Writing up 11 years
Getting the keys for my school, The Homework Club, has become a milestone to base my own development. It’s 11 years ago now. If I’d known then what I know now I’m not sure I would have been brimming with enthusiasm that day. It was Chinese New Year too.
As I write this after another session online to the far side of the globe I’m reminded that my biggest purpose is to translate understanding of each other. That it’s almost become my speciality to reward empathy and sensitivity in the world. These skills like me seem currently out of fashion. And I can’t help feeling we will need them more than ever going forward.
I’ve spent not quite two years in a complete frenzy of writing – trying desperately not only to download all I have learnt in 11 years but to find a way to take myself out of the work. 7 books later I think I finally understand me. And now have a tribe of followers who can finally see me too. You have to ditch all those conditioned ideals and expectations to really get me. No wonder so few have until now. I never felt that rare but I guess I’ve joked for years I’m the alien. My biggest lesson has been you can only read me from your own reference point.
One aspect which creates misunderstanding in people about me but which makes me highly accessible to others is my lack of formality. I’ve never needed to hide behind my academic qualifications or speak in high academic prose. One reason I left academia was because of its lack of accessibility which I was a victim of because of my own profound dyslexia. All parents I meet feel intimidated by education. However, this doesn’t mean I have a simple way of seeing the world. And if I’ve created it for others it’s formed by endless research and methodology. I’ve spent my life focusing on how others need to receive communication. How each personality hears slightly differently.
Like me, my books would have been fashionable in the 19th century if philosophy and psychology could have been made accessible. I was delighted to realise recently they do fit at least one box being Novellas in length. Which I love the translation of as being ‘new’ very strong narrative voice. This is exactly what they are but also deeply personal and so open to all. Everyone forgets at some time they are reading a real me and projects. They’ve all grown closer by the end. But every reader tells me they provoke profound thought. Regardless of if they are a farmer, an academic working towards their own doctorate or a parent who dropped out of school at 15. I was fascinated to learn that regardless of their education level many read the books the same way – all taking notes. One person even said they reminded them of proverbs.
I’ve achieved what I set out to do when I started my own school 11 years ago this month after my own doctorate in Physical Oceanography. Independent thought and critical thinking possible for everyone regardless of education status.
To create simple you have to be a true master of understanding. I went to an art exhibition recently where I watched the development of The Irish painter J.B.Yeats’ style. You have to be able to paint to strip back the layers to show the simpler abstract. It was the same for Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci. In fact, he wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In a world where we have become so used to a mere commentary on life it hard to sell the idea of how philosophy creates a diversity of thinking or links rather than just a presented finished idea. We have got used to instant in every way. We don’t study to form ourselves we do it merely to tick the box. I would argue a good educator shows and helps people experience rather than tell. This is why I have created journeys for the reader. It’s exactly the same way I work with everyone.
Up until now, the only way to truly know me and understand me has been to work with me – now it’s possible to do this by reading me too.
In writing a series of books I obviously went on a journey myself which gave me two profound lessons. The first, in order to truly have my equals in my life I have to honour who I am. I have spent much of my life hiding this reality as I was afraid of the attention it brought, I can’t live in this way any longer. Hiding such a part of my soul for convention. Never wanting too much attention. I have to live in my full presence and be prepared to show this difference to the world. Secondly, I’ve always known that everyone who works with me has the potential to be my equal. To form part of my soul tribe. For this reason, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. It always implies a gap and I believe in true equality. It’s the place that has been possible for all my readers to reach. The journey I have gone on in writing my books with my first readers. There are volumes in what it has made possible for others.
I just want to reach the place where I can keep writing. Keep creating change without having to explain me. To finally trash that reference point we all have to judge others from. The place where I can be seen for who I am – the same place my readers have reached with me.
Naoisé February 2020
It’s that time of the year for education in the Northern Hemisphere. A time I always reflect not only on all my student’s progress but my own.
