Tag Archives: Discussion

Mathematical Mindsets – Jo Boaler.⤴

from

I am working on (and shall be over the summer holidays) an online MOOC – Mathematical Mindsets, run by Jo Boaler.

If you haven’t come across Jo before, find her on the Twitter, google her or read her books. I love her methods for maths and the way she links them with growth mindsets.

I intend publishing some of my work here.

In my first piece, Jo shared three pieces of research onto brain growth with us and asked us to share our feelings about how this should impact schools.

 

Taxi Driver Evidence.

“You may have seen me show the evidence from London black cab drivers who have to undergo complex spatial training, at the end of which, they have a significantly larger hippocampus in the brain. At the end of being taxi drivers, when they retire, the hippocampus shrinks back down again.”

 

Taxi driver response:

This research shows that a brain that is being used develops and grows and that when the brain is not being used it regresses to its initial state. So in school I guess this means that we need to keep children thinking about their maths. The children who probably end up thinking about their maths are the mid-ability ones upwards who, if we are not careful are fed a diet of ‘more of the same with bigger numbers’. These are the children who are ‘high fliers’ who then plateau in their maths learning.

We need to use real-life challenging problems and investigations and games with all learners to ensure brains keep growing.

 

 

Half-Brain Case-study. “You may also have seen me show the girl who had half her brain removed. The doctors expected her to be paralyzed for many years or even for her whole life, but she shocked them by regrowing the connections she needed in a really

short space of time.”

 

Half-Brain response:

This research shows that the brain is a wonderful thing which scientists are still understanding…slowly in some cases.

In school we need to encourage our children to make connections within their brains to ensure that they keep developing. Brains don’t get full! We need to share this learning about re-wiring of brains with the children so they come to associate hard learning with something like a gym visit or fitness training – a development; and improver.

 

Stanford Case Study: “They brought 7 to 9-year-old children into the labs at Stanford, and half of them had been diagnosed as having mathematics learning disabilities, and half of them hadn’t. And they had these children work on maths under brain scans.

And lo and behold, they found actual brain differences. And the children diagnosed with learning disabilities actually

had more brain activity than the other children, more areas of their brain were lighting up when they worked on maths.”

 

Stanford response: Initially, this research seems to show that pupils who are thought have learning disabilities are working harder to keep up with (and by definition be not as good at maths as) their peers. Their brains are working harder, which means they will feel more tired during a maths lesson, be more stressed and require more breaks. We need to think in schools how we treat these children who are working harder, and it’s certainly not good enough to say X is not good at maths. It also suggests that schools need to find time to work closely with our ‘poorer maths attainers’ to get an understanding of where there learning is and to give them strategies to learn and develop their maths. – In an ideal world this can be done through group work and talk partners also.

Learners engaging with their learning with Yammer⤴

from @ ICT for Teaching & Learning in Falkirk Primary Schools

YammerlogoYammer – so what is it and why use in school?

Yammer is an online discussion/collaboration tool which provides schools with a secure online environment where all pupils in a class can ask questions of their peers, where they can seek answers and help each other, bounce ideas around and deepen their own understanding of what they are learning in class. It is available to all users of Office 365 for Education, meaning all Glow users, pupils and staff, have access to this tool. And it can be accessed by signing in online in a browser or using a mobile device app.

Yammer provides an ideal tool through which learners can learn about the use of social media, in a protected environment, where the pupils can be guided to model behaviours for use in an online discussion tool, which will apply to any social media tool pupils may meet outwith their schooling. So if a teacher is looking to help pupils learn about safe sharing, and what not to share online, being supportive and respectful of views of others, and a place for pupils to engage in deepening their understanding through questioning and responding to others, then Yammer provides a great environment for a school.

yammeronwaffleHow do pupils and teachers get started using Yammer?

