Reads of the Week #65

This is a short list. A few things blew me away this week, and a theme emerged, unknown to me. This writing sent me back to Robert Frost, which is never a bad thing, and a poem we’ve read with in class many, many times: Out, Out-.

And they, for they were not the ones dead, turned to their affairs. 

That line has provided content for many an English class, some students see it as a sign of the heartless, disconnected Frost, others see it as representative of a way of life, rural New England, where, like many an Irish farm or house, death is acknowledged and life goes on, as best as it can. I’m revealing my hand here, but I tend towards the latter. The writing below confirms for me that we all deal with life and death differently, but writing, or talking about it, surely help. Read and listen well till next week.

 

The Jupiter Epiphany by Michael Coady, appeared in last weekend’s Irish Times. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Michael on occasion, I taught his daughter even, he is a poet from and of Carrick-on-Suir. I’ve spent over two decades working in Carrick and Michael’s poetry sat on my shelf more many of those years. This poem, both a celebration of a life and of a description of an Irish funeral is rooted in his place, it is perfect. I read it aloud to my wife and eldest daughter when I found it, I do’t do that often.

 

Sinead Gleeson (who if you haven’t read, you should start with this) also made me stop in my tracks with this piece, Second Mother, on her Aunt Terry, which manages to be moving and joyous while lamenting the death of one so loved. Take a break after you read this, and let it sink in.

 

Two podcasts for you.

First from Radiolab, the amazing, and again heartbreaking story of Oliver, or Billy Sipple who saved Gerald Ford’s life and became a media curiosity. As a former Marine, there was interest in him, but as a gay man, a circus was created and gradually his life fell apart. A sobering view of the media and the marginalised.

 

Secondly from Sam Loy, an interview with his grandmother about his grandfather. Sounds simple, but, again, in the simple things lies not only truth, but heartbreak. I can’t say more, but it too is perfect.

 

I think the title of this Edvard Munch is a bit OTT but I still love it. I got it here.

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Reads of the Week #64

My thinking and doing are dominated these days by curricular change and reform, and reading about education on the one hand and trying to take of my wellbeing by having other things to distract me, entertain me, inform me.

On the nose for curricular change, this piece by Mags Amond on pushing our boundaries on CPD is right up my street. It’s about the ‘desire line’ that ‘you make the road as you go’ and it manages to be illuminating, brief and spirit raising all at the same time.

This brief quotation from this post from Mark Priestley says more than I could about the direction reform should take 

the question we should ask is not ‘what subjects do we teach?’, but instead ‘what does an educated person look like, what knowledge do they need to develop, and what means (including subjects-based provision) are best suited to achieving this?’

New breed of teachers; old breed of reaction.

An old friend of my reads of the week Anthony Wilson, writes here about the return to school:

I pass a colleague on the stairs, briefly stopping to say how my summer went, already feeling it recede at the speed of light. One more flight. My own office door. If the door is closed I am teaching or out, a notice on it says. If it is open, please feel free to come and say hello. It’s next to a poster of a poem I once wrote about my children, ‘I Try Not to Shout at Them’. Somewhere between my poem and the note next to it is my life. I turn the key and go in. Another year.

It almost made me want to go back…
Bob Vulfov wrote this piece which manages to be about history and be hilarious. How I wish I had this skill. The title says it all: As Your Doctor, I Am Protesting Removal of Your Tumor, I Don’t Want to Erase Your Medical History .

Podcast of the week is Second Captains: a week of  diverse interviews with Murad Mohammed, Aidan Regan and Dave Hannigan make a must listen podcast essential for both sport and politics. And every is getting Dave’s book (on an Irish childhood I also lived) for Christmas!

In that spirit, of the memories sport brings, I found myself in tears listening in the car to tributes to Jimmy Magee this week. This clip is a personal one, I know the cameraman, I was there, on a half day from school when Kelly reached Clonmel and even embarrassed myself in front of Sean at a parent teacher meeting once by trying to replay it for him from the point of view of my fourteen year old self. Thanks Jimmy.

It’s a long way to Tipperary, but it’s quicker with Sean Kelly in the saddle.

Picture of the week is Branches of an Almond Tree in Blossom by  Vincent van Gogh that I found here.

