In my blog I have tried, so far, to address general issues to do with presenting, conferences, writing abstracts etc etc. As with every other blogger, my ‘thoughts’ have been personal, of course, but I have tried to exercise some dispassion.
But not this time. Just for once I want to tell you how I feel – or rather what it felt like (and then see if there is anything to learn from that). What I am trying to say is that this post is going to be incredibly personal, and I hope you will forgive me for that.
This is how it goes: I was sitting on a train from Penrith (in the North West of England) to London. The route traverses the Pennine Hills, and as I looked out of the window I was awestruck by the beauty of the landscape, the young lambs, the hills, the green. It was the kind of scenery to make you feel glad (unaccountably, I often think) to be alive. The day before I had lead a workshop at International House in Newcastle, and then spent the evening with my brother and his partner. As a result I was feeling – how shall I put this – not the healthiest I have ever been. Nevertheless, the lovely scenery and the fact that I was going to meet up with my daughters in London to celebrate my birthday contributed to a general feeling of hazy-headed contentment.
And then I got a text message from my friend Petra Pointner. It read “Log on to Twitter! Right now!!!” So I did.
[A blank space follows here because it is the only way I can think of to describe the way my metaphorical jaw dropped through the train carriage floor as my iPhone exploded - it felt like - into life]
if you are one of the people who organised or joined in with my ‘surprise birthday party’ (#JHsurpriseparty) I want to tell you how absolutely wonderful (I need to repeat that…ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL) it was to be on the end of all that positive, kind, funny, silly, and totally uplifting energy. I was sent pictures of birthday cakes and lasered dogs (really), of modified book covers, of hugs and kisses, of foods, and links to youtube clips and songs – and even of Greek primary kids saying ‘Happy Birthday Jeremy’. There was a Voxopop site of people leaving messages. There were messages and messages and messages.
And it went on pretty much all day. And beyond
I can only hope that all the people who organised and took part in this joyful ambush experienced as much real and profound pleasure from it as I did. I mean that. Speaking personally I have never really known anything quite like it. My caption for the day? Hate the age, love the birthday!
Is there any more to say about this?
Yes, I think there is. Firstly, in one of the sessions I do on teacher observation I say that we should spend much more time telling teachers how good they are, rather than identifying their weakenesses – and that complimenting teachers (something that doesn’t happen too often) may have a more profound effect on those teachers’ development than any manner of training sessions and observations. To be suddenly surprised with the kind of positive affection that I experienced – however and in whatever spirit it was given (I am not, I think, totally naive!) – makes you feel great, and as a result you go to what you are going to do next (like teaching a lesson or arriving in Cairo for a meeting) with a renewed sense of energy, commitment and enthusiasm.
Then there is the power of social networking – in this case the power of Twitter. How extraordinary to be able to ambush a slightly hungover traveller sitting on a train in the middle of nowhere as if a hundred people had suddenly turned up at his door carrying cakes and ale and singing at the tops of their voices. How wonderful to be able to ‘make things happen’ without the paraphenelia of, well, anything. Perhaps Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly (amongst others) are right. We are the mobile generation.
The next Twitter surprise birthday party will not be QUITE as surprising perhaps, but the power to unleash this kind of group experience is awesome. As Olaf tweeted towards the end of the day “I believe this may have started something though. The idea of Twitter birthday parties could be a spur for very creative actions.”
What could those creative actions be?
Over to you
(oh, and, in case you hadn’t got it, thank you for a really great birthday!)