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Leadership

Graduating a Dr, Thank You to My Mum and Dad

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Graduation day which seemed so hard to get to, but never impossible. The first sentence my dad taught me, and I repeat it to my children is 'there is no such word as can't.'  It's a powerful value as there is always a solution, there is never a point where you stop, you just find a different way.  So I graduate a Dr. but it's because of my Mum and Dad that I am here.

To do the thank you justice I need to rewind to my family history to let you know how big of a deal it is.

A Generation of Change

In not so recent history even in 2017, there are generations that had: no access to education, carried wood on donkeys and even if they were educated did not get the opportunity to explore, discover or excel in their passion; that's my parents.  Yes we have entrepreneurial-ship and people can find ways to make their impact; they both did.   However, let's not pretend that there are not Mums and Dad's who have done everything for the children to put a roof over their head and send them to school.  

My Mum was born on a tiny island called St Helena where she collected firewood by donkey.  She came to the UK to be with her Mum (who was illiterate) but actually put her out on the street at 15, and from that age she fended for herself.  She gave me so much love, safety, security and support that she herself never had.   She did all this between working shifts at a health company, Oxfam and then finally setting up her own business with my Dad.  She would go to the butchers in the days of the strikes at the factory, and ask for bones for the dog, and with that she would cook the most amazing healthy soups and casseroles.  I look back and I never wanted for anything I actually needed.  At Xmas I was so happy with the warmth of the family meal, top of the pops playing and my stocking of clementines, nuts and if I was lucky 1 small toy.  We may not have been able to afford much but we had so much love.  She gave me what she never had.

My Dad came to the UK when he was 8 from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Anguilla.  He studied hard until his A'levels and started work at Rover as a foreman.  My Grandad Herman Edwards was an activist (where do I get it from ;)) who opened The Black House, which was a half way house to get young black people (mainly men) socially mobile.  I visited the Colin Jones exhibit when it was in London some years ago to find out more myself, and even found John Lennon's involvement.  My grandad gave us a large family, there are 14 uncles and aunties that I know of and have visited all over the world (he left my gran and was very popular with the ladies).  My Dad was raised by his Mum alone and he has done everything for us.  He was the Dad working at 2, 3, 4, 5 am in the morning to keep a roof over our head when interest rates were at 18% and then to put me through university, and my sister through drama school.  He was the Dad that appealed to get me into the best school in Oxford.  He stood up at the appeal and called out the lack of the diversity at the predominantly white school, and on appeal we got in (I'm an identical twin).  He was the Dad who went without on top of his day/night jobs, to pay for extra tuition in English and Maths.  He knew that as a black female: education, education, education would give me access and social mobility.  He gave me the chance that he did not have.

My friends would say what are you studying now.  Whilst I agree university is not everything, there are many ways to get up the mountain, this is great from a point of privilege.  When you live in a world where you are at a disadvantage due to the colour of your skin, and I will leave that for another post, education is another gate that can help the path that you choose.  When my Dad used to say you will have to work harder than everyone else, you may be smarter than everyone else but you still might not get the job, as a child I didn't really comprehend what he meant.  As an adult who has had 17 years career experience of what he said, and a now a Mum, Dad I understand your words of wisdom.  I cannot even put into words what you have done for me.

Values

All of those lessons that you taught me, have made me into the person I am today.  Even though my mum was chucked out on the street at 15, she still visited her Mum and even took care of her when it mattered.  My Mum truly taught me to treat others as you wish to be treated, even when they have not done the same to you.  To take that higher road and turn the other cheek.

Skill Sets

My Dad gave me that sheer gravitas, and when they both started the business he involved me in everything.  I did their accounts from the age of 9.  I interacted with customers from an early age and helped with strategic decisions.  All of these things set me on the path where I am today.  I made mistakes for sure and that was okay, as long as I learnt from them.  I was allowed to go clubbing from 14 as long as I completed my responsibilities at home and at school.  It makes me laugh now, as I was savvy in making sure that homework and cello practice was done, that I could still serve breakfast to guests and cook the Sunday dinner; after a great night out.  I was not raised in a bubble, I was raised to be a strong independent woman who could take responsibility for decisions good or bad; but take risks and make the decision!  He taught me to take risks, and I did.  I have taken risks my whole life from financial transactions, business ventures and moving abroad living in Switzerland.  I have learnt from each one and some have been hugely successful and others failures.  Success was not the point, it was the confidence to navigate the facts, make and decision and execute.

