Naive – compliment or insult?

If someone describes you as naive should you be pleased or insulted?

I thought it might be worthwhile referring to the dictionary for the definition and synonyms.

I’ve emboldened those terms which lead me to believe that, on balance, it’s a compliment.

The scorecard reads 25 positive against 22 negative.

Perhaps we need more naive people in the world?

Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: childlike, trusting
Synonyms: aboveboard, artless, callow, candid, confiding, countrified, credulous, forthright, frank, fresh, green*, guileless, gullible, harmless, ignorant, impulsive, ingenuous, innocent, innocuous, instinctive, jejune, lamb, like a babe in the woods, natural, open, original, patsy, plain, simple, simple-minded, sincere, spontaneous, square, sucker, unaffected, unjaded, unpretentious, unschooled, unsophisticated, unsuspecting, unsuspicious, untaught, unworldly, virgin, wide-eyed.

A wee night in with the lads

I got caught out tonight by my youngest son (17) who asked me if he could have some of his friends round on Friday night for a “wee night”.  I thought I was being funny when I asked why he wasn’t having a “big night in?”.

He looked at me with pity as only 17 year old sons can do and spoke slowly and carefully – “no dad a wii night in” as he shook the controller.

Writing – do we have to accept that boys will be boys?

I had a great visit this week to King’s Meadow Primary School in Haddington. At the beginning of my visit I had a chat with Headteacher Donald McGillivray about boy’s writing. Donald has done a fascinating analysis of boys’ attainment across the school and the statistics show that boys’ writing is of a much lower standard than girls’ writing – in what is a very high performing school. This situation is matched in most schools in East Lothian.

As I visited classes around the school I concentrated on classes which were being taught language. As it happened the classes were all working on spelling -which was being taught in a very engaging and imaginative manner -but I managed to get a chance to talk to most of the teachers and asked them about why boys were underperforming in writing. The concensus was that boys need tasks which are related to a context and that these tasks must challenge and engage their imagination. For me it demonstrated once again that it is the learning task which teachers select that holds the secret to improving learning – the challenge for us is to experiment with and work out the kind of tasks that will lead to a sustained improvement in boys writing. As it stands at the moment boys are behind girls by between 15-20% so the risk is certainly worth taking.

I came across this video from which showed a class where boys had closed the gap on girls. The key points  were:

  • Speaking and listening form a solid foundation for written work
  • Multimedia techniques ease reluctant students into writing
  • Role-play encourages boys to participate

One of the main things to emerge for me when I was speaking to Donald McGilliivray is one that Steven Heppell had been referring to last week and which I’d repeated at our Headteachers’ Conference is that the answers lie in our own hands and in our own schools. We need to move away from the idea that we will resolve problems such as boys writing by buying a package, training all our teachers and then expecting them to implement the programme. The reality is that all our schools are different and what might work in one school would not necessarily work in another. I also believe that such an approach only serves to foster a dependency culture which is anti-professional and ultimately self defeating, as teachers feel  deskilled and are not encouraged to reflect upon and take responsibility for their own practice.

I’d much rather see a school work out some key principles which would guide the type of learning experiences which teachers would provide for boys, then evaluate the success of these approaches then discuss, share and develop these ideas within schools, within clusters and within the authority.

Last thought – if we could close the gap between girls and boys in respect to writing we would – in a single act – raise the levels of attainment in East Lothian by an unprecedented amount, with all the corresponding impact that such a lift would have on children’s life chances.

“Ping……” – developing a leadership sonar?

It was during a conversation this afternoon about how leaders communicate with colleagues that I used a completely throwaway remark about “pinging” and listening.

What I meant by this was that we need to engage with our colleagues if we are to really understand the impact that our strategies are having.

However, on saying the words the picture came to me of a leader needing to find ways of establishing where they and their organisation “actually” are – as opposed to where they “think” they are.

