7 Great Things We Read About Education Last Month (& You Should Too)

2nd October 2013

1. Five Initial Impressions From Inside Finnish Classrooms – Inside Classrooms

Teacher Lucy Crehan is travelling to 8 top-performing countries over the next 9 months in a bid to find out what the differences are for teachers in those countries. Working in the schools, and living with local teachers, her aim is to open up possibilities of ‘what might be’ for England. Her first installment comes from Finland, where she reveals her surprise at watching teachers speak over students (no waiting for silence) and ponders if England might learn from their sophisticated SEN system.

The teachers I’ve met don’t talk about behaviour management, they talk about student engagement. Seeing this has made we wonder whether in the UK we enforce certain ‘behaviour for learning’ (as Finnish students do better despite this approach to behaviour management), or whether we enforce behaviour for its own sake.”

2.      My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me – The Atlantic

In this witty piece, Karl Taro Greenfield turns the idea that school work is dumbed down on its head by trying to do all his daughter’s homework for just one week. Quickly realising that the amount is more than he expected, Greenfield complains about the type of assignments: equations, random readings, spurious “projects”. Self-aware and funny he offers a poignant reminder to teachers of what their charges face, and how they might improve the work that gets turned in.

“Another exercise required Esmee to find the distance from Sacramento—we were living in California—to every other state capital in America, in miles and kilometers. This last one caused me to question the value of the homework. What possible purpose could this serve?, I asked her teacher in a meeting. She explained that this sort of cross-disciplinary learning—state capitals in a math class—was now popular.”

3. Why Give Free School Meals To Pupils Who Are Not Eligible? – Rebecca Allen

After Nick Clegg’s conference announcement that free school meals will be provided for 5-7 year a flurry of people questioned the decision. Why pay for the lunch of a wealthy 7 year old rather than a poor 8 year old? Rebecca Allen soon pointed out that she had previously written about this very issue, detailing why it is sometimes better to give meals to everyone than picking out the most needy.

“I don’t know if a well-balanced and nutritious meal, rather than a Mars bar and chips, improves a child’s concentration, test scores or even their health. So, I cannot comment generally on the value of giving anyone a state-subsidised meal. However, if you want to use schools to improve the nutrition of children in poverty, you have to offer free school meals to those who aren’t actually currently eligible for free school meals.”

4 .Lyndon Baty and the Robot That Saved Him – The Dallas Observer

Lyndon Baty has a life-threatening disease that kills most children within two weeks of their birth. Lyndon is now 17. His continued illness requires that he spend over 10 hours a day on dialysis, and even a short journey to school is a risk his body can’t bear. However, by combining the technology of a Roomba (a robotic hoover) with Skype, Lyndon is now attending school every day. Or at least Robot-Lyndon is….. [NB: This is a long piece, so it needs time, but it’s great].

“When Mr. Moeller had to chew out two girls for picking on Lyndon via the robot — taping paper over the camera eye, picking it up from behind and turning it around with Lyndon unable to see the culprits — their response was: “We’d be picking on Lyndon the same if he was here.

5. DSM-V and Disability LearningCERP

The Diagnostics & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used across the world to define the symptoms that diagnose mental conditions. The latest edition, published in May, was the first full re-write in nineteen years. The changes to the Learning Difficulties section are substantial and have important consequences for educators. This article is not a particularly ‘fun’ read but it’s a pithy update on what those changes might mean.

“DSM-IV listed different types of learning difficulty, defined by the domain of academic learning that was impaired, such as problems learning to read, spell and write, and to do arithmetic. By contrast, DSM-5 lumps them into one overarching disorder. This decision was based on research evidence from twin studies that these types of disorder have a common genetic basis.”

6.  Struggles for shared vocabulary: What I have in common with Paolo Di Canio – Doug Lemov’s Field Notes

Ever-growing in popularity, Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like An Expert” is now a staple textbook among new teachers. The Field Notes blog covers what Lemov learned in recent school visits. The piece reflects on the problem of using vocabulary in a classroom which students might not understand. Pondering on the technique of football managers leading multi-lingual teams Lemov looks at the ways teachers might best help their pupils use ‘shared’ terms.

“For example coaches say to kids all the time “clear it” but it’s easy to underestimate how unclear it might be to a five year old what we mean by this.  So Dan is trying to link phrases to drills.  This week were are working on “Catch ‘em.” “

7.  Deciding to Flexi-School – Not Different But Interesting

A growing number of people in England are turning to ‘flexi-schooling’, a system where students attend a traditional school for a number of days each week and are then homeschooled the rest of the week. The rules on parents’ rights to educate in this way are complicated, but this piece from Leonora Mathias explains her decision to flexi-school her young children and raises questions about what she might teach. It’s a challenging post for teachers who often feel that their skills are far greater than parents’  when it comes to ‘teaching’. That is what makes this such an intriguing piece.

“So, for now, our little girl is attending school four days, and being home-schooled on one. There are myriad factors feeding into this decision. My strongly held belief that we send our children to school to early in this country is at the top of the list. Pretty much no other developed nation sends their kids into full-time formal school before their sixth birthday.”


And now for something completely different and not education-related….

8.  Sex in Prisons: We need to find out what is going on – The Guardian

Not one for the puritanically minded, but this piece asked a question I genuinely had never thought about before (and that’s unusual, as I over-think most things). The commonplace assumption is that sex in prisons is rare, but John Podmore argues this view is wishful rather than evidence-based thinking. The problem for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies surrounding sex in prison is that it may mean victims of sexual assault feel unable to report what has happened. Implications for sex education and access to resources is also covered. As I say, not for the priggish, but interesting nonetheless.

“ We know that a stable relationship on the outside (along with a job and somewhere to live) helps reduce reoffending. Should we worry and be judgmental if such a relationship starts in prison? More important but very difficult is sex education, and the concept of safe sex.