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20 Years Later is Anything Greater?

‘I considered taking my own life but a single song hitting the radio where I was staying, stopped me. It was time to claim my life back.’

A challenge for you and your team. In his second blog for Nexus, Carl wants you to reflect on how things have changed for you and your teaching career.

Yesterday I had the pleasure and very rare opportunity to catch up with an old friend for a brainstorm day.  Stuart Goodwin of Goodrow Productions, an actor and creator of drama workshops. We first met in 1996 and he worked in our record label’s inner circle from 1999 to 2004 since then we try to work on some artistic project every few years.  
Chatting away this question came up…

20 years later is anything greater? 

Seriously… apart from technology, what has really changed? 
For you, within you?
So here is the ’20 years later staff room challenge of DOOOOOM! Mwah ha ha!’
Sorry I am not great at making funky titles! And Brian Blessed was unavailable for the jingle at the time of writing (admit it you read the title again in his voice, if you didn’t try it, it’s fun).
I want to share this article to hopefully convince colleagues to chat, share, laugh at the stories that made you well…YOU! 
Sharing makes us reconnect with ourselves, our colleagues, and our future plans. 

Questions to ask:-
Where were you 20 years ago?
What did you learn? 
How did it help you communicate so well you became a teacher? 
What makes you laugh the most, have fun with this… 
What was the soundtrack to those times…

I made a playlist for my commute called Songs That Mean Something. Just a side note, using the official chart company website and playing songs that your class listened to a few years ago soon links a classroom and raises goodwill just before Christmas. Even the toughest 6th former likes the Spice Girls!

What would you change if you could go back. 
What is the one lesson / message you wish you could get across to your class as a result of your life 20 years ago? 
What did you do that you used to enjoy, that you now no longer do? 
I am sure there are more questions but that should be enough to get this staff room challenge started.
At the end of this article if you’re interested, I will answer these questions to get you started. 
Anyway, I digress…back to the conversation yesterday. 

We fell into a pit of stories and happy memories, things we couldn’t laugh about then but can now and some I can’t understand even two decades later. 
You see, I have not always been in this education business (my old boss would say I’m still not, but being as he was the reason I set up EarnLearn.co.uk, who cares!? 
This is my story but not a ‘woe is me’. I use this story as the background for almost 90% of my work with schools, colleges and universities.    

Kris Akibussi once told me, ‘the past is for reference never for residence’. So True.
20 years ago, this was me:

The 25 year old me was a very different animal, back from a serious emotional roller-coaster not only rebuilding a broadcasting career that stalled just on the brink of national daytime radio between the ages of 14-23. I chased fame and almost got there.

As a result in 1997, my girlfriend left me (I honestly don’t blame her as I was always touring) and I lost my home and I spent a few months couch-surfing and sleeping rough. I was over £100k in debt following a bad investment in a business, a life filled with anxiety and depression and weighed 6 stone and struggled to cope.

I considered taking my own life.

But a single song hitting the radio where I was staying, stopped me.  

It was time to claim my life back. 

It took two years but in 1999. All my debt was paid off, never a CCJ or court letter. I never begged just worked over 200 agency jobs to chase the dream. 

I still had £0 in the bank, but could I go from no GCSE qualifications to university, could it be done? Thousands do it every year, but back then to me it seemed like an impossible task. 
Along the way these amazing and hard hitting stories happened…

(bullet points, make talking points! This isn’t everything that happened. It’s just my way of prompting you to really try this challenge.)

  • I started an international record label with no money and 4 mates (Stuart was one).
  • I had music played all over the world, did over 100,000 miles in a year without leaving the UK.
  • Met Caroline, my wife in 2001.
  • Lost my band-mate, Damien, to a brain tumour in 2004. I walked away and handed his family all our royalties. We miss him everyday. We always ask in any situation…“What would D Do?”
  • Passed my Degree.
  • Got Married, Caroline claims it was an accident. To be fair, I did disguise the church as a giant kitten to get her inside before she could run. #papermache –https://www.ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Cat-Pattern.pdf
  • Added a teaching qualification. 
  • A MSc – trust me, I’m almost a Scientist. 
  • Performed lectures, classes and tutorials all over the UK to over 20,000 students.
  • Become involved in Motorsport teams and projects, as a driver, coach, and researcher. 

