Posts Tagged ‘schools’

The New 3R’s of Education

October 16, 2016

The New 3R’s of Education.

As the world shifts and changes and becomes both more amazing and more disturbing we need a new focus in schools, a big focus on becoming decent people; citizens of an ever-changing world, able to survive, manage and even thrive in whatever is to come. So today’s schools must focus more explicitly on Respect, Responsibility and Resilience. Once upon a time this used to be the covert curriculum, and much of this rested in the hands of parents. But now it needs to be front and centre in schools too.

 

Respect covers a range of sins and must be paramount as we become a more uncertain world with borders shifting and changing, identity and gender being more fluid and more open, with religious and cultural differences more defined as we become a global community. It is as simple as respect for yourself and for others. But it is so much harder in practice.

There was a time where we embraced the ‘live and let live’ ethos of a more tolerant and accepting view of each other. But now we seem to feel free to abuse, vilify and attack on the slenderest of reasons. Indeed Social Media and the constant streaming of ‘news’ has to take some share of the blame for the rise in hate in society, but it can’t be that simple, can it?

Why do we feel free to berate and abuse others? Where did that ‘freedom’ come from?

respect

Schools must be vigilant about respect, and in truth, many are trying to address the constancy of social issues that ever creep into our crowded curriculums. Respect is about tolerance, patience, consideration and kindness. It is being aware that others have different beliefs, customs, ways of living, attitudes and ideas. This is important as we don’t really want an homogenous society where we all think the same and parrot platitudes and dangerous ideas that are never challenged. Oh, yes, too much agreement and similarity is a very dangerous thing.

Thus instilling respect as a central tenant of how to live a decent life is crucial. 1.Respect for yourself, so you keep your body safe, so you can express your ideas freely but thoughtfully without hate and vitriol.

2.Respect for others, so they can get on with their own ways of life, be it of a different colour, different religion, different sexuality, different beliefs and ways of doing things.

3.Respect means understanding that there is no right way to do things, that there are many voices, many ideas, many people and we all have the right to exist peacefully in this world.

 

Responsibility is perhaps the thing in schools and society that does my head in most. For fuck’s sake, get a pen, learn how to cook, stop buying sugar-laden shit and expecting to be healthy, vote in elections, accept when you make a mistake and stop blaming everything and everyone else for your shitty life.

Being responsible for yourself, for your life can start early. Simple things like making your bed, putting your clothes in the wash, doing your homework, packing your school bag for the day ahead. Parents do need to build in these little pathways to responsibility early and naturally. It doesn’t mean you make them self-sufficient by 11 but by the time they get to secondary school most kiddies should be able to do a great many things for themselves.

Responsibility means being responsible for what you say and how you behave – under pressure and under normal circumstances – organizing your own life; owning it and making things happen.

Not being responsible is to expect all sorts of other people to make things happen for you and blaming them when things don’t fall the right way for you. So teaching responsibility early is vital for a human being who is self sustaining, accepts that sometimes things are their fault and doesn’t spend their life blaming, in no particular order – their parents, their teachers, the government, politicians, God, ISIS, Pauline Hanson, Trump, Clinton, etc, etc – for all that is wrong with their lives.

responsiblity

Loving parents and good schools (even when the system is against them – whose GCSE results are they??? Just ask a failing school…) ensure that young people take responsibility for what is theirs and do the right thing in owning both the good and the bad that they say and do. Responsible youngsters become responsible citizens who take on more than just managing their own lives, who take responsibility for making the world a better place.

 

Resilience became a fashionable term a few years ago and there were various programs designed to help make students better able to cope with their worlds when things went wrong. For my mind responsibility and resilience go hand in hand. A responsible person can accept their own short comings and face up to them and do something about them. They are able to work through the tough times and stay afloat.

A person who blames others, a child who is so cosseted by their parents (and yes, schools too) that they cannot cope with slights, or failures is going to have a very tough life. All this helicopter-parenting, this Tiger-mothering of the young does them no good in the harsh light of the real world.

Resilience is perhaps more important than ever in this world of cyber-bullying, trolling and stalking. Young people are more vulnerable than ever to the slings and arrows of others, piercing their young feather-light hides with barbs and poison that stings to the core. Teenagers are horrendously sensitive creatures, their self esteem balancing on a pin head. Of course they are vulnerable and in the glow of their screens, in the dark of their rooms they are more vulnerable than ever. Recent studies deplore the levels of self-harm and unhappiness that young people feel, not to mention the constant stress of exams and that old faithful, peer pressure.

resilience

If there was more respect for others, more tolerance of difference, of the outsider; if we took responsibility for our words and actions from the youngest age, there would be little need for resilience training for the young. But we must be aware that not all of us have the capacity to deal with the tough times, that not all of us have people who care enough to hold our hands and keep us steady through failure, rejection, self doubt, illness, bullying and harassment.