 

Reads of the Week #63

I was very busy this week, a lot of driving, and not as much time for reading. So, luckily, a small few wonderful pieces of writing came my way.

First the least devastating, but no less moving, no less thoughtprovoking, Mosi Secret traces the lives of the first black boys to integrate the elite prep schools of the American South. Their struggles then and since are both a testament to their bravery and perseverance. (Keeping an eye Longreads always pays off.)

Now this piece by Sally-Ann Rowland on having, or not having, a baby tore me up. The honesty is so refreshing, the story is so heartbreaking, but such a rewarding read.

Kevin Toolis, like the previous piece found in the Guardian, writes about the death and wake of his father. It is so familiar to us Irish, but again here, the honest openness with which he writies is just beautiful.

‘I Saw Beckett The Other Day’ and other poems by Orfhlaith Foyle are just right to make you think and lift you up. I got them from Poethead curated by Chris Murray.

I have an amazing podcast for you to listen to this week: first Jarlath Regan spoke to JP and Brendan Byrne about their book “Don’t Hug Your Mother” and parental alienation when families fall apart. Two amazing men.

And finally, this weeks cover image is of Nastassja Kinski and the recently late, but always great Harry Dean Stanton in Paris Texas. One Perfect Shot is the source.

Reads of the Week #62

This week the divide between my old life and my new work became a little more evident. It’s quieter, nothing will beat the noise of a school though. There are fewer people in my day, and I’ve figured out how to be (somewhat) productive when working from home.

What I read this week was about History first. There are two deeply affecting pieces about the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the US on the one hand and a survivor of the Nagasaki bomb on the other. This contemporary article from Benjamin Fine for the New York Times on the Little Rock Nine, who were just trying to go to school, still has the capacity to shock, 60 years on, to the week. Sumiteru Taniguchi, who survived Nagasaki to become a peace activist, died in the last few days at 88. ‘Every year on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, as well as any time a country conducted a nuclear test, he would attend a sit-in at the Peace Park in that city. According to the Nagasaki Shimbun, he appeared at 396 protests.’ The obit is by Motoko Rich. Both articles are examples of survival, perseverance and a commitment to right.

David Wong Louie wrote Eat, Memory: A life without food in Harper’s Magazine, about how his cancer treatment took away his enjoyment of food. That’s a seriously truncated description of this brutally honest and compelling writing. Again, survival is a theme here.

When we all get to school, the most valuable resource, and it is always in short supply, is time. Kenny Pieper writes in this short but insightful blogpost: imagine what we could achieve if, instead of a cupboard full of resources provided for our National courses, we were provided with the more valuable resource of Time. He’s right (again!), making the time to do the small things: commitment, energy and innovation all need time to grow in schools.

I also found something about the quirks of the German return to school by Rebecca Schuman. Suffice to say there are reasons why they don’t fret, but how also it’s getting a little out of hand!

In Ireland the place Shannon Mattern writes about in  A Stuffed History of Storage Spaces, is called ‘the press’. Her writing struck me first as a hoarder, second as a language student remembering Dr Terry Dolan explaining to us about Hiberno English and where the word press came from, and third she gave me the word wunderkammern to spend two hours reading about during the week!
Podcast of the week is The Invisible College Series from BBC Radio 4, produced and presented by Cathy Fitzgerald. The care and attention, not to mention the amount of archival research done for this series is amazing, and makes it essential for anyone who writes, or needs writers to explain their process (and work in general) to them.

Picture of the week is Una and the Lion by William Bell Scott which we saw in the National Gallery of Scotland last Easter on a lovely grey Edinburgh afternoon. It is a beautiful blend of innocence and power, of danger and coexistence. That’s life, isn’t it?

Read of the Week #61

This week was about new beginnings, the image says it all: heading along a track knowing not where it is leading.

The reading week was eclectic, stretching from the circus last weekend in Las Vegas, through bereavement and on to the return to school and work for us in education. An allovertheplace week, the reading mirrors that.

 

First, here’s Dave Hannnigan writing about where Conor McGregor, not the the ‘mean streets of Dublin’, but the kind of world McGregor epitomises.

