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.

 

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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 #55

A diverse mix of subjects caught my interest this week. Writing on politics, history, newspapers, the Beatles, and Brexit stood out, even though my week away from reading was dominated by the movies. I've seen seven films in the last ten days!

First pick this week is by Matt Hartman for the Awl. Against Personal Politics is about how strands of political activism have become about the advantage gained for the individual though they purport to be about the collective. There populism lies.

Hannah Jewell wrote this, 12 Historical Women Who Gave No Fucks, a while ago but it's a great read on how women have had to ignore the prevailing attitudes to make progress. Still do.

The amount of work Damian Shiels has done to illuminate the landscape of Irish involvement in the American Civil War is extraordinary. This story of Johanna Barry, an emigrant domestic in Ireland and America goes further and continues to see the pension records of those left behind to investigate their lives. Long many he continue.

Next is more history: these photos show the making of the New York Times, step by laborious step in 1942. What struck me was the number of Irish names and how so much of this kind of work is gone. Compiled by Alex Q Arbuckle.

Bill Wyman ranked all 213 Beatles Songs from worst to best, argue with the order of you like but this is a history of the Beatles too. Great stuff.

There are 100,000 new Irish passport holders in Britain. As the Brexit crisis deepens Mary Bourke wants to give you a guide to what's expected of you. Hillarious!

Podcast of the week is the first episode in the very good Irish Passport series. It's on the Irish border and it's an excellent place to start with Irish history and politics.

Picture of the week I got here, it's called the Love Letter, I think and it's by Nakajima Kiyoshi.

Reads of the Week #54

We were away in Spain, or Catalunya to be exact and a bit political, so this is the best of  the what I’ve read over three full weeks. 

Two pieces on holidays struck me over the last few days. The first is by Heidi Stevens, a favourite writer. She picks out the good with the bad of every family holiday here with honesty and necessary humour. Hilary Fannin’s piece is about some of the same summer things, that time of year that memory always marks as the good old days, but with a glance back and forward to children and grandparents to provide us with some perspective on aging. 

This account of the tragic aftermath of the 1916 Rising for Thomas MacDonagh’s family by Ronan McGreevy reminds us that the after effects of the Rising on the families of the executed are little discussed.  

The anniversary of the signing of the Versailles Treaty brought me to reading this amazingly detailed New York Times piece from the time

Two podcasts this time the first is from Radiolab on how Henrietta Lacks changed modern science and, eventually, her family’s understanding of itself; and from BBC Radio a look at She Moved Through The Fair, an episode of the brilliant SoulMusic series.
From Atlas Obscura how the Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 did not go as planned, obscure but fascinating history. 
And finally, Sonny on the Causeway, kinda. 

Reads of the Week #52

Reads of the week is back! I took fifteen months or so off mainly to write about the ASTI and education in general but there is time now to start curating and recommending things you may have missed over the last week. (Actually I’ve cheated this week and gone back two weeks). 
First there’s local (for me) history of boys who chose to fight in World War One rather than stay in Clonmel Borstal, the only such Irish institution outside Dublin. Seventy of the more than fourhundred who went to war died. Great work by Conor Reidy.  

Next is some more local-ish history.  Colm Wallace has completed a study of murdered Free State Gardaí from 1922 to 1949 and this is the story of the first, killed in Mullinahone. 

My Family’s Slave is a  piece by Alex Tizon, who, sadly, died in recent months. It’s about a woman who lived with with his family from before he was born and long after she needed to. And was never properly paid. It hurts to read but his journey to do Lola justice in the end is  powerful. 

From prose to fiction, but not too far a journey: to Alexie Sherman‘s Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest, a short story about a motel cleaner that gets to you by describing a life of seemingly banality in hugely human detail.

Podcast of the week is on Manzanar the Workd War 2 camp for Japanese-Americans, now designated a National Historical Site. Interesting discussion on whether the camp was an internment or concentration camp. I listen to a lot of podcasts/radio (50 hours this week is a record [yes I keep track!]) this one stayed got to me. The quiet dignity mixed with activism and the pursuit of justice are moving. 99 percent invisible have dozens of podcasts like this 

Not a great title but the idea that we raise our girls to fight stereotypes and pursue their dreams, but don’t do the same for our boys is worth considering. 

This is the best video essay on film I’ve seen in a while The Legacy of Paranoid Thrillers.  

Fintan O’Toole won the Orwell Prize for his writing on Brexit Britain: The End of a Fantasy for the New York Review of Books is a good place to start reading his work.  (@fotoole for @nybooks)

This is a very good accounting of where the ASTI was, is and might be heading by Katherine Donnelly. 

One more history story to finish about how Mike McTigue took on ‘the Battling Siki‘ during the Civil Wat to become a world Champion. 

The picture with this post is Blue Horses (1911) by Franz Marc, a German artist who was killed in World War One. We went to an exhibition of his work in Madrid in 2008 with Child One and brought home a stuffed red horse we christened Frank. Child Three sleeps with it now.