Reads of the Week #75

As we draw nearer to Christmas, the time to read seems to shrink, but, in the knowledge that in two weeks time the festival of reading that is the holidays in our house will kick off, we plough on and grab a moment where we can find it to explore the thoughts of someone else, and, if we are lucky we find something that changes us, in a small way maybe, but leaves us with a mark, a small dent on ourselves that we learn from, and remember.

Regular readers of the blog will know how much I value the writing of  Kenny Pieper. Just read this piece:

It‚Äôs time to shout from the rooftops… that we have things to to say; that we will no longer be silent and humble and shy about the great things we do in our classrooms. Lift your head up; look people in the eyes: you are a teacher.

The full post is here.

Two weeks in a row for Malachy Clerkin¬†on the list. This week he wrote about Galway’s Niall Donohue, Galway hurler whose death was remembered in the midst of his friends succes this year.

Everybody moves on, though. From good days, from bad days. They go about their lives and leave you to yours. Niall Donohue ended his on Wednesday, October 23rd 2013 and left behind a family, a community, a hurling club and a county team, each of them bewildered in their own way at the loss.

The full article is here.

Miriam Lord: I had no hand, act or part in writing my column¬†No extract, no spoilers, it’s hilarious and perfect.

Trump, Israel and the Art of the Giveaway by¬†Tom Friedman, pulls no punches, but isn’t laughing at Trump like so many, this is deadly serious.

Trump is a chump. And he is a chump because he is ignorant and thinks the world started the day he was elected, and so he is easily gamed.

A building like no other, which will captivate you whether you are religious or not, La Sagrada Família is expertly described in this 99% Invisible podcast. Love these podcast, love Barcelona.

And finally this week, Cafe Pittoresque, 1917 by Georgy Bogdanovich Yakulov  Armenian painter, stage and costume designer is image of the week. I found it here.


Reads of the Week #74

A week of professional satisfaction and personal reflection. In a week where you visit the National Museum and the Houses of the Oireachtas for work, you can’t complain, work is good and I’m getting to do things a few short weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of.

But, this week also had the birthday of my brother Conor who died in 2006. The 2nd of December is always sad, mainly for what have been.

Anyway, there’s a sporting theme to this selection, with the exception of the image I chose.

Malachy Clerkin is one of those writers who covers sport but pushes out of those pages to say things with far more import. This piece is about a fan who as a boy collected autographs and letters from GAA stars. Sounds simple, but it becomes a story of Ireland now and Ireland then, and how much our culture means to us.

This piece by Natasha Frost on Ann Gregory, the African-American golfer is an amazing piece of history, again teaching us that we wouldn’t be where we are in our world without trailblazers who pressed on against the tide.

I ran middle distance races when I was a teenager. If I’d managed my studies and athletics better I might have been closer to the people Ian O’Riordan writes about here. Ireland’s athletes once ruled American college races.

When Irish distance runners ruled American colleges.

This obit of Dorothea Findlater is an account of such a full life of sport, history and I’d guess huge fun, it does what an obit should: make you wish you’d known the subject in life.

Podcast of the Week is from 99% Invisible and tells the story of the graphic design of Mexico Olympics 1968. It’s what I love about this series, it makes you look again at the familiar and tells you something new about it.

Image of the week is Gustav Klimt’s Death and Life I found it here.

Reads of the Week #73

I spent more than usual reading offline, travelling and hotels will do that to you. The recommendations are about reading and writing for the most part, and that makes sense when words are your business. What we say has to match what we do, and our surroundings, our word choice, our choice of material and who we listen to and hear are all shaping us, all the time.

This piece by Julie Sedivy explained to me the importance of where you come from in differentiating what you write and what you say. Loved it.

Here’s¬†why bad language is good for you, Emma Byrne‘s article is fucking great. (See what I did there).

I don’t know the answer to Frank Furedi’s question on book collectors (are they real readers, or just cultural snobs), but I enjoyed reading about myself in his essay here.

