By Peter Williams. Introduction by Leo Thompson
The CIS membership community places the student and their needs at the centre of education. In this inspirational call to action, Peter Williams, Principal at Kuwait American School takes up the challenge of highlighting a critical aspect relating to the prompt ‘who are the learners?’, bringing meaning to it by using three lenses. Firstly, he shares a rationale for why we need to invest in identity for the sake of all learners. He proceeds to establish a strong link with High Quality Learning and Teaching (HQLT) before offering some practical wisdom on how it can be achieved. Drawing upon some powerful metaphors and stories, he closes with an important message about equality and inclusion centred around identity core to our humanity.
The quest for High Quality Learning and Teaching, as defined by Leo Thompson, School Support and Evaluation Officer at the Council for International Schools (CIS) in his recent post is:
"Both context and culture dependent and cannot be defined and measured in absolute universal terms."
To help address this enigma, the call for thought leaders and open-minded visionaries with ethical voices to re-imagine a way forward has never been stronger.
Whilst waiting to contribute to a program of learning at the Hellenic Open University in Athens on Values-based education, Professor Athanasia Angeli spoke about the importance of Identity Investment for refugees. The term ‘Identity Investment’ resonated so clearly with empowering the positive values within ourselves, to recognize the value of the gifts we have to give away and to simply be ethically-focused, values-based leaders in all that we think, share, say and do.
Is Identity Investment:
- something worth considering for us all? A way to ‘get out of the box’ and ‘into the flow’?
- worth the investment?
Leo Thompson, Athanasia Angeli, and fellow luminaries have envisioned the challenge and a possible pathway. It’s a shared journey of investment that may well reap more than it can sow.
The rationale for investing in identity
Consider the core of our identity in relation to the Universal Rights of the Child and UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Learning—Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Belong, and Learning to Be. We have become so much better at learning to know and to do. Yet, looking at the state of our world, the journey towards learning to belong (as an international community) and learning to be (our identity as a human being) still needs further investment.
Identity Investment from enlightened and values-based leaders who can envision, articulate and put into practice multiple perspectives to bind us all as one global family is very much the call of the time. These leaders have the gift of knowing how to hold an open vision, listen, embrace ‘core and flex’, ‘fix and empower flow’, soften the resistance to move on, adapt, understand, appreciate and accommodate the rich cultures, lifestyles and pedagogies that dwell all around us.
Whilst change has always been constant and is currently felt in our very rapidly changing world, grasping life—however defined—is like trying to compartmentalize the energy of a river into a bucket whereby you lose the flow and the message. Alan Watt’s story of the fly in the honey pot illustrates the challenge. ‘The fly loves and eats the honey and, with so much invested in the taste of the honey, it cannot break free from the almost empty pot’. I wonder: is it that our search for identity or mission to serve is stuck in an almost empty honey pot?
Today, in our search for hope and identity, there appear to be fewer absolutes to hold on to because of uncertainties and over-reliance on materialism. We have fragmented the world—our own world, our identity—into inner and outer experiences, even though they are the same. Is it that we have forgotten the depth of values in our true selves? Has the ‘head’ come to dominate whilst the ‘intuitive heart’ and the beauty of the soul go marginalized and hungry? The truth is that our life’s foundation, our identity, is already there in our innate values, forming all that we think, share, say, and do.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
Values-based leadership firstly invites us to heal our own self division, to find ourselves and live in our innate values. This process ultimately leads to a stage that is called ‘matanoi’—to be free from yourself to explore, create meaningful conversations, to model your narrative, and to be the authentic you.
Why the call for Identity Investment in High Quality Learning and Teaching (HQLT)?
Our children need a vocabulary to navigate life—a vocabulary of values such as love, respect, kindness, gratitude, understanding, and safety, that mature into virtues. They learn from their peers and us to make healthy choices and to live ethically within the customs of their culture. Without nurturing these innate values, their search for guidance may lead to looking outside themselves at status, materialism, and escapism rather than the treasures within. Identity investment adds value to who we are—our forgotten selves—with unique individual gifts that, together, can guide us all back into the flow. Flow can be achieved when, as leaders, we share and embrace conversations, as Dr Neil Hawkes, Founder of Values Based Education UK, would suggest:
“To inspire a conversation between generations about matters of significance […] having that curiosity, openness and deep love of learning’
The process is a creative and dynamic conversation where we come to appreciate that nothing is static, that the flow of the world moves on, and that stagnant ways of thinking and doing are the rocks that stay in their pride.
The scientific world offers us choices. For example: Is perpetual motion linear like the to and fro of a pendulum, or is perpetual motion cyclical like the never-ending flow of seasons? Whichever view is your preference, (and we need both to attain harmony), we come to appreciate that whilst linear fixing helps, without flow and flex it loses its effect. The analogy here is to visualize the relationship between thought and movement and the difference between the film of an athlete running and having a series of still photos to indicate a motion picture! Without living in the image of the value, it becomes merely a token of possibility.