Support

Doing my doctorate in my 30's meant my Mum and Dad were not paying, but their support was there.  Working and living abroad has it's issues particularly in Switzerland where childcare is more than interesting.  They invest 0.2 GDP in childcare so the mother is very much expected to be at home, whilst the kids come home each day for a home cooked lunch and most days finish school at 11:50.  So having a full time job meant studying everyday consistently between 20:00 and 23:00 and on the weekends.  There were peak times when my parents came over and helped  my husband and I with the kids.  As grandparents I couldn't ask for more, and their daughter they still gave me exactly what I needed.

Playing it Forward

So when the graduation ceremony application came and I could only have 3 people in the room, I knew in my heart I had to have 5.  I wrote back to the university to explain why my parents had to be there, but also why my children had to be there.  If I could give my kids just one ounce of what my parents have done for me, and play it forward.  I would be a great Mum.  Mums raise and inspire the next generation, but we are here because of our parents.  So thank you Mum and Dad because of you I graduate a Dr. and am part of a fantastic Alumni here in Switzerland.

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What IF we Thought More About Literature, Movies and Computer Games as Aids to Develop Skills and Character in Children?

This piece focuses on how Talent could be developed in children through different mediums, on of the aims of the Talent Development in Children group.

There are a lot of values we try to teach are kids and I have been reading some interesting research on literature, and the development of values.  I thought it would be useful to summarise the different books, films and games I have found so far, and the values that they support. Children can soak up so many different images in their heads; some can be conjured up in a child’s imagination through literature, and others through visual images or play.

1. Challenging the status quo

When we can teach are kids to question how things work, challenge the status quo and think differently this is a great life skill.

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Poor, sick Princess Lenore wants the moon so that she can be well again. The anxious King consults his wise men to no avail, and only when he calls on his jester who innovative thinking to solve the problem.

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In order to win the treasure of stories Anase who is an elderly man must outsmart and capture 3 clever creatures.

Antz Dreamworks Movie

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One ant challenges the community to think differently and change their world as they are actually stronger as a community.

2. Inspiring Others

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A toy Indian and his canoe travel from Lake Nipigon to the Atlantic Ocean facing many obstacles, setbacks and detours.  To complete the journey the canoe needs help from external sources like the wind.

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Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it.  It is only when the main character shares the vision with her brother that it becomes possible.

3. Empowering Others to Act

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The tsar issues a proclamation that whoever can build a flying ship may marry his daughter. With help and determination, a foolish young peasant overcomes all obstacles and wins her hand, in this traditional Ukrainian folktale.

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3 soldiers have to creatively win the trust of a village.

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4. Role Modelling

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How the old can learn from the young.

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President Lincoln's life from childhood. Providing a model for hard work, honesty, visions, tenacity and success.

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It's a perfect world, where everything looks right. But ugly truths lie beneath the surface…

It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in The Community wants for anything. Everyone is provided for. Each Family Unit is entitled to one female and male child. Each member of The Community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders, and they never make a mistake.

Jonas, a sensitive twelve-year-old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day. From the moment Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it.

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With Shealy as a guide, we appreciate anew the confusions and difficulties that beset the March sisters as they overcome their burdens and journey toward maturity and adulthood: beautiful, domestic-minded Meg, doomed and forever childlike Beth, selfish Amy, and irrepressible Jo.

5. Being Different is OK! - Diversity

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This stunning story deals with the severe consequences of intolerance.

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Hoping to impress a sexy female classmate, fifteen-year-old Carlos secretly hires gay student Sal to give him an image makeover, in exchange for Carlos's help in forming a Gay-Straight Alliance at their Texas high school.

