Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

Make Room

Make Room

I have a riddle:

What can you create by taking something away?

- remove tables and chairs...
- remove old displays from walls and windows
- remove the lesson plan
- remove established conventions
- remove the personal histories, and assumptions
- remove goals and expectations
- remove all storage and stored items

Let the clutter fall and a lightness take its place.

You've created a blank slate.

In the clutter, who owned the space? It wasn't the teacher! It sure wasn't the learners.


The space was its own creature, self-perpetuating. The clutter took up the room, vetoing unforeseen discoveries and unrecognised passions.

Now there is room.

Anything could happen. It's a fresh day. It's a new page.

Everything in our field of vision is heavily analysed and processed by our visual cortex and 'adaptive unconscious' - our executive functions are not aware of this, it just gets dished up on a platter... a very full platter.

Those old posters still on the wall are invoking a myriad of tired neural networks, and further, a cascade of associations. It's the weight of the past. The mind uses reference lookup as a default mode, and the process has a hair trigger.

Now you've taken the posters down, and made room. Your visual cortex scans and sees a blank canvas. Subtly the blood flow in your brain shifts to support higher functions; creating the future rather than referencing the past.

An ember-sense of capacity and enlargement grows. The learner feels more receptive and expansive. 

We add back in a few items: liquid chalk for writing on the windows, ordinary chalk for the floor, butcher's paper for the walls.

And we ask: what next? what's on your heart? where shall we go?


Post-Script Vignettes: 

Notes from Frames Taxonomy

Frames are discrete, identifiable, manipulable components of our physical, virtual, mental and cultural contexts. If we don't shape them, they shape us.

- items of furniture are o-frames
- habits, lesson plans, are s-frames
- goals and agendas are n-frames
- our personal histories and sense of established roles are also n-frames

We can create these frames deliberately, but mostly they are just 'spawned' or inherited from the past, and are very often artefacts of our collective neuroses, perpetuating anxiety.

Frames get coded in our the basal ganglia (unquestioned routine) and resisting them can activate the amygdala (fear of social transgression).


Make Room, by Rachel Collis

The notion of 'making space' or 'making room' has become for me a core value in every domain, every situation.

Though your heart's a flickering no-vacancy sign,
Though your heart's forever working overtime,
Though your heart's a suitcase fully packed,
Though your heart's a disregarded artefact -

Love is spacious, love is kind,
So make room. 
Make room.

Though your heart's the city crowds on New Year's Eve,
Though your heart's been struggling for years with no reprieve,
Though your heart's economy class,
Though your heart's perpetually half-mast -

Love is spacious, love is kind,
So make room. 
Make room.

Though the bus is standing room only,
Love's not leaving anyone behind,
So make room.

Though my heart's an insensitive practical joke,
Though you fear I'll strangle you with my yoke,
Though I fight and kick and scratch and scream,

And though I need -

Love is spacious, love is kind,
So make room.

Make room.


For Me at Home 

I try to make room at home, especially room to think/write/draw. 

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Today I'm going to order 'aqua notes' that I've been aware of for ages - creating room to write in the shower! Ironically on their website they also have the opposite... pure clutter, in the form of a crossword to do in the shower.  

My love affair with GTD workflow is about finding mental space to be reflective and receptive in the midst of the insane complexity of school life.

In particular, I want to feel like when there is an interruption and someone needs my help or input, I can genuinely make room for them - have a sense of generous, abundant space for them rather than the scarcity of throwaway scraps.

And how much more important is this aspiration when it comes to young learners!