Reads of the Week #81

The midterm has arrived! Conscious as I am that teachers might have more time than usual to read in the week ahead, this week I give you two pieces to get you thinking: first Alex Quigley on reading and writing in this blogpost The Shape of Stories; and second Kenny Pieper, who regular readers here will know well by now, writing on the right and responsibility of teachers to be involved in real change in education, he’s writing about Scotland, but this blogpost has real resonance for Irish teachers too, perhaps teachers everywhere. On Brexit, that great crumbling of our regard for British democracy, in this article, Marina Hyde compares Teresa May to a Swansea City manager who has all the confidence that comes from being given the full support of the Board of Directors. She doesn’t stop there, and it isn’t all funny, but it is so right. Anika Burgess, writing for Atlas Obscura on the photography of Caitriona Dunnett on the secret tracks and trails that lead to Mass Rocks across Ireland is fascinating insight into Irish History, and beautifully illustrated with images of inaccessible but familiar places. Aidan Dunne writes here on Emil Nolde, an artist I’ve only recently discovered, and he shows the stillness of his painting is matched by the complications of his life.

My podcast choice this week this week is again from the RTE History Show: this time it covers significant and interesting anniversaries coming up in 2018. Very useful for updating the diaries of History teachers. This week’s cover image came from here.

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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 #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.

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.