“What kind of world are we trying to represent?”

I have struggled with this when I have been choosing text…glad I’m not alone!

Sam Shepherd

I was at the regional NATECLA YH day conference this week, and the final plenary was from Heather Buchanan of Leeds Beckett University talking about the uses and abuses of global coursebooks.

It was an interesting and indeed controversial topic, particularly to a group of people who probably rarely follow a single coursebooks, preferring out of necessity or expectation, to pick and choose published work, or develop our own materials. I’m not going to weigh in on the coursebook/no coursebook argument, although I do challenge those ESOL managers who think we should have a full year scheme of work at the start of the academic year to tell me why we shouldn’t just follow a fixed coursebook which we adapt to the class.

No, the thing which really resonated from Heather’s talk was the comment at the title of this post: “What kind of world are we trying to represent?”

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Should we smack children…just one view!

Proverbs 13:24 he who spares the rod hates his son.

The discussion seems to be focussing on why we actually smack children, rather than discipline them. I would agree, yes we need to discipline children otherwise they have no moral compass. The question of using deliberate physical force is one that people have discussed for years. I doubt that in one twitter conversation we will ever reach agreement. My understanding is that the OT teaching has been superseded by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The old order has gone, he instructs us to love as he loves. Matthew 22:39. He surely includes children. However, the Old Testament believes physically chastising your children is a mark of love. So we are still at an impasse.

The wisdom that is referred to is of Solomon but the period is Deuteronomic. There is a general understanding that one has to fear The Lord, but there is little awareness of the power of love. These wisdom books that make up Proverbs date to the Hellenistic era, focussing on courtly ruling or priestly officials rather than on the spiritual journey an individual makes with Jesus Christ, once you have accepted him into your heart, through the Holy Spirit. Further more NT teaching over ride this out dated understanding of disciplining by stating that whatever we have done to the least of God’s children we have done to him. I personally do not want to explain that I smacked my children when I had no need to, simply because I thought I had to keep an outdated Old Testament ruling that has been overridden by the New Covenant of Jesus’ death and instructions.

We have a rule in our house. No one hits anyone. We do not hit our children and our children have learned, by our model and actions that they do not hit others. I would like to know from families that do use physical punishment, how they explain that although the parents can smack, the children are not allowed to. How can that ever be good parenting in this enlightened time.

I agree that Solomon was the wisest of men, but I think there would be an outcry if a judge decided a custody battle by slicing a child in half. I do not call myself a liberal. I believe in the truth of the Bible, and in doing so I ask that if Solomon was here today, what wisdom would he use? What instructions for people who seem overcome with acquiring physical wealth and asserting themselves at the expense of allowing the Holy Spirit to take charge? Would he attempt to show people how to deal with others in a spirit of love and careful instruction, as our Lord did?

Should we abandon reading for pleasure?

I love reading and this hits the nail on the head.


Let’s be clear about this from the start.

I have nothing against reading –

I am a massive supporter of reading. It can have a very positive impact on many aspects of people’s lives, especially young people. Nor have I anything against pleasure! My concern is that yoking the two together doesn’t do reading any favours.

Reasons why we should stop talking about reading for pleasure.

1. It sounds like special pleading. “Yes, honestly folks, you will enjoy this!”
We wouldn’t use this approach with sports or arts, both of which many people find pleasurable, so why do we with reading?
2. It encourages a range of negative responses. “Who says it is pleasurable? I don’t enjoy it and I’m not going to do it. You can’t force me to enjoy it!”

Alternative approaches
1. Find as many different ways of encouraging all members of the school community to read…

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If I ruled the world…of education

I need to set the parameters. I’m no economist or strategist. I am an idealist, a very deep blue sky thinker, with a rainbow over one side. I am an optimist and I attempt to see the good in everyone. I wished we lived in the utopia of the Star Trek universe, where money was no longer the driving force behind ambition. Bearing all that in mind here is what I would like to do to the UK education system…
I believe that all children need to attend nursery at least from the age of 3. This isn’t a political motive, this is a broadening perspectives motive. Even if it is just one morning a week, and mum is more upset about leaving them than they are about running over to see their new friends. Children need to interact. If they are sociable then they will love it; if not, they will develop skills to adapt to it. After that things would run pretty smoothly. Children need to go to school, of course they do. I think children should be taught up to the age of 12. But from my perspective as a Secondary teacher I think there are far more options: parents or carers should be given education ‘vouchers’ that they can cash in for schooling, until the age of 21 – that would include FE and HE if they so choose to take it. It would also cover apprenticeships and all that day release options some student do. Most would take this option and carry on in education as long as they could. Others would happily take the alternatives; outward bound courses, agriculture, mechanical basics, cadets, physical training, design craft, traditional skills like plumbing, carpentry, electrical and building, or even computer programming and other practical training that we don’t see as main stream yet, but will save us from a skills shortage and a lack of skilled technical support. I don’t necessarily advocate a return to split education of grammar and secondary moderns – my world would enable students to cash in their education vouchers at any time, joining a class to build up theoretical skills to match the practical ones. But, it would be a broader curriculum designed to be a real solution for those students who just don’t see the point in doing subjects they will never need. And here’s the interesting part, it will allow those same students to opt back in when they do see the need.

