Review by Melissa Jane

Class teacher, Castle School, Cambridge

10 Jul 2021, 5:00


Melissa Jane’s blogs of the week, 5 July 2021

Melissa Jane’s top blogs look at quality CPD, constructive negativity, echo chambers, and the ongoing battle against homophobia


Compliance or learning?  


School rules have been in the news this week ̶ and not just in the teaching press. In my setting, our approach to behaviour is highly individualised, so these debates often feel irrelevant to me. This post from Zoe Enser, however, is relevant across settings and phases. Comparing student learning and teacher CPD, she encourages us to think about the difference between “mindless compliance” and true understanding.  

In Enser’s experience, CPD is much more effective when teachers are given “a chance to understand what underlies [a] principle and what we are trying to achieve with it”. The same can be applied to students, who are more likely to follow a rule if they understand the principle behind it. Whatever our students’ needs, we need to give them a reason to work with us, which means “put[ting] down the clipboard and tak[ing] the time to engage in meaningful dialogue”.


Via negativa: seeking a creative enlivened teaching life


I have never been effective at enforcing rules I don’t truly believe in, so being confident in the ethical core of what I’m doing is a necessity. This post by Carol Garboden Murray suggests a method of refining that ethical stance in the classroom.  

Teachers are often encouraged to think positive, but Garboden Murray suggests using the via negativa instead ̶ starting with “what we know for sure we must stand against”. This approach can help us articulate what we do want, and can also help us with periods of uncertainty. With yet more change on the horizon for UK schools as Covid regulations begin to lift, we will all need strategies to keep us grounded.


Moving out of the echo chamber


In February, I featured Annie Richardson’s insightful writing on structural issues within the early years sector. Here, she explores the state of anti-racist progress within education as a whole, in typically reflective style.  

The phrase “echo chamber” is often used simplistically, but Richardson engages with it in a careful and nuanced way. While Richardson’s own echo chamber has “informed, confirmed and affirmed” her anti-racist commitment, she notes that confirmation and affirmation can only go so far. Moving out of the echo chamber to spread the anti-racist message, however, is not a trivial choice: “For many people racialised-as-black, the wounds of racism are never able to fully close, as each new aggression causes the blood to flow again. When those racialised-as-white take the role of challenger, at least whilst the pain is still there, the solidarity is a balm.” 

Her post, then, is a call to arms for white educators ̶ to continue challenging racism wherever we see it, and help make the world outside the echo chamber safer.


Keep chipping away at homophobia

@DavidTLowbridge via @DiverseEd

When I was at school in the early 2000s, I had no gay classmates ̶ or rather, none who dared to come out. By the time I trained in 2016, my placement school had a Pride Society, with a rainbow-striped stand at open evening, staffed by LGBT+ teachers and students. The transformation in social attitudes has been amazing to witness, but it is still in progress.  

David Lowbridge makes an interesting comparison between teaching and football, two areas where the representation of gay men in particular has seemed to lag behind the rest of society. In both these areas, we are still at the stage where openly gay footballers and teachers represent milestones to be celebrated. When the presence of LGBT+ people in our schools and on our football pitches is entirely normal and unremarkable, we will know the social transformation is complete.


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