Monthly Archives: July 2019

wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display 2019-07-21 20:33:41⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Replied to ds106 Daily Create on Twitter (Twitter)
“#tdc2747 #ds106 Online Communities https://t.co/RYNnwaODdG”

I’ve been enjoying micro.blog. it is a community of disparate bloggers, writing in their own spaces. A sort of community RSS reader that smooths out the process of blogging & commenting without being a silo. An example of ideal community technology.

ComicLife3 for Chrome⤴

from @ Alan Stewart's AT Blog

Today plasq announced the official release of Comic Life 3 for Chromebook! The app is now available in the form of a compatible Android app.

Comic Life 3 for Chromebook has all the favourite features you have come to love from the other versions. To find out more, please check out the dedicated Comic Life 3 for Chromebook site.

Comic Life 3 is available from the Google Play store and requires a relatively recent Chromebook to function. (If you’ve installed Android apps on your Chromebook you’re ready for Comic Life).

Comic Life 3 on Chromebooks is US$2.49 and can be purchased and downloaded from the Google Play Store here.

One retreat, two poems⤴

from @ blethers

I was on retreat on the Island of Lewis last month with three friends, directed by a fourth friend who lives on the island in a community of two Anglican religious. We four stayed in a self-catering house in Back; Sister Clare came over from Gress - though one day we walked there for the Evening Office. It was memorable in several ways, which I don't intend to go into here, and produced two poems.


OUTBURST

O, be silent when the God speaks - 
do not blurt your blunted vision
to distort or seek to bend
the flow of love and pain.
Listen. Open. Feel the keenness
of the shaft that wounds the soul;
feel the way you change, but quiet
like a child that hears a call.

Only then, within that silence
can the music truly sing,
make the wordless song of heaven
sweep you up until your tongue
is freed from all the weight of language
 - free to wonder, free to cease -
and your soul can shed what has been,  
free to wander heaven’s peace.


© C.M.M. Back, Lewis, June 2019


JORDAN

The burden of that sudden light
Overwhelms my shrinking self
As I step into the surge
Of life and what will come.
The holy dove, its wings outspread,
Hovers close. No comfort there.
I see the darkness pressing back
Around the edges of my world
Through eyes half closed,
Through lash and hair
That covers my defenceless face.
The water swirls. I feel the tug
Of forces far beyond my reach.
I will obey. God, I accept
- will lift this burden that is Light.

© C.M.M.
Back, Lewis, June 19.

This second poem was inspired by a painting by Daniel Bonnell of the Baptism of the Christ, which you can see here: http://www.bonnellart.com/2012-2015.html

The mental health of our schools.⤴

from

I have been long fascinated by and committed to supporting children, young people and adults to be mentally healthy.

I like to use the world health organisation  definition of mental health, which, in my opinion, de-pathologises the conversation about what we are trying to do when we work to engender good mental health in our communities and our societies.

“Mental healthis definedas a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

My own interest in this field comes probably from the fact that I have struggled to realise my potential, to cope with the normal stresses of life and to know how best to make a positive contribution for many years. I still struggle. I still find it hard to know what I really feel or think and I am often overwhelmed by the shoulds and oughts that I have adhered to over decades. But as my 6th decade looms on the horizon, I am doing better.

I have written a book about my experiences and although, at first, I wrote under a pen name, I now acknowledge that I am Nell. https://lire.amazon.fr/kp/embed?preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_yNodyb2G7M8DZ&asin=B01KP8XT86&reshareChannel=system&reshareId=E68M33PKD7RFF1C2339V

The reason? Because I feel that there is an innate hypocrisy in telling people about how to manage their lives unless we acknowledge the difficulties we have faced in our own.

Recently I seem to have become a “voice” on the subject, with invitations to speak and write on how schools can be mentally healthy places for both pupils and staff. https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/why-we-need-to-teach-and-talk-about-mental-health-in-schools-for-researched-scotland-2018/

https://www.gtcs.org.uk/News/teaching-scotland/73-for-the-sake-of-all-look-after-yourself.aspx

I both love this and feel a huge sense of accomplishment but I also still hear the sabotaging voices who ask me what the hell I know about it, who on earth I think I am and why, if I am so bloody good, I’m not THE voice on the subject.