Two podcasts:

  1. There’s always more going on in a Malcolm Gladwell podcast than at first listen you can hear, I finished this episode thinking of Christy Moore’s version of Deportees. And of Leonard Cohen, one year on from his death.
  2. Philip King interviewed by Marian Finucane. A half hour of glorious talk about Dingle, the world and all the music in it. Rarely miss him on radio on a Saturday night.

And finally, the cover image shows that even in a detail Botticelli is magnificent, saying more than thousands of words can say. I found it here.



Reads of the Week #72

The weeks fly by and with them the reading becomes more specialised, more focussed. Whether it’s a president or a teacher, a dying man or a lottery winner, the time of year tells us things are silently taking shape beneath the surface, and we have to make do with what we can.

We’re lucky to have a President who is so versed and interested in History, this speech from his recent visit to Australia on the Famine and the scattering of the Irish is powerful.

This piece by Matt Bencke broke my heart.

Here, John Thomsett sets out how schools should approach professional development: it’s a primer for those of us in this area of education and for school leaders too.

Podcast of the week is 99% Invisible‘s account of how El Gordo, the lottery in Spain, is both a thing of beauty and a strange ritual.

And the cover image this week is from Jo. I found it here.

Have a great week everyone.

Reads of the Week #71

This week has been about the culmination of two months work with my amazing colleagues on what good History CPD looks like. And so far, so good. If I needed confirmation that teachers are special (I didn’t) I got it this week, and though we know there will be harder days, the openness and professionalism of those we met so far has been such a validation or my choice to move out of the classroom to support teachers in curricular reform. Truth be told, this whole blog has been the story of my move, post by post from outright scepticism to understanding that without engagement with professional development, teachers can’t improve their teaching. Denying them their right to the opportunity to collaborate, improve and acknowledge their current good practice is a poor way to lead them.


It should come as no surprise then that this week’s selection of things to read is all about education.

Geoff Barton on why pushing teachers out of the classroom has to stop.

But as a profession, we‚Äôve not been good at rewarding great teachers for being just that ‚Äď great teachers. Apart from system flirtations with initiatives like the “Advanced Skills Teacher”, “Excellent Teacher” and “Lead Practitioner” programmes, the dominant progression route has been to move into management. As a result, we take good teachers and expect them to teach less and to manage more.

Alison Peacock says here:¬†To teach and¬†learn without limits¬†is to place trust and empathy first, within a culture of high ambition for all. Essentially, if we believe that labelling children sets limits then we need to seize “transformability” as a means to see what might be possible, rather than focusing on a perceived deficit.

Successful people in education initiate, says¬†George Couros:¬†They¬†innovate inside the box¬†and do not let outside circumstances dictate their destiny.¬†They are not waiting for the ‚Äúnext big idea‚ÄĚ to find them, but go do what they can with what they have, to create the best experiences for the people they serve.

From Maria Popova, here’s ee cummings on art, life, and being unafraid to feel:¬†To be nobody-but-yourself ‚ÄĒ in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else ‚ÄĒ means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

Cara Giaimo on the paperbacks that soldiers carried into war:¬†The first set was released in October of 1943. Each month for the next four years, crate after crate of books made their way to overseas soldiers, pretty much wherever they were. ‚ÄúThey have been dropped by parachute to outpost forces on lonely Pacific islands; issued in huge lots to hospitals‚Ķ and passed out to soldiers as they embarked on transports,‚ÄĚ reporter Frank S. Adams¬†wrote in 1944.

Some good History in my podcast of the week, from the RTE Doc on One series on the Siege of Jadotville which does justice to these heroes who were forgotten, but are now being recognised for their bravery.

And finally, picture of the week is from Sean Scully Irish painter. Found it here.




Reads of the Week #70

The midterm (and a feast of reading), comes to an end and the work we’ve been preparing for over the last two months begins on Monday the 6th of November. You’ll forgive me therefore for beginning with Tom Boulter‘s excellent piece on improving curriculum in a school which can be applied to curriculum designer and to individual practice just as effectively. It was food for thought as my new role begins.