  1. Glow users simply sign into Glow then navigate to any part of Office 365, such as the tile for Office 365 (School Site) and then click on the 9-square waffle icon to navigate to the range of tools available in Office 365 – and choose the Yammer tile.
  2. The very first time a user clicks on the Yammer tile they will be invited to invite further users – don’t invite others but instead just close that window (click on the greyed-out cross at the top-right or click on the background page behind the invitation panel.
  3. You will be presented with the terms of use of Yammer – read these and then click on the button to acknowledge you agree to abide by them.
  4. You’re then in Yammer and can start browsing some of the Yammer groups open to all users. Or, if a pupil is ready to join the private class Yammer group set up by their teacher, then the first time the pupil simply searches for the class group name, clicks on the link and requests to join by clicking on the “join group” button – that sends a message to the teacher who accepts their pupils into the group.

Alternatively, rather than go to Glow first, users can search with an online search engine for Yammer or go straight to https://www.yammer.com where they can then simply log in using their Glow/Office 365 email address and password.

How do you set up a Yammer group just for pupils and teachers in a class?

  1. A class teacher can quickly set up a private class group in Yammer. Click on “+ Create a new group” and then give the group a name – include in the group name something which identifies the school as well as the class name.
  2. Choose “Private – Only approved members” and untick the box which gives the option to “List in Group Directory” – that way only pupils who know what to search for will be able to find a teacher’s Yammer class group, and only pupils who the teachers knows are members of their class will be granted access by the teacher. Setting up that way avoids the teachers having to add a list of usernames – they simply tell their class what to search for, and to click on the “join group” button when they find the group.
  3. A teacher can see the list of pupils waiting to be added to their class yammer group by going into the Yammer group and then clicking on “Members” at the right-hand side. This will show which users have requested access and are pending approval by the teacher.
  4. It would be recommended to have additional teacher colleagues added as joint administrators – beside their name on the list of members just click on the cog icon and select “Make admin” to elevate that teacher to be a joint administrator of that Yammer group.

What can you do in a Yammer discussion?

You can ask questions, respond to requests from others, add comments or create polls to garner views of others. Attachments can be added to any discussion post – so pupils can perhaps discuss or share comments about a resource. You can even use the “praise” button to acknowledge the input of other users. A Yammer group provides a place to share resources, and links to related sites elsewhere.

How are schools using Yammer?

KirknewtonPSKirknewton Primary School in West Lothian has provided an excellent description of how they are using Yammer with pupils. This blogpost gives screenshots of different aspects to how they use Yammer, as well as the rationale to the choice of tool and the purposes behind it to better support learning and teaching. This has included using Yammer to support collaborative writing. Mrs Anderson, Principal Teacher at the school said “As a teacher and parent I feel that it is very important that we educate children about the safe use of social media – using Yammer has been a fantastic way to do so, in a safe environment. Feedback from parents has been positive.” “The impact on learning and teaching is evident in the content of the group and the enthusiasm of pupils (which is evident in the online interactions).” 

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/glowgallery/portfolio/kirknewton-primary-school-sharing-approaches-to-glow-yammer/

BearsdenPSBearsden Primary School in East Dunbartonshire – teacher Athole McLauchlan describes in at this link about the use of Yammer with pupils in the school https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/glowgallery/portfolio/using-yammer-as-a-social-media-channel-for-learners-and-learning/

 

What safeguards are in place for Yammer users in Glow?

Yammer groups can be set up to be private (such as for a class of pupils so that the Yammer group can only be accessed by pupils in that class with their teachers). There are also Yammer groups open to users across Glow and educators within Glow nationally act as Moderators for Yammer users, welcoming new users, helping guide users to use appropriate language in a supportive way.

Everything in Yammer is identifiable to the individual user. There is a simple “report a concern” option for all users (either use the question mark icon on a page or anywhere you see a “Report a concern” button) which will alert the national Glow administrators to concerns raised, and who will provide the support required to resolve any issues.

There’s also a filter to ensure inappropriate language can’t accidentally be posted.

And of course the educational-focussed environment shared between learners and educators means there is a visible supportive environment. Users can set email alerts either to all posts in a specific Yammer group, or to individual posts where alerts would be sent for replies or comments just to that post.

