Monday, October 13, 2014

Fear of flying.

"When I say you have control, you say 'I have control.'"

OK. Roger.

"You have control."

"I have control."

I was a little heavy-handed on the joy-stick. 

The Chipmunk Trainer took a dramatic dipping turn to the left...

"Errrr, I have control."

OK.  Roger.

The instructor, audibly shaken, resumed a normal flight angle.

Fear of flying 

There is something unnatural about sitting in an aeroplane and knowing that you are about to fly over high mountain ranges, zoom across wide oceans to most probably arrive in some distant destination.

I am always brought back to footage of early attempts to take to the air.  

Man will never fly.

I can only imagine the hours of imagining, designing and building what now appear naive death-traps.

Of course, the machines invariably either stay land-locked or drop like bricks.  

I am somewhat reassured that repeated testing of materials, engines, pilots, makes an Air France journey less of an adventure - give or take one or two strikes. 

"Oh what's the point? I shall never be an artist." 

I was always pretty fed up with my mother's defeatist attitude to her art-work. I loved her 'naive' drawings, her delicate touch.  Of course an art-critic might not have seen genius but wasn't that missing the point?

"Je suis nul. Je ne vais jamais parler anglais."

I am always pretty fed up with my students' negative attitudes to their English abilities.  

They have been told that they are useless for so many years that I spend much time explaining to them why it is that they are not incapable of learning a language. 

We speak about the difficulty for an adult of accepting a loss of communicational competence, the need to learn to play with the language. 

We try to find ways that they can assess their progress rather than concentrate on their 'mistakes'. 

Little by little, they discover their voices, they gain confidence, they make large leaps. 

Of course an examiner for a certification may not take into account their transformation but isn't that missing the point?

"I am useless, I shall never find a job."

I typed and retyped the CV, over and over and over. 

Having convinced myself that I was useless, I tossed version 12 into the waste-paper basket.  

Months later, I plucked up courage to send one perfect CV, waited for three weeks for an answer. 

My hands were trembling as I opened the envelope. 

It was what is termed a 'rejection', I was devastated. 

Mulling it over.

As I dealt with the idea that my career had finished before it had started, I spent some time reading about the early 'careers' of brilliantly successful advertising executives.  

Far from demonstrating immediate genius, they often had spent years being apparent failures. A penny started to drop. Not knowing what direction to take was perhaps OK. 

Looking back, I am sort of amazed at how naive I was. 

Looking back, I am sort of amazed at how useless the experienced, sensible 'adults' appeared to be in encouraging discovery, how reluctant they appeared to be to admit their own vulnerability, their own doubts.

Mulling it over

I was reading a few comments on a #ccourses Twitter stream this evening.  

Here is one which caught my eye:

“If you’re not falling off it, you’re not really exploring the edge.”

I like taking risks - that is why I love acting, adventure, rock-climbing.  

I love learning.

I am not sure that I would be a great 'climbing instructor'.

I am brought back to a near death experience at school. 

The teacher didn't check the descender was attached to the rope.

I saw the problem. 

If I had been too trusting, I would have had a nasty fall...

I would prefer rock-climbing instructors to be properly qualified.

Here is another one that caught my eye:

I don't want my doctor exploring the edge.

Yes, I would prefer the doctors who are called to operate on me, to have practised their delicate gestures repeatedly, to have sensitive hands.  

I would also like them to be able to recognise that my body parts are connected together to constitute a person, namely me.  

We can speak together. 

I would like them to be able to speak with me with sensitivity.

Fears of success and fears of failure

I am brought back to the ideas of success and failure.

I remember the hours and hours that we spent at school making paper aeroplanes, testing their flight, whooping with delight as the various designs nose-dived, glided, loop the looped.  

How are we to judge the success or failure of these childish test-flights? 

I would suggest that the real success lay in the community of play.

I remember the hours and hours that we spent at school doing exercises on paper, testing our grammar, irregular verbs and what have you.  

I remember little of the successful answers or the failed answers.

I would suggest that real success of education does not lie in getting the largest numbers of correct crosses on an answer sheet.

There are good reasons for enabling students to become qualified pilots, rock-climbing instructors, surgeons, aviation engineers.  

I don't believe that we can learn without making mistakes.  

I don't believe that it is a good idea to compare oneself with inaccessible models. 

I do believe that we can only progress through repeated and reflective work.

I do believe that we can waste hours arguing about completely different contexts as if they were comparable.

I don't believe that we can progress as communities, as societies, without play, without taking risks.

I don't belive that we can work with people as if they were disconnected parts to be machined.

I believe that we are in the dark ages of human social development. 

I believe we all must take  leaps of faith to reach out to distant destinations.

I am not convinced that our current instructors know how to avoid a nasty crash.


  1. brilliant, Simon.

    love these especially: "I believe that we are in the dark ages of human social development...I believe we all must take leaps of faith to reach out to distant destinations."

    Would love to hear more about the dark ages of social development.

    I see a permeating anti-intellectualism. I see that the art of real converation is being lost.

    1. Thanks Susan for your comment. What do u call the art of real conversation and what is 'permeating anti-intelectuallism?

  2. Hi Howard, thanks for commenting - I would say that there are opent, self directed research hypotheses and then for many contexts means by which we can establish criteria for assessment of performance and with which learners can choose to be assessed.

    Of course we could take this much further - so we shall have to :-)