Contrasts

Last hour of school day spent in hugely positive review meeting with trainee teacher. Productive conversations are firmly focused on teaching and learning.

In contrast, two hours after school spent in soul-destroying leadership meeting where almost entire time is spent listening to conversations about benches, barriers and queuing in refectories, when a water bottle is not a water bottle, logistics of organising theatre visits, end of term celebration events, key rings, chicken burgers (it just wouldn’t be a leadership meeting without it), mock exam results assemblies, Secret Santa and yes, Christmas Fucking Jumpers.

End day questioning Entire Reason For Existence.

Building A New Generation of Trivia Quiz Experts

Read a fascinating interview with the photographer Bruce Davidson where the interviewer (Charlotte Cotton) points out that neuroscience has shown that “in the process of recalling a memory we literally reposition that memory in a new place in our neural systems, among new experiences – a new context.” Cotton goes on to say that she finds this “a really liberating thing to think about, that we are constantly renewing moments from our past.”

This has intriguing implications to the way in which we read photographs, or indeed any text and it also has implications in the way in which we think about the accumulation of knowledge. For if we accept knowledge as being memories stored in our neural systems then it would appear that there is actually no such thing as ‘definitive knowledge’ in so far as those elements of knowledge are perpetually changing (however subtly) simply thanks to the way in which new connections are being made each time we recall them.

Current mantras amongst many educationalist Twitterati appear to be very much around accumulation of knowledge. “Students need to know” (remember) “this and that” they tell us. To which I suggest the correct response would be “yes, perhaps they do. And?” Or possibly even “That may be so, but also So What?”. Try this at home. It provides endless hours seconds of sublime entertainment. “The capital city of Albania is Tirana”. So What? “Babies have around 100 more bones than adults”. Really? But So What? “A teaspoonful of neutron star would weigh 6 billion tons”. Wow! But really… So What? And Why Would I Care?

Knowledge out of context is just ammunition that might might allow us to be successful at trivia quizzes, which is a fleetingly hollow thrill at best. Surely the thing that matters is the way we plug that knowledge into new neural connections to give meaning outside of mere remembrance/parroting of facts? It seems as though the notion of synthesising knowledge (or certainly the notion that we teach HOW to synthesise knowledge, because that would be a SKILL) has fallen firmly out of fashion with Educational Trendsetters and Tastemakers in recent years and this, I think is a damned shame if not a profound mistake.

Are we teaching our students to think and create with knowledge? Or are we just building a new generation of trivia quiz experts?

On the Astonishing Effectiveness of Detentions

Supervise another gloriously effective After School Detention session this afternoon, to follow on from similarly effective Lunchtime Detention. Registers for both comprise multitude of names of Usual Suspects, none of whom turn up. Also several names who are not on the list but appear to think this is a Good Way To Spend Their Time. Resist temptation to explain to students that this is most certainly not the case after reflecting that such explanation would have as much positive impact as detention session itself.

Look at calendar and think about number of days left until the end of term. It is always too many.

Tremendous Ideas (revisited again and again)

Tremendous New Idea shared at leadership meeting by F that involves Building A Resource of Useful and Interesting Books And Articles About Education, Pedagogy, Research etc. Everyone apparently Very Excited and thinking it a Thrilling Development with Lots Of Potential For Impact. Feel fortunate not to have been at meeting when idea floated as feel certain would have found difficulty in casually reminding colleagues that a Certain Person (i.e. The Provincial Teacher) did exactly this some five years ago. Blogs and education websites were regularly checked and read, with the most interesting articles bookmarked, noted into Evernote and automagically formatted via Posatchio into a Terrific Online Resource. Links were regularly sent to staff via email and it all resulted in a dynamic culture of teachers excitedly talking about teaching and learning deafening silence and no measurable impact.