MobileAppsYammer Mobile App

Yammer has an app for mobile devices – search on the app store for your device. Then once downloaded simply log in with your Glow/Office 365 email address (that’s where your Glow username has @glow.sch.uk added to the end, after your Glow username). For many users the use of the app will be the most convenient way to access Yammer.

What help is available?

Day One Guide for the Glow Yammer Network (accessed using Glow account – but also available as a document download from the public-access site Yammer Guide for Glow Users) – a very helpful guide of do things to do, and things to avoid, as well as guides to getting the most out of Yammer, specially in the early stages of getting used to using Yammer in a school.

Yammer Guide for Glow Users – a Glow-specific help guide to getting started with the use of Glow. This includes guidance and suggestions for managing Yammer in an educational context.

So how are you using Yammer in your school?

Do share in the comments below how Yammer is being used in your school

 

 

Fair buzzing in Oban⤴

from @ blethers

Victorious table at dinner
I've mulled it over for the past five days, but now I realise that Synod reports are being demanded - not, happily, from me - right left and centre and it's time I put down my take on the Argyll and The Isles Diocesan Synod. The main impetus, to be honest, came from two online sources: the Primus' blog, in which he said his synod had 'a buzz', and the commiserations of friends on Facebook that I should be enduring this thing.

I'll deal with the latter first. The only commiserations I might have deserved lay in the fact that the Synod itself was held in (yet another) windowless room on a gloriously sunny day in a location next to a sea loch and an attractively wooded shore line: I did get stir crazy, and spent the lunch break picking my way down to a beach and over dub and mire as the birds sang round me. The rest of the time I was really enjoying myself, both on the pre-Synod day (it's hardly worth it to bring people from such a far-flung area unless they get a decent shot at socialising) and during Synod itself.

And that brings me to the former stimulus: I don't know what caused the buzz at the St Andrew's Synod, but I have a good idea of what contributed to our buzz. (I'd really like to know, by the way, what manner of buzzing goes on elsewhere ...) First of all, of course, we have an extraordinary bishop who could cause a buzz in a morgue. He delivered an ode, for Heaven's sake. But actually it was more than this. I am convinced that the excitement arose from the fact that instead of sitting in stupor listening to presentation after presentation we were allowed to talk to each other, about everything from the balance sheets to the first time we'd encountered the Holy Spirit.

This was achieved by a variety of methods, but primarily by the fact that on the Pre-Synod day, reviewing our progress with Building the Vision, we had two facilitators making us mix - moving people from one table to another after the manner of a Snowball waltz, for instance. At Synod, each table had a facilitator (I was one) to get people talking, as at General Synod a couple of years ago. And yes, we talked about the accounts and as a result made demands for more detail, clarification, amplification ... Before anyone asks, I had a plant at my table, an accountant who could make more sense of a balance sheet than I care to, so that I could merely render into words the data he fed me.

By the end of the two days, I came to this conclusion: people are excited by what brings them together in a situation like this. They become animated by the chance to share it with others whom they don't really know - because this unlocks the kind of honesty you sometimes find in a hospital ward, the honesty of strangers, when inhibition and fear of something you say coming back to bite you can be cast aside. So that is what lay behind the astonishment of the imported facilitator when she remarked on the alacrity with which pairs and groups got to grips with the Big Questions - she couldn't believe how little fencing she met as she moved round.

I have to confess that I enjoy facilitating a group. I love being able to make people feel at ease with one another and with the topics they've been asked to consider. I love realising I've managed to break the ice without losing anyone under it.  It feeds all sorts of my own needs for interaction - and that's before we get on to the subject matter under discussion.

I haven't mentioned the other aspects of this meeting, that had me and others in Oban from late on Monday afternoon till late afternoon on Wednesday. I've not talked about a riotous dinner after the Synod Eucharist, nor about the quiz that my table won and the Bishop's Easter Egg (our prize) that I suspect may have vanished to Cumbrae. I've not mentioned the Monday night, the dinner on the pier with old and new friends, nor the delight of watching a first-time visitor grow in confidence as the days went on. I can't tell you how much I laughed, nor how much I was laughed at. It was all part of the whole.