 

I don’t want to say too much about John Tomsett‘s beautiful piece in honour of his sister Beverley, you should just read it. I know where he is, I am there too.

 

Two articles now to get your newly returned teaching brain buzzing. First from George Couros5 Characteristics of a Change Agent. This is what we should be bringing to our classrooms, it won’t happen every day, but it is something to strive towards.

change agents

Secondly, Alex Quigley on painting the big picture for students in our subject area if we want them to develop an expertise. Here’s a paragraph that really struck me:

In education we can too often be beguiled by the notion of the ‘natural’ expert… but we can cultivate expertise in education more commonly by helping students seeing the ‘big picture’ of the subject domain, then breaking it down into a framework that can be learned and understood over time in the classroom.

Podcast of the Week is from 99% Invisible is on the town of Colma, California where the dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one. The Modern Necropolis.

The image of the week is from Kültür Tava, I called it The Road Ahead. Keep your eyes on the horizon.

Reads of the Week #60

What links these articles, pictures and podcasts? Every week I look at what I’ve read, and more recently seen and heard, to find a group of recommendations that are tied together somehow. It’s hard to ignore that this selection, one way or another, is about History. I’m moving into new role in the coming week, seconded to the JCT to work on the new Junior Cycle History. New beginnings. No looking back now!

First, on the 90th anniversary of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, this is a classic from the time: Felix Frankfurter’s famous takedown in The Atlantic of a system that refused to work

Dylann Roof walked into Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church on June 17, 2015, armed with a Glock handgun and 88 bullets and shot dead nine members of a local prayer group. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah went in search of the reasons why. This is a powerful piece of journalism.

ICYMI:
A Door Into The Dark by James Murphy is a challenging piece about how dialogue has been replaced by dominance, how all shade has been removed from public discourse and how this polarisation serves only the few. It applies to education too: it’s easy to be anti- but what are we for?

Two podcasts this week. One of the interesting bonuses of subscribing to the Second Captains podcast is that Ken Early has developed a brilliant series in political exploration. In this episode, building on previous ones on Northern Ireland, feminism and Brexit, Ken talks to Mark Jones here about Nazism, Weimar Germany and Trump. Any podcast that gets into a discussion of the Freikorps in 1920s Germany, is okay with me.

The second podcast is also a reminder of the power of a historical memory. From BBC Radio 4 Soul Music series, this episode is about Strange Fruit, an anthem of the CivIl Rights era in the US, written by a Jewish man in the 1930s.
Finally, back to William Orpen’s Portrait of Gertrude Sanford, which is a beautiful picture, but doesn’t the sitter’s whole story: a daughter of the political class, she inspired a character played by Katharine Hepburn, became a big game hunter, a WWII spy and latterly an environmentalist. I think you can see a bit of all this in her steely gaze.

 

Happy reading!

 

Reads of the Week #59

This week I’ve been trying in vain to avoid Trump and focus on History. I didn’t succeed, but found some great reading in my attempt to escape.

 

Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism is a fascinating description of the conditions that need to exist, or at least need to be presented as existing, for fascism to exist. It isn’t much of a stretch to see the ways Trump espouses Mussolinismo.

 

This piece by Michael Waters is a study of how to resist tyranny and cultural assimilation: how 19th-century Lithuanians smuggled books to save their language.

 

Mark Bailey has the best argument for teaching History I’ve read in a while: it teaches you how to run the country,  if you need help figuring that out.

 

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic makes the case for a feminist foreign policy, putting the advancement of women’s rights at the centre of foreign affairs is worth thinking about.

 

Maximillian Alvarez writes in The Baffler that I think, therefore I am entitled to my opinion isn’t helpful. All opinions aren’t equal and don’t deserve, by right, to be treated equally.

 

In Aeon Magazine, Barbara J King asks here that if they are smart and sensitive, how can we justify continuing to kill pigs for food? Food for thought?

 

Podcast of the week is The language of female friendship from Lexicon Valley. I’m about to leave behind a world where I have been privileged to hear a bit of this language over the last few decades and I will miss it.

 

Picture of the Week is of  the Boulevard de Clichy by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. It’s very different now, but isn’t everything?