All these memories shape my decisions, future commitments to lifelong learning and also the content that allows me to communicate with my audiences.  
This exercise hopefully will give you a new perspective of how far you have come and the value you have to the classes you deliver. The lives you shape and change – EVERYDAY!  
So here is my entry to the ’20 years later staff room challenge of DOOOOOM! Mwah ha ha!’ #FunctionalNotCatchy.

Where were you 20 years ago?   
Sitting in a university reception, hoping just my CV and cunning would be enough to get me a degree, It wasn’t.  
What did you learn? 
That the walls that we mentally build to keep out the bad stuff keeps out the good stuff!
Friends appear when you share your fears. 
Student digs can be less comfy than a bush. 
How did it help you communicate so well you became a teacher? 
I had to learn how to learn, fear of looking stupid can be overcome with preparation, honesty and real solid research!
My shows now are always based on the fact that I am willing to share my mistakes so my audience can laugh with me and avoid the stupid mistakes I made because I still make them, I am human!
What makes you laugh the most, have fun with this… 
So many mistakes to mention, like the time I took a wrong turn in a school following a meeting with the head of department for a very posh school and ended up in a mop cupboard. I think they laughed that hard it got me the booking. 
Or the time I ended up sharing a story about how pop stars have influence on your formative years at a small regional teaching event. To make the audience laugh at me,  I shared how angry and upset I was that my dream pop star teenage crush was rumoured to be dating a movie star according to the paper. I was 30 at the time.  
This would have been fine if… 

  1. My wife had not been in the back of the room watching.  
  2. The singer in question was not attending my talk as a guest of her husband who owned the venue as she was considering lecturing for a college.  She blew me a kiss, so I am taking that as a win, despite sleeping in the shed (See point 1).

What was the soundtrack to those times…. 
Fatboy Slim – That album is still amazing.  
Flat Eric – Click to see my inspiration for EarnLearn, reminds me of trying to get radio stations to give me airtime in 1999.
Here are some 1999 chart tunes to get the ideas flowing for you. 
What would you change if you could go back. 
That I took time and space to enjoy the process a bit more, I put way too much pressure on myself. The impostor syndrome was high and I wish I had spent a bit more time with my housemates. In all honesty, I had to work hard just to keep up.
What is the one lesson / message you wish you could get across to your class as a result of your life 20 years ago? 
You can always change your mind, your dreams, your situation. It’s okay not to be okay, to walk away and try something new. 
We live in a world of filters, so get back to being you. Be Real. 
What did you do that you used to enjoy, that you now no longer do? 
Sitting in recording studios when it was all new and exciting, enjoying the act of creation.
Performing with a great friend, and have a small but potent pack of people enjoying what we did. 
Making music just for fun, I have just downloaded a drum app for my phone as I consider this, so watch this space. 
Feel free to improve and add your own questions. 
Thank you for reading this and please share your thoughts and memories below!

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The author

Carl Barton

Following a troubled time in his early teens, he almost made it to daytime Radio 1 before creating a “Plan B” business that left him with a short period of homelessness, serious emotional trauma and financial loss (almost 100k). He started a record label with a friend (and £10 from signing on) and within 4 years turned that into 4 albums, stadium shows, international radio play and used the success to pay off all his debt within 18 months to free himself in order to go to University. He later used the same skills to pay off all his student debt within 2 years of graduating. Setting up a community DJ school and taking back to the stage again to fund the next part of the journey. His business and production partner Damian passed away suddenly on tour in 2004, and Carl made the decision to hand all future royalties over to his family. And to walk away from chasing fame... Soon after he was recruited from a sales role within a major record label to become a Lecturer at Staffordshire University, teaching students how to survive on the rollercoaster of the music industry. Realising that many students were struggling with the pressures of studying, he qualified as a counsellor and joined the Universities trauma support team. 15 years later he realised he was being asked for his personal story and lessons learned, by more and more people. So he decided to leave the University and to create a set of shows to attempt to solve issues faced by young adults all over the UK. As a part of the research for the show he worked on the front line for 6 months, working for a mental health charity, gaining Safeguarding and Mental Health First Aid status along the way. He has also continued his work within the Radio industry helping create studios for another mental health charity. Alongside this he has spent the last decade as a go-to for various Motorsport teams, working with drivers to extract the best from themselves and their cars. This research was the basis of his MSc in Advanced Technology. Away from the stage, he is still obsessed with dance music and old VW’s.

https://earnlearn.co.uk/

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