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.

 

 

 

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Reads of the Week #67

This busy week I had some hard choices to make, the long list, which I make on Saturday, had eleven things on it, including five podcasts.  Those are the good weeks, when you’ve read so much, and inspired by so many that the selection is high quality.

 

I regret that I never read Mark Mooney before finding this piece, My Last Byline which he wrote before dying of prostate cancer. The whole blog series is worth a read as an example of facing death with grace, humour and honesty, may he rest in peace.

Michael Cronin writes with such authority in The Dublin Review of Books on the intricacies of translating the many languages spoken in concentration camps into and out of German. The nuance of language, affecting directly the lives of prisoners. Our Language, Their Babble.

Through all of the coverage of the mess that is Brexit, Tony Connelly has provided excellent coverage and commentary. This is an extract from his new book on the subject, the fact that it deals only with the dairy trade across the border shows how deep the crisis could become.

The two podcasts I picked are interviews with inspirational Irish sportspeople. First Joy Neville, interviewed by Sean O’Rourke, about becoming one of the first women to referee a international men’s rugby match prompted a conversation with my own daughter about how impossible is nothing, great radio.

The second podcast is Jarlath Regan‘s interview with Paul McGrath. The honesty and decency of the man comes through in every answer he gives. It is one thing to be a hero in sport, but to be so humble afterwards about both his shortcomings and his successes is a mark of the man.

Finally, I love Robert Doisneau. This picture kept me going this week. Thanks again to Kultur Tava.

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 #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.