ people, own fancy offices or produce glossy magazines and, because we were set up to make a difference not a profit, we put back as much as possible into our work. In fact, to sum up what we think and see if we are right for you, see how many of our principles below you agree with below?
– There is always another way.
– The most important thing to get right is the well-being of the child.
– Teaching children to think for themselves is of critical importance.
– Teachers are humans too. So are school leaders.
– Engagement trumps behaviour.
– Qualifications are an indicator of something but not everything.
– We don’t all learn the same way.
– Data should be used to improve your children, not the other way round.
– You can’t say what works. You can only really say what worked. For you. With that class. Then.
– Clicking at children is just wrong. So is shouting at them.
– Testing children measures how well children can pass tests.
– It’s not just complicated, it’s complex.
– Children don’t fail school, school fails them.
– ‘Ofsted Outstanding’ banners outside schools should be burned.
– Childhood is not simply a training programme for adulthood.
– Most children want to do well. So do most teachers.
– The future will be less like the past than present is.
– Niceness trumps bullying and ideas trump egos.
– Environmental issues, health and wellbeing, the Arts and citizenship should be at the heart of any curriculum.
– Education is too important to be taken seriously.
– All progress depends on awkward fish.
If you disagree with more than you agree with then put the mouse down and step away from the computer. If you think we just might be right then we would love to hear from you and support your work to fight for an education system to be proud of.
To sum up, our written mission has always been:
‘To enrich people’s lives by changing the way they think – and so to change the world‘.
After all, if you’re involved in the education of young hearts and minds, that’s what you’re doing everyday.”
For me, having had been so inspired by so many of the Independent Thinking Associates over the years, to be linked with them in any way is a real honour, let alone to be one myself too. The list of Associates is like a who’s who of people who have had and are having a positive impact in and on education all over the world.
ITL have a charitable element too with the Big i Foundation. Ian’s mantra is that he would like to help send people to dangerous places for no money (to help make a BIG difference). You can read all about some of the recent work carried out by Debra Kidd and Jane Hewitt on Debra’s blog here (search her blog for Kakuma to find all of the stories there). You see, ITL Associates have one thing at their core – they want to change the world and make it a better place, one awkward fish at a time. And that’s why I’m proud. Proud that I’m affiliated with these inspiring people; proud to think that I’m considered to be worthy of being involved; proud to be involved in a network (much stronger than the node!) of educators so passionate, informed and right on the money yet with no ego; proud to be involved with people who have helped shape me into the educator I am today.
Although there is some debate about its provenance, the quote from Spiderman’s Uncle, ‘Ben Parker’ that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is one that really resonates with my involvement with ITL. Being involved with so many literally great people brings, I think a responsibility and one that I try to live up to.
I want to meet my responsibility to be someone worthy of being an Associate. I do want to help make the world a better place. I do want to inspire others. I do want to share my knowledge and experience to make a difference and help change hearts and minds. It’s why I get out of bed every morning and do what I do. Education is a force for good in this world, as is ITL and I’m so very proud to be a part of it.
To find out more about Independent Thinking Ltd and the work they do, please visit the ITL website here.