It's getting better all the time
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore students’ sense of their own personal potential (SEAL theme: Motivation).
Preparation and materials
- Choose two readers.
- Have available the song ‘Getting better’ by The Beatles and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
- Leader Here’s a cryptic question for you. What does a man with short, fat, hairy legs have to do with a misspelled company name?
Let’s start with the company name. It’s one you know very well – it’s a mobile phone company. I’m talking about Vodafone.
When it was first launched, the advertising gurus at Saatchi and Saatchi had to fight for spelling Vodafone with an ‘f’ rather than ‘ph’. They predicted, quite rightly, that the misspelling would give the company an original and immediately recognizable identity. The company directors relented and the brand was born.
The man with short, fat, hairy legs was the English comedian Ernie Wise. You possibly watched reruns of the Morecambe and Wise shows over Christmas – they’re always on at this time of year – but what’s the connection with Vodafone?
- Reader 1 On 1 January 1985, Ernie Wise made the first mobile phone call in the UK. He was at St Katherine’s Dock in London and called Vodafone’s headquarters, which were located above a curry house in Newbury in Berkshire. Sadly, there’s no record of what he actually said. Maybe he ordered a chicken biryani with a side order of peshwari naan from the restaurant downstairs.
- Reader 2 The mobile phone launched by Vodafone cost about £2000 and weighed 5 kilos. It came with a substantial shoulder bag in which to carry it. The battery life was a mere 20 minutes. Calls could be made and received only within the geographical area covered by the network. There were many dead spots.
- Leader It doesn’t sound like a particularly auspicious start, does it? What could be the potential for this cumbersome piece of equipment? We all know the answer. I doubt if there are many people in this assembly who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s an essential item for all ages. Within the 29 years since that first moment of communication, the mobile phone has evolved into a complex piece of communications equipment.
Reader 1 First there was SMS and texting.
Reader 2 Then the multifunction smartphone, which did so much more than simply make and receive calls.
Reader 1 The camera phone then hit the market.
Reader 2 Touchscreens were developed.
Reader 1 GPS devices extended the potential even further.
Reader 2 There are even proposals for a mobile phone for dogs.
Leader I’m not quite sure how that last development will operate! Nevertheless, the potential uses for mobiles are still boundless. Strangely, as their capacity grows, phones get smaller and lighter.
Time for reflection
Leader When first launched, the mobile phone appeared to have limited potential. It was expensive, heavy and could be used only in certain places. It seemed like it would be a useful tool for businessmen and women, but unlikely to catch on with the general public.
What do you think of your potential? Looking at yourself right now, what do you think you could become?
Maybe you’re conscious of your limitations – you’re too small, not good-looking enough, not adventurous, rubbish at maths and languages, don’t like speaking in public, not assertive enough, not well off, a bit of a nerd – to achieve your dreams.
On the one hand, the story of the mobile phone encourages us to believe that we might have the potential to do something wonderful even if that looks a little doubtful right now. There’s no knowing what skills and personality traits we might discover in ourselves.
There are other sides to the development of the mobile phone, however. They are at the heart of many bullying issues we meet within school. They can give access to websites that may be inappropriate. They can open up relationships that are unhealthy. The use of a mobile while driving a car has been the cause of many road accidents. They can intrude into situations where our attention should be elsewhere – whether it’s in a lesson, talking to friends or parents interacting with children. Mobile phones have the potential to be harmful.
What about your potential?
In each of us there’s the potential to do harm as well as good. There are sides to our character that might seek to dominate, to slander, to cheat, to avoid, to steal, to undermine, to wreck.
To repeat what I said earlier, there’s no knowing what skills and personality traits we might discover in ourselves. We are full of potential. Which kind are we going to encourage?
Thank you for the enormous potential present in each one of us.
Give us the sensitivity to discern what will be positive for ourselves and those we mix with.
Give us the courage to deny the potential for harm.
‘Getting better’ by The Beatles