Pedagogy v Andragogy

Last week I attended a gin tasting event. The next day I participated in Street Wisdom. The first was chosen for me, the second I opted into.

The gin tasting was in a bare room, decorated with the Distiller’s posters and paraphernalia. On a table at the front sat the resources they had made – a plethora of handouts and four bottles of gin before a stand-alone screen. The sage appeared on the stage, introduced herself and proceeded to talk at us for the next hour. Told everyone about the history, the process, the workers, her choices. She clicked through a power point presentation competing for our attention. The Distiller had selected the gins we would taste, the message she wanted to sell. In detail each essence was explained, sniffed and served, in a way I would never willingly elect.

‘Click onto our website and insert the code you’ve been given for a delicious discount’ she told us as we left.

‘Not blooming likely’ I said to myself.

That afternoon had been one of the most tedious events I had recently endured. Did she really assume every over-eighteen in the room knew nothing already or couldn’t choose for them self? Did she really believe every adult there had no capacity to make decisions or discern how they liked to consume? I was a concoction of bored, frustrated, naughty and amused and her palate never sensed any of my flavours. The Distiller knew nothing about me, wasn’t interested in learning what might compliment my tastes. Who was this for – me or her?

The next day was Street Wisdom, an opportunity I had chosen. In the fresh air, in a pretty town, a beautiful location. Right from the start, nothing was assumed, no prejudgement formation. It was all about expanding horizons, experiences, interpretation, personal navigation. With my new network of adult friends introduced, we began by sharpening our senses. Our guide, the Street Wizard, suggested a range of mind shifting activities. We drew our own frame around each pattern to help us understand, before undertaking a quest to find an answer to the question with which we’d come armed. This was precious uninterrupted time to myself to pay attention.

I wandered across an open courtyard and noticed an old wooden door. Crossing the threshold, I find myself in a place full of strangers where everyone has been a teacher and everyone a learner. I stay a while, listen, watch, participate.

‘She’s a testimony to the unfathomed human capacity to teach, to learn, to grow’ are the words that stick in my head as I become aware it is time for me to go.

A cool debrief with the Wizard after our mini-expedition helped us all to make sense of our own event. Alone, we decided what we’d do when this experience was at an end.

All the time I felt interested, challenged, provoked, but calm and serene I was in total control; nothing was assumed, guessed, imagined or decided for me. I came away inspired, like a new character in a different scene. It was so powerful not to be judged, kept quiet, pinned to a seat compliant. In the three hours it had taken, I’d wandered freely, made decisions, talked when I wanted, noticed more.

The plot, props and set of this encounter were chosen by no one for me. I practised my skills and had no one practise upon me. I regained my identity; I became more of me. A leading character in my own story. What a difference from the day before; a new stage opened up before me.

Now I feel refreshed, confident, full of hope. The guided discovery suits my soul better than the prescribed chore.

And that’s me and I know which one keeps me silenced and which one gives me a voice. Wizard v Distiller – as an adult it’s always my choice.


I turned into the tide of people and walked the opposite way. Scouring each face for a clue. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew it would find me. I was battling upstream, they were going with the flow, down. I couldn’t find any rhythm, no straight lines, the route of least resistance was a weaving turn. Cutting through the mass of bodies, I was completely on my own.

Their faces were looking up, at signs, spires and buildings. Side by side they gazed ahead, or at their own selfie reflection, too busy to see the other person. The next Instagram was framed, a picture to send global. On the ground beneath their feet, lay the small, crushed local.

‘How can I expect an answer from my fellow humans ‘ I thought, ‘when they’re not even looking at what we’re doing?’

I slowed down, the better to see, and feel and hear what was in front of me. My feet tingled with the rarity of being fully grounded, rolling over pavements they’d previously pounded. Shop music blared, encouraging me to speed up, my breathing, my browsing. While books advertised the opposite ‘How to plant a rainbow’. The smell from Fisher’s Close was exactly as it should be; strong, pungent, disgusting. This was the aroma of the city, with everyone pushing, jostling, trampling the route to get to where they think they’re going. Searching for the next instant hit or ego stroke, without noticing the crippled and the feeble, clutching the walls just to keep moving.

‘How can I expect to connect with my fellow humans‘ I thought, ‘when they’re not even feeling how we’re doing?’

Talking, drinking, chewing – the story is unfolding, their faces constantly moving. Sucking instant gossip, caffeine or nutritionless gratification. The pattern is now obvious. Side by side, not looking, too focused with intent to miss the starving and the shrunken.

‘How can I expect a crumb from my fellow humans, ‘ I thought, ‘when they can’t even hear our stomach rumbling?’

I looked down to a drain of putrid, yellowing, gunge, to see if the beauty was somewhere else. It was a step too far, but not fully revolting. I needed an in-between rung to reassure me first. I grasped onto the railings, the cold metal jolting. The functional had form and attraction. The closer I looked the more delicate the inanimate became, a teardrop of gold, hidden in an everyday thing. An unseen work of art passed by, discarded, treated with disdain.

‘How can I expect an answer from my fellow humans, ‘ I thought, ‘when they can’t even see the beauty in everything?’

The Curiosity Lighthouse lay at the top of the town. I strolled there, my question in mind. Already decided the answer lay outside my fellow humans, an old fortune telling machine was the perfect find. I inserted my coin and waited for the paper ticket to be churned.

Creative Writing Wisdom

She scanned the middle distance. Her compass turning her towards the islands. A long view dotted with curves and lines. While others reached for the far horizon, or climbed familiar ropes and ladders, she looked for shapes she might interpret.

Her eyes came to rest on the wreck. A ship out of water, grounded, frozen in time. Its makers’ skill still visible, crafted with a delicate foreign hand while the mind roamed.

She’d seen its shape before, touched the wires, smoothed her fingers along the hull, felt the emotion. The elegance and beauty of the ship, even in distress, captured her attention and drew her in.

She took her time, to pull apart what she thought she could see. While others used a spyglass, or shaded their eyes, she turned her face to the light. A memory ran through her mind, too fast to be held. Her legs ached to move, to run after it, to speed up, to catch it. Her mind told her to be still and let it back in time.

She noticed her pattern. Reflection in objects, not for all to see, only those who took the time to notice, attend.

Wedged between history and fiction, life and eternal puzzles fascinated her mind. But the ship in its repose was still life. She only had to look from another place to see a different interpretation.

‘And so, with beautiful eyes I choose to behold,

The vista, the ugly, the loud, the old and too bold.

What I’d been told, once believed, had even held true

Takes on a fresh meaning, one that feels clean, pure and new

I am no longer held fast by what I though was my mind

I am no longer tethered, blinkered, feeling my way half blind

I can pull up the anchor, any place any time

To choose to set sail, leave routines of past thought, habits, repeats far behind

Of scratching paper, applying needs of some who had taught me rules with no feat,

And kept my boundaries near, contained, fenced in and too neat

‘Slave’ is not my trademark, at journeys end a choice

No longer beside a stranger, the use of myself to carve a voice

The tide takes me out, on the waves I feel light

Anchoress rise up, and like a swallow take flight’


Riddle’s Close

I am the place within nobody’s aim, except today when they wander in, all different yet somehow the same.

A quiet space at the end of a dark gloomy lane, a gate half closed, neither inviting nor advertising, nor calling your name.

Hidden in time waiting for your world weary frame, for the unveiling, the descaling, the stepping back to the plain.

And as the bells chime and the hands time exclaim, they proceed, beauty held in their gaze, those five with no name.

Patience was nourished with strawberries sweet, a place to pause, to take stock and to rest more than weary feet

Kindness mapped the route from a stark wooden seat, a look back, to look forward and listen to her own steady heartbeat

Goodness admired a magnificent feat, a kaleidoscope of growth, flourishing longevity, and wondered about becoming replete

Gentleness discovered an obvious treat, lighten up, with child’s eyes, bias, judgement and personal history uncomplete.

Joy was the first who dared push at the gate, and let castle, clouds, rooftops release adulthood weight

Looked at the birds over grey grubby slate, ones that rise in fresh air, practised flight gifting such a free state

She’s closing the Riddle in a carved ancient gate, not the wizard of West Bow, but Richard Geddes left my bait

For those who visited in autumn, last Wednesday, late, “By leaves we live” he said and left a trail they chose as their fate.

Soul Wisdom

‘I was looking at a screen for fourteen hours a day and I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a star. Our eyes aren’t meant to look at screens, we’re meant to look at the stars.’

This was the start of my drive to host the Street Wisdom event in Glasgow. Like a gift, this story had landed on my lap, or rather implanted itself in my brain as I listened to the car radio.

‘Exactly, and that’s what it’s all about.’ I spoke out loud to the emptiness.

The Street Wisdom event finished with a lightbulb. A moment on the way home, a shift in my thinking, one I’ve been waiting for.

‘Where do you have your breakthrough moments?’ is normally a warm up question. Today it was a cool down, a stretching off, a preparation for what’s to come. ‘Shift’ usually happens for me in the car, and today I felt it, more than just a change of gear. My conscious brain occupied with driving, my mind came out to play. Finally, a thought, an idea, a plan, a way to develop what I do, school leadership, without money or cost being the driver.  I’ll use a similar sharing technology format as Street Wisdom. A way to allow those teachers who want to learn leadership skills to do it for free – a way to practice while learning; Self Organised Learning (SOL) for school leader facilitators. How had I not seen this before? The method was staring me in the face. I just have to figure out how to do it, and I know that will come, and be the exciting part.

The middle of Street Wisdom Glasgow was an opportunity to look at the stars; the homeless man who shared his love of Kafka with me, familiar friends who came to support, sharing profound thoughts and causing new connections, travellers from across the world coming home or passing through, degrees of separation diminishing as we delved deeper, finding an oasis in the noise and bustle of the city, and paying it on to those who would come later.

It’s left me with this drive, not home or away, but forward, to release school leadership development from the shackles of organisations and ‘gurus’ making money while creating followers. To strip it back to what it means, to lead myself, to see where my idea will take me. To follow my star.

And today, on my journey to write this, another sign; a builder’s van with the U missing from his occupation. ‘All that’s missing is U.’ The voice in my head speaking out loud – S.O.L. leadership, all that’s missing is U. Build it.