Too much data; too many meetings: stop talking and do something.

“Let’s go lean on data, lean on meetings and use our common sense to generate a menu of practical interventions that are meaningful and deliverable.”

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Cao1IfcUMAAb26J Most data systems.  Many EHCPs 

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about the huge imbalance between the time and effort we spend identifying issues relative to the time and effort we spend doing something to address them.  There are two main areas where this imbalance comes into play:  assessment data and ‘referrals’.

Here’s a thought experiment (One I’ve used before):  Your entire data system at school is wiped out and your mark book is accidentally burned in a fire.  How upset are you?

The fact is that most teachers could zip through their class list in a few minutes re-creating an assessment profile and cause-for-concern list.  We know what the issues are. Usually, when the data system spews out the RED flags of concern, it is absolutely no surprise.  Occasionally, of course, something unexpected pops up but mainly, we already know because of the richness of our interactions with our…

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Phase 2 – Learning more about young people and education

Why were the young people of Bradford far behind their peers? This question formed the foundation of many years of thought and working with young people in different contexts. A clear link was established between where a child lived, the quality of the education recieved and the child’s life chances.

In 2011 Engaging Young Minds came about (as a non – profit organisation to work on educational youth work) out of a visible need to help economically deprived children excell in the arena of education and thereby their life, in a wholesome way.

In 2013 I applied to Teach First to get an opportunity to learn more about education so Engaging Young Minds could be steered in an evidence based direction and have a greater impact on the learning and the wholesome development of young people (and if I saw that being in a school had a wider impact to remain there). I am still figuring out what I’d ideally like to do, but for now I am enjoying learning more about the way we teach and learn and educational systems to help educational environments and pupils in less advantaged areas thrive.

The two years which followed were incredible (in the highs and lows). They gave me alternative insight into the lives of young people and I learnt a lot about what is needed to help young people excell, academically and personally. Some of my ideas changed, some I gained evidence for, some became more murky and others caused further questions to arise. I am constantly learning.

Through the two years I jotted down my experiences but decided to take a hiatus from blogging and Engaging Young Minds (in its original form) in order to allow my thoughts to develop, mature and deepen.

In the comimg months I hope to use this platform to share case studies and experiences starting with what happend during those two years. I will (mainly) share insights relating to teaching and learning, and by that, at times, key development points and moments which reinforced or changed my previously held thoughts.

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In trying to do so much we do too little

Cognitive load theory and how in trying to do so much we do too little.

Reflecting English

in doing too much

Image: @jasonramasami

Recently, I asked a class of top-set year 11s to identify the verbs in a piece of writing. It was a seemingly simple activity that Ihad giventhem a few minutes to complete, yet it quickly became clear from the blank faces I was met with that my request had posed something of a problem: after five years of secondary school, a sizeable proportion of the group did not know what a verb was.

How many times in 11 years of schooling must they have encountered the term before? How many times must they have heard the word uttered from a teacher’s lips or seen it written up on a board? Yet despite numerous exposures, this relatively simple concept, one probably within the capacity of a bright 5 year-old, had slipped away and hadhardly beengrasped at all. Of course, the humble verb is but the tip of the iceberg…

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Gratitude

The developing of wholesome young people.

Pragmatic Education

“It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.

How can we live gratefully? By becoming aware that every moment is a new gift, and if you miss the opportunity of this moment, another moment is given to us, and another moment. Behold the master key to our happiness in our own hands. Moment by moment, we can be grateful for this gift.” 

David Steindel-Rast

One way that schools can help their pupils to be happy in their lives is by teaching them the habit of gratitude.

At our school, we tell our pupils about what scientists are finding out about gratitude. It turns out those who regularly practise grateful thinking feel happier, more loving, optimistic, joyful and enthusiastic. As the world’s leading psychologist on gratitude says, ‘Gratitude is one of the few things that can measurably change our lives.’

Being grateful…

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I Did Not Speak Out.

Trivium21c

First they asked me to teach girls differently and I did not speak out because I was a teacher.

They could tell what I was doing because, well, they were girls…

Then they asked me to teach black boys differently and I did not speak out because I was a teacher.

They could tell what I was doing because, well, they were black… and they were boys…

Then they asked me to teach white working class boys differently and I did not speak out because I was a teacher.

They could tell what I was doing because, well, they were white, and boys and spoke cockney’ish’

Then they asked me to focus on pupil premium children, there was a lot of money on this one… and I did not speak out

They could tell what I was doing because, well, they asked me to sit them at the front, or on the end of rows and…

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Being Liberal

In search of the good life, an education of value and high worth.

The Traditional Teacher

by Elliott & Fry, published by  Bickers & Son, woodburytype, circa 1883; published 1886 Matthew Arnold, who saw culture as a ‘study of perfection’

There is a fundamental difficulty for many English speakers in understanding what is meant by the term ‘liberal education’, because the word ‘liberal’ has so many associations which actually run contrary to these educational principles.

In politics, liberalism is associated with the Enlightenment experiment begun by Hobbes and Locke, in which humanity was redefined as being governed by self-interest, with no possibility of a higher motive. All higher motives were dismissed as nothing more than the savage superstitions of primitive culture, from which modern man must liberate himself. The solution to social problems was to organise society so that citizens would be governed by enlightened self-interest: to cancel the old bonds of family, tribe or religion, and replace them with a contract which government and governed agreed was mutually profitable. A business contract replaced the former belief in sacred rights and…

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Freedom Requires Discipline

Self-discipline has been seen by many as a positive character trait and key to success in many realms. Gradually developing and enabling students to have a reasoned self-discipline rather than one (ultimately) externally imposed could allow for deeper, profounder long term effects. As Plato says: “The first and best victory is to conquer self.”

The Traditional Teacher

An icon of narcissistic self destruction: the 'Easy Rider' chopper. An icon of narcissistic self-destruction: the ‘Easy Rider’ chopper.

A colleague of mine recently asked his pupils if they considered themselves free. Their reply was unhesitating: “Of course I am! I can do whatever I want!”

But does freedom consist of the untrammeled pursuit of personal desires?

When I wake up in the morning to the sound of the alarm, I am free, in theory, to turn it off and go back to sleep. I often want to do that. But I don’t, because I need to catch an early train into London. If I did what I wanted, I would not be able to keep my job. I would lose the freedom to practise the profession I love.

When I drive to the station to catch my train, I am free in theory to drive on the right hand side of the road. There is no wall to stop…

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