So yes: there was an enormous buzz at the Argyll Synod. There was laughter, there were tears, there was pastoral work being done over lunch breaks, there was kindness, there were friendships rekindled. For me, there was also the knowledge that it was my last: I've served on General Synod for the past 10 years as alternate or elected representative, and it's time to step down. I'm not a committee person, and I hate being trapped indoors. But even with all that, I'm sure of one thing. I'll miss it.

Fair buzzing in Oban⤴

from @ blethers

Victorious table at dinner
I've mulled it over for the past five days, but now I realise that Synod reports are being demanded - not, happily, from me - right left and centre and it's time I put down my take on the Argyll and The Isles Diocesan Synod. The main impetus, to be honest, came from two online sources: the Primus' blog, in which he said his synod had 'a buzz', and the commiserations of friends on Facebook that I should be enduring this thing.

I'll deal with the latter first. The only commiserations I might have deserved lay in the fact that the Synod itself was held in (yet another) windowless room on a gloriously sunny day in a location next to a sea loch and an attractively wooded shore line: I did get stir crazy, and spent the lunch break picking my way down to a beach and over dub and mire as the birds sang round me. The rest of the time I was really enjoying myself, both on the pre-Synod day (it's hardly worth it to bring people from such a far-flung area unless they get a decent shot at socialising) and during Synod itself.

And that brings me to the former stimulus: I don't know what caused the buzz at the St Andrew's Synod, but I have a good idea of what contributed to our buzz. (I'd really like to know, by the way, what manner of buzzing goes on elsewhere ...) First of all, of course, we have an extraordinary bishop who could cause a buzz in a morgue. He delivered an ode, for Heaven's sake. But actually it was more than this. I am convinced that the excitement arose from the fact that instead of sitting in stupor listening to presentation after presentation we were allowed to talk to each other, about everything from the balance sheets to the first time we'd encountered the Holy Spirit.

This was achieved by a variety of methods, but primarily by the fact that on the Pre-Synod day, reviewing our progress with Building the Vision, we had two facilitators making us mix - moving people from one table to another after the manner of a Snowball waltz, for instance. At Synod, each table had a facilitator (I was one) to get people talking, as at General Synod a couple of years ago. And yes, we talked about the accounts and as a result made demands for more detail, clarification, amplification ... Before anyone asks, I had a plant at my table, an accountant who could make more sense of a balance sheet than I care to, so that I could merely render into words the data he fed me.

By the end of the two days, I came to this conclusion: people are excited by what brings them together in a situation like this. They become animated by the chance to share it with others whom they don't really know - because this unlocks the kind of honesty you sometimes find in a hospital ward, the honesty of strangers, when inhibition and fear of something you say coming back to bite you can be cast aside. So that is what lay behind the astonishment of the imported facilitator when she remarked on the alacrity with which pairs and groups got to grips with the Big Questions - she couldn't believe how little fencing she met as she moved round.

I have to confess that I enjoy facilitating a group. I love being able to make people feel at ease with one another and with the topics they've been asked to consider. I love realising I've managed to break the ice without losing anyone under it.  It feeds all sorts of my own needs for interaction - and that's before we get on to the subject matter under discussion.

I haven't mentioned the other aspects of this meeting, that had me and others in Oban from late on Monday afternoon till late afternoon on Wednesday. I've not talked about a riotous dinner after the Synod Eucharist, nor about the quiz that my table won and the Bishop's Easter Egg (our prize) that I suspect may have vanished to Cumbrae. I've not mentioned the Monday night, the dinner on the pier with old and new friends, nor the delight of watching a first-time visitor grow in confidence as the days went on. I can't tell you how much I laughed, nor how much I was laughed at. It was all part of the whole.

So yes: there was an enormous buzz at the Argyll Synod. There was laughter, there were tears, there was pastoral work being done over lunch breaks, there was kindness, there were friendships rekindled. For me, there was also the knowledge that it was my last: I've served on General Synod for the past 10 years as alternate or elected representative, and it's time to step down. I'm not a committee person, and I hate being trapped indoors. But even with all that, I'm sure of one thing. I'll miss it.

