What stuff says about us

From a Scientific American article 21/10/09

Ever take the time to really think about the stuff you have? Photos pinned to the bulletin board? Do you carry extra stamps in your purse? Slippers flung to either end of a room, or aligned perfectly—parallel to the bed?

“There are all kinds of things when you begin to look, of the way people leave traces of who they are in their spaces.”

That’s psychologist Sam Gosling from the University of Texas speaking on October 19 at theNational Association of Science Writers annual conference in Austin, Texas. And he thinks a lot about our stuff. Specifically how one might glean ideas about our personality based on just looking at our possessions.

He had his team go into people’s spaces (physical and virtual) and rate their personalities, just by looking at bedrooms, offices, Facebook pages, Web sites, and top-ten music lists.

By personality he means an individual’s scores on the big five personality dimensions: openness to experience (curiosity, creativity); conscientiousness (self discipline, controlling impulses); extraversion (social, outgoing); agreeableness (cooperative, trusting); neuroticism (Woody Allen as apposed to the Dude from The Big Lebowski).

“I thought conscientiousness would be where all the action is. I thought that was really going to show up. People get organized, they get supplies.”

Or we might assume that party photos or music playlists would reveal a person’s level of extraversion.

“However everything, in fact all the other correlations were dwarfed by the accuracy of openness. People were astonishingly good at picking up people’s openness to experiences by going around their spaces.”

Interesting that what people have reveals most about their level of openness.

But what if we wanted to change the way we are and try new habits with our spaces? Well Gosling illustrates one challenge with this, using an example of stamps:

“Who here carries spare stamps in their wallet or their bag? Raise your hand if you do. Ok now raise your hand if you do not carry. Ok, about half and half. What I find interesting about this is not who carries stamps. What is most interesting about this is the reactions of the people with their hands down. Those people who don’t carry stamps are thinking, “What? I’ve never even thought of carrying stamps. Why would I carry spare stamps?”

And all the people who do carry stamps are all thinking, “Well what if you need to mail a letter?”

And so the point of showing you this is that what individuals do seems self-evident and that’s why spaces are pretty hard to fake. It shows you that sometimes you think you’ve got it wrong but actually you haven’t. People are just using a different standard.

You’ve all had that experience where you are going to go into somebody’s place and they say, “Don’t come in it’s a terrible mess.” And you go in, look around, and the vase is not properly centered on the table. And they’re not trying to mess with you, for them it really is a terrible mess. And that’s because they have a different standard.

Even if we wanted to create a false impression, even if I wanted to give the impression of being as meticulous and organized as Cindy I just don’t see the world in a way that would allow me to do that. I wouldn’t see things that she sees.”

Christie Nicholson

The little things we say, and do.

“That’s good, Amita…..no, it really is”.
A student of mine, who is not the most confident of young people, tells me that she has remembered me saying the above to her several years ago. She has held onto this as a positive in her life and it has helped her through some difficult times.
Do we realise the impact we can have as teachers?
I guess I will have said some negative things that will have had a negative impact. Should I feel guilty about those?
Is it possible always to impact positively?

ManYana Education advert 1

Educational training and consultancy working alongside as you move towards outstanding

Professional logo_ManYanaEducation.jpg

“Life changing INSET”   


Achieving tomorrow, today 

A quote from a participant on one of our programmes. He later took up a promoted position and cites the work done with ManYana critical to his progress.

Looking for great INSET for your staff?                                Go to our INSET programmes

motion.jpgSo, what goes on here?5 Leggatts Close, Watford, 

     peter.blenkinsop@manyanaeducation.co.uk     (M)  07 515 515 641any No. 650 27 37                                 VAT Reg. 930 50 60 58

ManYana Education works mainly with schools, teachers and senior leaders to help them improve their work.

Peter Blenkinsop recently retired from the headship of a London Comprehensive school that was judged outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection.


Peter has worked for London Challenge as a Consultant Leader supporting established head teachers and has developed his coaching skills so that head teachers and other senior leaders are able to become more effective in their school.

