Reviewer Harry Fletcher-Wood shares his top picks from the education blogosphere
Andy Lewis likens teachers to plate-spinners: his challenge this year is to be more intentional about which plates we drop. He takes a series of common sources of work and asks us to consider what would happen if we just stopped doing it: who would notice? What would the consequences be? Could you justify your actions?
“Some plates will get dropped by colleagues this year, you will drop a plate or two!” he writes. “Which ones will they be? Ones that you picked to drop? Or ones that you had no control over dropping?”
How to reduce workload in primary schools
Solomon Kingsnorth takes a ruthless approach to workload, axing many traditional priorities: out go displays, marking and email, in come shared units, constant feedback to school leaders, and a “big red button” which staff “can press when they feel that everything has got the better of them”.
This is more than an idealistic wishlist, however, as Kingsnorth shows why each suggestion matters and how it can be realistically achieved.
Shiny New Term
Becky Wood writes an honest, thoughtful review of everything she tried to improve last year, and how it went. She attempted strategies to help students recall key quotes, and elegantly shows how this may have influenced students’ results; she shows how she built upon and adapted the changes she made last year for this year. She is clear about her position: “I’m not an academic. I’m a teacher who reads and trials ideas and strategies within the context of my classroom, the place where I’m happiest to be.” By sharing what she is doing, and how she is doing it, along with numerous examples, she offers a useful model of teacher enquiry.
Paula Lobo Worth models teacher enquiry too, in this case looking in meticulous detail at what she hopes students will learn about the Wars of the Roses from her unit. Through careful planning and design of activities, Lobo Worth is able to draw out the subtleties and nuances of the era, and avoid students reaching simple conclusions. “Messy and uneven – that, for me, characterises the wars of the Roses. Not a uniformly dark journey into a big, black, murderous hole from which Henry Tudor rescued England. The past is never a rabbit hole – it is a warren.”
After two decades in prison for murdering her four-year old son, Michelle Jones stepped free. She had been released a few weeks early to take up her PhD, which began the next day at New York University. After imprisonment, Jones first certified as a paralegal; then, encouraged by a former history professor who volunteered at the prison, she led a team of inmates researching the prison’s history: their discoveries were published, presented at conferences via videolink, and won the Indiana Historical Society annual prize.
Jones was accepted by Harvard – but her place was rescinded by administrators, concerned about the impression it gave. This is complex story of redemption and rehabilitation is well worth your time.
Boys Are Not Defective
This superb long read by Amanda Ripley investigates why boys are outperforming girls at almost every level in schools across the Middle East. Ripley digs beyond superficial answers she receives focusing on girls’ good behaviour and hard work. Her journey incorporates career prospects, teacher effectiveness and the differential effectiveness of bad schools on boys and girls.