Reads of the Week #72

The weeks fly by and with them the reading becomes more specialised, more focussed. Whether it’s a president or a teacher, a dying man or a lottery winner, the time of year tells us things are silently taking shape beneath the surface, and we have to make do with what we can.

We’re lucky to have a President who is so versed and interested in History, this speech from his recent visit to Australia on the Famine and the scattering of the Irish is powerful.

This piece by Matt Bencke broke my heart.

Here, John Thomsett sets out how schools should approach professional development: it’s a primer for those of us in this area of education and for school leaders too.

Podcast of the week is 99% Invisible‘s account of how El Gordo, the lottery in Spain, is both a thing of beauty and a strange ritual.

And the cover image this week is from Jo. I found it here.

Have a great week everyone.

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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 #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 #58

This week I was reading about cause and effect: an athlete who cleaned up his life and won gold at the World Championships; the neglect of good government in Trump’s US and how it’s not all just surface stupidity, it runs deep: the long road to being an astronaut and the hassle if you’re of Iranian descent: the legacy of insular leadership in Albania; a heartbreaking podcast and a painting from another place in time. Good week.

Donald McRae is one of the great sportswriters of this generation. His book, A Man’s World is a classic examination of the dangerous tightrope sportspeople walk between a public and private life. This piece on Luvo Manyonga former crystal meth addict and now World Champion Long Jumper is from last December but it is so engrossing and rewarding it more than deserves a recommendation. And the story of the Irishman who helped Manyonga is another reason to read on.

Michael Lewis wrote this piece on the US Department of Energy for Vanity Fair. This is the week of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries, something that seems to have passed the President by. The article is an examination of how the $30 billion agency, which oversees everything from the US nuclear arsenal to the electrical grid is being run into the ground by proposed budget cuts, mismanagement and just plain ignorance. It reminds us that Trump is not a joke, that his amateurism is deadly dangerous.

Robin Wright in the New Yorker details the career of  Jasmin Moghbeli, whose Iranian parents fled to Germany after the Revolution in 1979, where she was born. They subsequently moved on to the US and now she’s an Astronaut. The bit inbetween is very interesting.

Dave Hazzan, writing for Roads and Kingdoms, has found one of oddities of History, the bunkers, built in the 1970s and 80s that litter Albania. This essay on what they are used for, and what they mean is fascinating.

Podcast of the week in an episode of Human/Ordinary I first heard through a rebroadcast from the Strangers Podcast. I don’t want to spoil it but it has the power to break your heart and heal you all in one listen.

And picture of the week is a painting by William Orpen that I used in school a few years back. It’s of Mrs Oscar Lewisohn, who has an interesting story of her own, which places her all the way to the right of the canvas. It makes her the object of our gaze, but peripheral, and the pensive look on her face say only loneliness to me. This is a review of the painting from Vanity Fair in 1915.

Reads of the Week #53

This week, the week the State Exams finished for 2017, also marked the finishing of my school work. I manage the Book Rental Scheme in our school and that means waiting until late June to stock take and look at the order for next year. It’s an opportunity for listening to radio while I work and for finding reading material that distract me from textbooks. 
Earlier in the week I read a piece by Michael O’Loughlin to mark Bloomsday in the Irish Times on James Joyce as a European. I liked this line in particular ‘There are few other nations whose foundation myth is based on the notion that we’re not actually from around here.’



Last week Fintan O’Toole won the Orwell Prize for his coverage of Brexit and in this article for the New York Times, he deftly puts British turmoil in an Irish context: perhaps some of us in Ireland can be allowed a moment of schadenfreude as we look across the sea and ask… the question the English so often asked about us: Are the English fit for self-government?



For Fathers Day, Esquire published this moving piece by Tyler Coates on his father’s voice which is moving and real: The last remaining evidence of my father’s voice, the final thing that roots him and his existence in my brain, will eventually cease to exist–just like VHS tapes, and the accent he spoke with, and my memories of him, too.



To my friends’ baby girl: I hope you grow up to be Wonder Woman by Heidi Stevens is essential reading for anyone with a daughter. [You were born] the same week a female superhero (finally!) started kicking butt at the box office… a signal of our fondest hope for you: that you grow up knowing you can choose your own path and fight your own battles and change the world.



Here, Pasi Sahlberg reckons we should be concentrating on ‘small data’ to improve education, ‘small data’ emerges from the notion that in a world that is increasingly governed by binary digits and cold statistics, we need information that helps us to understand better those aspects of teaching and learning that are invisible or not easily measurable. 



Organising Teaching: Developing the Power of the Profession from Howard Stevenson and Nina Bascia has seven challenges for teacher unions to reorganise and it is essential reading for teacher trade unionists. 

Podcast of the week is the conversation between Tom Sleigh and Paul Muldoon about Seamus Heaney’s In the Attic and Tom Sleigh’s own The Fox On the New Yorker Poetry Podcast, which, mainly due to Paul Muldoon’s knowledge and geniality is a always a treat. 

And finally, this weeks picture of the week is of  Ballinaboy, County Galway, Ireland, 1965 by Edwin Smith which I found on twitter from Anne Mortier. Beautiful landscape, ominous skies, homestead in between, the perfect vision of Ireland. 

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.