Fair buzzing in Oban⤴

from @ blethers

Victorious table at dinner
I've mulled it over for the past five days, but now I realise that Synod reports are being demanded - not, happily, from me - right left and centre and it's time I put down my take on the Argyll and The Isles Diocesan Synod. The main impetus, to be honest, came from two online sources: the Primus' blog, in which he said his synod had 'a buzz', and the commiserations of friends on Facebook that I should be enduring this thing.

I'll deal with the latter first. The only commiserations I might have deserved lay in the fact that the Synod itself was held in (yet another) windowless room on a gloriously sunny day in a location next to a sea loch and an attractively wooded shore line: I did get stir crazy, and spent the lunch break picking my way down to a beach and over dub and mire as the birds sang round me. The rest of the time I was really enjoying myself, both on the pre-Synod day (it's hardly worth it to bring people from such a far-flung area unless they get a decent shot at socialising) and during Synod itself.

And that brings me to the former stimulus: I don't know what caused the buzz at the St Andrew's Synod, but I have a good idea of what contributed to our buzz. (I'd really like to know, by the way, what manner of buzzing goes on elsewhere ...) First of all, of course, we have an extraordinary bishop who could cause a buzz in a morgue. He delivered an ode, for Heaven's sake. But actually it was more than this. I am convinced that the excitement arose from the fact that instead of sitting in stupor listening to presentation after presentation we were allowed to talk to each other, about everything from the balance sheets to the first time we'd encountered the Holy Spirit.

This was achieved by a variety of methods, but primarily by the fact that on the Pre-Synod day, reviewing our progress with Building the Vision, we had two facilitators making us mix - moving people from one table to another after the manner of a Snowball waltz, for instance. At Synod, each table had a facilitator (I was one) to get people talking, as at General Synod a couple of years ago. And yes, we talked about the accounts and as a result made demands for more detail, clarification, amplification ... Before anyone asks, I had a plant at my table, an accountant who could make more sense of a balance sheet than I care to, so that I could merely render into words the data he fed me.

By the end of the two days, I came to this conclusion: people are excited by what brings them together in a situation like this. They become animated by the chance to share it with others whom they don't really know - because this unlocks the kind of honesty you sometimes find in a hospital ward, the honesty of strangers, when inhibition and fear of something you say coming back to bite you can be cast aside. So that is what lay behind the astonishment of the imported facilitator when she remarked on the alacrity with which pairs and groups got to grips with the Big Questions - she couldn't believe how little fencing she met as she moved round.

I have to confess that I enjoy facilitating a group. I love being able to make people feel at ease with one another and with the topics they've been asked to consider. I love realising I've managed to break the ice without losing anyone under it.  It feeds all sorts of my own needs for interaction - and that's before we get on to the subject matter under discussion.

I haven't mentioned the other aspects of this meeting, that had me and others in Oban from late on Monday afternoon till late afternoon on Wednesday. I've not talked about a riotous dinner after the Synod Eucharist, nor about the quiz that my table won and the Bishop's Easter Egg (our prize) that I suspect may have vanished to Cumbrae. I've not mentioned the Monday night, the dinner on the pier with old and new friends, nor the delight of watching a first-time visitor grow in confidence as the days went on. I can't tell you how much I laughed, nor how much I was laughed at. It was all part of the whole.

So yes: there was an enormous buzz at the Argyll Synod. There was laughter, there were tears, there was pastoral work being done over lunch breaks, there was kindness, there were friendships rekindled. For me, there was also the knowledge that it was my last: I've served on General Synod for the past 10 years as alternate or elected representative, and it's time to step down. I'm not a committee person, and I hate being trapped indoors. But even with all that, I'm sure of one thing. I'll miss it.

#Blimage – Seating⤴

from

Photo - Steve Wheeler.

Photo – Steve Wheeler.

 

When I first saw this particular #blimage it struck a chord with me immediately. Seating arrangements! One of the things in teaching I’ve read up about and tried out lots of to get the best learning out of my class (and in my early years tried to improve behaviour with too).

 

What can seating look like in primary schools?

