Sunday, May 17, 2009

Past, Present, Future

Who controls the past now controls the future
Who controls the present now controls the past

Who controls the past now controls the future

Who controls the present now?

- Rage Against the Machine, Testify

This is also a quote from George Orwell's 1984.

I've always thought it's something about the nature of the mass media being used to control the people.

But it works on a deeper level too - perhaps about the nature of time.

This past (!) week I've been thinking about how the future influences me now. That, and the power of our thoughts to effect change on an individual level, and beyond.

I'm not sure what the nature of time actually is...I mean just because perceive it as past, present and future doesn't mean it is. Stuff I've read and heard it described as 'it's all happening right now'. All there is, is the 'eternal moment of now' or something like that.

This idea is showing up around my job. Well kind of.

For quite a while, I've been looking at my future in my job. The particular direction I'd like to go, what my potential career path might be etc. In teaching, there's usually two ways you can go: the Head of Department route or the Head of Year route (from there on it's a bit like Deputy Head and Head).

Of course there's no such thing as the 'right' career path and mine has definitely been eventful...

But the future seems to have an effect on what I'm doing in the present. (For some of those who know me, this is not a particularly revolutionary idea). I mean if I know where I'm going it makes the journey a lot easier.

So I'm vague about my future - does that really matter? What effect does that have on me now?

I got some feedback when I had my appraisal (In teaching the only way to judge the effectiveness of a teacher is to watch them). I kinda knew what was coming (I'm a reflective practitioner don't you know!) so it wasn't a complete surprise, but I don't always find it easy being judged.

So the point was, my lessons lose focus. I'm clear about what I want to achieve, I do something relevant but then don't tie it together to end with. Planning a lesson is like a story - beginning, middle and end.

It's not something I'm totally unaware of, but at the same time, it's not something I've always been willing to confront. Don't get me wrong though - the pupils still learn, it's just not as effective as it could be...and I want to be the best right?

But there's a more subtle thing going on here. I started to join the dots and think about all the stuff I've read, experienced and learned.

Me being unclear about my general career direction is impacting my lessons now.*

Stephen Covey
in his famous book talks about 'beginning with the end in mind'. As far as my career goes, I haven't been doing this. OK fair enough. But then, this is also how my everyday teaching is coming across...

Hmm...seems like I've got some creating and working out to do.

Taking it further, I know I want to be a teacher for the rest of my working days (yeah yeah ok it's true!) Getting out of bed to go to work is not generally a problem for me. On the whole I enjoy my job.

But direction?

If I'm clear about the future of my career, then the everyday teaching takes care of itself.

Fair enough then. What can I do about it?

Well that's where the present comes in...if I'm going to change the future, it's all about what I do now right?

My favourite analogy on this, is about one of those oil tankers. They're absolutely huge and take an enormous amount of power to get moving, but once it's up and running it's ok. Now apparently, directions are really important for these tankers because they're not very manoeuvrable. Once it's on course, it's difficult to change direction quickly. A tiny miscalculation on departure, can have big consequences on arrival...

In other words, getting the appropriate career direction in the present is going to affect where I end up...

OK fine. But what now?

The big question - what do I want to create? And I've got a lot of nonsense in my head telling me 'I can't...it's not possible...that's ridiculous...' etc. etc. All those thoughts swirling around my head. Wonderful.

But I can change that right? Just by changing my thoughts?

Is it that easy?

I suppose we've been 'told' how to think: religion, the media, parents, culture blah blah blah.

Changing thoughts isn't meant to be that difficult - if we can think all this negative stuff can't I think some positive stuff? Where does all the negative stuff come from anyway? And how come that's the default way of thinking?

Lots of the stuff I've read talks about this. Someone I know has been working on their thoughts and resetting the defaults. No mean feat. I feel it becomes a habit to think negatively - so why not create a habit to think positively?

Developing habits is a tough one. I've heard that if you do something 28 times on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. But the negative thoughts I've had, have been going on for years...it'll take some reprogramming...

Being responsible for my thoughts in the present is the start. Altering them moment by moment is the next step...and then that will create a different future. If I think about what I want to achieve as a teacher and clarify where I want to go, my lessons will start to change.

I control the present, future and past. All at the same time.

All I can change is what I'm experiencing right now - that's all I can be responsible for. Moment, by moment, by moment...

It is now safe for me to take charge of my own life. I choose to be free.

Disclaimer
Now this slightly convoluted stream-of-consciousness post is only a view. It's only a way of looking at something. It's not the truth. It's a mish-mash of ideas, stuff I've read, thought about and experienced. There may be other ways of understanding how past present and future interact. Let me know.

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* Of course there are other reasons for my teaching being the way it is, but that's the topic for another post...see Reasons for (my lessons) Losing Focus