Resilience doesn’t make you callous, it doesn’t stop you feeling, it allows you to deal with the darker side of life and we need to prepare students in dealing with those things, the things that de-stabilise young people – lack of friends; ill, dead or absent parents, abusive families, drugs, bullying, failing to get the grades we expect, or into the uni course we so desperately want.

 

As a parent and a teacher I can bring these three elements to my teaching, to my dealings with young people. Honesty, integrity and authentic relationships with young people matter enormously. They need people they can trust – parents, teachers, coaches, other adults; people who will listen to them, be there for them, tell them the truth, and offer support in a practical and useful way.

Surely at the end of every day what we want is a better world, full of people who care about each other and themselves and are bringing good to the planet. God knows it needs it! (Images from Private Collection)

Let’s talk about reading, baby, let’s talk about a rich life, shall we?

February 1, 2014

It’s that time of year in the UK, kiddies starting to panic about their exams, about their GCSE C grades and wanting it, but not actually being prepared to work for it. There are many serious problems in Education, too many and too depressing to consider here, but the daddy of them all of them is Reading.

Fitzg

As an English teacher of extensive and considerable experience it is my considered opinion that the epidemic of non-readers is growing and will strangle the world, immuring us in illiteracy and idiocy. Forget global warming and the increasing divide between rich and poor, the divide between readers and non-readers will define the planet.

To read is to know, to understand, enjoy, think, consider, imagine, explore. To read is to be empowered. At its most basic and fundamental level reading = knowledge. And you must know by know that knowledge = power. Does anyone really think that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the guys from Google and Amazon don’t read, weren’t readers?

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It’s time to face the facts. Reading is magic. It does all sorts of tricky and scary things to you. It helps your vocabulary, it helps you understand how language works at a fundamental level – grammar and all that lovely stuff – and at the higher level of images and contradictions and challenges in ideas, and concepts. Reading takes you on a journey, to unreal places, to facts and information, to ideas that challenge and confront; to new worlds, both imagined and real. Reading is the fortress for the lonely, for the outsider, for the lost, for the vulnerable and for the smart. Reading fiction helps you understand the world, it makes you more empathic, more able to understand and read others: it helps you to be more successful in business. Oh, yes, there are studied about this.

Smart people read. They know its power. Dumb people, stupid people would rather have their fingernails pulled out than read a book. Oh, yes, it’s true. Stupid people don’t know how stupid they are, because they don’t read. Believe me, I have met too many now – students and parents who actually don’t know what a book is – other than something they had to interact with at school.

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But, more incredibly, there are schools that don’t think reading in class is a sound thing to do. Schools that think silent reading is a waste of time. I know this sounds like insane rubbish but it is true. Reading silently in class (because so many of our students do not read silently or otherwise anywhere else) does not show evidence of progress, means that some are day-dreaming, are not concentrating and simply wasting time.

These are the very schools whose results are on a knife-edge, where students can’t read for meaning or answer anything other than the most fundamental questions about the content. How can they pass an exam worth 60% (soon to be 100%), where half of that mark is based on the ability to read and understand unseen texts? Even the better students aren’t reading a wide and eclectic range of texts, a rich and varied diet of fiction that feeds them and encourages them to go onto A levels and thence to university.

But senior administrators fearful of the might of Ofsted and the madness that mandates evidence for everything cannot abide the quiet, soft, gentle world of silent reading, of a child sitting still, simply reading. Because, you must know by now, if you can’t measure something in English education then it obviously isn’t happening.

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Too many young people do not have the habit of reading. It is easy to understand, there are so many distractions, so many other easier more entertaining things to be doing, why sit quietly reading a book that will take hours or days to finish? What’s the point?

Indeed, I wonder too. Why am I beating my brains out to make fools and morons understand that reading matters, that it makes a difference. Fail your exams, have an utterly impoverished life, know nothing, at all ever.

But you know what, you aren’t in the majority. People read all the time, on the trains, on the tube, on buses and planes – they read the papers and books and e-books and you know what, these people are going to work, to jobs that earn money. Reading got them there. Reading enriches their lives and they know it. (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

 

So, what do we mean by Gifted & Talented – as posted in the Guardian this week

May 11, 2012

My daughters are both exceptional at Art; my son has always been a Mathematical genius. My girls have won prizes for Art; my boy has won an academic prize every year of his life, including university scholarships, the latest being a PhD scholarship to Oxford. Are my kids G&T?

What do we mean when by Gifted? Gagne (2003) says: Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical.

Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance.

Gagne’s key word is potential. He believes in the power of environmental factors, that being natively smart isn’t enough; a child needs support and guidance to achieve his/her gifted potential. Supporting and encouraging gifted kiddies is exactly where home and school collide.

