DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU TRACK TOWARDS THE SAME COURSES?
I guess that the answer for many of us is – yes, we do. We are happier with the tried and tested, what we are familiar with and what we know that we are equipped to cope with. There will be those who love a challenge – to stretch themselves almost to breaking point, or sometimes beyond. I guess that this would include the adrenaline junkies flinging themselves up or down risky places, battling through trying circumstances; those who investigate space – be it outer by way of space rockets, or inner by way of mini submarines. But then again, this is their familiarity – that excitement, and element of danger which rocks their particular boat – probably literally as well as figuratively.
Each of these extremes would be horrified at spending their days walking in the shoes of the other. However, it’s all part of this wonderfully mixed bag of life with its differences and similarities; peace and conflict; calm and turbulence; quiet and clamour; winners and losers; quitters and triers; simple and complex. What a melting pot we are when considering humanity as a whole, yet so many of us have a pot of friends and acquaintances that is very limited due to our location, lack of mobility or simply our unwillingness to add to the pot, maybe in a more adventurous way. To mix with people who will introduce us to other than our tried and trusted way of living our lives.
I wonder, if asked to describe yourself, which adjectives would you use? Would they all seemingly tie in with each other, or would some jump out as being one of your quirks or foibles? Oh, how I love that phrase and the fact that so many people can catch us unawares when we discover theirs? The things that make them stand out from their peers maybe? Often, this can come in the form of a hobby. I knew a lady who was very quiet, dressing in beiges and greys, getting on with her job without putting herself forward in any way. When we got chatting, it turned out that her hobby was sky diving. She had many hours of flinging herself out of aircraft and had done so in many different countries. On the other hand, a guy who was a fighter pilot and the life and soul of any party; his hobby was making his own ties using his wife’s sewing machine, having first sourced his fabrics to colour co-ordinate with an outfit worn either by himself or his wife. I love it when I have my assumptions around people kicked into touch. When this is in a positive way that is. I admit, however, that I am disappointed if the assumptions meant a down-grading of my opinion of a person on better acquaintance; no matter how hard I may try to not let this happen.
HORSES FOR COURSES ATTITUDE CAN BE POSITIVE/NECESSARY
There are those of us who consider ourselves to be a thoroughbred, others a Dartmoor pony weathering the storms of life under their thick, protective coats. We have the huge shire horses which used to plough the fields and till the soil. We even have therapy horses and guide horses, though I am unsure how they would adapt their course to include public transport via bus or train. So many variations on the theme of a horse with these variations very much affecting the course of their lives.
Just so with our breeds. So many variations on the theme of being a human being. Some people gravitate towards a particular profession, occupation, trade due to their particular skill set or qualities. Some people are better when working with computers whilst others are at their best when interacting with people or animals. Despite what we may dearly love to do, if we haven’t got what it takes, then we may not be able to develop, train for, learn the things that we need to be able to do. Sadly, there still remains the glass ceiling in some areas, meaning that no matter how well suited a horse you are, if you are a mare rather than a stallion – sorry, but no thank you. This is a situation that has improved in the UK, though there do remain some professions and some countries where being male can apparently count for more than ticking everything on the job specification list.
There is another saying that I like, though I am unable to track its origins. It is – the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. So simple, yet so true both literally and metaphorically.
Does our make-up affect how we cope with the ‘hot water situations’ of life? Yes.
Will our differences, though they may not be as obvious on the surface as those of a potato and egg, mean that we probably handle adversity differently Yes.
Does it remind us therefore not to expect others to react as we do or did when times are tough? Yes, though this can be difficult for many who are convinced that they coped with worse than you and that they did it much better than you are doing it.
It reminds us that different people are intrinsically suited to different things. Each to their own. Sadly, one factor that actually makes no difference yet, for many, remains a big concern is the colour of the shell. It’s what is inside that counts – though not for many.
HORSES FOR COURSES ATTITUDE CAN BE SAYING ‘WHOA’ TO YOU
It can have become a matter of same old, same old, with the same old thing becoming very predictable; very familiar and safe. For some with learning difficulties such as autism, the need for sameness, or at least supportive preparation before change happens, is essential for day to day stability. I spent a few years working with autistic children, beginning my foray into special educational needs supporting a young man who was autistic. His need for sameness included having the same sandwiches for lunch each day. He loved sandwich spread, but his world would become a very wibbly wobbly place if there was a change of brand. I think his mum used to bulk buy and re-stock well before she got down to the last jar in order to prevent a lunch time problem.
