26 November 2018

Relevant learning is so much more fun and rewarding

School was never much fun for me. I was born with a hearing impairment (which hearing aids couldn’t help with then), poor fine motor coordination, and was generally considered a bit dull in the classroom. I liked the outdoors and all things sport, and put my attention there.

Thankfully I was blessed with an amazing elocution teacher, Elizabeth Redmayne, who took me under her wing at the age of 10 years, to sort out my speech problems due to my hearing loss. But this was one of the few positive learning experiences in my early schooling.

Secondary school was worse, and I sat at the back of the room of the C grade for 5 years (motivated to stay only to play sport and be with my mates) and achieved SFA academically.
I remember completing 2 years of 5th form biology with a crusty old teacher with a big moustache who mumbled. It was a subject I enjoyed but couldn’t lip read due to the moustache, and didn’t pick up the subtleties of the subject at all. Result – 44% in the first year, and 48% in the second. Smashed it.

However, what I did gain was a deeply held belief that I was dumb.

In those days you could go onto Lincoln University and complete a Diploma of Agriculture without University Entrance after 2 years practical under your belt. This actually went a little better for me due to the lecture hall acoustics being very good, and I was more into the subject material. To my parents’ surprise and utter delight, I gained a Diploma!

When I walked out of Lincoln, I thought, thankfully that’s my classroom days over, and no more study for me – ever.

That was November, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty, and I ventured off into the world to be a farmer.

Since then a few things have changed. Hearing aids have made huge gains in technological advancement, and I got to hear birds singing in the trees, at age 32 years as a result.

I also developed a love of reading. I read every day, and if I could do only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be to read. I’m not a fast reader, but consistent.

And I did go back to Lincoln, but to do some lecturing of both adult learners, and also Ag Science students. Skipped discussing Biology though.

Worked with 5th year vet students once a year, which was hugely rewarding.

And was asked to speak to a wide number of farming groups and conferences.

All of these activities were a surprise to me.

However, the stigma of my school years stuck with me through thick and thin. That nagging voice at the back of my head. You are dumb, and everyone knows it.

So, the sheer delight I felt last Friday, as I walked across the stage at Auckland Museum to be capped for gaining my Bachelors of Applied Management with Distinction is hard to describe. I’m not even going to try.

This began with a nudge from Steve Henry, who is a key person within Capable NZ team, a derivative of Otago Polytech. He suggested the Bachelor’s would unpick what I know, and follow their mantra of Valuing my Experience. I was a little tentative at first, but was teamed up with the fabulous Glenys Kerr as my facilitator, and soon found I was being guided through their process whether I liked it or not. Actually, that’s not fair, as I enjoyed the whole process, but got distracted from time to time.

Capable NZ asked three main questions of me:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you know?
  • And why do you know it?

The result was a deep dive into my life, and experiences. I got to reflect on a wide range of events. Some that had not gone particularly well, and I had just wanted to move on from. These were some of the best learnings. But the gem for me ironically, was not in management, but leadership.

Leadership was not something I ever enjoyed, or wanted. This is a direct result of my childhood (which I won’t go into now), but the net result was that whenever I found myself in a leadership role, I instinctively thought ‘if I’m leading this, we are in the shit!’.

During the study over the past few months, I found with the help of Glenys, that there is a style of leadership that does not feel heavy, or uncomfortable for me. Transformational leadership was an area we examined together, and I thought ‘That is me’. And for the first time in my life leadership felt okay. Might not sound a big deal – but for me it is.

So back to Capable NZ. It’s such a different learning model, and super effective, as it focuses on reflection of self, with a structure of review, enquiry, and investigation. Steve Henry talks about customising your own learning, and that takes a bit of getting my head around. It’s not sitting in a classroom listening to some wonk, and being examined on your ability to regurgitate what they have said. That old style actually sounds bloody stupid when you put it like that.

Rather it’s about a deep reflection on what is useful and relevant. Boom – highly motivating.
And I would highly recommend Capable NZ to anyone who wants to have their three questions answered above, and get some new learning into your heart and brain.

So now I am in the process of considering the next stage, and looking at the possibility of taking on a Master’s degree. There are some areas of impact of our Collective Intelligence process I would like to understand better, and believe a Masters could help with this investigation.

And all of a sudden, I’m not feeling so dumb anymore. Thanks Glenys Kerr.

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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