The metaphor of a sonar was perhaps influenced by my weekend experience on the Alba Explorer, where no skipper would dream of sailing without having an understanding about the depth of water they are navigating. In days gone by this would be done by dropping a line and measuring the depth – in the modern era it’s done by emitting a sound and listening to the echo to judge the terrain below.

And so it occurred to me that perhaps the effective leader needs to be sending out lots of different soundings and then listening carefully to the echoes which come back – and altering course accordingly.

Hanging by a thread

I was taken by this verse on a gravestone I came across in South Leith Parish Church. It reads:

The spider’s most attenuated thread
Is cord, is cable, to man’s tender tie
On earthly bliss; it breaks at every breeze.

The grave belongs to Mrs Janet Burns who died on the 15th June 1812.

I’ve tracked the poet down as Edward Young, (1683 – April 5, 1765).

He is best known for Night Thoughts (1742) from which this verse us taken. Long after his reputation has faded he lives on in unattributed quotations, such as “Procrastination is the Thief of Time.”

William Blake was commissioned to illustrate the poem in 1795.

A Teachers’ Oath?


I received an e-mail from Alan Coady this week telling me about how he’d listened to an interesting guest on Desert Island Discs this week – a doctor called Raymond Tallis. The line that made him  prick up his ears was “you don’t need many thoughts, just fundamental ones.”

Alan went on to reflect upon the similarities between the teaching and medical profession and asked why teacher’s don’t have something akin to the doctors’ hippocratic oath.

As I’ve mentioned before my own father was a GP and was driven by a deep commitment to serve the needs of his community.  When he died aged 69 – appropriately, for him, visiting a patient on a Sunday morning – I wrote a poem for his funeral.  The first three lines read:

Not many swear an oath and keep their word
But you held it through a lifetime
And stretched it to a way of life.

Having met teachers from across the world I believe there are a common set of values which underpin our behaviour.

An oath might be possible to create – and some already exist. However, words – whatever they might be – are easy to say – much more difficult to consistently live up to throughout our lives.

“Transition” or “Flow”

A thought popped into my head during the PT conference when one of the groups was talking about transition from primary to secondary school.  They were reinforcing that it needs to be much more than just making it a smooth transfer for children from one thing to another – but that primary and secondary education should be seen as one continuous process.

Then it struck me – the word we use actually reinforces the notion of change -of something different.

The definition of “transition” is:  

1. Passage from one form, state, style, or place to another.


a. Passage from one subject to another in discourse.

b. A word, phrase, sentence, or series of sentences connecting one part of a discourse to another.

3. Music

a. A modulation, especially a brief one.

b. A passage connecting two themes or sections.

4. Genetics A point mutation in which a pyrimidine is replaced by another pyrimidine, or a purine is replaced by another purine.

5. Sports The process of changing from defense to offense or offense to defense, as in basketball or hockey.

6. A period during childbirth that precedes the expulsive phase of labor, characterized by strong uterine contractions and nearly complete cervical dilation.

intr.v. tran·si·tioned, tran·si·tion·ing, tran·si·tions

1. To make a transition.

2. Sports To change from defense to offense or offense to defense.

Perhaps we need to find another word.  I suggested “flow”:

The definition of flow is: 


a. To move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity, as in the manner characteristic of a fluid.

b. To issue in a stream; pour forth: Sap flowed from the gash in the tree.

2. To circulate, as the blood in the body.

3. To move with a continual shifting of the component particles: wheat flowing into the bin; traffic flowing through the tunnel.

4. To proceed steadily and easily: The preparations flowed smoothly.

5. To exhibit a smooth or graceful continuity: The poem’s cadence flowed gracefully.

6. To hang loosely and gracefully: The cape flowed from his shoulders.

7. To rise. Used of the tide.

8. To arise; derive: Many conclusions flow from this hypothesis.


a. To abound or teem: coffers flowing with treasure.

b. To stream copiously; flood: Contributions flowed in from all parts of the country.

Does it make a differnce?  Is there better word?