This time last year I’d just really embarked on the journey to a be a writer. To fulfil a dream. To pour myself into books to take the need for a physical me out of people’s lives in order to make a difference. Everyone has always assumed I’d set up more schools. More training. But for me, the deep changes start within the mindset of each individual. Their sense of understanding of themselves. Their potential and how to express their dreams openly which have so often been locked inside. Only when you are strong as an individual can you contribute to the world around. Hense I went on a journey to explain the art of the core to people.
Of course, I’m always still working with individuals and always will be. It’s how I continue to grow, develop and learn myself. But I feel my books have the potential to help many people who may not gain access to me. Even the ones who have seem to have taken themselves to a new place through the books.
These books are the most authentic self I’ve ever been. And as a result, I’ve never felt so content as I approach the end of a cycle in one hemisphere.
It seems fitting that this year I know so many more students who are now able to read too.
I have always liked the number 7. This time of the year always makes me reflective as it was the first time of students flooding into The Homework Club in Blanchardstown in 2009. Many of these first cases turned out to be hugely influential in my own journey.
The first parent to ever ring me seeking help had a teenager who had not attended school for months having dropped out of the system. He took classes with us for 6 weeks and did so well in his state exams the school rang his mother with the results wanting to know what had changed. We worked with him for the next 3 years and hence I found myself taking on a huge number of cases with Aspergers Syndrome. I’m now known internationally as an expert in an area I never expected or set out to be.
By the following September even though I set the school up for second level students I found myself taking on the transition age before you start big school. By the following January a year after my craziness to set up my own school with my own teaching methods the youngest students were now 4.
Within this time, I had been encouraged by people to go for a number of awards. These were important to me personally as the first outside validation of my work.
I guess all along the only judge of my work, research and methods have been the result my students have gotten. From these, I have become a top referral for many organisations. I find it sad that in many cases I’m the person who people are sent to when no one else has been able to help them.
Two years after starting the school I realised I needed to convert all my work, experiences and methods into a formal system. This meant the birth of the Purple Learning Project. I have always felt there is a balance between supporting people currently in the system and making real change for the future.
I remember this odd moment of describing the basic Purple Learning method to someone and them asking who’s work it was? What book could they read it in? The answer was none – my head. It’s always been a bit bizarre to be so outside the box. To work in a way that has not existed before. The Homework Club was for me about proving all the wacky ideas in my own head.
Along the way in those years I developed all these ways of working with people with a whole spectrum of conditions including: ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Audio Processing Disorders, Hearing Impairments, Home Schooling, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Confidence, Bullying, Self Harm, Sexuality, Learning Disabilities, Gifted Children, Exam Fears, Child Development, People Development, Team Development, Business Success, Bereavement and so on.
When I started the school I had one main question in my head. Why do no two dyslexics learn the same way? Through working with so many people and conducting interviews which allowed me to create unique profiles for everyone I now have the answer to that question 7 years later.
I now have the recorded patterns of how personality and learning style go together.
I reached the next major crossroad in the school 4 years into the project. The students knew what we did. I collected many of their comments and feedback. It was a magic sense of achievement having created an environment they all loved so much. Hence, the tag line became “Develop Your Love of Learning”. But the parents had no idea in many cases what the project was about. I felt I was missing part of the puzzle. I also felt that many parents had lost involvement in their own children’s education.
Confidence Club was born.
I was also itching to take the projects nationally and internationally. Every time I did a radio interview I would be contacted by all these people rurally in Ireland with no support. Confidence Club has been about supporting students in their own homes, with the support and understanding of their parents.
Along the way, the methods have continued to develop in the background. It feels like a back room factory sometimes. The most significant one being in 2013, Periodic Table of the Development of Results. Nicknamed Purple Success. It brought my science and creative brains together. It is the table of the elements each personality needs to succeed in life. Whether it is a 3-year-old I’m helping to talk or a 5-year-old to read or a business to grow. It always just about people and their personalities.
With all the work I have done to date, my key focus in life still remains to take literacy and intelligence out of the same sentence. Because even after all these years I still remember what the teacher said to me in school at the age of 7.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly