Category Archives: Life

My favourite joke

Two Alaskans are out at the edge of town when they come across a polar bear. Quickly surveying the situation, they realise they’ve inadvertently backed the bear into a corner, and that the bear has seen them.

“No sudden moves. Back away reaaaallly slowly…” whispers Jeff, to his buddy Trent.
Trent, has other ideas, though. He turns quickly on his heels and makes a break in the direction of the nearest buildings.
“‘Heck you think you’re doing, Trent? You can’t outrun a polar bear!” Jeff shouts at his friend.
“Don’t have to, Jeff. Just have t’outrun you!”

Teachers who tweet #bringateachertotwitter

Picture courtesy of @sparkyteaching

A great blog here where Phil Parker shares some findings and thoughts on UK teachers’ use of Twitter. It’s not pretty reading, either!

Those of us who are part of the education community on Twitter get to experience the vibrancy and dynamic exchange of thoughts, and clearly many of us are hooked. The fact that significant groups such as The Heads’ Roundtable seem to have exploited the momentum that Twitter can lend to an idea should give us all pause for thought. Yet, we are, apparently, the tiny minority. It’s easy to forget this massive disengaged ‘other’.

Yesterday, I came across the hashtag #bringateachertotwitter, courtesy of @batttuk . What a good idea. If we could all just get one other colleague to engage… we’ll still be a tiny minority, albeit twice as big. Time to put on our digital leader hats and offer your colleagues a little bit of social media CPD training? Remember, you only need to net one enthusiast!

What Twitter has taught me

I’m an unapologetic fan of Twitter, with all the zeal of the new convert.

My habit developed under my real name, a rich mix of news, journals, science, music, tech. I’m an eclecticist, and Twitter slowly, but completely supplanted my other social networks.

I made the switch to almost entirely professional use about 2 weeks ago, at the same time that this blog started. This has been a revelation. Finding that there are others, articulating many of my own thoughts, my frustrations. And doing it it more eloquently than I could.

Among the people that I follow are many who represent what I would once have considered the ‘enemy’. However, I have grown to believe that bipartisan approaches along dogmatic political lines do everyone a disservice. My values are firmly based on concepts of fairness, equality of opportunity, but I think the present calls for a dramatic overhaul of how we ‘do’ democracy. I’m learning to accept that there will always be ‘enemies’, but we still have to coexist and the obfusquation that passes for the decision making process is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

I’m no intereb noob, though. In the old days, I loved a forum flame war as much as the next person. Ultimately, though, forums are generally closed communities. I have come to love Twitter because of the sheer mass of potential – one person tweets and that tweet could end up pretty much anywhere. I get a buzz from that.

Twitter has taught me to approach my words with due caution to impact, but it has also taught me to be less precious about my words. Each tweet is a seed in the wind, that may or may not plant. I have no idea whether the majority of my tweets are even consciously registered. but despite the high wastage (for those of us with ‘normal’ numbers of followers, distinctly not hanging on our every word), the seeds that do land can be pretty high yield.

This post is tagged ‘blather’. I’ve had a very relaxed Friday evening, and I’m feeling fired up and ready to change the world. I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has dropped by for a read over the past couple of weeks. I’m vain enough to be interested in my blog stats, so I know there are people reading, in places as diverse as Britain, Bahrain and Brunei. That’s pretty cool.

Humbly, Iorek


I’m thankful that my partner and children are here with me right now.
I’m thankful that we are warm, safe and dry.
I’m thankful that I was able to prepare and serve my family with warm, wholesome food. Non equine.
I’m thankful that I have a voice and the opportunity to use that voice for good.
I’m thankful for the music of The Roches.
I’m thankful that the view from my window is of fields, trees and sky.
I’m thankful for the purring cat who is lying in such a way as to make typing on a smartphone rather awkward.
I’m thankful for the relentless curiosity of my boys.
I’m thankful that I love, and am loved back.

Mindful Gratitude

Sometimes you read something so powerful, so moving that it touches the deepest recesses of your mind. When the writing resonates so perfectly with one’s own experiences and emotions, it really does feel like a ripple through the fabric of being. Sometimes it happens unexpectedly.