I have very strong opinions on what it would take for schools to be truly mentally healthy. My blogs are full of suggestions:

https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/mistakes/

https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/what-are-we-about/

https://nellflowersblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/bobby-and-emily/

But my posts often generate hostile reactions from colleagues who say that “schools can’t do it all” and that we can’t be expected to do the work of CAMHS and social work as well as deliver the curriculum and get pupils through exams.

I know that we can. Because I have done it. As a class teacher, as a head of department and as a head of Secondary, I created learning environments where the message that I cared about every child as a person was paramount. A lot of the relationships I built were through teaching drama and doing school productions, but even when I was head of a modern languages faculty and teaching French and German, I had the same quality of relationships.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not always a calm, easy going person on the inside and have to work incredibly hard on some days to make it appear as if I am on the outside. I think that the effort of doing that for over twenty five years has taken its toll. I am not a teacher who many pupils have as their favourite, or is particularly cool. But I am a teacher who provides children with consistency, care and the permission to make mistakes and come back from them with a clean slate as many times as it takes.

My biggest struggle in schools has been working with other adults who can’t or don’t work in the same way. Adults who are driven by different motives. Adults who see education as crowd control or a way to earn a living. Adults who take out their anger or frustrations on children. Adults who lie. Adults who bully.

Many schools have them and it can be hard to know what to do when you are faced with them. My solution tends to be to write pieces like this and hope that maybe they read them, recognise themselves and reflect on how they might change. Or at least talk to me to explain their values and motivations.

I wish I’d sometimes had the courage to be like an amazing secondary school leader who I heard speak at a conference recently. He said that his message to staff who won’t work in a genuinely compassionate way is to look for a job elsewhere because he has no place for them in his school. Why have I sometimes lacked this courage? If I am honest, it is because I suppose I always hope that adults, like children, might wipe the slate clean and change. Old dogs can sometimes learn new tricks. It also be hard to address issues when faced with the argument that you are the one in the wrong and that some children need “firmness rather than a soft approach” and “I have proof of this from my thirty years in this school.” Don’t get me wrong. As a younger teacher, I sometimes used to raise my voice if a pupil had made me angry/made me look stupid/disrupted my class. And sometimes a strategic shout seemed to work. But then I read a piece that suggested that if shouting at a pupil seems to “work” then it is because they are likely to be experiencing shouting and possibly worse verbal abuse at home.

When would you accept being shouted at by a GP, shop assistant or bus driver? So why might we ever accept teachers shouting at pupils.

I can honestly say that I have not raised my voice at a pupil or class for at least 10 years, other than to alert them to danger.

Maybe it is asking too much for some teachers to be otherwise when they have so much to do, increasing deadlines and salaries that don’t align with those of other professionals.

But maybe it is more about the fact that schools aren’t the easiest places to build genuinely caring environments, particularly secondary schools with their strangely segmented days, ever-shifting social groupings and regimented choreographing of unique individuals who are desperate to rebel, to take risks and to be at the same time cringingly conformist and supremely creative.

Of course Ken Robinson said this a long time ago and numerous grass roots groups continue to do so: https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/caring-professionalism-forcultureofwellbeingdginset-7-01-18/

But until we have decision makers at the top who are willing to accept that the measure of a good school is about so much more than its exam results and that measuring the well-being of children can’t be done easily and without adults knowing those in their care really well, then we are setting ourselves up to fail. A questionnaire that asks a child how they are feeling is simply not enough.

A long time ago, when I was training in Dramatherapy and Counselling Skills, I would be met with a strange scepticism and suspicion from others when they discovered that I was a teacher. I soon came to realise that a lot of therapists and counsellors found schools difficult places to work in as their structures were fundamentally un-therapeutic. Worse than that, it seemed as if much of the caseload of your average therapist seemed to involve dealing with and trying to find resolution around issues that had resulted from the school experiences of both children and adults.

It was partly because of this that I decided not to leave education and become a therapist, but to try and stay in teaching and become a more therapeutic teacher.

We have come a long way since then. There are many schools, particularly primary, who are doing an amazing job at helping children to grow up mentally healthy. In Scotland, the league-table and OFSTED culture of England, where brilliant staff are sacked and schools are closed because of a dip in SATS or GCSE results is not a factor to worry about……yet. https://lenabellina.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/an-open-letter-to-mr-john-swinney/

But let’s not be complacent and think that there isn’t a lot more we could be doing to ensure that schools are places that promote, rather than prevent, mental health.