 

How do you know if a child is Gifted?

Teachers, but mostly parents, can identify gifted children through their own observation and instincts. Often we know if there’s something ‘extra’ about a child: their questions, their insights. For my son it was his instant grasp of patterns and numbers, such that his Kindergarten teacher had to stop him answering so other kiddies had a chance. For guidance Betts & Neihart(1988) list 6 types of gifted students (link below), with particular needs. This identification grid can be a useful starting place for conversations between parents and school.

If we fail to identify G&T students we risk damage to individuals who are so turned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar, on their way to dropping out. We risk damage to society by not encouraging these students to fly and value add to society through their exceptional abilities.

Be clear – giftedness is not necessarily found in attainment or a steady march through the top of the grade/level bands, or in exam results. Attainment levels can mislead on many fronts, a clear example is EAL students. Top performance in your school may not match with top performance in another school and IQ scores do not automatically equate with achievement. As a parent you need to know what being on the G&T register actually means…

Sadly schools often ignore the needs of students with exceptional potential, or miss the under-achieving gifted child due to inadequate identification and pressure on resources (money, time & staff can only go so far). We can’t afford to assume G&T students will be all right, are easy to spot, just need more work, and don’t need the nourishment that other SEN students need.

I bet there are inner city kids who are G&T but, while they are identified primarily on attainment, won’t be accurately identified or supported and therefore will miss the much vaunted social mobility boat. To that end, the growth of Academies could spawn a growth in rigorous identification of students to better facilitate student’s achieving their true potential, which is what Academies claim to be about.

 

What can you do as a parent?

Encourage their interests; focus on reading. Play games such as Scrabble, Articulate, Boggle; lateral thinking games are excellent. Extra classes, personal tutors, clubs, travelling. Valuing, understanding and supporting your child is essential.

Fighting on their behalf may be necessary too.

A story is appropriate here.

Jo was a high achieving student with a particular flair for English. In year 11 she had a teacher who found her challenging questions to be under-mining and as a consequence humiliated her in class. Jo began failing English and started bunking school. Noticing this, her parents got in touch with the school, agreed to an independent English program tailored to her interests and needs. Jo returned to excellence in her work and was happy to return to school.

 

What can schools do?

Schools must show the G&T child they are valued, giving them appropriate academic challenge; and chances to be together, to feel less isolated. The following strategies do work!

Acceleration. Students can be accelerated across the year or within subjects.

Differentiation – an over-used term, it means creating something to extend the child in your class; richer or more challenging tasks

Teacher – student matching. Matching personalities as well as learning styles

Mentoring/cross age tutoring – Matching younger or older students with similar interests/abilities to enhance learning of both

Independent Negotiated Programs – Student interest and skills determine the scale and scope of the project, negotiated with staff regarding resources, etc

Competitions – individual, team internal external – there are heaps of them!

Gardner says: “I don’t care what intelligence people have. I care whether they can do things we value in our culture. What good is it to know if you have an IQ of 90 or 130… if, in the end you can’t do anything?” We must make sure G&T kiddies get the chance to do something fabulous.

 

Further reading:

Betts & Neihart (1988)

http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10114.aspx

Practical Tools – Understanding Giftedness (the link to Gagne doesn’t work but the PDF files do and provide useful information and strategies

http://www.learningplace.com.au/deliver/content.asp?pid=31758

Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html

http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm

http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/mi/index.html

Gagne and Differentiated Models of G&T

http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/gats/assets/pdf/poldmgt2000rtcl.pdf

http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/gats/assets/images/dmgtcolor.PDF

Plus

Levels of Giftedness

Mildly Gifted –                          IQ 115 – 129

Moderately Gifted –                         IQ 130 – 144

Highly Gifted –                         IQ 145 – 159

Exceptionally Gifted –            IQ 160 – 179

Profoundly Gifted –                         IQ 180+

 Some Gods in the G&T Pantheon

1905 Binet – Introduced the idea of ‘mental age’ & created the first structured intelligence test

1978 Renzulli – Developed the Three-ring Conception of Giftedness: the interaction between above average general intelligence; high levels of task commitment; and high levels of creativity.

1981 Gardner – Developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences; linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, the ability to notice and make distinctions; and access one’s own feelings about life

1983 Tannenbaum – Developed the Psychosocial Definition of Giftedness: giftedness = potential; talent = developed abilities. Five factors interact: general ability, special ability, non-intellectual factors, environmental and chance factors

1985 Gagne – Developed the Differentiated Model of Giftedness & Talent: the child progresses from giftedness (high potential) to talent (high performance) through the learning process, assisted by intra-personal and environmental factors

+ Bloom and that invidious taxonomy – ignore it at your peril!

This appeared in The Guardian on Monday 9 May 2012 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/may/09/teaching-gifted-and-talented-pupils