Review by Jill Berry

7 May 2017, 5:00

Jill Berry’s top blogs of the week 1 May 2017

Guest reviewer Jill Berry shares her top picks from the education blogosphere this week

How do we equip youngsters today to cope with the often quite pernicious effect of ‘fake news’?

My first choice is from Kieran McLaughlin writing for the Schools Northeast blog. He explores the challenges inherent in the current political climate where adults need to discriminate between reliable and unreliable sources of information and asks how we can best prepare the young people in our schools to do the same.

“Knowledge” is key: “Our youngsters need the bedrock of science principles and laws that they can use to critically evaluate evidence on climate change; they need the historical knowledge in order to assess the reliability of claims from modern sources; they need the cultural and literary hinterland which allows them to appreciate the richness of modern art and media.” This is a thoughtful and well-written piece.


People can’t be radiators if their leaders drain them and give them nothing to radiate

This blogger considers the idea of staff members either as radiators, giving out energy, or drains, sucking out energy.

He looks at this from the perspective of middle leaders whom he considers here to be the “boiler room” (rather than the “engine room”) of the school.

He considers that leaders can only bring out the best in those they lead if they themselves radiate positive energy. If leaders drain their colleagues, and he gives specific examples of how they might do so, then what their teams can achieve will inevitably be constrained. He uses this analogy to reflect on his own effectiveness: “As a leader I have to constantly evaluate how my actions will impact on my team, and whether they will drain them of energy or energise them.” This is good advice for leaders at all levels.


My students don’t know how to have a conversation

I discovered Paul Barnwell’s post in The Atlantic through a reference in a 12-minute TED talk from Celeste Headlee (@CelesteHeadLee), which I would also recommend: “Ten ways to have a better conversation” (May 2015).

The idea behind the TED talk and The Atlantic article is that conversations are key to positive relationships – and that we need to be mindful that the young people in our schools may need support at practising the art of conversation, given that many of them currently seem to be so much more comfortable with virtual interaction. Barnwell, a teacher in the US, reflects that “conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students”. He considers why confident face-to-face dialogue is so crucial to future success (personal and professional) and how, as teachers, we need to be mindful of opportunities to help students to develop the capacity to sustain productive conversations.


Libraries R Us

Barton retweeted this post from 2013 on this year’s National Libraries Day.

He writes about his father, who was county librarian for Staffordshire, and about his own childhood, as he describes it, in “a house full of books”. This is a great tribute to his father, and to the importance of developing literary awareness and cultural capital. Barton says: “I can’t go anywhere without a book. Books and stories define me. Reading and talking about reading are what we do as a family. Holidays are full of reading. Stories shape us and ideas come to me most directly when written in a book.”

Reflecting on the legacy of his father, and on the crucial part books and reading have played in his life, he considers how his identity has been shaped by his parents’ influence. Sidney Barton would, I am sure, have been very proud.


Our blog reviewer of the week is Jill Berry, a former head, now educational consultant, author and Twitter addict @jillberry102

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