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6. Tenacity

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The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong 
Newbery Medal 1955. The children in a small Dutch town try to bring the storks back to nest on their roofs.

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Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Weatherford
Award-winning picture-book treatment of Tubman.

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The smallest and humblest of creature can dream of greatness and, if faithful to himself and the dream, can become the noblest of creatures.

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Chris, a young boy of 6, is playing in the park at Toad Catchers' Creek with his friends when he decides to attempt to cross the legendary monkey bars. On first attempt, he fails and falls to the ground…in the process he loses his self-confidence and is embarrassed in front of his playmates. Chris' father consoles him and tells Chris the story of a Macaw named Screech who was afraid to fly. Screech allowed this fear to dominate his existence until one day, his friend Tracker falls from a branch high in the rainforest. As Screech watches him plummet towards the ground, Screech gathers all of his courage and uses the four magic words that his mother had taught him… I CAN DO IT. Armed with his mother's magic and his true courage, Screech takes off from his nest, catches Tracker and returns him safely to the ground. Screech, now the hero, has realized that he did have the power to overcome his fear and succeed where he had failed in the past.

Once Chris hears the story, his father encourages him to use the magic words and try the monkey bars again. This time he gets all the way across and learns that he too, has the power to grow and overcome his fear. The story ends with his father telling Chris that one day Chris will share this knowledge with his child and he too will know how it feels to see his child succeed.

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Frank wasn't satisfied doing ordinary frog things. He wanted to fly, but he was a frog and frogs can't fly. Follow along as Frank jumps and runs and leaps and dives until he finally finds his place in the pond. The companion book on cd will transport you and your child into Frank's world with sound effects and wonderful performances by children and adu

7. Encouraging Heart

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An African picture book drawing on the 26 distinct aspects of the alphabet.  It recognises and celebrates the individual contributions of multiple African tribes and cultures.

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A story of a family mouse preparing for winter. However, Frederick is preoccupied with gathering abstract things and does not gather enough food for the cold season.  He then utilises his talent 'imagination' to encourage others, and bring warmth at a difficult time.  He had to wait until the other mice were open to his contribution.

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8. Taking Responsibility and Accountability

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A great book about diversity and empathy. It is wonderfully written in rhyme, and the illustrations are superb!  It teaches children not to just follow the crowd.

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From the author of Adventures at Walnut Grove: A Lesson about Teasing comes a tale about taking responsibility for your own actions. Silly and Sassy come to Walnut Grove to visit their cousin Sammy. Silly and Sassy are always getting into trouble. They play hide 'n seek, have frog races, and play dare or double dare. How does this lead to jumping off a bridge? Read I DOUBLE Dare You! to find out how everyone learns that it's not always wise to follow your friends.  Do you accept responsibility or blame someone else for your actions? I hope that I DOUBLE Dare You! helps children think about the decisions they make, and that they try to make good choices.

9. Self-Awareness

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Tinkerbell smashes a unique stone that gives life to the fairy tree.  She blames everything on her best friends, and is not fully aware of her own flaws or talents. After a long treacherous journey she turns the mirror on herself and realises her role, takes responsibility and learns form her mistakes.   In the end she creates a solution that makes more fairy dust than any fairy has ever made.

10. Strategic Thinking

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What If We Could Learn From Mandela - 8 lessons of Leadership

What If We Could Learn From Mandela - 8 lessons of Leadership

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I take snippets from life: the people I meet, my own learning’s and people I admire.  One of the readings on my Doctorate included Mandela.  I just wanted to share for those that have not read it.

  1. Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s inspiring others to move beyond it
  2. Lead from the front – but don’t leave your base behind
  3. Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front
  4. Know your enemy – and learn about his favourite sport
  5. Keep your friends close – and your rivals even closer
  6. Appearances matter – and remember to smile
  7. Nothing is black or white
  8. Quitting is leading too

I hope Mandela’s health returns, because he has been so instrumental in the change.  In most leadership positions there is not the weight of a nation on the leader's shoulders, but no leader is immortal. Mandela’s  8th point shows he knew the importance of succession, and that the real success is the legacy you leave for others to step forward.

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