For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there can also can be confusion brought about by change. How well I remember bringing my father to my new home. I showed him round. Gave him a cup of tea and repeated the process. He set off for his bedroom, assuring me that he knew where it was. A very short while later, there was a very plaintive calling of ‘Denise, I’m lost.’ Sadly, his course very soon became restricted to his own home, though I was always pleased that he had at least visited my new one. That was a very sad time of ‘whoa’ happening in his life.
I am reminded of my Mum’s attitude to cooking. Yes, she provided us with good nourishing food, but, as for many people in the UK in the post war years, meals were very predictable and you could almost tell the day of the week by what was on the plate. Each meal was accompanied by potatoes – rice was something that was served sweet as a pudding; pasta, until I introduced it, was something unknown therefore unused. She did the very best that she could with the knowledge that she had. Saying that she was reluctant to be more adventurous is putting it mildly. Her cookery course was good old basic Lancashire tried and tested, including cow heel stew and tripe and onions. Apologies to those of a delicate disposition.
However, later on, when visiting me, my parents were happy to try my very different style of cooking – ie – any nationality’s dish happily tried, though I did draw the line at even attempting to get my Dad to eat curry – he would have well and truly baulked at that fence – it would have been the equivalent of him being a hacking pony, and being expected to tackle Beechers Brook at Aintree. We would have seen him firmly sticking all four hooves into the turf and throwing off me, the jockey, in no uncertain terms.
So both my Mum and my Dad were open to change on their terms. Yes, Mum would eat what I made but continued with her very much tried and trusted menu at home. Maybe a case of being able to take a horse to water yet not being able to make it drink!
As with my Mum and her cooking, change can be difficult if you convince yourself that you are doing what you are able to do, you are working within your capabilities and are unable to expand beyond your current setting. You know the way to your course and are happy to remain there rather than venture to pastures new.
Some do not see the necessity for change and remain happy with their very stable lot in life – often until something comes along and upsets the apple cart. Maybe illness means that they can no longer do the heavy work they previously did; or they are made redundant from an industry in decline, so there are few equivalent opportunities around. They and their eggs have all been, until then, tucked away in one basket.
DOES IGNORING HORSES FOR COURSES COUNT AGAINST INDIVIDUALS?
It can and it does.
One thing that I am thinking of here is within education. The pressure on individual schools, individual teachers and individual pupils doesn’t get any less these days. I visited lots of schools, observed in many classrooms. Yes, there have been so many teachers who adapted and adjusted their style of teaching and classroom organisation to meet the needs of all. However, I would shudder on occasion when observing how a teacher worked with their class, specifically how they didn’t cater for children whose needs did not fit in with the teacher’s chosen approach to their craft.
A particular older male teacher leaps to mind. He taught as he had always taught.
I pointed out several things that he could do to help one child I had been watching, though others would also have benefited greatly. I had assessed the child, so knew what his problems were. At play time, said teacher reluctantly agreed to bring his coffee to where we could talk in confidence. As soon as I mentioned the child’s name, he leapt in with – ‘he’s thick’. I assured him that he wasn’t, rather he was quite severely dyslexic. He interjected again – ‘yes, told you he was thick.’ With that I showed him the well above IQ figures from my assessments, and that sort of floored him. However, he remained unwilling to adapt his teaching style preferring to blame a learning style. It took a lot of work, but I did manage to achieve some acceptance of change – mainly by the threat of me sitting in on his lessons on a weekly basis! I don’t think he liked me – not only did I challenge him professionally, but I also parked in ‘his’ place, and sat in ‘his’ chair in the staff room. Forget different breeds of horses, I felt like Goldilocks and he was all three bears rolled into one.
Remember it’s ok to be ‘you’ – whether you prefer to stick with the things that you know or are happy to wing life and whatever it throws at you. If you were a horse – what breed would you be? I think I’d be a broad across the beam little horse that used to take the milk around. Getting stuck in in all kinds of weather, then happy to return to its stable for a rest.
That boy’s need in that class reminded me of the following, far from amusing cartoon.