My brother hated school. He joined the army at 17 and enjoyed a very full army life, despite having no formal qualifications. He reached a time in his life when he wanted promotion. He applied and was turned down, because of his grades. The army gave him the option to go back to ‘school’ and gain the qualifications he needed. So he did, in his 20s. He could see by then the reason why he needed them was not to jump through hoops, but so he could prove he could cope with the rigours of the paperwork involved in his promotion. Since that day, he has never looked back. I am proud but I can see how much money was wasted on him when he just needed to work out what he needed to do. How many students leave after 11 years with below par grades, when if they had the chance to take time out and assess what life might be like without school, they might treat things differently.

Blue sky thinking…I’m not sure anyone will agree with me, but I will enjoy the discussion it raises.


There are more questions than answers…

We have been using TEEP (Teacher effectiveness enhancement program) to plan and deliver lessons this year. It’s early days yet, but there are definitely more cutting and sticking, role play, expert challenges, groups problem solving tasks, jigsaw and home group events and I must mention my screwed up paper snowballs and balloon challenges (yes, real balloons). We keep the pace lively, engage the students and endeavour to ensure that not one second of their precious learning time goes to waste. It’s invigorating and I have felt that things were definitely moving in the right direction, as long as the photocopier can keep up! I have shared picture of Mice and Men imagery analysis on @pedagoofriday and commented on collages that my year 11s have made to help them understand characterisations in An Inspector Calls.

Today we had outside agencies come in to deliver some interesting PSHCE and citizenship content. The information they provided was good and the sessions I sat in on were ok. I was surprised therefore to hear the crit from one of my year 11 girls stating that if we ( the normal teaching staff) had delivered the session then it would have been more interesting. I asked why. ‘Well,’ She started, ‘We would have started in groups with something to think about, then we would have watched or read something then we would have done an activity and fed back about it knowing what we were looking for.’

I was really impressed, in one short discussion she had managed to TEEP the visitor’s session and make it sound as if it were what they expected from anyone coming in to deliver a session. It made me think that when a school becomes more proactive or dynamic in its approach does that put extra pressure on visitors to be able to be charismatic and engaging. Is it true that a DVD and a chat is no longer acceptable as a visiting speaker. You have to engage just as much as a regular day to day practitioner? Is it up to us to demand high end engagement for our students and let them know that the students only fidget if they feel detached from the tasks? Or are we over stimulating our students so they need constant pace, change and activity and will struggle when they come to sitting 2 hour silent exams? You see, I have more questions than answers…


Women vs. the Internet Trolls: A Reading List

As I am new to penning my thoughts I was very impressed by this blog on how Women more successful than me have overcome prejudice, hate and discrimination by trolls in various forms.


I am the exception, not the rule; I am lucky. The writing I produce garners little to no (negative) attention. When it does, people usually correct my grammar or spelling. This is okay with me, because it’s constructive. To my knowledge, no one has called me ugly, or stupid, or any number of cruel epithets or slurs. This is privilege; I am lucky. But I am scared to put my name to controversial opinions, or to voice my own opinion at all. My tweets are innocuous quips or retweets of people far more articulate than I am. I hide behind other people’s words.

I scan Roxane Gay’s Twitter feed about once a day; she is one of my favorite writers. I don’t want to miss a thing. I know she must be exhausted from engaging with trolls, but she’s logical and courteous. She says, “God bless you” or “Live in the…

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Affecting the disaffected…

Well, we have all experienced them. The disaffected; the silent truants. Those students who do barely enough for you to grade, let alone prove that you have enabled them to make rapid progress. This week I taught 9s2, I will leave the ability to your imagination. We are studying War Poetry; it seemed apt. I didn’t tell the class the topic for the first lesson, mainly because I was worried that if I said ‘right class, we’re starting poetry’ they would groan and switch off quicker than my kettle. I started with the Eminem Rap based on the song ‘Toy Soldiers’ originally by Martika. We discussed war and conflict. They knew more about the Rap war than I ever thought existed!

I tentatively introduced the class to Wilfred Owens and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ they immediately understood the concepts. The imagery in the war poems is so graphic that they grasped it and could explain why it was there. When we did ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ they were able to spot the visual techniques and comment on the ideas behind it. I was amazed. There was none of the scoffing and there was more active engagement than I have had in the last couple of lessons.

I like to reflect on my lessons and practice. I am learning that with this particular group I need to ground everything we do in the events of the time. They are realists. They have imaginations but they stem from real events. They are able to discuss, but they need realistic situations. If I try to read Fantasy with them, I’d probably struggle. War Poetry has tapped into an understanding of reality, and even though it was 100 years ago, my students have displayed an empathy that I didn’t think they could demonstrate. They have been able to tap into their emotions about family and the desire some of the boys harbour to become soldiers.

I need to look carefully at my next schemes to decide the ‘hook’ for the next schemes…just trying to keep it real.