Driving your own CPD

By Mark Miller

“The drive to work is a nuisance that we would all rather do without,” Mark Miller begins. Rather than advocating cycling, however, he suggests three ways in which we can make the time “a productive way to develop teaching”. Miller suggests practice and rehearsal — of our explanations, or of “lesson derailing comments”; he explains how he has used the time to “read” audiobooks he might not have sat down and read and also suggests podcasts. This enjoyable post encapsulates the desire to use time wisely and to keep improving teaching – and offers clear ways to do so.

Please, no more brainstorm sessions. This is how innovation really works

By Matthew Syed

Syed uses James Dyson’s invention of the bagless vacuum cleaner to explore creativity. Dyson hated existing vacuum cleaners: “The damn thing had been bugging me for years…I couldn’t bear the inefficiency of the technology.” Syed emphasises the importance of a problem for creativity — rather than brainstorming: “Creativity is, in many respects, a response,” he argues; Dyson goes further: “It wasn’t so much a ‘problem phase’ as a ‘hatred phase’.” So perhaps we should embrace that which frustrates us: “I hated vacuum cleaners for 20 years, but I hated hand-dryers for even longer. If they had worked perfectly, I would have had no motivation to come up with a new solution. But more important, I would not have had the context to offer a creative solution.”

Freakonomics Radio: does early education come way too late?

By Steven Levitt

This podcast is worth it alone for Steven Levitt’s assessment of his attempts to establish a school. The economist described it as “one of the most difficult things I think we could have tried to do… And as economists I think maybe we weren’t fully equipped to make it — it seemed like it’d be easy.” There’s more, though: the podcast examines three approaches to bridging the chasm between the home and the school. The three are diverse: the first is an aspect of Levitt’s school, a “parent academy”, in which parents learn more about teaching their children; the second is an evaluation of the impact of Sesame Street on American educational results; the third looks at a home education programme for new parents. Each offers intriguing results and room for optimism.

Volunteering in my wife’s classroom opened my eyes

By Brent Wooten

Bret Wooten’s wife teaches in an American elementary school. One year, he was filing their tax returns and he asked for her receipts. “The stack was enormous! And I was quite certain that most of it was not deductible. I rudely pointed out ‘the purpose of work is to make a profit!’ She did not argue with me. She simply asked me to help her the next day at school and went to bed.” He began visiting the school regularly, and this post summarises what he learned about the children she taught, and the expenses she incurred in the process.

Life after 3.30

By Miss RQT

Miss RQT uses rhyme to tell us about her life after 3.30. She struggles simply to begin marking: “Well, I give up, can’t find the green/I’ll have to use red pen/Can’t let them know I’m going against/The marking policy again…” She proceeds by way of advice: “Tip: when you start your marking/NEVER open with your worst” and her struggles with assessment beyond levels: “Wait, what’s lower than ‘emerging’?/Is it ‘developing’ or ‘below’?/Is there one below ‘below’?/I mean just how low can we go?!” until she’s ready to leave for home: “Right, time to leave – oh joy!/I get to walk home in the dark./Until I spot another pile/Of books I’m yet to mark…”