Regressing to the mean

The below post was written around a year and a half ago as I returned to the UK from the UAE to interview for the post I now hold.   I dont know why, however I never got around to posting my thoughts however as we head towards the end of 2016 it may be an appropriate time to share my them:


etihadIt was almost 7 years ago that, following accepting an educational consultancy post in the UAE, that I flew from Manchester in the UK to the UAE for the first time.   As an inexperienced flyer I was racked by nerves regarding the flight, regarding my new job, regarding relocating myself and my family from the UK to the UAE, regarding how I would adapt to a foreign culture and regarding a multitude of other things.    It hasn’t been until today some 7 years later that I have came to reflect on how I felt back then.

So why do I find myself reflecting you may be asking.   The answer is that I find myself once again sat on board a longhaul aeroplane this time travelling from the UAE back to the UK, a distance of 5500 Kilometers according to the display screen in front of me. The purpose of the flight is to attend an interview for a school in the UK. Again I find myself wondering about the interview, the school, the task of potentially relocating, the need to adapt back into UK culture and a multiple of other issues.

Now I think if you asked my colleagues 7 years ago as to what they thought regarding me taking up post in the UAE they would have all at least described a sense of surprise and some possibly a sense of shock.    I suspect my current colleagues and friends in the UAE may also express the same should I raise my current thoughts regarding returning to the UK.

So why do it, if I am so nervous and my friends and colleagues so surprised?    I think the answer relates to diversity. I am a creature of habit so in my day to day operations am happy with the status quo, with the same routines, the same people and the same locale. That said, I also believe that a constant reliance on the status quo will result in atrophy. To use a statistical analogy, when looking at performance of a skills based task, over time, performance of an individual or a group will regress to the mean. In other words the result will tend towards the average or each persons average ability over time, with freak lucky or unlucky results smoothed over.   In my life I am happy with the average and over time I appear to get into a pattern, or to “regress to the mean” if you will.   This is where I believe I am now, in that comfortable place settled with “average” or familiar patterns and events.   It is this that leads me to be on the plane on which I now sit for every so often I feel the need to mix things up a little and try and push for an extreme result away from average, to both unsettle and challenge myself and to disrupt the average or status quo.  It would appear the time period for this for me is around the 7 or 8 year mark.

I hope that this current endevour meets with an extreme positive result however only time will tell.   If you yourself have been happy with the average then good for you, however consider this: shaking things up could make you happier as it has done for me over the last 7 years during my adventures living and working in the UAE.   Sat on this plane I believe it may be possible that this chapter is closing.     This is a positive thing, as the closing of the current chapter means the beginning of new chapter, new challenges, risk, change, excitement, frustration and many other emotions and experiences (at least for a while until I regress to the mean once again!!!)

Image by Richard Vandervord licensed under creative commons attribution-share alike license.



Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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