Blog reviewer Jill Berry shares her top edu-blogs this week
Learning to love challenge
My first blog choice this week came out last year, but I only read it when it re-emerged recently through Twitter. I’m featuring it here for the benefit of others who may be in the same position. Jen Willis discusses the subject of challenge and observes that, in her experience teaching primary children, some relish it while others avoid it.
She explores why some children appear “fragile learners” and what we can do to support them, bolster their confidence and build their capacity to manage risk. She talks of the importance of knowing your children – “really noticing them”. In her view, “the most important factor in helping a class develop resilience is your relationship with the pupils”.
Deborah Netolicky, a school leader and researcher from Australia, writes about the importance of middle leaders who, she believes, do not attract the attention they merit, given their contribution to schools.
She explains the professional development opportunities her school offers them, an approach she describes as “bedded in the organisation but flexible to individual needs”, and considers how investing in them can support them as they are “squeezed” between the teams they lead and senior leadership.
The problem with pleasing parents
Alex Quigley accepts that building positive relationships with parents is important, but considers ways in which prioritising keeping parents happy can be problematic.
He discusses the pressure on teachers to spend a disproportionate amount of time on marking, the compulsion to set more homework than is necessary or productive, decisions about student grouping which are not properly informed by professional judgement, and the volume of formal written reports.
He suggests that communication is key. Parents usually want what they believe to be best for their children, but schools need to ensure they are informed and aware of the potential negative repercussions of what they may have come to accept as the norm.
Emma Kell, a senior leader and author, focuses on teachers’ susceptibility to stress, which she fully understands from her professional experience and her research. She recognises that how teachers feel and behave has repercussions for the mood in the classroom and the experience of the students, quoting one pupil: “When teachers are passionate, they infect us with their passion, and when they are stressed, they infect us with their stress.”
This gave her pause for thought, and she offers strategies for dealing with stressful feelings in an attempt to minimise any adverse effects on the experience of those we teach. Because, as Emma says, “our stress is not their problem”.
Reading together: a blast from the past
Russell Hobby, the CEO of Teach First, writes for Achievement for All about the power of reading together with children, something that goes far beyond literacy competence and touches on the depth of our relationships and our identity.
“A good story is genuinely mind-altering: a route into times, places and people beyond our reach, the best way invented to date to see the world through someone else’s eyes and to understand why they might do what they do.”
School leaders and civility
Gary examines the idea of civility, asking whether we have a clear shared understanding of exactly what it is in our schools, and how recent research suggests the importance of senior leaders behaving civilly to colleagues and addressing situations where staff do not show civility in their dealings with others. Gary connects this to “interactional justice” and teacher retention, suggesting that we give further consideration to the impact of our words and actions on others if we are to retain the teachers we need and should value.
Twitter chats pdf
Finally, not a post as such, but a very useful PDF from Hannah Tyreman listing all the current UK Twitter chats. This is a great resource.