Doorways 7. Less talking. More wiggling your toes.

By Martin Crabbe | May 06 2020

Doorways 7. Less talking. More wiggling your toes.

Blog Category: Campaign updateBlog Tags: Education

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    Fools talk, cowards are silent, the wise listen”  (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

    This quote is from a book I am reading called The Shadow of the Wind. The quote is not revolutionary. It struck me because recently I have been told more or the less the same thing and quite a few times. By people that I love, like and/ or respect!

    ‘You never listen to me!’, ‘You’re exhausting!’, ‘Just shush for a minute’, ‘Less is more’ etc etc. In fact, the term ‘less is more’ is the hashtag of our Doorways project for this very reason!

    The news that I talk too much won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. I’m definitely not known as ‘he of few words!’. I am also a teacher, a profession often accused of liking the sound of our own voices. So, if Carlos Ruiz Zafon is right it seems like I’m definitely tending towards the fool.

    Am I coward too? Well, let’s get this middle bit of his quote out of the way first – i.e. ‘cowards are silent’. In truth, I have rarely been accused of being silent! And I guess, like most people, i have always hated injustice. I suppose my role with LSSF, and even this Doorways blog series, is partly a response to that. If I may though, I will leave this aspect of the quote to one side for others to judge. Today I want to focus on talking and listening. 

    And I want to do this explicitly in the ‘Waste Doorway’. Traditionally this is where we (sustainable schools people) discuss waste issues such as over-consumption, recycling and so on.

    Today I want to talk about wasted words!! and the corresponding time and opportunities that might not be wasted if I  learned to listen better.

    This series of Doorways blogs is in fact my attempt to listen, during the Covid crisis, to my own voice and with specific reference to sustainable schools issues. I feel I am reasonably qualified to do this now. I have been involved with sustainable schools for quite a while and I have views based on past and current experiences. What I don’t often have is the time to reflect, to listen to my own voice. Or rather, I say to myself that I don’t have the time. But isn’t this blog series all a little egotistical? Why do I need to write a public blog? Well, partly I wanted the thought process to be public as Doorways develops. If no one reads the blogs at this stage doesn’t really matter (hurt egos aside!). It is also true that I have found the writing process useful. But above all it has made me realise for myself what everyone else keeps telling me.

    I need to listen to other people. Properly. 

    Less me. More other.

    And I have now started to listen. Honestly I have! So why, until recently, did I do nothing about it?

    Well, one reason might be that people didn’t  scream loudly enough until now. Luckily for me I have a few honest family, friends and colleagues. And recently I have heard their collective Shut up!!

    But perhaps it is also because I listen intellectually but I don’t truly listen. In its deepest sense. I don’t really stop. Focus. Hear. Reflect. Listen to the messages I am given. And I suppose that I’m not just talking about listening to people’s words. But what they are saying without words too. Their behaviours. Body languages. Silences. 

    And not just people. Nature. 

    Carlos Luiz Zafon also said that “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you have inside of you”. Maybe this has partly been my response to listening to people too, which is probably why I’m always quick to come back with an anecdote of my own! 

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not beating myself up about this. Instead I’m a little excited. At the age of 53 I feel that I may be entering a new learning era of my life. I should say here that if my wife read this last sentence she’d say, 

    “Oh no! You’re going to get obsessed with ‘listening’ now and turn all weird about it and make it into one of your projects!” 

    Well, I might!! But I will try not to do it badly. And hopefully, because, I will be listening a little better, I’ll put the brakes on a little more quickly if I do! 

    A few months ago I started my ‘listening training process’ by chatting with an 87 year old woman called Josephine. Its still early days yet and I’m not sure the people who know me would notice any great improvement in my listening skills! Josephine had been highlighted to me by GoodGym, a charity I volunteer for, as someone who would benefit from this. And I genuinely look forward to our chats. We chat by phone currently because of Covid19 and this has worked well. We share memories, tips, worries, joys and ideas. 

    I am also part of the GoodGym running team that meets once a week. Pre-Covid we would run to a community facility, such as a forest school or a community garden and do our bit to improve it. Running and chatting and listening. Working and chatting and listening. 

    • Less gym equipment is used but more community gardens are improved.
    • I watch TV less but engage in real life more.
    • I talk less but listen more.

    During Covid, we still meet up – but on Zoom – and do a workout together. And I still love it. And I think one of the reasons I love it is the simplicity of GoodGym. Less really is more. At its heart GoodGym is about people. GoodGym believes that we all have value and we can all improve the areas we live and work in. Currently we can’t work on community gardens and forest schools but we can still touch base with each other. 

    • Good Gym leads to less isolation and more community support – even in lockdown!
    • Less wasted lives. More valued lives.

    And this is why, unusually for a sustainable schools blog, I would like to recommend GoodGym to you all. It’s not a sustainable schools organisation although through it I have worked in schools and met a number of people involved in schools. As well as helping others, GoodGym is helping me. And the first part of our care agenda is to care for yourself. This care message is for adults as well as children. It’s helping me to truly listen to people and to my environment. How can I honestly pretend to know what needs to be done from a sustainable schools perspective without this?

    I told Josephine that I was writing a blog called ‘Less is more’. After explaining what a blog was,  I asked her if she had anything she would like to recommend to people, that they might not expect. 

    She said: wiggle your toes!

    Wiggle them every morning. First of all, you find out that they still work. But then, magically, this simple act (according to Josephine and I refuse to disbelieve her!!)  has a positive effect on your whole body’s nervous system and internal organs! 

    I can’t see any reason not to start wiggling my toes!!

    So, whether you choose to find out more about GoodGym or not, thank you for choosing to go through the Waste doorway’. I wish you a safe trip!

    Click here to access: GoodGym

    That’s it for today. Keep an eye out for next Wednesday’s ‘Doorways’ blog  (13/05/20) on Water.

    Background Information on Doorways

    The Doorways blogs are part of a reflective project run by London Sustainable Schools Forum. Please visit our website page here:

    The Doorways project aims to support schools and those that work with schools to consider how to develop a more sustainable approach.

    If you want to dig deeper we recommend that you visit Transform Our World for great resources.

    It specifically supports the following:

    Care for yourself. Care for each other. Care for the environment.

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Martin Crabbe