Meet my Fairy God-Mother

Like Cinderella, I was looking for a way into a place beyond my station…

daraUnlike Cinderella this wasn’t some party to meet a daft Prince and I really was doing everything I could to get in.

For example, I’d joined an Education MOOC to learn from others in the field I care about.

BTW, this works.

So, if there’s a field you care about and you’re not looking our for relevant MOOCs? Why not try it? Basic rules: be positive, be polite, de-escalate arguments and, most of all, say what you think.  DaraBook

By doing this I virtually met Dara Feldman; Teacher, Author, International Speaker, Virtues Project Facilitator and my very first mentor in the field of education.

We talked via email, I read her book and really wanted to speak with her live but; Who the hell am I to ask for that? She’s been interviewed on “This is America” so really won’t be interested.

I did what I hope you’d have done in the same situation… made a pitch anyway.

After studying her book (and I mean studying it) she received an email from me with a document called:

“Interview on Dara Feldman’s book: The Heart of Education” -see it below the video

This document basically said ‘if I was lucky enough to ever interview you, Dara, these are the kinds of things I’d love to learn from you.’ She played ball and we filmed a 20 minute interview titled: When the Teacher is Ready the Student Appears

So that you get the most info for your time (and are spared from seeing my I’ve-never-done-this-before nerves) I’ve cut parts in the video below but, if you’ve 15 minutes extra and want to watch the whole things, feel free: unedited interview is here on Youtube.

These are some classic Dara quotes from our conversation…

“Students are here to teach us things too, and we’d better listen up!” Video 1/5
“after I got taught the Virtues Project language I was like, yea yea, I was on to you!” Video 3/5

Below is the writing Dara received from me that gave her confidence an interview might be worthwhile…

Dara, from our very first written contact I could tell that you are so full of love for all people and I’ve since had the wonderful experience of reading your book: The Heart of Education. In your book you take the reader on the journey of your personal growth in self-awareness and power to manifest heartfelt dreams and desires.  In doing this you show that this kind of journey is not only possible, but important and enjoyable from any starting point and through many setbacks. The Virtues Project was certainly an important catalyst for your journey. If you imagine the Virtues Project didn’t exist, in what ways do you think your personal journey might have differed, or been the same?

You help the reader to understand your strong connection to the Virtues Project by discussing the insightful idea that we ‘teach what we need to learn’.  This reminded me of a training recording I’d recently heard on ‘how to be organised as a writer’.  As I listened it became embarrassingly clear that I’d come naturally to all the practices as an employee and already followed all the advice.  So, for me, the benefit of the recording was to increase my awareness of how important and useful the techniques are.  Another person who’s naturally dis-organised may find the ideas mind-blowing and so grow significantly with the change of practice towards being more organised. What I like very much about the Virtues project is that, the more I understand it, the more it feels like a natural practice rather than (what I instinctively fear with ‘Character Education’ programs) any kind-of formulated solution to a ‘problem’.  I wonder; what it is like for you to work with and train individuals from the two sides of the spectrum i.e. those who have never thought of virtues being in their life verses those who are naturally inclined to virtues practice, but without the insights from instruction?

As you know, being a recent student, I’m writing on schooling from a student’s perspective and would love some thoughts from your perspective, as a teacher, on a particular ‘aha’ moment I experienced while reading your book. As part of the ‘Teachable Moments’ discussion you expand on the importance of teachers being aware of who they are and how much louder actions are than words.  To illustrate this you share a list created by Fox High School comparing the behaviours of ‘bullies’ and ‘educators’ and ask teachers to carefully reflect on who they are in the classroom. My feeling is that, as much as teachers can be or become educators rather than bullies, the system as a whole is ‘bullying’. For example bullies…

  • exert their own control – like how allot of what a teacher must do and cover is decided for them
  • compare children – like how results are ‘sold’ to the public as a measure of worthiness
  • punish students for failure – like how re-sits are not allowed or are seen as a failed start
  • humiliate – like how schools are compared on public league tables based on statistics
  • are judgemental – like how schools with poor results are tagged for closure

Is this going too far? As a teacher, do you see an individual’s ability to be a true educator limited in any way within the schooling system as a whole? How might you guide a new teacher with this kind of concern?

What I find most exciting about speaking with individuals who are on their own personal journey is that the good old -what’s next- question will never have a certain answer.  In this case, I absolutely can’t resist asking because there are several tantalising hints in the pages of your book.  So; what has surprised you the most since the publication of your book? And… what’s next for you, Dara?

Have you ever interviewed someone you admire? It’s a fantastic way to learn.

We’ve got the technology now so it’s really all about earning the connections.