In this thought-provoking piece, Gaffney considers her role as a mentor, and “how we actually turn these baby-stepping students into the multi-tasking marathon runners they need to become. For a profession necessarily obsessed by learning, we are strangely sloppy when it comes to our own.” She builds on the work of Lee Shulman, questioning what the “signature pedagogies” of education are and her own need, as a trainee, “for the magic to be unpicked”. A subtle and thoughtful discussion of expertise, and how we share it, this seems an excellent preparation for the new term.
By Jo Facer
Of the many posts written about results day, Facer’s anguished reflection on the English department’s GCSE results – “I had expected a 5 per cent drop; but never envisaged more than 10 per cent” – struck me powerfully. She discusses why this shocked her: “We did intervention; were more targeted and more rigorous this time. We did extra mock exams. Your teachers benefited from extra confidence having delivered the spec before.” She shares her feelings for her students and concludes: “I can’t sleep because I am racked with guilt. What more could I have done, should I have done? But more than this, my faith in education is shaken.”
Radice uses this post to consider the problem of the “superteacher”. “I am sure such people exist, and I don’t want to criticise any of their wonderful work, or question their dedication and commitment. But they do not make good role models for other teachers, and they do not show the way forward for large-scale school improvement.” He justifies both points: his family means that “work cannot swallow up my whole life, and it should not”. Moreover, “it should not require an extraordinary charismatic individual to achieve discipline in a classroom”. Radice looks to the importance of school systems and sustainable working to achieve success instead.
Tierney summarises where we are in English education with admirable clarity and frankness. He discusses the “uncomfortable conclusions” of the Mirage report on the “impact and excellence” of teacher professional development in the United States, arguing: “I just can’t make up my mind whether it is a total disaster or the kind of interface maelstrom that occurs as you move from one paradigm to another.” This post is the first in a series of three: Tierney goes on to discuss “Four Aces” for improving teaching and simple questions to work towards them.
By Vanessa K Bohns
On a more positive note: “we persistently underestimate our influence”, Bohns notes. She asked participants in her research to estimate how many strangers they would need to approach to fill out a questionnaire, make a donation to charity, or to borrow a phone. Participants had to ask half the number of people they expected. She connects this with work: “employees tend to assume that their influence is dependent upon their roles or titles — that if they lack official clout, they can’t ask for anything.” She offers simple advice and encouragement to people to ask for what they need. But use your power wisely as it’s not all good news: “In a separate set of studies, I found that the same holds true even when people ask others to engage in unethical behaviours, such as vandalising a library book.”