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On Teaching…

Welcome to my blog! Here I will be posting my thoughts on teaching…

Most of these thoughts will be connected to the books that I read or initiatives that are happening in the wider world of education. Some of the posts might be in the form of poetry because…well, why not?

  • THE JOY OF SCHOOL – #LOVEWHEREYOUTEACH

    17th Dec 2022 by

    When you’ve been teaching for over 25 years, it’s very easy to lose your mojo when it comes to school life. I think it can happen anytime in your career but I was definitely struggling just before Covid struck and since then, there hasn’t been any sort of rebound. It’s never about the classroom though.… Read more

  • HOW TO GET ‘INTEREST’ IN YOUR SUBJECT TO BOOST LEARNING

    19th Jul 2022 by

    In Michael Lewis’ latest book ‘The Premonition: A Pandemic Story’, one of the chief protagonists, Carter Mecher, points out that people don’t learn what is imposed upon them but rather what they freely seek, out of desire or need. For people to learn, they need to want to learn. He uses a really interesting example… Read more

  • WANT TO KNOW THE SECRET OF NATURAL TALENT? SHHHH…MUM’S THE WORD!

    4th Jul 2022 by

    I’ve recently been reading Edith Kuiper’s book called ‘A Herstory of Economics’ and it has got me thinking…a lot. In particular I’ve been thinking about talent and where it comes from. Most of the time, when we think about talent, we describe it as being something quite natural. They are a natural at Economics or… Read more

  • IN DEFENCE OF EDUMYTHS

    1st Mar 2022 by

    Over the past decade or so, we have seen a number of takedowns of particular ‘edumyths’ thanks to a rise in awareness of the evidence in education and how learning happens. As teachers, we can all reel off our favourite ‘edumyths’ – VAK and learning styles, ‘brain gym’, the learning pyramid, the right and left… Read more

  • Human Development Index for Pupils – Reach for the STARS!

    13th Oct 2021 by

    There is a continual discussion in education about the purpose of exams and how it will often under-value or over-value students in terms of their value to the world. For example, we probably know many students who are very good at passing exams but are incredibly rude and have very little empathy. On the other… Read more

  • HOW SUBTRACTING CAN ADD TO YOUR SCHOOL PERFORMANCE.

    16th Jul 2021 by

    In a recent book called ‘Subtract – The Untapped Science of Less’, Leidy Klotz, a professor at the University of Virginia has looked at the ways that we often neglect thinking about subtracting as a way of solving problems. Normally when an issue arises, we often feel the need to add something, so in the… Read more

  • IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BASS.

    23rd Jun 2021 by

    Over the past year, I have found great solace in trying to improve my bass playing, mainly as a distraction from the stresses of education and as a way of stabilising my mental health. As the worst member of the greatest (cough) staff band around – The Lines – I have always tried to bring… Read more

  • BEWARE THE ZOMBIE TEACHER!

    12th Jan 2021 by

    After the financial crisis of 2008, a phenomenon emerged in the business world that has continued to this day – the ‘zombie’ business. This is a business that staggers along, earning enough money to cover its debt but not enough to pay it off. It covers daily expenses but doesn’t make enough to invest in… Read more

  • UNDER PRESSURE – The legacy of CAGs.

    6th Oct 2020 by

    ‘Have a fun INSET day everyone. What are you doing?’ ‘Revising’ ‘Have a lovely weekend everyone. What are you all up to?’ ‘Revising’ ‘Anybody up to anything fun this evening?’ ‘Revising’ Revising, revising, revising. That’s what Y13 students tell me all the time now. It didn’t use to be like this. They’d tell me about… Read more

  • WHAT ARE YOU REBELLING AGAINST? WHAT HAVE YOU GOT?

    24th Jul 2020 by

    If you look around at the moment, the world seems an angry place. There has been a fair bit of writing on it and many commentators think it explains why Brexit occurred and why Donald Trump was elected in America. If you spend any time on Twitter or Facebook (in public forums), you will see… Read more

  • BEFORE ROSENSHINE, LET’S TALK ROSENTHAL

    26th May 2020 by

    In 1963, after 6 years of teaching History, Barak Rosenshine went off to pursue his Ph.D. in Education at Stanford University. That was the start of the journey that would eventually make Rosenshine a household name in the world of education, as he eventually developed what would be known as the ‘Principles of Instruction’. There… Read more

  • REBEL IDEAS IN EDUCATION

    15th Mar 2020 by

    Recently I have been reading Matthew Syed’s ‘Rebel Ideas’ and his books are always rather thought provoking from an educational perspective. Previously he has written ‘Bounce’ that looked at Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’ theory and ‘Black Box Thinking’ that leaned very hard on ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande, which inspired the book for schools… Read more

  • HUNTING BLACK SWANS

    14th Jan 2020 by

    Educational debates on Twitter are always wild affairs. It’s interesting in this brand new world of evidence in education, a lot of debate still comes from lived experience. This seems fair enough because if you have seen something or dealt with something that has changed your perspective on an issue, you hold that to be… Read more

  • WILD CARDS FOR SCHOOLS – Questions that get you thinking…

    6th Jan 2020 by

    I love charity shopping and I’m always looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’. Normally I buy books or clothing but every now and then you find something that piques your interest. You wonder what it is doing in a charity shop and then snap it up to contemplate later. Recently I came across a… Read more

  • The magic of teaching…

    8th Dec 2019 by

    In my bedroom as a teenager, alongside pictures of pop stars like Wendy James and Whitney Houston, I used to have a postcard of William Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ on my wall. I think I picked it up at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge on a school trip. I was slightly mesmerised by Blake’s artwork… Read more

  • IF YOU HAVEN’T GOT SOCKS…

    20th Nov 2019 by

    A point I’ve been making continually in my blogs is that there are huge structural issues that impact how well students do in school and I think the educational community should get more involved politically at trying to change them. This can be seen in the data related to poverty and how harmful it is… Read more

  • WHO’S WASHING LINE IS IT ANYWAY?

