By Ruth Powley
I enjoy Ruth Powley’s blog enormously, but I found her post “Education is Valuable. Just because . . . ” particularly spectacular. Entering a debate initiated by Michael Fordham, who questioned the value of vocational education in schools, Powley offers “nine reasons to value academic education”. Each is compelling in its own right: for example, “3. Because education is more than training.” But Powley offers far more than her convictions, drawing on extensive reading that pulls together conflicting strands of the recent dispute and competing contentions throughout the 20th century.
By Chloe Kannan
Chloe Kannan was an award-winning Teach for America participant. This powerful blog reflects on her struggles during two years teaching in rural Mississippi, and the limits of her achievements. She highlights her successes, developing as a teacher and sharing her love of reading with her students. But for each achievement, she adds important caveats: for example, although she “worked hard to build my classroom library and I had hundreds of books by the time I left the delta . . . it should not be the responsibility of individual teachers to build, classroom libraries. The idea that all teachers should take the initiative I took and fundraise thousands of dollars, and that there are ‘no-excuses’ for not getting students the books they need, is a threat to real systemic change… It also ignores racial and class privileges I was able to utilise to fundraise.” Her most telling point is that even she, an award-winning teacher, could not change the lives of all her students.
By Michael Kibler
Michael Kibler’s post, on keeping and growing high-performing executives describes successful workers suffering physical deterioration, poor relationships and weakening personal interests as they are overwhelmed by work. “While these are clearly ‘personal’ issues, the effects to a company are quietly, but perniciously, toxic because they inevitably bleed into professional behaviour.” More money, Kibler notes, won’t cut it. Instead, he advocates “active partnering”: individuals talking candidly about their personal and professional interests and being supported to achieve them by the company. “When firms do so, it dramatically increases the commitment and impact of its stars. Think about it: if I’m your boss and, in addition to helping you develop professionally, I also actively support you in adopting a child, or becoming fit, or taking a service trip with your daughter to Africa, I have profoundly changed the nature of our relationship and your advocacy for and loyalty to our team and organisation.”
All teachers know they should never give up on a student… it’s easier to repeat the slogan than to know how to do so. In “Seven things to try before you almost give up on a student”, Pernille Ripp tackles the problem with insight and honesty. Some approaches are familiar, such as forging relationships outside the classroom. Others recall the importance of perseverance: “I have never met a child who had nothing to like about them, but sometimes you really have to dig for it.” Ripp’s last point seemed particularly important, however, and is worth quoting in detail: “Know when to admit defeat, but not out loud. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, how much we change, how much we reflect and think and do; that child still hates it, that child still hates us. Then our job becomes not to give up but to find another ally for them, to find another adult that can have a great relationship with them and for us not to get in the way. No, that doesn’t mean asking for them to be transferred from our class, but instead allowing for opportunities where they can possibly forge a relationship with another educator or person in your building. Every child deserves someone that will see the good in them, even if you can’t.”