Values-based leadership in relation to high-quality learning and teaching that invests in an invitational approach empowers both instinctual wisdom from the head and intuitive wisdom from the heart and soul to help create and navigate a new narrative. Our future welcomes values-based leadership and identity investment for good, to embrace the root of who we are and to heal, beginning with ourselves through conversations with the self, conversations with others, conversations with Mother Earth, and conversations with our belief.
You are a powerful, unlimited and eternal soul who is here to enjoy the experience of creativity and contribute to humanity’s evolution.
How can this be achieved?
- Get to know yourself—Invest in yourself and discover and nurture the value of your true nature as the foundation
- Inspire others to get to know themselves—Invest in others to discover and nurture their own true value as their foundation
- Generate meaningful conversations as equals with unique gifts to share and give away
- Uplift the art of living and learning with yourself
- Enhance well-being and educate for the protection of the self and others
- Reach out to uplift the relationships with yourself, others and the living world around us
- Choose to deeply listen and learn
- Choose to be ethical in all that you do as modeled by your presence and example
- Be ‘at one’ with who you are and what you know
- Express gratitude
- Nurture the heart and educate the mind
- Love what you do and give—for whatever you give will surely come back to you.
One key question in Leo Thompson’s High Quality Learning and Teaching scenario is: “Who are the learners?”
The answer must be ourselves, for, if we don’t know the values within ourselves with the knowledge, skills and tools to navigate life’s ethical and behavioral choices; how can we help others?
It was Alan Watts who said: “A single dewdrop can hold the entire sky in its drop.” We, too, deserve to hold the entire sky in our heart and soul. Once in a while, it’s good to step outside the circle of life in our skies, to look back in and achieve what is beyond our current strength. This will take trust and contemplation for we cannot avoid sharing our values as expressed through our presence, the flow of our words and visibility of our behavior with one another.
Everything ‘out there’ is a simply a reflection of what is inside.
It’s time for a new vocabulary of positive values with values-based leadership. The alignment of individual and composite values will take time, with ‘core and flex’ to enhance the enigma of high quality learning and teaching, yet it’s a journey we cannot afford not to take.
With Identity Investment, equality and inclusion will find its way as will the heart of us all to its awakening.
A short story
Adapted from Antonella Ferrari, illustrates this perspective.
There were five friends walking through a wood to a village when they lost their way. They came to an opening in the wood and wondered what to do. After careful thought, they agreed to go their separate ways and to meet up in the village. One friend walked off in one direction, and three friends chose their own direction. The last friend was alone and climbed a tree to see if he could see the village. The village was clearly in sight so, in next to no time, his footsteps took him to the village where he waited for his friends.
After some time, all the friends met up in the village and shared their adventures. The friend who arrived first was proud to tell his story. His fellow friends told of wonderful adventures and experiences they had learnt, enjoyed and would have missed if they went straight to the village.
There are many pathways to the same destination each uniquely rich in experience. We can all learn from each others’ journeys to find out how to invest in ourselves, each other and the unique identities and qualities that can make the world we all aspire to enjoy.
Quotes from Ancient Greek Wisdom that help pave the way
Know Yourself meaning ‘The heart of the soul’
- “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself”—Thales
- “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”—Socrates
Dynamic meaning: ‘To move forward and able change’.
- “Nothing is more dynamic than thought, for it travels over the universe, and nothing is stronger than necessity for all must submit to it”—Thales
Being the Model meaning: ‘A person who serves as a behavioural example to others’
- “Example is far better than advice”—Aesop
Change meaning: ‘ The result of energy to change’
- “No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”—Heraclitus
Trust meaning: ‘Belief in honesty, fairness or benevolence of another’
- “Trust in human deeds and not human words”—Demophilus of Thespiae
Flow meaning ‘The moving of energy without any bounds of limitations
- “Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way, and nothing stays fixed”—Heraclitus
Co-Creation meaning: ‘To share, design, distribute and put into existence’
- “You are a powerful, unlimited and eternal soul who is here to enjoy the experience of creativity and contribute to humanity’s evolution”—Plutarch
Vision meaning: ‘Something imaginary one thinks one sees’
- “The bravest are those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, in glory and danger alike, and yet go out to meet it”—Thucydides
The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts, 1951
Living Values Education Book Series, Diane Tillman, 1997 to 2020
Chiltern Teaching School Alliance, Values-Based Leadership, Neil Hawkes, 2020
High Quality Teaching and Learning Blog, Leo Thompson, 2020
Pyramid of Neurological levels, Robert Dilts, 2020
Values-Based Education, Peter Williams, 2019
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, Peter Williams, 2017
Antonella Ferrari Story, 2020
UNESCO, The Treasure Within, The Four Pillars of Learning, Delors, 1995
Facilitation Guide for Ethical Leadership, Amanda Dentler and Peter Williams, 2008