    1st Nov 2019 by

    I think teachers are quite a cynical bunch. Whenever there is a discussion about a new teaching approach, there are many quizzical looks, some discussion and then most carry on regardless. This is why I’m always surprised to hear that our whole profession was supposedly taken over at some point by ‘edutainment’ and that we… Read more

  • FINDING THE BEST STICKING PLASTERS

    16th Oct 2019 by

    In a blog about complexity in education, I quoted Elinor Ostrom, who was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. It was therefore great to see this week that another woman has finally won the Nobel Prize again and her name is Esther Duflo. She won the award alongside her husband Abhijit… Read more

  • Finding the Fun

    9th Oct 2019 by

    Over the last year or so you may have watched a Katelyn Ohashi gymnastic floor display but if not, you should watch one. Do it now. Click the link. They are great! They are great for a number of reasons. Clearly when you watch one, you can see the incredible skills involved and the strength… Read more

  • THE GREAT DIVIDE – Teaching and Complexity on National Poetry Day

    3rd Oct 2019 by

    Currently I’ve been reading books and articles on Elinor Ostrom for the podcast I do with my fellow teacher Pete – it’s called Economics In Ten, check it out! This first woman to win the Economics Nobel Prize (which isn’t actually an official Nobel Prize) is a fascinating economist. One of the reason she’s a… Read more

  • GRAPHIC NOVELS – THEY’RE BIG AND THEY’RE CLEVER!

    24th Sep 2019 by

    I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and when I read this twitter thread from @kmarch67 it made me incredibly sad and rather angry. I’ve already written about the difficulty of getting students reading for pleasure but when teachers are telling students they shouldn’t read graphic novels, then they are only making the situation worse.… Read more

  • IN DEFENCE OF MOBILE PHONES

    3rd Sep 2019 by

    At the start of a new term, there has been renewed calls for schools to ban mobile phones. As we can see in this BBC news article, just under half of parents want mobile phones banned in schools, according to a survey carried out by uSwitch. Many schools have already implemented a ban and it… Read more

  • SAY ‘NO’ TO HOMEWORK – The homework debate.

    1st Sep 2019 by

    A couple of years ago, my colleague and I were asked to have a debate about homework to ‘get the conversation started’. I chose to argue against homework and here is what I said. I post it now as there seems to be some discussion about the future of homework due to Ofsted cutting homework… Read more

  • Exam Results and Negative Data

    27th Aug 2019 by

    In 2012, Ben Goldacre made a really interesting TED talk called ‘What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe’ and you can watch it here. I used to show it to my students because I thought they should know about it. Ben has gone off the radar a bit but I’m aware that when… Read more

  • Reading for Capitalist Pleasure

    21st Aug 2019 by

    In Yanis Varoufakis’ excellent and very accessible economics book ‘Talking to My Daughter About the Economy’ he states that the capitalist system has led to a situation where exchange values now triumph over experiential values.  What does this mean? And why is that so problematic for teachers when encouraging students to read? Before I get… Read more

  • PICKING WINNERS IS A MONKEY’S GAME – Predicted Grades

    19th Aug 2019 by

    As a teacher of Economics, I try to encourage my students to get involved in the Student Investor Challenge. It’s a fun activity where teams of 4 have to invest virtual money on the London Stock Exchange and make as much money as possible through buying and selling at the right time. If they beat… Read more

  • Cognitive Load Is Not Just About The Classroom

    6th Aug 2019 by

    In the past year or so there has been much discussion about the use of cognitive load theory and how teachers can best use it in the classroom. John Sweller is the godfather of cognitive load theory and here he is talking to the TES about this work. Reading the articles and watching the debates… Read more

  • PASS THE PARCEL

    2nd Aug 2019 by

    Sometimes my students will ask me why I became a teacher. I tell them that I wanted to be an Economics teacher from the age of 15 because I really liked my Economics teachers. Not many comprehensive schools offered Economics at GCSE (and still don’t) but I was lucky enough that mine did and I… Read more

  • Summertime Blues – closing the attainment gap

    30th Jul 2019 by

    One of the most interesting things about the use of evidence in education is the selective way that we use evidence in education. A few years back I attended a Wellcome Trust event that was looking to fund research projects that would explore ways of boosting educational attainment. For example, there were people there who… Read more

  • “Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.”

    20th Jul 2019 by

    In the Secret Barrister’s book ‘Stories of the Law and How it is Broken’, he discusses how the justice system is becoming more focused on getting cases through court in the name of efficiency, rather that the quality of the judgement. This is no surprise given the free market model that has been imposed on… Read more

  • The Joy of Podcasts – using podcasts to enrich learning!

    16th Jul 2019 by

    With the rise in the listening of podcasts, educators may wish to consider curating their own content to enrich their students and help fellow teachers. This is what we have been doing with regards the teaching of Economics and we would recommend it for others as well. Every teacher is faced with a specification for… Read more

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