Penny Rabiger has only recently ventured into the world of blogging. I think she writes very well. Here she explores the complex nature of social mobility and the issues inherent in trying to create a more equal society through the power of education.
Penny concedes: “for some to move up, others must move aside and make room”. She accepts we need to encourage high aspirations, ambitions, even idealism, but we also have to educate students about social mobility itself, to ensure they embrace reality. Penny advocates “a commitment to educate students about the divisiveness of our society and how inequality is embedded at every level. This is not to demotivate or disincentivise our young but rather to empower them to perhaps be the agents of change.” Her “four things to help students think big” are excellent.
Rufus considers a teacher whose impact on his life was significant. Reflecting on his relationship with her, and her particular qualities, it struck him that it was her capacity for kindness which made the difference. This kindness, however, was not about “being ‘nice’. There was no arm around the shoulder”. This was kindness manifested in establishing the most positive culture within the classroom, having high expectations and setting an appropriate level of challenge. This was a teacher who knew each individual and adjusted her teaching accordingly to get the best from every learner.
In his eighth year of teaching, Rufus reflects on this teacher’s qualities and how it has affected his own development as a professional. He concludes: “I’m far from perfect as a teacher; I’m proud to say that I try to be a kind one.”
In a guest post for The Key, Ben White discusses educational research, and why in the world of education we have had only limited success in scaling up interventions deemed to be effective elsewhere. He suggests that achieving educational success requires a slower pace and deeper, more thoughtful consideration than we often accord it. We need to be sensitive to context, prepared to adapt and customise rather than import ideas, and carefully evaluate progress along the way. We also need to ensure we are focusing on the real issues, “identifying gaps between a perceived problem and what is actually happening”. If we keep a clear focus on educational principles, evidence-informed practice can bring about progress. However, we need to be alert to “hungry hippos”, which can derail our plans.
In a recent post on the danger of doing too little, because we try to do too much, Andy Tharby includes the link to this short animation. The two-minute video illustrates succinctly and powerfully how, in education, we are “addicted to addition”. If only we were able to learn “the art of subtraction”, we should find ways of doing less and achieving more. There is a powerful lesson here for teachers and school leaders at all levels.
Another blogger new to me is Jennifer Wilson, who writes here about the importance of finding a sustainable balance in our lives and not feeling the need to be ‘happy’ as an additional pressure. I really appreciated the central message of this: “When all is said and done, most teachers are dedicated professionals who care immensely about their students and their school communities and it’s for this reason that resetting our perception of happiness is key. Happiness starts now. It starts with looking after yourself.”