ManYana Education was started to spread these ideas further.

Peter has also worked with schools in London, Bristol and Buckinghamshire delivering programmes to schools, working with head teachers and senior leadership teams and teachers as well as students.

Quality teaching and learning are critical to the success of any 

school. ManYana programmes are designed to recognise this.

Improving the working of teams, including understanding 

emotional Intelligence, will increase the effectiveness of any                     Please read about our other programmes for

organisation and is a significant part of the work of ManYana.                  staff, senior leaders, head teachers and students           

                                                                                                                                in this booklet and on our website: 

                                                                                                                                Click to visit the ManYana website


Effective use of data, for progress.

How much data do we need to have available and use to effectively identify progress for our students? Very little, actually. Schools are data rich but, often, information poor, HMI 2007.

ManYana could help you sort out your complex data system, so that teachers have the data they need to teach outstanding lessons 


Peter Blenkinsop                                                                                                We also create programmes specifically for you.

ManYana Ltd.                                                                              We can agree the style and form of any reporting you require.

07 515 515 641                                                                                                               Contact us to see if we can meet your needs.                                                         

01923 460 172 


Email me at ManYana

ManYana Programmes            Back to top

CL1 – Consultant Leader. Supporting a senior or middle leader to help them identify improvement and how they can be even more effective.

SC1 – School Review. Observation, lesson visits and interviews with staff, students and other stakeholders will allow us to give you a “real” picture of your organisation.

CR1 – Creative Problem Solving. Using techniques from Edward de Bono, TDA and NCSL staff at all levels can be taught how to creatively solve problems.

ET1 – Effective Teams. Improving team skills by understanding people and how teams work dramatically improves your school.

OT1 – Outstanding lessons. What outstanding teaching looks like and how to achieve outstanding lessons.

SL1 – Coaching Training. Give your senior and middle leaders the skills to improve the performance of others. Their lessons will improve as well.

UD1 – Using Data. Do you want outstanding use of data? How little data do you need?

ML1 – Middle Leader Improvement. Middle leaders have a significant impact on the outcomes from your school. Is it as positive as you need? It could be.

HT1 – Consultant Leader support for the head teacher. Most captains of industry have their own coaches. Someone who can support you to think more clearly and solve problems more effectively.

S2G – Satisfactory to good. We actually call this The Aspiring Teacher Programme and we support through an INSET programme those teachers who are currently satisfactory but want to move to good.

Professional logo_ManYanaEducation.jpg



As a Head Teacher I wanted best value from INSET and costly training.

The providers were usually professional and their material was good. However, they did not deliver material that was completely relevant to our school context.

We knew quite a lot and we believed that training for all staff and students was important. What we got, if we were not very careful, was a presentation that took little, if any, account of our prior experience and knowledge.

One trainer really impressed me. We had engaged him to work for ten days on improving middle managers; developing their ability to create engaging and exciting lessons.

What he did was adapt his material, and particularly his style, to take account of what we already knew and had recently worked on.

How did he do this? Quite simply he asked us about the school.

I have adopted that process. It takes only a little additional time but it can change the effectiveness of the INSET if the presenter is able to say, for example, “I understand you have covered managing behaviour well. What I will do follows on from that work by …”.

Our programmes are excellent and they will be of significant benefit to your staff, whatever stage they are at. We can tailor our work to meet your needs even more precisely.

Peter Blenkinsop

ManYana Ltd

07 515 515 641

01923 460 172




Mixed feelings

Sharon Shoesmith, the ex director of social services at Haringey, claims that she was “done wrong”. Ed Balls, she says, made his mind up too quickly, and was too influenced by a newspaper that was baying for her blood.

She also says that Ofsted “doctored” a previously ok report and published a version that said she ran a failing department.
She was in charge when baby Peter was tortured and killed and must take full responsibility for the actions and inactions of her staff.
The police seem to have been able to keep rather pure but what should they have done that might have meant baby Peter did not have to suffer in such a terrible way?
Why do I think that there is truth in ALL of these statements?
Your views?