 

Well those desks suggest the old style of rows to me. The type of thing that was actually being phased out when I went through primary schools in the 1980s. I’m not sure of the benefit of rows. If you were partnered (as our desks were double desks) with the ‘wrong person’ it made school life miserable. (My step-daughter who is a hard-working girl who isn’t easily distracted and tries her best ‘won’ the seat next to the class ‘naughty’ boy who was very talkative. She was sat there for a couple of terms…say it quickly it doesn’t sound a lot does it. Two block of 8 weeks maybe. 80 days then. 6 hours a day. 560 hours of school. With no planned benefits to her, only unhappiness because she’s not sat with the rest of her group). So maybe that seating wasn’t of the 70s and 80s? I’ve seen it used in classes in schools I’ve taught in. I assume (though never asked) to stop off task interactions.

 

A more traditional seating arrangement in primary school is the ‘table’ of around 6 children. Why do we do this? To create group interactions? Because it what primary classrooms look like – (thanks to SMT who’ve shared that gem in the past)? So that we can engineer groupings to ‘settle’ the behaviours of some children? In the early stage of my teaching life I used table groups and changed them regularly, twice a year (or moved ‘individuals’ around as a behaviour measure). I dread to think.

 

In latter years (after working with Shirley Clarke in Gateshead) I used tables of 6 children and changed them every Monday using lollipop sticks. The purpose behind this being to get the children interacting with as many different children in the class as possible. Finding out the skills and positive features that people they had never worked with had, as well as developing their own skills, through sharing their ideas and supporting each other in group work. It worked really well, and some of the feedback from the children about things they found out about each other was amazing. Of course if this happens you can’t have table points, table captains, table winners or table losers, you will need children to be self-motivated and working hard for themselves and not for external reward.

 

For the best part of a year I put all my tables together to form one large table in the classroom and mixed up the children weekly again using lollipop sticks. I did this after reading a book about how Apple and Google create spaces for ‘chance’ interactions. The class enjoyed working in this way and again reported that working with different people made for exciting learning time and exciting school time. (Behaviour, to my observation, was no worse using a ‘random’ approach to tables and seating than having ‘planned’ seating).

 

This coming year I am going for a horseshoe in my classroom with seating positions again changed weekly by random means. As well as the horseshoe, I have a table of 4 in the middle and a table for 8 for group teaching purposes. I will encourage the children to move furniture around for different tasks as they feel it suits their learning.

However, before all of this happens I will spend time in the first couple of weeks setting up the reasons behind our seating arrangements and setting up ground rules as well as discussing growth mindsets and key aspect of formative assessment. You can find loads of reading and resources about developing a growth mindset in the classroom all over the internet, and I have collected a few of the articles I have found useful here.

 

I’d be delighted to hear any of your ideas, arrangements etc in the comments.

 

.

 

Highers – Follow up.⤴

from

Since writing about my step-daughter and highers last week, I’ve received some good feedback from and MSP, parents, teachers and educationalists.

Before I go into that, an update. It’s now Wednesday of the holidays and my step-daughter has been into school on ever weekday of the holiday, apart from Easter Monday. She’s also done lots of work when at home. She’s not really her normal self, is a bit tetchy and showing some signs of being fed up. (I offer cups of tea, hugs and chocolate feeling a bit helpess)

I have found out that the school my step-daughter attends is paying staff to work in the Easter holidays. For me that raises many, many questions. What else could be done with that money? What if your family have already booked a holiday in the Easter holidays (because booking in term-time is strongly discouraged by schools, but encouraged by pricing structures of the holiday sector), surely you don’t have equality of opportunity for this use of public money? Are the teachers being paid a universal teacher rate (i.e. teachers daily rater or supply rates) ? How much pressure is put on teachers to do this? Do the public know teachers are being paid overtime to get the grades which will be trumpeted as a triumph for Scottish Education/ Government / Political Parties when the results are announced? Do we have a true financial cost?

Feedback: You can read Amanda Wilson’s feelings in the comments below the original post. Thanks again for your time

Mark Priestley said:

and

Iain Gray MSP said:

Angela Constance replied:

I will publish her reply in full when I receive it.

