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.

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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 #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’ve not been good at rewarding great teachers for being just that – 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 hereTo 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 CourosThey innovate inside the box and do not let outside circumstances dictate their destiny. They are not waiting for the “next big idea” 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 feelTo be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — 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 warThe 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. “They have been dropped by parachute to outpost forces on lonely Pacific islands; issued in huge lots to hospitals… and passed out to soldiers as they embarked on transports,” 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 Rusiñol 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 #68

We’re moving through my childhood this week, and from there to the best writing about Weinstein, about dreams of lesson planning, the value of twitter and tough stuff on Sean Hughes; podcasts on Wuthering Heights and a murder in Tipperary 160 years ago; the picture is Mark Chagall.

Vincent Hanley, a local hero or ours growing up died 30 years ago. He was such a huge part of all our growing up on the radio (favourite jingle of all time: ‘Listen to Vinny, or we’ll send the boys round to nail your feet to the floor!’), on the tv (MTUSA shaped our listening and watching for years to come) and at school where we were told to avoid him because he was part of the collapse of Western Culture (or something). This piece by Colm O’Callaghan brought it all back.

Marina Hyde is an expert at cutting through the bullshit. On Harvey Weinstein here she points out that it isn’t enough to go on a retreat when you’ve broken the rules. Where and when will there be a price to pay for this behaviour?

Amy Burvall is always magnificent, this post proves that even her dreams are great. That Time I Dreamt About Lesson Plans.

Greg Ashman makes the case here for the value of twitter for teachers: it’s the very fact that it isn’t the cosy place school can become. Twitter is not like real life and that’s what makes it so important.

Michael Hann wrote this controversial piece about the life and death of Sean Hughes. It rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, but it does something I think is important, it speaks honestly of the dead, something that isn’t always pretty but is necessary.

My devotion to BBC’s In Our Time Podcast series is endless, Melvyn Bragg is a colossus and I could put an episode from the catalogue on the list every week. This is on Wuthering Heights.

When the Cormack brother from Loughmore were hanged for the murder of John Ellis 1858, they were widely believed to be innocent. Fin Dwyer takes up the story here.

Picture of the week is Marc Chagall, 1949 Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat. I have seen Chagall up close in so many museums and he’s always mesmerising.  I found it here.

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.