Professional Blogging: Acknowledging social media harassment⤴

from

As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Academic Blogging Service, I’ve been teaching a workshop on Blogging to Build your Professional Profile.  This workshop has run once a month since September last year and I’ve also presented tailored versions of it to various groups around the University, most recently to student interns who are working with us during the summer. 

In order to make the workshop materials as open and reusable as possible, I created them on a WordPress blog running Alan Levine’s fabulous SPLOT Point theme. This proved to be a smart move because it means it’s really easy to update the materials as I’ve gained greater understanding of which topics are of interest and concern to colleagues around the University.

One topic that I’ve always felt the workshop materials didn’t adequately cover is the drawbacks of using social media.  During the workshop I point colleagues towards the University’s Managing Your Digital Foot Print resources, and in the section on Amplifying your Blog with Social Media I always make the point that social media can be a hostile environment for women, people of colour and marginalised groups in particular, however I didn’t have anything explicitly covering this in the course materials. Three things have prompted me to address this.  Firstly, a female colleague who spoke to me in private after a workshop to ask about using pseudonyms on social media as she had legitimate concerns about her privacy and safety.  Secondly a male colleague who explained to me during a workshop that it’s not just women and people of colour who experience harassment online.  (This is true, but it does not negate the fact that there are specific gendered and racist aspects to online harassment.) And thirdly, this article by Katherine Wright, which I recently read, about how twitter can be a hostile environment that “can and does have serious repercussions for women and other marginalised groups.”  Wright goes on to say: 

“Given the severity of the gendered and racialised pushback many experience in the public eye, and twitter specifically, all training on social media or engagement should start with this. It is a responsibility of our employers and us as individuals who care about whose voice is heard.”

So in order to start addressing that responsibility the workshop page on Amplifying your blog with social media now includes the following note of caution:  

Although using social media, particularly twitter, can be a great way to amplify and disseminate your blog posts, it’s important to be aware that social media can be a hostile environment, particularly for women, people of colour and marginalised groups, who may experience targeted harassment.  You should never feel obliged to engage with social media, particularly if you feel unsafe or attacked.  Your online safety is of paramount importance.

blogs.ed.ac.uk allows you to choose whether to make your blog posts available to the general public, to EASE authenticated users only, or to keep them completely private. It’s entirely up to you.

All users should exercise caution when disseminating potentially sensitive or controversial topics. A blog post that may not be controversial in an academic context could resulting in unwanted attention or abuse if it circulates widely in the public domain.

Further advice and guidance is available as follows:

I’d be really interested to know how other institutions and organisations are addressing this aspect of e-safety, so if you’ve got links to any guidelines, research or practice, please let me know. 

read: Carol Dweck: where growth mindset went wrong⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Carol Dweck: where growth mindset went wrong | Tes News

There is an interesting twitter thread started by the tes author Jon Severs.

Somewhat worrying that this is not only being introduced to schools but that a wee industry is being built up before implementation is properly understood.

“Teachers have to ask, what exactly is the evidence suggesting?” she explains. “They have to realise it takes deep thought and deep experimentation on their part in the classroom to see how best the concept can be implemented there.

Not something that can be done after a few sessions of in-service then?

Her voice⤴

from

 

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Although she is almost fully formed, taller than me, supremely more intelligent and sophisticated at just the tail-end of fifteen, I sometimes hear her as if she were still a toddling babe.

A voice that spent its formative years immersed in Cumbrian sounds, so that it seemed, for a while, as if a “bath” was going to rhyme with a “hat”….until a move at nearly four, to a Hebridean Island where those influences were swiftly put aside in favour of a generic southern English.  In spite of twelve years since lived in Scotland, there is little to be heard of any Caledonian lilt, except, perhaps, when she sings in the school choir.

She has mastered Shakespeare’s Lady Capulet and can put on Cockney or Glaswegian with the best.

Yet sometimes, in the midst of her articulate, diaphragmatically supported conversation, I hear that little girl. That voice which constantly questioned, sought out cuddles and put the world, irrevocably, to rights.

It throws me off guard, reminds me of where we once were….and makes me both excited and trepidatious about the stories it will go on to tell.