Reads of the Week #79

A mixed choice this week, covering history (as usual), film, maths history, pencils, James Joyce and Paul Gauguin. Nothing if not eclectic me, if more people read this, one of them might be able to tell me what the trends in my choices are. If…

How the Holocaust Haunts Eastern Europe by Lev Golinkin is a fascinating History of commemoration and non-commemoration.

I saw Three Billboards a few weeks back and it’s awfulness stayed with me. I couldn’t find the right words for it though until I read Wesley Morris in the New York Times here.

These four tips for department meetings from Greg Ashman are right up my street, good planning meetings need clarity and reading ahead.

This short piece by Sarah Laskov on how dots turned into zeros is fascinating in a maths crosses over with history way.

Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories, pictures by Chris Payne and Sam Anderson. This is a real treat.

Podcast of the Week: Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce’s novel Ulysses on In Our Time. No further explanation necessary!

Image of the Week in The Siesta by Paul Gauguin came from here.


Reads of the Week #78

This week was full on so the things I read had to light up early on, it was a week for writing that grabbed my attention quickly and held it. Some extracts should explain why these made the cut.

Richard Cerutti hardly suspected that on Nov. 16, 1992, he was standing atop a discovery that could rewrite the opening chapter in the history of the New World.

An exraordinary account of Archaeology as bloodsport from Thomas Curwen.

How can leaders best ensure consistency within schools without it being a dictatorship? Does it have to come at the expense of autonomy in the classroom? Should it account for teacher personalities? How can accountability be effective without being personal or based on relationships? Should compliance to school policies be assessed?

Dawn Cox on consistency in schools.

When I was a child famous people on television were distant specks. Now I know it’s the other way about. I am the speck, as disposable as a bird clinging to an alder tree 20m from my window in a winter storm.

Michael Harding on the flu, and other things too.

Have you ever left a meeting, PLC, or any other professional development session wondering what the purpose of the time together was and still unclear about what is expected of you?  Unfortunately, you are not alone.

How we may prevent our own improvement from Katie Martin.

Podcast of the Week: Last year marked one hundred years since the first time Eamon de Valera was elected as a public representative, in the Clare By-Election of 1917. From his early life to his disputed legacy, we explore the long and remarkable career of the most dominant political figure of 20th century Ireland.

RTE History Show special on Eamon de Valera.

This week’s cover image is Landscape by Emil Nolde (1867-1956). I found it here.

 @DanielBrami1 & @CamilleStein

Reads of the Week #77

Christmas has come and gone, the reading goes on. This is a selection of the best things I read over the break, so it’s slightly longer than usual. Switching off the phone over Christmas for three days might not sound like a revolutionary act, but for me that’s extraordinary! So there’s plenty of interesting stuff still in the bank to share in the weeks to come.


First here’s a story about a basketball coach who can’t quit from Adam Zagoria. It struck a chord with me: teachers who have to suddenly stop on retirement must find themselves in a strange limbo sometimes.


This next piece is raw, honest and tragic. Mimi O’Donnell writes on the loss of her partner Philip Seymour Hoffman.


This piece by Jen Gann about her son is moving and frank while dealing with some of the issues the debate around the 8th Amendment will bring up in Ireland will bring up.


For a bit of fun head over to Instagram  to see Accidentally Wes Anderson which does the job of location spotter quite well for the next Anderson movie.


I loved this piece by Theo Dorgan about the place he came from. Home is so important, and so is remembering where we came from


Most of the education reading I did over Christmas I chose to challenge me. This post by Katie Martin did just that on collaboration and teachers supporting each other.

If we want to improve skills and knowledge and the application of them in our classrooms, we must move beyond telling people what to do and get into classrooms to help them problem solve, reflect, tweak, and learn together and collectively figure out how to move forward.
Improving our practice is always worth it.


This is just a beautiful essay on the triggers that set us off remembering someone who’s gone from Roy Hoffman. A Sister’s Nurturing, in Countless Home Haircuts


Two podcasts now, the first is on Suffragism from In our Time. Very apt for the year that we are entering because (some, not all) British, and, by association Irish women were given the franchise in 1918. Consistently brilliant programmes from the BBC here, by the way.

And the second is on the sounds our computers make  from Twenty Thousand Hertz. A fascinating look into what the noises our devices are making, where they came from and who designed them.


The cover image this week is one of my favourite pictures: Hunters in the Snow (Winter) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder which we were lucky enough to see about fourteen years ago in Vienna. I used it in school all the time. Some great conversations began there. I got it from the very cool Google Arts and Culture.

Reads of the Week #76

This is the last post before Christmas, so Seasons Greetings and good wishes if you read this blog regularly or if you’ve just arrived!

A little semi-self promotion to start this week. I spent a portion of the summer working on the contribution I made to this, the journal of Irish education, but it is so full of wisdom you shouldn’t just read what I wrote (but while you’re there I’d like some feedback): Ireland’s Yearbook of Education 2017–2018 from Education Matters

I loved the way this piece by Elizabeth Weil is annotated by her teenage daughter, it reminds of the back and forth of being the parent of a kid who knows the answers!: Raising a Teenage Daughter*

This is just scary: Jeff Yates describes how someone can turn your social media world against you: Inside the fake Facebook profile industry.

How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her by Brooke Jarvis is another cautionary tale about the modern world.

Following on from those two articles is this piece from Maria Popova on May Sarton which includes a reading of her poem Canticle 6 on The Art of Being Alone, the value and quality of the time we spend alone has never been more important.

Podcast of the Week is the RTE History Show‘s picks for the best history books published this year.

Finally the image on this post is Woman with Blue Hat by Georgia O’Keeffe and I found it here.

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’s 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.