Jak tweeted:

As well as these reponses I have received a long and sincere e-mail from a teacher who sympathises and dislikes the current system.

I have also received many favourable comments on FB as well as face to face when meeting parents of children of all ages in person.

I ended my initial post thus: This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

It seems I’m not alone in those thoughts.

Highers? The best we can do?⤴

from

It’s Easter Monday, (Bank holiday in the UK) and it’s 8:47 PM. My step-daughter is holed up in her room. Listening to music? Watching YouTube vloggers? Reading? Watching Games of Thrones via illegal feed? None of the above. She’s studying. This time for English Higher. Saturday it was for Art, Friday for RMPS.  Wednesday night she was up until 2:45 AM working on her Graphic Communication project which was due in. (She was up against a wholly unrealistic time scale, as the previous teacher ‘misunderstood’ what was required for the exam. I wonder if they were up at 2:45 and then ready for school next morning??) To be fair to her she didn’t start work until 10:00 PM on the Wednesday night.

 

Would you like to guess why she began work so late? She was organising a music concert at her school along with other S5’s. This wasn’t part of her course: It was over and above. It was her and her friends taking a leading role in school life. The Curriculum for Excellence says this is a thing to aspire to for schools and pupils, yet due to some inadequate work from a teacher, her reward for this was working until 2:45 AM.

 

Well at least it’s the holiday now. Except it’s not quite the holidays, as my step-daughter is attending revision classes in the school on different days of the holiday. These are being provided by teachers who are clearly committed to their pupils getting the best grades they can in their exams, so committed in fact that they are ignoring national guidelines on holidays for pupils and teachers to deliver them.

 

Perhaps she’s having to cram as she’s not done enough work previously? Maybe she slacks off and works hard in the ‘exam season’. I can tell you she’s not angelic. She leaves the toilet lid up, doesn’t wash her food pots and has even been known not to replace the butter in the butter in the butter dish! She does work very hard at her studies however, pushes herself hard, as well as trying to develop other areas of her life (like attending animation classes, organising concerts for the school, volunteering in a hospice shop when she can).

 

Our ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence (published in 2004) has strong ideals and ethics in it. It aims to create “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.” I’m not sure how these fit with holiday revision classes, weekends where homework is all that gets done in a household, time taken off school to complete ‘vital’ homework tasks. To my mind they don’t. The conditions of work my step-daughter is working to are likely to turn our young people away from education for a lengthy period of time. I dare not think too long about the effects this amount of work and pressure has on her (and her many friends) mental health. This was not the aim of the 2002 consultation paper on education, yet this is where we are.

 

Charlie Love wrote a great blog post about National 4 exams and the effect that working Nat 4 courses had on pupils, it’s well worth a read. It is not just Highers, it’s the National 4 and 5 exams which don’t appear to be working also.

A quick google for problems with Highers brings up a few news reports but nothing too recent. It seems that the political will to create a system where our young succeed and lead balanced, healthy lives is not there. When I did my ‘A’ levels (in England), I (like everyone else) took two years of study to pass them. It was a wonderful time of my life, some hard work, some enjoyment of a different side of school life, even some maturing! The key was the time afforded to work, think and develop inside the school week. I had at least one 1hr 15 period of study time each day. Sometimes more. My step-daughter gets nothing, it’s wall to wall teaching.. Yet, apparently this amount of teaching time isn’t enough, she still has to work so much ‘extra’ time in the evenings and holidays.

 

I’d be delighted to hear from Angela Constance and Iain Gray about pupils being overworked in order to pass National Exams. I’d also be interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences. Please tweet me @robertd1981 or e-mail me at robertdrummond@gmail.com if you wish to contact me, but not leave a public comment.

 

This isn’t progress. This isn’t creating an education system better than the oft-mocked English system I described earlier. This isn’t good enough.

