Review by Harry Fletcher-Wood

13 Mar 2015, 6:00

Week commencing 9 March 2015

When silence isn’t golden

By Debra Kidd

Too often, when a school is in the news, it’s almost impossible to know what is really going on unless we have a personal connection. In this fascinating post Debra Kidd describes her visit to Park View, which came to public awareness when investigated as part of the Trojan Horse allegations. Debra describes the school in high terms remarking that the staff body are “reeling but determined to be there for the children” and saying that she “bloody loved that school. And those kids.” She wrestles with how, in a school under the spotlight, teachers can answer politically charged questions that prey on the minds of students. “I ask us all to think about the impact that our own neurosis has on our language and actions; how our myopia about the messages that our media send to children affects them and how we speak to, think through and answer those difficult questions that all our children ask.”

Becoming a happier teacher

By Andy Tharby

Andy Tharby’s writing about teaching is consistently thoughtful, original and honest. In this post, he begins by reviewing what he has learned from reading Happiness by Design. He then offers a number of insights as to sources of happiness (and strain) in his life – and practical responses. For example, he noticed “that lunch duties make me tired and stressed in the afternoon” and so not worth the extra £100 when he can instead spend the time relaxing with colleagues and then teach a better afternoon lesson. Receiving a 1,000-word tirade from a parent while at a beer festival also convinced him to stop work emails reaching his phone. One setback aside, Andy has “noticed that riding my bike to school makes me happier and more energetic.” I am confident that anyone could benefit from adopting his reflective approach to work and life.

Who is doing the work?

By Esse Quam Videri

This blogger challenges her readers to consider who is putting the effort into schools (and who should be). Taking a dim view of growth mindset exhortations, “getting compliance from teachers in preferred teaching styles” and “tackling ‘passive learning’,” she identifies a significant issue facing a school she visited recently, a lack of accountability for students. She describes a series of approaches her school takes to ensure students maintain their effort and concludes with concern that holding students “to account for their effort can have a much bigger impact [than adding to pressure on teachers] but is unfashionable. How can students learn the cost of laziness if in school it has none?”

Requires Improvement

By Lisa Pettifer

“Throughout the year, often as a result of a performance management observation, teachers are told that they are struggling, need to do things differently, need to improve…. If they had known HOW to do things differently, wouldn’t they be doing it?” Lisa Pettifer tackles this question with ten possible strategies – all simple, fairly cheap, and achievable – ranging from watching a demonstration lesson to in-lesson coaching.

Brain pickings

By Maria Popova

Not only is educational debate occasionally ill-natured, suggestions that would improve the standard of debate are in sadly limited supply. This rare exception builds on the ideas of Daniel Dennett to advance a strategy for disagreement. Dennett advocates the following four steps:

1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

I’ll be trying to do this myself!


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