Blogs of the year 2015

Harry Fletcher-Wood picks…

My favourite blogger of the year isn’t really a blogger, more a compiler of a latter-day encyclopaedia, gradually sharing entries. Daisy Christodoulou, writing at wingtoheaven.wordpress.com, has probably already forgotten more about assessment than most of us will ever know. In considering key principles of teaching and learning, I find myself visiting her work frequently. Her arguments on the basic principles of assessment are a helpful primer in understanding it, while some of her posts seem poised to push us to rethink what assessment will look like in five years’ time.

Whatever her topic, Daisy writes clearly, concisely and concretely. Her blog may be more like a reference work than a journal, but everything is worth reading and rereading. Recommended for anyone wanting to understand assessment now, or where it’s going.

It’s not easy to write readable prose that combines raw emotion and analytical rigour. Jo Facer, writing at readingallthebooks.com, invariably manages both. Her moments of honesty can be breathtaking.

Jo’s impassioned reflection on the results of her year 11s this summer is one of the most powerful posts conveying a teacher’s sense of responsibility I have read for a long time.

Jo, like Daisy, is also adept at sharing her work. It has been interesting to follow her developing belief in the knowledge-based curriculum and her thoughts on the challenges of implementing it.

For my bonus choice, I’m going to cheat and nominate the Freakonomics podcast as my favourite (audio) blogger. I don’t listen to everything, but a colleague regularly passes on the education and childhood programmes, and they are invariably fascinating.

Emma Hardy picks…

My favourite blogger off the year is Old Primary Head, writing at oldprimaryhead.com. We have all seen enough re-runs of TV “comic” clips on TV to know that spending time with children is as equally likely to be comical as it is to be serious, and that is why I enjoy reading Old Primary Head so much.

He reflects on the trials and tribulations of being a primary head with humanity, an ability to laugh at his own mistakes and a mischievous sense of fun. His year has not been without challenge because he failed to make enough sacrifices to the god of data. His blog shows a head struggling to be a buffer against excessive workload for staff, while accepting that he, too, is human. So go and read!

Be that fly on the wall as he shares his mistakes, his thinking behind his latest school policy and his emotions, good and bad. Laugh along as he struggles to create an honest slogan for his school, despair with him when the complexity of children smashes up against unforgiving data and smile in sympathy at the bone-weary tiredness that this time of year brings.

As for my first runner-up for blog of the year? If you want bite-sized, honest, challenging opinion pieces on education policy, pedagogy and practice, then Dawn Cox’s blog over at missdcoxblog.wordpress.com is perfect. Over the year she has asked us to question to what degree we teach to the test, why good teachers don’t leave poor schools and gives concrete examples on how her school monitors teaching and learning.

My bonus choice is Jonny Walker at jonnywalkerteaching.wordpress.com. You will laugh. You will feel inspired, admire his enthusiasm and passion for teaching. You will wish he worked at your school.

Jill Berry picks…

I have read so many fascinating blog posts by so many educators this year it is difficult to select a small number. But the following bloggers have written pieces that I have found especially compelling.

First, Chris Hildrew, a deputy head who starts his first headship in January, wrote a brilliant series of posts as part of #PoetryPromise on his blog chrishildrew.wordpress.com, choosing a powerful poem each month and discussing its appeal.

Throughout the year, Chris has reminded me of, and encouraged me to revisit, poems that I love and have loved teaching. He has also introduced me to new ones, some of which made me wish I still were teaching English.

He has also written compelling posts about leadership and about his own experience of moving to a fresh challenge.

He speculates about what leadership means and, in his reflections on moving from one professional role to another, considers the opportunities and challenges of being internally and externally promoted, and what our motivation to progress in our careers may say about us.

Second, and like Emma Ann, I have much enjoyed the writing of Jonny Walker over at jonnywalkerteaching.wordpress.com. He has taught me a great deal about the opportunities and challenges of being a male primary teacher in an inner city school.

Finally, my third and bonus choice is Shaun Allison who writes powerfully on his class teaching blog, but who also generously shares the ideas of his colleagues through the school’s 15-minute forums. You can find his blog at classteaching.wordpress.com.

Andrew Old picks…

My favourite blog of the year is Teachwell.me by Tarjinder Gill. A new blog this year, it is frequently updated and is constantly challenging.

Tarjinder is particularly keen to challenge the orthodoxies she sees in primary schools, arguing against “nurturing” approaches to challenging behaviour and anti-academic approaches to the content of education.

She has also written about her background and how attitudes to race have, in her experience, differed between the generations in her own family and between the different parts of this country that she has lived and worked in.

She has also discussed gender identities, particularly how they influence education, rejecting narratives about victimhood: “Straight-jacketing oneself into socially constructed gender stereotypes just so you can smear those who disagree with you and calling oneself a feminist to escape scrutiny or challenge is all very well. Just don’t be surprised when others see through this.”

My first runner-up is Greg Ashman at gregashman.wordpress.com. Greg blogged for a few years under a pseudonym but has started under his own name. He’s an ex-pat maths teacher now living in Australia and studying the psychology of learning for a PhD. He’s particularly interesting when discussing the various fads and trends in teaching that seem to go around the world, particularly those relating to maths teaching.

My bonus choice is thetraditionalteacher.wordpress.com by Anthony Radice, a consistently readable commentary on teaching methods that is always sceptical about the latest pedagogical fashions and crazes.