Devastated to discover that The Twitter has doubled the character limit of Tweets to a massive 280 and in so doing completely exploding my previously posited theory that 140 character limit behind dominant movement in education of reducing complex systems to ultimately meaningless lowest common denominator single words. Convinced that Life Will Never Be The Same Again.
Conscious of the fact that this ought possibly to be ‘Personalized’ with a ‘z’ because it may be another of these fashionable educational notions imported from the United States of America. Immediately start thinking of somewhat dark and inappropriate joke that M shared at breakfast table after reading about yet another mass shooting: “America just needs to start again from scratch, doesn’t it? Switch if off and switch it back on again.”
Reflect that although it made me laugh this perhaps is sign of The Times That We Are Living In or alternatively that M has spent too long watching television.
Main point of diary entry however meant to ponder the concept of Personalised Learning Checklists. J suggests we deliver input about these to colleagues at our next training opportunity, alongside something on aforementioned ‘Knowledge Organisers’. Barely withhold groan on reading email and immediately respond with request that if we do so can we please not use so much fashionable edu-babble. Entirely convinced that ‘List Of Things To Remember’ and ‘To-do list’ are equally valid terms for these concepts. Concede that if so, extended blog posts about such concepts become exceptionally difficult to write. As evidenced in this diary entry.
Rest case and tick ‘write diary entry’ off Personalised Learning Checklist.
We often say that in teaching three things are inevitable: Death, taxes and OFSTED. To this list we ought also to add ‘the email about Missing Mugs From The Staffroom’.
Delighted to report that the Missing Mugs email was sent around to staff this morning by a member of our admin team whose job description, I am sure, does not involve ‘keep audit of mugs in staffroom’. This email follows inevitably from prior missives from individuals pleading for the safe return of their Special Mug (implicit in which is the accusation that some other unfeeling oaf has purloined it for their own malignant purposes, chief of which is to Irritate and Frustrate the owner of said mug).
Admit to feeling gleeful that email systems allow global sharing of such Important Topics, especially when inevitable use of ‘reply all’ is extravagantly applied by key colleagues whose guilt in mug appropriation is made apparent to all. Immediately try and remember The Time Before Email and therefore how colleagues managed such issues in those circumstances. Forced to conclude that because we were never made globally aware of the issue then plague of mug misappropriation simply never happened. File this conclusion in folder marked ‘Evidence that Computers Have Ruined Our Existence’. Revel in fact that such a folder exists on computer and once more celebrate a contradiction with coffee in Special Mug.
Sense of unease over failure to discover the perfect App for to-do list resurfaces this afternoon whilst reading blog posts about something The New Generation are calling ‘Knowledge Organisers’. Understand there any number of different interpretations of what a ‘Knowledge Organiser’ actually is (or indeed is not) depending on whatever personal theory of educational enlightenment one is attempting to promote via one’s online presence, but seems to be essentially A List Of Things To Remember.
Ironically this determination to cloak simple concepts in clothes of complexity appears entirely contrary to notion of reducing things to meaningless simplicity that one railed against previously. Take some succour in realising that this is yet another splendid opportunity to Celebrate Contradictions. Do so with a small glass of sherry and another of Ianthe Jerrold’s marvellous detective novels. It is the end of half term, after all.
Entirely convinced way to best tell ‘real’ education professionals from those who view it entirely as ‘industry’ to be monetised and exploited for personal profit is in regularity of diary entries. Decide to trust only those who lapse into lengthy periods of apparent inactivity, resurfacing only occasionally during half termly holidays and at moments of extreme stress where unleashing thinly disguised diatribes is Only Means Of Survival. In rare moments of idle reflection wonder if this is more accurately sign of ageing process in self, but ingestion of caffeine puts mind at rest.
Half term too perhaps only time one gets nowadays to raise head above parapet of own to-do list in order to cast weary eye over educational landscape. Undoubtedly M much better versed in this kind of activity than I, so again she is source of precis of recent argumentative discourse on The Twitter surrounding the thorny topic of Should Learning Be Fun?
Once more appears that use of digital communications technologies drives individuals to consider issues in entirely binary terms. No room for middle ground or complex constructions of interconnected threads, but rather an insistence on This or That. Ones and zeros. Convinced there is some insidious digital corruption of the analogue world behind this, like some dreadful Computer Virus in reverse. M looks at me witheringly when I suggest this, but am entirely certain there is truth behind it.
Cursed to see value in arguments From Both Sides, perhaps predictably then find self to be somewhat ambivalent about question of Fun in Learning or indeed Learning in Fun. Entirely convinced however that most over-used and irrelevant word in education is ‘engaged’ and all associated derivations. Wholly convinced that conflation of the word ‘engaging’ and ‘fun’ behind confusion of issue for many people. Indeed, feel certain it is insistence on corralling complex relationships of ideas and activity into 140 characters that is at root of problem. Why this insistence on reducing things to ultimately meaningless lowest common denominator single words? ‘Engaged’, ‘Fun’ or indeed ’Serious’ are words that out of context are essentially meaningless after all.
M says this is All Very Well but what do I actually think? Concede to admit that with pistol held to temple one would tend to side with those who think pleasure and enjoyment are important ingredients of effective learning process. Would state further indeed that it is this notion of learning as interconnected sequence of iterative, cyclical steps which often appears to be missed by those who proclaim themselves as Masters Of The (current educational) Universe. It strikes me that an insistence on Following Rules and Silence At All Costs is something that frames learning as entirely linear narrative as opposed to post-modern elliptical or cyclical process and as a result continually reinforces a devaluation of multiple dialogues. (On re-reading this diary entry, would reluctantly admit that previous sentence perhaps overly influenced by aforementioned ingestion of caffeine).
Somewhat hesitant to admit that part of job one has always found most pleasant is dialogue with students. They do, after all, often say the most interestingly challenging things, and one ought always to feel challenged in life after all. Feel need to stress now, however, that the requirement to Actually Like Children has never been high on personal list of priorities for being an effective teacher. Not that one ought to actively dislike them of course, but there is as always a Happy Medium to be found. (As an aside, I have always been rather taken by LPW’s view that one can easily show interest in other people individually when one ultimately cares very little about people in general).
M looks over shoulder and suggests that use of the word ‘happy’ in previous paragraph seems remarkably appropriate in the circumstances. Not quite willing to go to the extreme as to suggest those forbidding the place of enjoyment in education as being “dead inside”, but the temptation is strong.
What is the point, after all, in going through one’s life in state of miserable seriousness?
Surprised and somewhat shocked to see a large number of Year 11 students in assembly this morning with grey hair. Upon asking The Google about this trend, discover that many unheard of ‘celebrities’ have been sporting this somewhat surprising look for a few years. Entirely possible this trend has been also been in place in school for some time and my fashion blindness to blame for it not registering. More likely answer is time taken for style trends to reach our provincial environment. Regardless of answer, feel forced to accept the onslaught of age and increasing loss of connection to mainstream culture. Celebrate this with a glass of sherry and an episode of ‘Brideshead Revisited’.
Found this interesting flow diagram in relation to last Sunday’s diary entry about EQ and QA (or is it QA and EQ?). Successfully fight initial impulse to badge diagram as outstanding example of Building An Audience By Stating The Bleeding Obvious and concede that perhaps Key To Success is to grasp hold of one idea and continually repeat until dead, or successful route out of teaching is achieved, whichever comes first.
Further consideration leads to irresistible desire to tinker with diagram. First thought is to humbly suggest that ‘feedback to teachers’ stage be written out entirely as it carries strong, pungent scent of traditional hierarchical structures that ought to be avoided at all costs except in the classroom with respect to children. And in the corridors. And the playground. Obviously.
Mutual professional trust and respect surely the most important element of driving up standards in Quality First Teaching after all. Feel certain that Research must prove this to be the case. Ask fellow professionals on The Twitter about this and feel mildly depressed by crushing silence that follows.
Convinced that stage of ‘Developmental Dialogue’ is most important element in process and wonder for the umpteenth time just how, exactly, this is achieved for classroom practitioners who frequently experience days where they have No Time To Pee. Decide that capacity must be explicitly built into practitioners Directed Time for such dialogue to take place then promptly worry that time will instead be filled with Opportunities For Complaining and other avoidance activities. Decide solution might be to have Identified Champions leading dialogue sessions and immediately worry that this is merely example of imposing hierarchical structure on process. Tempted to accept this compromise as another splendid example of the need to Celebrate Contradictions and mark this job as ‘complete’ on lengthy to-do list but this prompt immediate revisiting of earlier concerns about finding the Ultimate List App. Hold head in hands and ask self once again about potential retirement age.
I believe that ‘Hydrate Or Die’ was once the Snappy Slogan for the Camelbak company. It may still be, but I am afraid I have not really been paying attention to such things. Certainly the theory of staying properly fuelled and hydrated has long been established as being Of Vital Importance not just to those pursuing physically orientated goals but also to those interested in more esoteric or indeed academic pursuits. A Healthy Body is A Healthy Mind don’t you know.
Shocked to discover this week then that I am not the only one in my team falling desperately behind in the league table of Ideal Daily Fluid Intake as S and I compared water bottles at the start of Leadership Team meeting after school. Neither of us, it transpired, had drunk more than three fingers worth since 8am. Both agreed that this measure of daily consumption more than adequate for whisky or gin but not going to cut it when it comes to a healthy hydration routine. Proceed to compare days and forced to concede that lack of fluid intake largely dictated by fact that typical days’ pace is such that there is No Time To Pee: Morning of meetings lead straight into break-time duties which lead straight into teaching which lead into lunchtime duties which lead to full afternoon of teaching and then finally to more meetings. J overhears conversation and points out that it sounds like Typical Teacher Whining and suggests we Man Up. Less than fifty precent convinced this suggestion is made in ironic manner.
Determined to include Daily Hydration And Urination Policy For Staff in agenda for next Leadership Team meeting. Also make note to self to cite failure of timetable to meet needs of such a policy as key reason for lack of progress in next appraisal review. Consider this to be a successful solution-focused outcome to the day.
Outburst over coffee this morning from M upon reading something on The Twitter about schools’ EQ processes. Apparently several leaders from different schools have been taking potshots at each other over this matter with each insisting their own QA process is The One True Way. Criticism in this instance appears to have been around the idea that one might be able to attain a clear and coherent overview of one’s colleagues strengths and weakness through “three snapshot observations a year”. Deeply concerned over this for a number of reasons:
- Troubled to think that any senior leader in a school would genuinely suggest that their QA process of teaching and learning is solely based upon formal lesson observations used for an appraisal/performance management process.
- Concerned that any senior leader would intentionally suggest 1. to be the case in order to Score Points in Social Media squabble.
- Confused as to whether the de-facto acronym for this process is EQ or QA. Are we Ensuring Quality or are we Quality Assuring? Admit this confusion reigns even in my own school where EQ and QA are routinely used within the same documents (none of which are written by my good hand, I hasten to add).
Convince self that The Reality Of The Situation must surely be that any self-respecting school leader engages with a range of tools and techniques to ensure quality of teaching and learning in their establishment. Convince self too that senior school leaders around the land are in fact triangulating evidence from a variety of sources in order to quality assure teaching and learning in their establishment. Share these Contentious Conclusions with M who, speaking from experience, immediately suggests replacing ‘triangulation’ with the phrase “from three different places” in order that colleagues not feel threatened by complex vocabulary. Take this suggestion on the chin and embark on lengthy period of mutual declamation of Other People with M. Agree that this is another opportunity to Celebrate Contradictions and pour another coffee.
Much fulmination on The Twitter about a so called ‘Progressive Edu-Twitter’ “blindly accepting what others have said”. Admittedly brief exposure to The Twitter suggests default use of the entire service appears to be either blind acceptance or rejection of what others have said and therefore not entirely certain what point is being made.
Still no nearer an answer about what the opposing camp to ‘Progressive Edu-Twitter’ might be. M, who has more experience of these things than I, suggests it is The Traditionalists. This hilariously conjures a vision of legions of educationalists all sporting Acker Bilk hats and mumbling ‘it’s Trad, Dad’ at their conventions.
Further declamation of The Progressive Edu-Twitter suggests that it spends much of its time unthinkingly repeating slogans. Wonder if things like No Excuses and Data Driven Research are not also Slogans. Suspect this is a perfect opportunity to Celebrate Contradictions.