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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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What do you set your sights on?

I wear glasses and I have done for years. I haven’t counted but I reckon I’ve got about 20 pairs and I’d really struggle without them. The thing is, I’ve only got two actual pairs of physical glasses, the rest are my mental specs.

A favourite pair of mind specs I put on occasionally is my rose-tinted pair;  when I’ve got these on then  life is just honky-dory and everything is perfect. I don’t keep these on for long though because I like to wear my other specs too. I’ve got a ‘Dad’ pair, a ‘husband’ pair, a ‘friend’ pair, a ‘shopper’ pair, a ‘football’ pair and plenty more besides. What I don’t have however, is a ‘school’ pair.

To have just one pair of specs for school would be crazy as I’ve got to put on some many different ‘heads’ and each head has a different pair of eyes with its own unique vision. I can’t wear my maths specs when I’m teaching PSHE because things would be a bit misty and there’s no point in wearing my history specs when doing playground duty.

When you work in a school, you see a lot and regardless of your position in the pecking order, you have to put on different specs to see clearly. It’s an absolute must that everyone has a pair of ‘vision’ specs in their mental draw along with a pair devoted to ‘creativity’ and ‘ambition’. In fact, if you think about the myriad of things you do in one day and the demands placed upon you then you are constantly changing specs…or so you should be. If you wear the same pair all day then you might not actually see that much unless you are fitted with auto-focus and image stabilisation.

There are, of course, so many specs we can see the world through but we might just have a safe and trusted pair that we don’t like to take off. If that is the case then we could probably do with a gentle nudge to swap pairs to see the world from a different point of view.

Frames Of Reference

Talking about specs reminds me of Andrew Morrish’s book ‘The Art Of Standing Out’. I like this book for lots of reasons but there is one part that sticks out for me and that is when he talks about ‘the three lenses of perception’.

Andrew Morrish is the founder and CEO of Victoria Academies, a primary-only MAT in the West Midlands, and as Head with 18 years of experience he’s seen plenty and yes, he wears glasses too, lots of them.

Whilst the author probably has a pair of specs for every occasion, he talks specifically about three types of lenses “that will help you filter out all the blurred edges so that you can focus only on that which matters. Above all, they will sift out the sand and gravel.”

No one wants sand and gravel anywhere near their eyes so what lenses is he talking about?

1. The Calibration Lens: this one enables you to focus on your moral compass so that you can see if you are pointing in the right direction; it also lets you see where you have come from. It starts with looking inside yourself and relinking your own ‘eyediology’, values and beliefs then seeing if your school culture dovetails with these.

2. The Kaleidoscopic Lens: this is your creativity and invention lens that you keep turning for multiple reflections. This lens reminds you that there constant changes and the pandemonium and unpredictability are representative of a colourful school life full of rich patterns.

3. The Telescopic Lens: this is your outward looking crow’s nest lens that enables you to see way beyond your immediate surroundings and focus on what’s happening elsewhere. This involves taking a good look at what other schools are doing and also involves tilting your head back sometimes to do a bit of star-gazing.

These Morrish lenses are ones that you could wear too and they don’t just belong to headstrong headteachers either. If you are a teacher, slip them into your frames and ask “Is your vision clearer with lens A or B?” and don’t keep one lens in for long – if you are a leader though The Art Of Standing Out suggests that the ‘Calibration Lens’ “must always be worn first and longest”. You will almost certainly be able to add your own lenses to these too.

What You See Is What You Get?

The Art Of Standing Out is a transparent and plain-speaking book that will give your thinking the kick up the backside it deserves.  You might think it comes with a free pair of specs but it doesn’t. What it comes with instead is some insightful thinking to make you see school from multiple perspectives so actually what you get is a whole opticians shop instead. It’s all about visual processing, the art of observation and adjusting your focus.

One last thing … as Douglas Adams says in The Salmon of Doubt,

“There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away, and think this to be normal, is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”

This sort of puts the fabric of school reality into perspective. We all need a Hitchhiker’s Lens too.

2 thoughts on “Eyediology

  1. Hello John thanks for sharing your information, however I am looking for a teacher in Florida or someone that teaches classes in the eyediology training if you know of someone please refer there information.

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