My meandering thoughts

Mark Defield Taitt, Principal, Secondary School

I am sure we have either heard, or more often than not said, ‘Back in my day…’. I have found myself saying this more and more as I become older. Because of this, I have reflected why I am saying it. Were all things better back in my day? Does the world have to conform to my experiences and expectations? Of course not.

Back in my day I used to throw sticks up into Conker trees to collect conkers and play with them. Back in my day, my friends used to have the teachers pinch and pick them up by their sideburns if they were in trouble. Back in my day we spoke to people face to face nearly all the time.

It is easy to pontificate on the times whilst growing up when we got away with things or got caught (well I did), engaged in more physical interactions with people, were not staring at screens or did not feel the pull of being present online 24/7. Our experiences shape us and have made us all who we are today. The same will be with our children, but their experiences will be unique to them.

My generation Z niece told me recently that she could not imagine getting off her chair at work and go across to another colleague to strike up a conversation or ask why something has not been done. I thought, back in my day, this is how relationships were formed and work got done more effectively. After challenging her on what she would do and why, she said that she would simply use the company intranet chat and send a message. Quicker and easier. What about building a relationship? Her comment was why? If she was to do this her team would think she was weird. It is not in her company’s culture and it would negatively affect relationships. She did not want to go and talk to everyone and waste that time when she could be more productive and still effectively communicate. I put myself in her shoes and realised that her world and my old world were compatible in some parts, but I’d better keep up with the changing world so I can stay part of it.

What has this got to do with thought leadership? Well, I would ask that we turn the statement around to something else that would challenge us and/or allow us step into someone else’s shoes. What if instead of the ‘how it was in my day’, we ask ourselves, ‘How would I have managed if I had to do it this way when I was younger?’ or ‘How would I cope if I had to do this now?’ This perspective would allow us to take one step closer to understanding how the youth see and interact with the world. It would also push us individually forward to new ideas and experiences.

So, when you feel the urge to reminisce on how it was ‘back in the day’ try to say, ‘How can I be a better part of today?’ However, I cannot wait for generation Z to start saying ‘back in my day…’