 

Cascading across the years …⤴

from @ blethers

Next week there is to be a meeting in Pitlochry - a Cascade Conversation called Listening across the Spectrum. Cascading I understand - I was once sent on a course on managing stress, on the understanding that I would share with my colleagues in school the insights gained over four sessions. Perhaps it was my failure to induce a hypnotic trance in my cascadees that rendered the cascading less than fruitful; I did enjoy the afternoons away from the weans, and found the experience of being almost-hypnotised fascinating but that wasn't really the point. But this conversation won't be about stress, and I shouldn't imagine it will be facilitated by a hypnotherapist. No, this is part of the process for discussing same sex relationships throughout the Scottish Episcopal Church.

What - again, do I hear you ask? Well you might, especially if you have nothing to do with church circles. But I'm saying it too. I was invited to attend this conversation, and part of me is deeply scunnered that a standing commitment prevents my going - but part of me is cheering quietly. Why? Because it's years - yes: years - since I asked the previous Bishop of Argyll when we were going to begin the so-called "Listening Process" in our neck of the woods; it's years since the powerful day of intense conversations in Oban led to a province-wide day in Stirling. It's almost two years since our Synod threw out the Anglican Covenant. I don't think I can bear to pussyfoot around the same elephant in the room again. What are we playing at?

This is what it says in the most recent online InspiresThe Cascade Conversation is being held because the subject of human sexuality is one on which there are differing views and because it raises controversial and challenging issues not just for the Scottish Episcopal Church but for all denominations.  During the Cascade Conversation, it is hoped that participants will engage with the subject, and with one another, in a way which synodical procedure does not always permit. In trying an alternative way of addressing a complex subject such as human sexuality, it is hoped that the Church as a whole will both learn and benefit.

And that sounds just fine, doesn't it? Or does it? What do we actually mean by "trying an alternative way of addressing a complex subject such as human sexuality"? I shudder to think. In my no doubt naive and thoughtless fashion, I long ago reached the realisation that the faith I had come to well into my adult life meant that I was going to have to get away from the comfortable and the customary and do things that part of me shrank from - like lying down in the road in front of a foreign power's nuclear sub base, for example, like standing up in a court of law and saying yes I was a Christian and that yes in moments of extreme provocation I would use bad language to a police officer (the Sheriff thought that was perfectly reasonable, since you ask), like making political speeches from the back of a lorry, like going on telly. And it meant also that I was going to have to stand up for justice and truth and fairness in society - and in the church.

I have to confess that I've shed much of the respect for form and authority that I had half a lifetime ago. So any injunction that what transpired in the confines of an assembly was to remain secret would tend to have the opposite effect on me - because I've had enough of hugger-mugger discussions and decision-making. People find it difficult to accept that some of their fellow-Christians are different from themselves? Tough. I find it difficult to accept that some of my fellow-Christians are narrow-minded bigots. I find it really tough to keep a civil tongue in my head when provoked. And I really, really struggle to love people who behave in an unlovely fashion - and that includes myself. But I look at congregations and I see in them gay people, with and without partners, and I see people like me who have been a part of the conversations in the wider church, and I wonder: why are we ignoring this elephant in the very rooms it currently inhabits? Why do we need to wait till conversations between carefully selected people have taken place before we learn more and learn to be more whole? Are we so terrified of the real struggle that loving and understanding will involve?

And it's that struggle that matters. If this Cascade Conversation is going to pour over the church (see - I'm expanding the metaphor) in such a fashion that it will sweep away complacency and sheer bloody ignorance and will in its place bring understanding and a sense of shame for the awfulness of our past  attitudes and an urgent desire to right the wrongs done to LGBT Christians over the years, then it will be a joyful flood indeed, and I shall be deeply sorry not to have been a part of it.

I'm not holding my breath. But I'd love to be proved wrong.


Conference⤴

from

I’m going along to The Child’s Curriculum on Saturday, hosted by Edinburgh University’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Develpment.Hosted in Queen Street’s Royal College of Surgeons‘ buildings,speakers include Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop, Professor Leena Alanen, Galina Doyla, Professor Colwyn Trevarthen, Kenny Spence, Professor Nigel Osborne, Tam Baillie, Professor Donald Christie, Joan Martlew.

I’ll post any intersting outcomes here later…