7 Fascinating Things We Read This Month (& You Should Too)

29th August 2013

1.     The $4 Million Teacher – The Wall Street Journal

In South Korea, ‘rockstar’ teachers earn up to $4 million dollars per year from families who seek their teaching prowess. S.Korea’s ‘shadow education system’ is one of the largest in the world, with private tuition centres dotted around shopping malls and street corners. The article introduces ‘Mr. Kim’, one of the most popular teachers, who commands such fervent demand he now employs 30 people to manage his company. But does it actually make a difference to the students involved?….

“Megastudy, the online hagwon that Mr. Kim works for, is listed on the South Korean stock exchange. (A Megastudy official confirmed Mr. Kim’s annual earnings.) Nearly three of every four South Korean kids participate in the private market. In 2012, their parents spent more than $17 billion on these services. That is more than the $15 billion spent by Americans on videogames that year, according to the NPD Group, a research firm”

2. School Clerk In Georgia Persuades Gunman To Lay Down Weapons– NPR

The absence of violence rarely makes news headlines, but Antoinette Tuff’s bravery at standing up to an armed man who entered Ronald E. McNair Elementary School earlier this month is a wonderful exception. Since Sandy Hook, there has been a debate breaking out in the US about the logic of arming teachers so they can respond to an “active shooter”. Tuff gives rare hope that alternative actions are possible.

“The school clerk said she tried to keep the assailant calm by asking him his name but, she said, at first he wouldn’t tell it to her. Then, he began listening to her tell her life story. She said she told him about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the ‘roller coaster’ of opening her own business.”

3. Scottish Education: Why Don’t The Numbers Add Up?– The Guardian

In 2011, 57% of Scotland’s 16-30 year olds were participating, or had participated, in Higher Education. This rate is 7 percentage points higher than England. Yet only 37% of Scotland’s young people achieve 3 or more ‘Highers’ (equivalent to two A-Levels) and only 26% get the 5+ Highers necessary to get into an elite institutions. So how is that they are flocking to university at higher rates than the English? The answer appears to be HNCs……

By 1750, 75% of Scotland’s population was literate, one of the highest rates in Europe. By the late 16th century, several Scottish universities were already established, including two in Aberdeen – as many as in the whole of England at that time.”

4. Life, Illness, Children & The Forces of The Universe– The Village School Head

Educators love being in control. Taming chaos is something you either love naturally, or you learn to love as the job goes on. But what happens when you can’t control an aspect of life? Lynne Moore’s reflective blog narrates the quandary a headteacher can find themselves in if their loved one becomes gravely ill. On a similar vein, John Tomsett’s post from last October about his father also gave a somber-but-important message about the importance of family.

We don’t get to be in control any more.  We never got to, it was just a situation of control we had invented and constructed.  As with natural disasters we are foolish to think we can influence the workings of this universe.”

5. Why Don’t Students Like School?– AFT

It’s a rare person these days who hasn’t heard of Daniel Willingham. Michael Gove is apparently a fan, as are many on the edu-blogging networks. But if you haven’t read Willingham’s book yet, fear not! This handy article reveals the heart of his ideas. Originally written in 2009, the piece takes you through Willingham’s thoughts on curiosity, memory and the importance of enjoyment. The piece also ends with two pages of practical tips for improving thinking in your classroom. Worth some serious consideration.

“Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not designed for thinking. It’s designed to save you from having to think, because the brain is actually not very good at thinking. Thinking is slow and unreliable. Nevertheless, people enjoy mental work if it is successful.”

6. 29 Clever Organization Hacks for Elementary School TeachersBuzzFeed

Yes, it’s on Buzzfeed (and very American). No, it isn’t reading per se. But these ideas are genius and despite the title, they’re not just for elementary school teachers. Every classroom can profit from being orderly, and any experienced teacher will tell you that learning how to manage the coloured pencils, scissors and glue may sound like a cinch but it doesn’t come that naturally. Systems are necessary! Use this page to plan them.

 “Plastic cups in a muffin tin act as an art supply tray.” < You need to see the pictures to truly appreciate the genius.

7. The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way– The Economist

Amanda Ripley has spent several years wondering about the smartest children in the world and the education systems that churn them out. Presumably because she knew it would make a great story, she therefore decided to follow three American students who spent a year on foreign-exchange in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea. Her findings are outlined in the new book “The Smartest Kids In The World”, here reviewed by The Economist.

BAMA Companies has been making pies and biscuits in Oklahoma since the 1920s. But the company is struggling to find Okies with the skills to fill even its most basic factory jobs. Such posts require workers to think critically, yet graduates of local schools are often unable to read or do simple maths. This is why the company recently decided to open a new factory in Poland—its first in Europe. “We hear that educated people are plentiful,” explains Paula Marshall, Bama’s boss.”


And for today’s +1 ‘something different’ bonus…..

8. Once Upon A Summertime– Rookie Mag

If you haven’t come across Rookie Mag before it’s worth looking at for two reasons. One, its writers are young people, so you get the full honesty of what teens think (always a useful reminder). And two, its writers are young people, meaning you can encourage the young people you teach to contribute.

This particular photo-essay captures what summer is like for many 15 year olds: the worries of romantic interests counterbalanced with the excitement of being allowed to do certain grown-up things for the first time. It’s a good reminder of what many Year 10-12s might have gone through in the past few weeks, and what they might need us to be sensitive about as they, like the rest of us, head back to the realities of school.