Ewan MacKenna is always worth reading but here he sang my song so loudly I was cheering by the end:¬†I can’t stand reading, hearing, talking and writing about Conor McGregor.

Harry McGee on that old phrase ‘providing consular assistance’ and how Irish diplomats went so far to secure the release of Ibrahim Halawa, gave me a renewed appreciation of diplomacy.

In his review of Stephen Kotkin’s second volume of his Stalin biography, Keith Gessen gives a masterclass on post-revolutionary Russia and goes someway towards explaning how Stalin, and the state he presided over, became Stalinist. This more than satisfied my fascination with Soviet history for the week.

Katie Coyle has appeared is these posts before, I used a magnificent piece she wrote about miscarriage wit my students a while back and it got an amazing response. This piece, Mama Heart had a similar impact on me.

And now, the writing that had the most impact on me this week. Aisling Bea is a very funny comedian but. writing on her father’s suicide she broke my heart with grief for a lost loved one revisited and filled me with admiration that she could be funny and honest at the same as she explored such a personal experience, I’m in awe of her.

Podcast of the is The Memory Palace, Nate diMeo, with nine and a half minutes of poetry on a disappearing memory of his youth, my youth too, radio stations. Radio meant so much to me growing up, music and talk was on everywhere, even as I ‘studied’ every night in my room at home or in college. Perhaps podcasts have replaced it, I’m listening to a podcast as I write, and if podcasts can reach the beautifully high standard Nate diMeo does, radio might still be okay.

Image of the week is, perhaps appropriately given the news is from¬†Santiago Rusi√Īol i Prats, a Spanish artist, famous for his role in Catalan Modernism. The painting is¬†Avenue of Plane Trees, 1916 and I found it here.


Reads of the Week #69

Some very affecting stuff this week, much to ponder in this selection on grief and talking, on silence and growing up, as well as being a grateful parent and human being. There’s a podcast on one of the great songs that can be bent and shaped into a musical standard and a jazz classic, and the photo is proof of the beauty of our little part of the world.

Malachy Clerkin, stepping away from sport, his usual patch, here, writes about the ache left behind when a loved one dies and how that gap is always there, it just takes the most unexpected trigger to remind you.

Also stepping away from sport, though into his other field, Richie Sadlier wrote here about seeking and benefiting from therapy in troubled times. It isn’t something he was comfortable telling people about at the time, but ultimately talking helps, whether we seek professional help or a friendly ear elsewhere.

I constantly refer back to Maria Popova’s Brainpickings selections, a source of regular brainfood. This essay is on Paul Goodman, who I’m only discovering after reading this piece and the¬†Nine Kinds of Silence he identified. It fits well with the previous selections. I’m trying the¬†fertile silence of awareness at the moment!

In the middle of a blogpost called Why children do not care about being successful adults, Ben Newmark wrote a sentence that had me punching the air.

My school life was miserable and I would have done anything to be happier. The idea that by working hard I was more likely to be a successful adult one day, and should take comfort from this abstract idea, was inconceivable to me because my world was all-encompassing and the idea of ‚Äėgrowing up‚Äô had very little meaning.

This was me too. And I resolved very early in my teaching career that I would never forget what it was like to be a teenager. Great read

And finally, an old(?!) friend of the Reads of the Week returns: Heidi Stevens turned 43 this month and wrote about what she really wants from her kids for her birthday. It’s rare enough that I read something and pass it straight to my wife on the couch for her to read, but I did with this.

Podcast of the week is from BBC Radio 4’s series Soul Music again. This edition is on¬†My Favourite Things and it trips from Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music to John Coltrane in short but brilliant music odyssey. Every episode is worth a listen.

And this weeks image of a place I know well. Every Saturday morning I take my kids swimming giving me the hour off to go for a run. One of the routes I take regularly brings along the river Suir at the end of Bulmers Orchard where Jonathan Ryan took this photograph of the apples dislodged from trees after Hurricane Ophelia blew by a fortnight ago. We’re lucky to live in a place so beautiful.