I’m writing this ten minutes after just such an experience, and every impulse I have makes me want to reach out with love and gratitude to the author of those words for what they have unknowingly bequeathed me. For the first time in almost 30 years, I have cried, unselfconsciously, freely and completely.

I don’t know the author in real life, but I have resisted commenting in the blog in question, or DMing him on Twitter. I think I’m fearful of being thought a crank or some kind of internet weirdo, or simply causing embarrassment.

Instead, I’m going to throw a few words into my own patch of cyberspace, in the hope that serendipity will lead the author here sometime, and that he will realise these words are intended for him.

Put simply, I had no conception until tonight of the raw power of words written honestly and from the heart. I simply don’t have the vocabulary to express how profoundly life-altering my accidental bedtime reading turned out to be. That’s what I want to tell the writer. That, and thank you.

Some thoughts on mindfulness


If you haven’t encountered the concept, mindfulness is essentially a set of thought-techniques and attitudes which can, through practise and application, help the practitioner develop a sense of calm focus.

In many ways, it sits at the opposite end of the thought spectrum to multi-tasking. It’s all about finding a way to shut out the chatter of competing demands and applying yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the task at hand, physically and mentally. It recognises that even when physical distractions, say kids, are absent, our minds can themselves be hugely distracting.

Many time management philosophies encourage prioritisation based on hierarchies of perceived importance and urgency. This is all well and good, but it often means that a huge backlog of low urgency stuff accumulates. This can be stressful. Alternatively, it can lead to a situation where conflicts arise between big important things (lesson-planning, marking) and mundane but necessary stuff (ironing shirts, washing up and feeding your kids).

Applying a mindfulness based approach to the same competing demands can be a revelation. Using the example above, the mindful individual will be focussed entirely on washing the dishes or on feeding the kids, and mentally being in that moment. They will not be feeding the kids whilst silently mulling over what to teach tomorrow. As they wash the dishes, they will be thinking of nothing deeper than the act of washing the dishes.

In doing so, the mundane can become less onerous, even enjoyable, your mind gets a break and when you shift your mindful attention to those big, important tasks, it will be without the baggage of having spent dinner time fretting about things that you were not in a position to do anything about. A clear mind can work wonders.


You Are Here. Just think about that.

You Are Here. Just think about that.

The number of people who’ve stopped by this blog over the last couple of days is quite overwhelming. At least for me; maybe my bar is set low, but to write something and then have a few dozen people make the choice to read it is quite humbling and strangely exhilerating. Thank you all for making me a happy polar bear!

Most people’s blogs seem, early on, to incorporate some form of objective, core purpose or otherwise. I’m inclined to do likewise, not least of all because I’m still in the very early days of blogging and my objectives are presently a little unfocussed.

Definitely it feels good to write. Writing can lend clarity to thought-processes, demanding that you re-shape, add definition, texture, shade, but more importantly, to establish meaning. To create sense. That, if anything is my present purpose.

If you haven’t read my first posting, I outlined my determination to approach life differently. This too is a work in progress; entrenched bad habits can be very hard to break, but I have come to view bad habits are the biggest barrier to individual human potentiality. This is a theme that I will most certainly explore, because there are so many examples of bad-habits that ingrain themselves in all areas of life, causing problems along the way.

I imagine that most of the postings will be connected to education indirectly or directly, but please bear with me if future posts deviate into non-educational territory. To further set out my stall, I should also add that the title ‘Carping From The Sidelines’ is tongue in cheek! I can grumble with the best of them, but part of thinking differently is my attempt to give up, or at least minimise, grumbling. It generally doesn’t help much, and doesn’t remedy things, so it strikes me as a waste of effort. Unless you really have something to grumble about! At the same time, that doesn’t mean I’m going to judge others if they choose to grumble.


  • My favourite books are Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy and Patrick O’Brien’s Master & Commander Series, The Aubrey Maturin novels. Clearly, I’m a bit of a Phillip Pullman Fan too.
  • I love everything to do with space exploration and astronomy.
  • I’m an internet user since 1994.
  • My favourite crisps are cheese & onion.
  • I routinely infuriate & exasperate my wife and kids.
  • The beauty & brilliance of the universe makes my head spin. It is a privilege to be alive here & now.
  • I’m presently to be found on twitter as @IorekByrnisson.