Reflecting on 21 Years
The 11 of September will always be a date that is remembered world wide, perhaps as the day the world changed. To me, however, it has another meaning – the day I started my business, Spectrum Education, 21 years ago in 1994. As I sit and reflect on this incredible journey and the mission I am on, it hardly seems so many years have gone by.
I have packed a great deal into the past 21 years…
- married by best friend
- birthed and raising 2 beautiful children (now teens)
- visited and presented in 18 countries on 5 continents (fav places include Paris, Orlando, Papua New Guinea, Dusseldorf and the Middle East.)
- presented in a tent
- own a 13 year old cheeseburger (with no mould)
- written 5 books
- published 29 issues of the Teachers Matter Magazine
- held 18 Teachers Matter Conferences in 2 countries
- employed many amazing team members
- worked closely with Prof, Art Costa & Dr Bena Kallick, the founders of the Habits of Mind
- had dinner with Goldie Hawn (Hollywood actress)
- designed a board game (still to get it to market)
- made many amazing friends around the world
- and so much more…
Spectrum started in my spare bedroom after I left teaching to pursue a desire to make a bigger difference in education. I realised I could do this most effectively from outside the education sector, rather than within. Teaching, at the time, with 36 six year olds, I was acutely aware I had not been prepared in how to teach. I knew the what, the curriculum and the content, however, I had very little knowledge of how children learned. Inspired by a workshop, facilitated by the amazing Pearl Sidwell (I sat at the workshop thinking, “That’s what I’m going to do!”) I left teaching in August 1994.
I recall ringing my parents, explaining that I was leaving teaching, and their horror and dismay. I was leaving a ‘safe, secure job’ to do what?
The driving force for me was, and still is, the children. I believe the children are our future (there could be a song in that! Thanks Whitney) and I watched as children came into school, with their eyes bright and shining and then by the ages of six or seven, saw the light starting to fade. I wanted the love of learning to continue as I recognised being able to learn was, and still is, a skill paramount for success in all areas of life. I also felt sure teachers needed to know and understand HOW learning occurs. There is a huge difference between teaching and learning. Quickly my focus was also turned to empowering our students in HOW to learn and not just focus on the WHAT to learn.
21 years later I have stood on the shoulders of giants: My teachers, mentors, friends and inspiration; Pearl Sidwell, Eric Jensen, Bobbi de Porter, Robert Kiyosaki, Dr Rich Allen, Prof. Art Costa, Dr Bena Kallick, Carol Carter, Jay Mctighe, Brad Sugars, Dr David Sousa, Tony Ryan, Glen Capelli, Maggie Dent, David Koutsoukis, Gordon Dryden, Allie Mooney, Graham Watts, and so many more… plus all the teachers, principals and students who have shared with me…
I have learned about the brain, learning and success. I have delved into the how of business and marketing. I have taken corporate models and applied them into the education sector. I have weathered major ups and downs. Importantly I have learned about me and developed as much personally as I have professionally.
Of course I have not achieved this alone. With the incredible support of my husband who spent 14 years dedicated to being a stay at home Dad ensuring my needs were met, and the wonderful team members employed at Spectrum, past and present, who have kept the wheels in motion, a huge heart felt thanks.
A colleague asked me what my favourite memory is from the past 21 years. It is a tough question – akin to asking which is my favourite child! I can honestly say it have been an amazing journey with so many wonderful opportunities and memories. Perhaps, however, I am most proud of the difference I have made to simply thousands of teachers and students lives. It is always an honour and a privilege to hear a teacher tell me, “I heard you speak 14 years ago and I’m still using your ideas.”
Like anyone who has been in an industry for over 2 decades, there is also the ripple effect with others using and sharing the learnings. Katherine Sullivan summed this up recently…
“I was first introduced to Karen Boyes’ Study Tips and hints way back in 2001 with what was 5th Form (now Year 11) and what a difference it made! I learned how to get organised with my study – using colour to engage my brain, breaks every 20 minutes, how to get motivated etc. I continue to use these tips almost 15 years later. I am now a teacher myself and on the verge of finishing my Masters, Karen Boyes is part of that success!! Her tips work!! I use these tips with my own students who love the use of colour and brain breaks!!”
The change I have made is not just in people’s teaching, I have been fortunate to influence people personally as well, a repayment to those who have influenced me.
“Thanks very much for the postcard you sent and the materials you have shared. I have thought of you often this week and draw on your energy and inspiration as I face challenges, every day! It helps me to have someone giving me food for the soul when it starts getting a bit worn out!” NZ Deputy Principal.
There of course have been changes in the way the information is delivered. Initially, via face to face evening seminars, weekend workshops and professional development days, I now present worldwide via webinar and recorded videos, at international conferences and prefer working with schools on a longer term basis rather than a one off professional development day. I also now work with teachers, leadership teams, students, small to medium businesses and coach speakers. I also spend a great deal of my time working as a ‘teacher in residence’ in schools, facilitating model lessons as teachers watch and learn.
If there is one thing that continues to frustrate me – it is the comment, “I’ve heard Karen.” Every day I strive to be a continual learner and to learn something new, improve my skills and enhance my performance. I certainly hope that if you heard me speak 20 years ago, or even 2 years ago, that it is very different now as I have grown, learned and improved. I started at the beginning of the Accelerated Learning movement and presented extensively on how the brain learns. With the privilege of working with Art Costa & Bena Kallick, I am an international facilitator of their Habits of Mind work. More recently I have been working in the innovative learning space, with MLE’s, student agency and 21st century skills being at the centre of my work. I believe the integration of these topics, alongside my holistic approach, keeps my presentations fresh and relevant.
As I look towards the future and the changing landscape of education my goals for the future include;
- developing a programme for 1st & 2nd year teachers (nearly completed)
- expanding further into Australia, Asia and the world
- presenting in South America (the only continent I haven’t been to)
- co-presenting on a leadership retreat
- speaking at TEDx
- starting a video blog
All of this would not have been possible without you – my readers, followers and audiences. I am sincerely grateful for the last 21 years and am excited about the next 21 and the difference I can make, to ensure the light in children’s eyes stays bright.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart for being part of my journey
Rainbows and sunshine